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Lenten Reflections Project 2022

Wednesday | March 30 | Brannin Pitre

John 6:5-14; 35

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.  Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”  One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him,  “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.  When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

There is one spot along a particular highway in Colorado that Tanya and I would take to visit family and friends years ago. It’s a dusty, dry turn off in the road between South Fork and Del Norte. There were only two buildings there: a busy gas station filling up travelers as they made their way across the state and an old, abandoned restaurant with broken windows, paint peeling off, and a sign that hung out front in the parking lot with ironic pride. The sign said, “Seating still available.”

Last summer, my family and I headed down that same highway and as we got to the dusty dry turn off, we noticed that there is a new restaurant there with a new parking lot, with lots of food being served and lots of people eating.  But, still hanging with pride in the same spot, was that old sign saying, “Seating still available.”

I want you to think about this passage, not in terms of the food provided, not even in terms of the conversation that has taken place. I want you to think about the seating that is still available in the grass. It never says they ran out of room. It says that “there was much grass in that place.” I want you to think about the person who may be in the back, just outside the circle, or at the end of the line as the meal is being distributed. Maybe they are just listening in, maybe they are wondering if they were to participate in the celebration. Would it betray their own pain, or their questions of faith, or even their sense of self-reliance. Might they be wondering if this could all really be true, if this the person who can heal me and can also feed me so that I won’t hunger again for anything?

This is a meal where well over 5000 people all are still under the oppression of the Romans. And through the pain and oppression and the centuries of loss, they are hanging on to a promise that was made long ago, that the messiah will one day come. That there will one day come someone who will deliver them and set them free. But is this the one? Can they believe what they see?  Can they trust that it is real?

As they sit on the edge of the grass and watch as the fish and the loaves being handed out in abundance, perhaps they begin to believe.  Perhaps they sense Jesus’ great heart.  Perhaps they see the tenderness and love in his face, as he looked at the crowd and saw that they were helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Did they hear him say to Philip “how can we help them?”  

Sitting on the outside looking in, do they begin to trust?  Do they see the wonder of a Savior who comes with tremendous wisdom and tremendous power and also, a great heart to help? And if you somehow were there, looking in but still skeptical, still unsure, would you notice the leftovers? Would you understand that there is a place still available where there is more? And would you begin to trust him after seeing the abundance? After all, the message is clear: he is saying to all of us that his provision is great, there is more than enough. Come, taste, and see that the Lord is good.

If you have lost trust, if you have lost hope that he could love you, that he can still work all things together for good, this miracle comes to us during Lent and says to all of us, come and sit at this table. Know the One who loves you eternally will take care of you forever. Don’t fear that there is not enough. There is more than enough, and there is seating still available, for you.

Brannin Pitre is the founding and senior pastor of Grace Pasadena. He's a rabid Dodger's fan and all around good mensch.