Jesus Christ denies he multiplied loaves and fishes
RACHEL We have transferred out mobile unit to the spot where the small town of Bethsaida once stood, on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Here Jesus Christ performed one of his most famous miracles, the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes. And right here beside us we have Jesus himself, who will tell us exactly what happened that day. Even though much time has passed since then, Jesus, you surely remember the event well.
JESUS Of course I remember! The little band of us crossed the lake in a boat and arrived on this far shore in order to be able to relax together and talk in peace.
RACHEL But there were people waiting here for you.
JESUS Yes, a whole bunch of people anxious to ask questions, discuss things, join forces. So many people and so much enthusiasm … my tongue got out of control.
RACHEL Why do you say that?
JESUS Because I was talking and talking, and before you knew it night was falling, and the people hadn’t eaten anything.
RACHEL But couldn’t they go and buy something nearby?
JESUS How do you mean? We were far from town, in a very deserted area. Do you think in those solitary places there’d be any stores like the ones we see now?
RACHEL So that was when you performed the miracle.
JESUS Well, actually, I wasn’t the one who performed the miracle
RACHEL Then who did it?
JESUS You know how distrustful country people are, right? In my land nobody leaves home without taking along a little food for the journey. But if there are lots of people around, then nobody wants to take out the food out they have for fear there won’t be enough.
RACHEL So what did you do?
JESUS I said to them Brothers and sisters, take out what you have there under your tunics, and put it all here in the middle. And don’t worry. The first one to break the air of distrust was a young lad. He came forward with five barley loaves and a couple of fish.
RACHEL What then?
JESUS Well, an old lady took out some dates that she had kept hidden away, and somebody else brought some cheese and olives, and somebody more bread. There were a few who resisted, believe me, but in the end everybody had food to eat, and there was enough for all.
RACHEL You mean,… that was all that happened? There wasn’t any miracle?
JESUS Of course there was! You don’t think it’s miraculous when people share like that? That’s one of the greatest miracles of all!
RACHEL It seems to me that what’s written in the gospels is something quite different from what you just told us. The four gospels all agree that you fed five thousand persons, and that there were twelve baskets of leftovers.
JESUS Well, nobody was counting the people or the baskets, and I’ve already told you that some of my compatriots love to exaggerate. But it’s true, we were all able to eat, and nobody was left hungry.
RACHEL And so … you didn’t multiply anything?
JESUS No, that day we added! Among all of us, we added things up! What are you thinking of? A magician pulling loaves and fishes out of a basket? Those kinds of tricks used to be performed by the Samaritans, who were good at charming snakes and swallowing needles.
RACHEL But the miracle…
JESUS The miracle is sharing, Rachel. That’s the true miracle, the only miracle.
RACHEL The only miracle? How do you mean the only one? You performed many more. Excuse me, Master, I mean Jesus, but you are not being clear for our audience because…
JESUS What is not at all clear is how we’re going to get out of here. If we don’t get a move on, night is going to catch us. It will be just like what happened two thousand years ago, and this time neither you nor I have brought any loaves or fishes!
RACHEL In that case, let’s go! And those of you who are listening on the radio, don’t go away, stay tuned, keep us company. From the place in Galilee where Bethsaida once stood, this is Rachel Perez, Emisoras Unidas.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
Bread, synonym of food
In Jesus’ time the basic food of most poor people was bread, almost always made from barley. Their daily diet consisted of bread, water and olive oil. Bread is often a synonym of “food” in the pages of the scriptures: the association of bread with food appears 197 times in the Old Testament and 96 times in the New Testament.
The Sea of Galilee contains 25 species of fish, some of them unique to that lake. The people who lived along its shores supplemented their diet by fishing.
A world still hungry
Even though we now have highly advanced technologies capable of producing sufficient food to feed all the earth’s people, a large part of the human race still goes hungry. According to its 2004 annual report, “The State of Food Insecurity in the World”, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that some 852 million people throughout the world suffer from chronic hunger. This means approximately one out of every seven persons.
The FAO report reveals that five million children die annually because of hunger and that every year more twenty million children are born underweight because of their mothers’ undernourishment. That makes them more vulnerable to disease and undermines the development of their brain and the body as a whole. As a result of the accelerated concentration of wealth and opportunities in the world, the tendency today is for the number of hungry people, both children and adults, to increase.
One of the Millennium Objectives agreed upon by the heads of state of the world’s nations was reducing world hunger by half by the year 2015. That goal is unlikely to be reached.
Combating hunger: a gospel demand
Hunger affects mainly the poorest people. Brazilian theologian Frei Betto was in charge of the “Zero Hunger” program during President Lula’s first term in office. When he assumed that responsibility, Betto wrote: If hunger is the principal cause of premature deaths and the great shame of 21st century civilization, why does it not move people more? The reason for this is a cynical one: in contrast to terrorism, war, cancer, and other illnesses, hunger does make a distinction among classes. It touches only the destitute. And most people generally support campaigns that benefit themselves. We don’t always show sensitivity when it is a matter of other people’s rights. … “I was hungry and you gave me food,” said the Jesus who became flesh in the form of a poor person. Combating hunger is a gospel demand, an ethical imperative, a duty of citizenship and solidarity. It is the only way we will free humankind from this prehistoric era we’re in, where billions of people are still being deprived of that most elemental animal right: food.
The reasons for hunger in the world
The reason for the world’s hunger is the injustice and inequity in the distribution of valuable resources. Humanity will be “given food” only through solidarity, sharing, and a just distribution of those resources. Jesus of Nazareth said as much with this “miracle”, and others say so as well, such as the economist Mariana Martínez, speaking on BBC:
While one half the planet consumes daily more than double the calories that are necessary to survive and is anxious about becoming overweight, the other half has nothing to put in its mouth and is dying of hunger. While in the United States those who are not on a “low-carb” diet are out of step, in the favelas of Brazil and the arid areas Sub-Saharan Africa, both children and adults are desperately struggling to find something (no matter what) to fill their stomachs. The dream of a world without hunger can be achieved.
Hunger does not exist in the world because Mother Nature is incapable of providing what is necessary for everybody, or because there is no land to cultivate, or because there are many more people in the world today than a century ago. To the contrary, hunger exists in the world because of poor distribution. One small part of the planet, the part where the richest nations are, consumes more than 80% of the natural resources (food and other basic products) produced in the world, while the rest of the world consumes barely 20%.
The miracle is sharing
The narrative of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes (Mark 6,30-44) is not the story of a magician performing a spectacular feat. It is a symbolic, catechetical account designed to show the Christian communities the transformative power of an ethic and an attitude of life: that of sharing. When the disciples propose to go to town and “buy with money”, Jesus proposes to them “to give what they have”. And it is that “giving” that produces the “miracle”, so that the food is sufficient for all and everybody is satisfied. In his classic, widely read work, “A Political Reading of the Gospel”, Fernando Belo comments: In this story there is an opposition between two economies: the economy of exchange value (which is dominant today) and the distributive economy, which I would call the economy of use value or the economy of satisfying human needs.