John 6:1-21 (NRSV)
1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" 10Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus 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. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world." 15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
Most of you are probably familiar with the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books. In volume 2 of the original series, Ben Burton tells of a childhood experience that haunts him years later. Andy Drake is a 5th grade classmate that everyone teases and harasses. They taunt Andy with:
Andy Drake don’t eat cake,
And his sister don’t eat pie.
If it wasn’t for their welfare dole
All the Drakes would die.
Andy tolerated the ugliness because he didn’t want to risk being completely ignored. Andy’s father was in prison. His mother took in washing and men. Andy often came to school without a bath and his clothes were hand-me-downs and donated items from the Salvation Army.
One weekend the boys in his class planned a camp-out. Some of the mothers fixed an extra pack of food for Andy Drake. As they waited for everyone to arrive for the camping trip, one of the boys said, “Andy’s different, don’t you think? We don’t really want him to go with us, do we?” It was left to Ben to tell Andy. Ben writes:
I can still see Andy as he came toward us down the long, dark tunnel of trees-Andy was on his rusty one-of-a-kind bike-a girl’s model with garden hose wired to the rims for tires. He appeared excited and happier than I had ever seen him, this frail little guy who had had to be an adult all of his life. I knew he was savoring the acceptance of our group, the first chance to belong, to have “boy fun,” to do “boy things.”
Andy waved to me as I stood in the camp clearing awaiting him. I ignored his happy greeting. He vaulted off the funny old bike and trotted over to me, full of joy and conversation. Why won’t he get serious? Can’t he see that I am not reciprocating his feelings? Can’t he see that I am not responding to his babblings?
Then suddenly he did see! His innocent countenance opened even more, leaving him totally vulnerable. His whole demeanor said silently, “It’s going to be very bad, isn’t it, Ben? Let’s have it.” Undoubtedly well-practiced in facing disappointment, he didn’t even brace for the blow.
Incredulously, I heard myself say, “Andy, we don’t want you.”
Hauntingly vivid still is the stunning quickness with which two big tears sprung to Andy’s eyes and stayed there. Vivid, because of a million maddening re-runs of that scene in my mind. The way Andy looked at me-frozen for an eternal moment. Finally, a fleet little tremor broke across Andy’s lips and he turned without appeal, or even a question, to make the long, lonely trip home in the dark.
It was days later before Ben Burton worked through his shame and decided to apologize to Andy Drake. But Andy had moved. Ben never saw him again.
The disciples came to Jesus as the day was drawing to a close and complained that there was not enough food to feed all of the people who had come out to hear Jesus speak. They wanted to send the people away. It was a large crowd made up mostly of the am haretz or people of the land--the poor, the religious outcasts, the rejects, the curious, the political opportunists, the wishful, and those who wanted a miracle. The disciples, who were operating from a scarcity mindset, thought there wasn’t enough food to feed them all nor was there enough compassion, love and grace in their hearts to understand the many needs within the crowd.
How many Andy Drakes have we sent away because of a scarcity mindset? How many times have we selfishly held on to what we have and failed to share with others? How often have we thought that there might not be enough and have held onto or grabbed what we thought was ours without considering the needs of others? When have we withheld grace, compassion, and love because the “other” was not like us?
Think about it.
From Chicken Soup for the Soul, 2 as told by Donald Shelby in “Bring Us Together,” A sermon preached on July 26, 1997.