“When they had all had enough to eat, [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” – John 6: 12
Copyright © Edward Riojas
No one likes to feel like a leftover. Not you. Not me. Sadly, we have all felt that way at one time or another. Unless we were superstars of the grade school parking lot and were well acquainted with the infield fly rule, we might have ended up a little lower on the roster when picking teams for kickball. Maybe you were dead last. That can hurt.
Perhaps you languished as a wall flower during that high school dance. Or maybe you were ignored and shared a table with yourself in the cafeteria. It’s amazing how lonely a crowded school hall can feel when popularity isn’t one’s strong suit.
Later in life, there might have been promotions that passed you by. Perhaps someone toyed with your heart, and then discarded it in a corner like a piece of trash. Like the enthusiastic wave and a smile across a room that isn’t for you, the weight of feeling like a leftover can be crushing.
"Miracle of the Bread and Fish." Giovanni Lanfranco. c. 1620.
(National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)
The feeding of the 5,000 always impresses us as a colossal miracle. It is an earthly wonder that an army of hungry stomachs was satisfied with light fare from a kid’s lunch. It was a miracle indeed. It was the reason many wanted Jesus to be king – with a ruler who could constantly lay a miraculous spread like that, life would be cushy, indeed. Never mind the very different reason for Christ dwelling among us.
Unless one looks at the Scriptural account in its entirety, however, a better part of the feeding of the 5,000 might be overlooked. Contrary to the Old Testament handling of manna and the Passover meal, Jesus tells His disciples to gather the leftovers. The remnants were not to be consumed or burned or thrown out. Many commentaries either ignore the command, or chalk it up to having a frugal Savior who knew about starving children in Africa. But Christ did not come to teach responsible eating, to keep us from being litterbugs, or to lay a seed for recycling.
As was revealed during a recent sermon on the text, the Greek word that often gets translated as “that none may be wasted,” is more correctly translated as “that none may perish.” That Jesus would not only feed us, but also search out the remnants – the marginalized; the forgotten; the unwanted; the discarded; the leftovers – that they might not perish, points to a caring Savior who wants us to know we neither have to live alone, nor die alone. Therein lies the real miracle.