Back to the feeding of the five thousand.
In John’s poetic prologue to his gospel, which is so important, John tells us something about the beauty of the Infinite entering into the finite. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth….For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:14, 16 ESV. The word became flesh, we are told. The logos became human, incarnation. Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory…this word could also be understood as beauty. We have seen his [beauty], the beauty of a Fathers only Son, full of grace and truth….For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
From the fullness of Christ we have all received grace upon grace. But the human condition, as a problem, suffers from a kind of emptiness. We can ask the question What’s wrong with us? There are many ways we can answer this question, but one of the ways we can answer this question is to say we suffer from a kind of emptiness. Not just spiritual emptiness, there’s that too, but we live with a pervasive mentality of scarcity and insufficiency, this is very important. We are infected in the way we think about life itself.
As human beings, we can only survive in a social structure, our lives are intensely social by necessity. So here we are, thrust into this social structure that is the human condition, but we come with a problem. Or at least as young children we are scripted in such a way, unknowingly, that there’s just not enough. There’s not enough to go around. There’s not enough for everyone, you know? This, really, shapes the way we view the world in a very negative way. There’s just not enough. So we have a paradigm of scarcity and insufficiency. There’s not enough, because there’s just not. So I have to make sure there’s enough for me and mine, because there’s just not enough.
So this is our problem. Why did Cain kill Abel? Seriously, why did Cain kill Abel? Was it because he thought there just wasn’t enough? Was there not enough land? There’s not enough land for Cain’s crops and Abel’s flocks, at least that’s what Cain thought. So Cain has to get rid of the competition, even though it’s his brother.
We are the sons and daughters of Cain. It is not Abel’s legacy that we have inherited as a human species, but Cain’s legacy. Certainly we are the sons and daughters of Cain, why else do we covet and why do we fight and why do we exploit? Because we view the world through Cain’s lens of scarcity and insufficiency. We don’t see ourselves as blessed with abundance, we perceive ourselves as cursed with scarcity, so we’re afraid. We’re afraid of the void, we’re afraid of emptiness, we’re afraid of insufficiency, we’re afraid of empty bellies, we’re afraid that there’s just not enough.
We are raised to believe that reality is zero-based, and that creation is a closed system. I don’t think we are formally taught that at any point (although I do work in sales and deal with a company that absolutely believes in the concept of zero-based budgeting…so maybe the world is starting to formally encode this belief). At some point philosophy may creep into exploring this line of thought, but by the time we are three years old we already know this. We may not know any of the words at three years old, but we certainly are raised to believe that reality is zero-based, and creation is a closed system. Or, as we might say, that it is finite, that creation is limited.
Now we are getting to it. The jumping off point I spoke of previously. This paradigm of scarcity and insufficiency lies at the heart of our systemic sins. Stay with me here. There are personal sins, and that is what we mostly focus on, because we feel so hopeless in doing anything about our systemic sins. But the real problems of humanity stem not from our personal sins, but from our sins as a whole, as a human race. As human beings, as we build our societies, we build them in sinful ways. No one person or group is responsible, but are are all culpable in it. We are all implicated. It’s because of our paradigm of scarcity and insufficiency that we build systems that are in and of themselves sinful.
We fear that there won’t be enough oil. There won’t be enough land. There won’t be enough food. There won’t be enough water. There won’t be enough money. There won’t be enough labor to go around, so we build and maintain sinful structure to guarantee that WE have OURS. We fear that there’s not going to enough for us, however we define US, so we use force against THEM, to guarantee we have enough for US.
Still with me? Try. We create an organized, slow motion version of anarchy. You know anarchy, think of lawlessness, the rule of law thrown out the window, it’s every man for himself, people are smashing windows, just grabbing whatever they can. Think about times during riots when suddenly when all law and order dissolves, it’s pandemonium, it’s anarchy, the zombie apacolypse comes upon us…
What we have done in our systemic sins is to create a slow-motion version of anarchy. We don’t recognize it for what it is because it takes place over decades or centuries. Native Americans were victims of the slow motion, organized anarchy known as Manifest Destiny. Just grab what you can and the rest will just have to get by as best they can…
This way of viewing the world is absolutely dominant. We take this to be truth. If there is a truth we believe in, this is it. That there is not enough, there is not enough so we have to be committed to our side and we have to grab and clutch and hold on and fight and make sure we have enough for ours. We view this as truth, as reality, as the way it is. But it is not…
It is into this sad world dominated by the paradigm of scarcity that the Son of God appears. And on a grassy hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Jesus gives us a sign of just how mistaken we are…
Again, that’s enough for now, to be continued.
“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 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!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
John 6:1-15 ESV