I like picnics.Picnics are great.I've made a life-long practice of attending picnics.The end of summer seems to be picnic season good friends, good food and good times.
But I have never attended a picnic as special as the ones mentioned in scripture with Jesus.The biggest picnic mentioned in the gospels is known as the feeding of the thousands.
It wasn't planned, but spontaneous.And it turned out it was about more than food. That's what makes this picnic special.So special that all of the gospel writers remembered and wrote about the feeding of the thousands.
One of the things we remember about this seaside story is that there was not enough food to share, hardly any in fact.But when Jesus blessed a little bread and a few fish and shared there was more than enough, with basketfuls left over.
It was a miracle, moving from scarcity to abundance.How does this happen? When I tried to remember all the details it used to get a little fuzzy, probably because when I'd look I'd find different details in different stories.
Did the writers mix it up?But when you look more carefully, reading the stories side by side, the details come together and you discover a big, delightful surprise teaching of Jesus, something wonderful brought to light.
The first surprise was that it's not about one picnic.It's about two different picnics.One of these picnics is told in all four of the gospels, the Bible books of John Chapter 6, Matthew Chapter 14, Mark Chapter 6, and Luke Chapter 9.
Set in the hills above the northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee, a Jewish region, it had been a full day of teaching and healing crowds of people.
Five thousand men were there, plus women and children, who had come to hear and see. When it became meal time, Jesus invited them to have a seat in the grass.
He asked his disciples to bring food to everyone.They were surprised, as they had not planned for the meal.Scrounging, they could only find a boy with five small loaves of bread and two small fish.
This Jesus blessed before God, then passing this around the crowd something amazing happened the sharing of the blessing continued until all the crowd was fed, and there were 12 baskets full of bread left over.
It was a miracle.It was a feeding of thousands.But how and what so special does it mean?
The second picnic is found in Mark Chapter 8 and Matthew Chapter 15.This one is set in the hills above the northeast shores of the Sea of Galilee, in the region known as the Decapolis because of the 10 nearby cities, an area where Jews did not as commonly go.
Jesus went there and with the disciples had already been there on a teaching mission for three days.Again Jesus asked the disciples to feed the crowd, this time 4,000 men, plus women and children.Again the disciples were surprised.
They had only seven loaves and a few small fish with them.They blessed and shared, and all ate, and this time there were seven baskets left over.
Again, it was a miracle.Again, a lesson to be found that in blessing and sharing, scarcity becomes abundance.A beautiful lesson, but that's not the only, nor the most special lesson to be had.
In the Jewish region how many baskets of bread were left after all had eaten?Twelve were left.How many tribes of Israel are there?There are a total of 12.
One for every tribe all God's chosen, all God's people are fed and cared for.In the region of the Decapolis how many baskets were left over? Seven were left.
Yes, there are 10 cities, but in this region there are remnants of seven people groups, as remembered in Deuteronomy 7:1.Again, everyone is remembered, all God's people are fed and cared for.
The 12 tribes of Israel and the seven remnant nations living in the Decapolis; no one is left out.
So, when you are at your next picnic, and the host stands before God and asks blessing of the food, be confident there shall be more than plenty and also know that God has especially included you in the blessing.
Rev. John E. Flower, Jr., pastor of First United Methodist Church of Clarion.