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Meaningful Miracles : Feeding the Five Thousand
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This miracle of the loaves and the fishes is copied from 2 Kings (4. 42-44 ) but in the Gospels this has special significance. Fishes are symbols of Christ’s Spirit, as Lord of the last age, the Age of the Fishes, (see fishing miracle) and wheat (or barley), the bread of life, is the prime symbol of resurrection (I Cor.15. 37. Jn.12. 24 ).
John’s Gospel is often liturgical and theological, grand and profoundly resonant for church reading but rather unrealistic as a biography, despite mentioning the wondering Jews. It is John’s Gospel where we get the clearest Kabbalistic imagery and John makes the symbolic significance of the bread unequivocal. By the time John’s Gospel was written, estimated around 110 AD , Jesus would always be the Risen Christ for Christians. John clearly associates this ‘bread of life’ symbolism with resurrection.
This passage follows on from the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, the Pisces symbol, leaving twelve baskets of bread crumbs. Twelve is a number used repeatedly in the Bible with clear symbolic significance and Revelation confirms the Kabbalistic presumption this refers to the zodiac. John is keen to let these symbols resound and echo again and again :
‘The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
‘And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
There can be little doubt this was written when the sacrament of bread and wine was already established in the early church. The symbolic bread as the ‘body of Christ’ in the Eucharist sacrament identifies the believer with the Risen Christ, affirming eternal life, the promise of their own resurrection. Resurrection is closely associated with Christ’s Spirit, the Crown on the Tree of Life. Wheat was also a symbol of the resurrection of Osiris in Egypt. Osiris shares the same spirit and place on the Tree as Christ.
When Christ feeds our spiritual hunger, there is always much more than we can manage. Everything in the Gospels should be understood spiritually, as we do… and don’t.
This secret, esoteric imagery is explained in one of the Gospels’ most difficult passages :
‘It has been granted to you to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God; but to those who are outside everything comes by way of parables, in order that they may look but see nothing, hear but understand nothing, otherwise they might turn to God and I would heal them.
‘But happy are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear ! Many prophets and saints, I tell you, desired to see what you now see, yet never saw it; to hear what you hear, yet never heard it.’ (Mt.13. 11,15-17 ; Mk.4. 11,12 ; Lk.8. 10 . NEB; from Isaiah, speaking for God, looking to the End. Ch.6. 9-10 )
This superficially cruel view is best explained by recognising some are more ready to approach closer to the knowledge of God than others. We have different needs and talents. This spiritual wisdom is difficult to drink. More difficult still is to live in love, not hating others. To know God’s Spirit within. Love is the ultimate healing we lack so badly.
The feeding of the five thousand is found in Jn.6.1-13; Mt.14. 15-21 ;15. 32-38 ; Mk.6. 31-34 and Lk. 9. 10-17.
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