Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

18 July 2012

The crowds are fed

Part 4 of a series - 'Seven signs in John'
< An invalid is healed | Index | Walking on water >

People are hungry - and there are a lot of people. Jesus asks the disciples about feeding them and then shows that neither money nor large supplies of food are necessary. We finish with the usual four questions.

Traditional Jordanian breadFor the background to the signs in John and links to the other articles in the series, please read the index page.

At Tabgha on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee is a church at the traditional site of the feeding of the five thousand.

About 300 years after the crowd ate the bread and fish, a woman called Egeria visited and wrote of this site.

'In the same place (not far from Capernaum) facing the Sea of Galilee is a well watered land in which lush grasses grow, with numerous trees and palms. Nearby are seven springs which provide abundant water. In this fruitful garden Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish.'

So let's read the passage from John and then ask the usual four questions.


Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing those who were ill. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’

Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.’ (John 6:1-15)

As for the earlier signs in John, I'll now ask the four questions suggested by Neil Cole and provide some pointers for finding the answers in the material quoted above.

What does this story tell us about people? - We'll list all the people who are mentioned.

First, there is the crowd. Why were they following Jesus? Travelling around on foot would have been quite an effort, they would have been both tired and hungry. Any who were not young, fit and well might have been really struggling. Right at the end the people are mentioned again. How did they respond to what had happened?

Next is Philip. His solution to feeding the people is to buy food, but he knew this was unaffordable for so many.

Andrew knew they had some food, but only a token amount among so many.

The disciples (including Philip and Andrew) are mentioned later. Jesus tells them to pick up the pieces. This might have seemed an unnecessary chore (the were no littering laws in those days). How did they respond? What were they thinking as the baskets filled up?

What does it tell us about Jesus? - Jesus crossed to the far shore. He was always travelling about the land. Why?

His initial response to the crowd was to go up into the hills. But they followed him. What is his attitude to this crowd?

Notice how he uses questions to teach the disciples, getting people to think and verbalise is more effective than just giving the answer.

Jesus tells the disciples what to do - make them sit down - gather up the pieces. Who is in control here?

Right at the end, is he taken by surprise by the intentions of the crowd? Does he approve of their desire to make him a king? What is going on here?

What does it tell me about myself? - Are you like any of the people in the story? Are you like all of them in some way? Which do you identify with most? Which do you identify with least? Might you have thought and behaved differently?

Who else needs to hear this? - Who do you know who might benefit or be challenged or encouraged by hearing this sign of John?

Additional points - John mentions 5000 men in this crowd. The total size of the crowd would have been more, perhaps substantially more if they had counted women and children too.

< An invalid is healed | Index | Walking on water >

13 October 2011

SOCIETY - Food for free?

OK, who'd like some free, good quality food? Every year in the autumn there's a plentiful supply of free fruit ready for the taking - and almost nobody wants it or even realises it's edible.

Windfall pearsWalking home this afternoon I spotted an ornamental pear on a housing estate. The grass beneath the tree was strewn with little pears, ripe but only about 5 cm long and 3 or 4 cm in diameter. They will lie there until they rot, or the birds eat them, or they're carted away with the fallen leaves by the local authority.

What a waste! I had an empty shopping bag with me so sorted through them picking out undamaged and unbruised fruit. I imagine I took about a kg of fruit altogether. Back home I gave the pears a good wash and then sliced chunks off vertically, avoiding the cores and rejecting any slices with internal browning. No need to peel them, that would be a tedious job with so many small fruit.


Washed and sliced pearsI filled a medium saucepan with the washed pieces, added some sugar, and stewed them until they were soft; they created a lovely aroma. Then I took them off the heat and pulped them with a blender. Now to taste some. Ah, they had an excellent pear flavour but were distinctly astringent. They would have made good perry, maybe the tree is a perry cultivar or just a seedling from somebody's discarded pear core.

Not to worry, I roughly chopped some dates, stirred them in, and reboiled them for a couple more minutes. I used two or three dates to each tablespoon of pear mash. Check the taste again... Lovely. (Hint: If you find problems of this kind, experiment with small quantities before changing the entire batch.)

The finished crumbleNext I put the fruit in an ovenproof dish and added a crumble topping. I used brown sugar to make the crumble as it has a nice, rich flavour. The finished crumble went into a preheated oven at 180 C, and thirty five minutes later I removed my pear and date dessert from the oven and made a jug of custard. Not exactly free food I suppose, but at least the pears were free. And far more flavour than any pears you could buy at the supermarket.

Some people are anxious about food collected in this way, particularly where wild fruits, leaves or fungi are concerned. Providing you are absolutely certain about the identity of the material there is no need to worry. But please - if you are not sure of what you have - don't eat it.

As far as pears are concerned, the shape of the fruit, its aroma, the slighty gritty flesh, the characteristic leaves, the size and habit of the tree - all these are strong clues to identity. This was a form of Pyrus communis and therefore completely safe.

10 May 2010

Biology and the economy

Humanity has become nothing less than a plague on the earth. The Bible calls us to be stewards of this planet, A crowd scene in Hong Kongbut instead we are well on the way to wrecking it.

A BBC News item today reports that loss of habitat and species will soon begin to have a major impact on the world economy. There is so far little evidence that governments have grasped the size of the problems or their urgency, perhaps we are paralysed like a child who has thrown a ball and broken a window. Denial is easier than taking responsibility, owning up, and attempting to make amends. This is in addition to anthropogenic climate change and other issues (pollution, overuse of water resources, dwindling mineral stocks etc).

What we face is little short of catastrophe, but we are doing so little about it. We talk about more efficient agriculture, power generation from wind, sunshine, tides, and waves, recycling of waste, but we don't yet realise that we are merely tinkering. The greatest problem is rarely discussed because it is so difficult - there are simply far too many of us sharing the surface of our small planet.

One good sign is that greater affluence is resulting in falling birthrates in the developed world. In Europe, North America, Australasia, and the developed parts of Asia, birth rates are close to or even below replacement levels. But the less developed areas of Asia and Africa and to a lesser degreee South America still have burgeoning populations.

We must do what we can to reduce the world's population. If we do not - and quickly - the world will do the job for us through steadily increasing starvation and disease. This is likely to be widespread through the developed world as well as less privileged regions.

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