Throughout Lent, I’ll be sharing a weekly devotion that draws on my travels to the middle east. Here is the second.
“Late in the day, the Twelve approached and said to Jesus, ‘Send the crowd away, so they can go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find food and lodging, because we are in a deserted place here.’
He told them, ‘You give them something to eat.’”—Luke 9:12-13
Tabgha, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, is the traditional site of the feeding of the 5,000. The location was originally known as Heptapegon, meaning “the place of the seven springs.” Its lush gardens are an inviting place for a picnic or a service of worship. From the fourth century, Byzantine Christians were making pilgrimage to the site. Egeria, a Western European Christian woman and author of a detailed account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land about 381/2–386, described her visit to Tabgha. She wrote, “By the sea is a grassy field with plenty of hay and many palm trees. By them are seven springs, each flowing strongly. And this is the field where the Lord fed the people with the five loaves and the two fishes. In fact, the stone on which the Lord placed the bread has now been made into an altar. People who go there take away small pieces of the stone to bring them prosperity and they are very effective.” Today the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes has replaced the original Byzantine church. It features the remains of the stone table as well as a splendid early figured pavement (mosaic floor), depicting flora and fauna of the lakeside.
The miracle that Jesus worked at Tabgha began with two facts: hungry people and the reluctance of the disciples to do anything about it. Jesus was clear with his friends: it was their responsibility to meet the hunger of their neighbors. The disciples gathered their little bits: just a few barley loaves and some small, dried fish, the lunch of peasants. But those little bits went a long way. Some say it was a miracle of multiplication. Some say it was a miracle of the Spirit, a satisfying “spiritual” meal. Still others suggest that the willingness of the disciples to share inspired a miracle of sharing in others who opened their packs and passed around provisions. The outcome was a blessing for all and a bold precedent that faithful people have been following ever since.
Questions for reflection: How do you need Jesus to feed you today?
How will you feed others?
Please join me in prayer . . .
Generous and provident God, you make abundance of the most meager beginnings. Grant us the grace to know that you can feed us and satisfy our deepest hunger, today and every day. Renew us in the way of discipleship that notices and cares, feeds and shares. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Lord of abundance. Amen.
He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. — C.S. Lewis
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” — Mahatma Gandhi
“I hunger for filling in a world that is starved.” — Ann Voskamp
Figured pavement, Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee