Jesus & The 5 Thousand: A first-world translation

10516641_10152229752776872_6432681443322654705_nJesus withdrew privately, by boat, to a solitary place but the crowds continued to follow him. Evening was now approaching and the people, many of whom had travelled a great distance, were growing hungry. Seeing this, Jesus sent out his disciples to gather food, but all they could find were five loaves and two fishes. Then Jesus asked that they go out again and gather up the provisions that the crowds had bought to sustain them in their travels. Once this was accomplished, a vast mountain of fish and bread stood before Jesus. Upon seeing this, he directed the people to sit down on the grass.

Standing before the food and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks to God and broke the bread. Then he passed the food among his twelve disciples. Jesus and his friends ate like kings in full view of the starving people. But what was truly amazing, what was miraculous about this, was that when they had finished the massive banquet there were not even enough crumbs left to fill a starving person’s hand.

The initial shock of this story relates to the way that is inscribes selfish and inhuman actions onto Christ himself by twisting the story we all know on Jesus feeding the multitude. While it would seem perfectly acceptable to attack governments, corporations and individuals for failing to distribute goods appropriately and turning away from the poorest among us who suffer as a direct result of our greed, it would seem inappropriate to read such inhumanity into the actions of Christ himself. If anything, Christ was the one who demonstrated a life of joyful simplicity, radical healing and unimaginable love. Christ challenges us to look outward, and thus he should not be the one whom we condemn.

Yet in the bible we read that those who follow Christ are nothing less than the manifestation of his body in the world today (Colossians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 12:27 and Ephesians 5:30). The presence of Christ in the world is said to be directly encountered in the presence of those who gather together in his name. In very concrete terms, people learn of Christ through those who claim to live out the way of Christ. However, if Christ is proclaimed in the life of his followers, if the body of believers is thought to manifest the body of Christ in the world, then we must stop, draw breath and ask ourselves whether the above tale reflects how Christ is presented to the world today, at least in the minds of those who witness the lifestyle of Christians in the West.

Excerpted from ‘The Orthodox Heretic & Other Impossible Tales’ by Peter Rollins.