When I was a younger and more impressionable person, I chanced upon a documentary that dealt with the Dead Sea Scrolls. One line of thinking that someone expressed was that the Gospels were intended to be secular rather than miraculous. One example given was the story of the loaves and fishes. Rather than giving a supernatural explanation to the story, the hypothesis went that rather than miraculously transforming a few loaves and fishes into enough to feed thousands, Jesus rather was able to reach the faith of those in attendance, so that those who had enough and more were willing to share with those who did not. In other words, as the scant rations the Apostles began with were passed around, more was added to it.
The idea frightened me at the time, needing as I did a literal interpretation of The Bible, needing to know some father-figure sky god kept an eye out for me, for all of us. But it stuck with me, perhaps because it shook me.
Looking back on it now, I see the beauty of the story when told in this way. After all, what a small thing it is to produce food from nowhere. Mankind has been doing that since civilization began, planting seeds into the ground and reaping the harvest. They have cast their nets blindly into the sea and brought from it fish. Through the centuries, man’s capacity to produce food has grown to miracle-like levels, so that now we pay farmers to not grow food. Walk into your local grocery store and witness the amazing ability of modern man to bring foods from all over the world to your part local supermarket. I was in the grocery store yesterday and the different kinds of apples they had was astounding. The variety of foods on display would have blown the minds of the mightiest emperor a millennia ago.
But for all our ability to produce food in abundance, we have yet to learn how to share it for all to have enough.
I remember visiting my grandmother when I was a child. Hers was the sweetest smile I have ever seen. There was an utter lack of selfishness about her, and it inspired me to do anything she would have asked me. Day or night, people would drop in on her, and there was seldom a moment without visitors. My fondest memories are being at her house.
And the people who came to visit were always welcomed, always offered whatever it is they required. And in return people were always dropping by to offer something in return, a box of candy, vegetables fresh-picked from the garden or fish from the river.
That to me, looking back at it now, was a miracle. It felt miraculous as a child but I really never reflected too much on it: children tend to accept the miraculous without feeling the need to ask questions about it.
I’m not a Biblical scholar, and even if I was I would not like to thrust my opinions on such sublime matters as these. But I do see the beauty of interpreting the miracle of the loaves and fishes in such a manner. Ah, to reach the hearts of those who have and teach them to share is in itself a miracle. And it is a story more in need of telling than the idea that we should leave it in the hands of God to make the world a better place. After all, we will never have enough for all if we do not learn to trust in sharing.