What are they?

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 among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’
— John 6

One of those church signs photographed and shared online, asks: “Will you give God your fish sandwich?” Cute.

Still, there is a character limit to letter boards and perhaps this is why the question posed to passer-byers fails to convey what is at stake in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel.

If the story about a boy who gave his provisions to Jesus only means to tell us that we, like this youngin’, ought to give to God our filet o’ fish, well, that would be do-able. It would be far easier than having to reckon with the fact that there are these moments in life when we reach the end of our knowledge and yet the situation demands further attention.

Andrew wonders what good they are, the five loaves and two fish, in the face of thousands who need to eat; at which point he is you and me when our know- how runs out and despair jumps at the chance to fill the vacuum. If that is not a current reality, chances are you remember when.

Yeah, I’d rather give God my fish sandwich than have to sit with Andrew’s question. “What are they among so many?” If you want us to meet this need than we need more. As in more energy, more people, more favorable math on the front end.

While God can and does make a way, the pitfall of saying so, here, is: The way that God makes tends to involve us. In other words, we don’t always get to sit down while God steps in and saves the day.

I have this image in my mind of Andrew’s chest tightening when he realizes that not only is this whole thing a set-up—they shouldn’t be in this situation to begin with—but Jesus expects them to work it out or to collapse trying. No doubt, they were tired.

Maybe this was the day they learned about the something else that appears where our can-do ends. Which wasn’t disbelieving in despair as much as it was awakening to the fact that love also sees the opening. Love makes things happen.

E’er this gets to sounding naive, put down the fish sandwich, pick up the gospel, and give God the gift of your freshly humbled self.

Rachel May