When I read or hear the story of the feeding of the five thousand (which we heard proclaimed at Mass this summer), I’m often struck by how quickly the tide turns. It’s a dramatic series of events in the lives of Jesus’ disciples – a sequence that plays itself out over a matter of days.
Picture it: Jesus’ teaching & miracles had so captured a crowd counted as “5,000 men, not including women and children” that they followed Him around the countryside. Members of this crowd gave no thought to their own well being – not even thinking about what they were going to eat. Luckily for them, Jesus cared for needs they hadn’t considered (just as He does for us even when we don’t care for ourselves). You likely know the story: Jesus took the small offerings from a boy in the crowd to feed the multitude – with plenty to spare. When He moved on the next day, the crowd follows him again– setting up what should be the moment that each one is willing count themselves permanently as one of Jesus’ disciples.
But that’s not what happened. Jesus taught them, and they replied:
“This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” -John 6:60
And then “…many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:66). What on earth has happened here? How do you go from forgetting your basic needs (eating) to witnessing a miracle of that magnitude to simply walking away?
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