I attended a local church two Sunday’s ago at the invite of some neighbors. The people were very warm and friendly, and we even got a free t-shirt. The service was held in a movie theater and we were able to eat snacks and drink coffee during the sermon. As far as the atmosphere went, it was quite a different church experience. From what I hear, churches are changing like this all across the country. It’s becoming less formal and a lot more social.
The pastor’s sermon was upbeat and full of energy. He did a good job engaging the audience with personal stories that were both humorous and true to all of our everyday lives. That takes a little bit of wit and skill. Then he took those personal stories and tied them into the message about Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Matthew chapter 14.
Let’s do a brief recap:
As it happened, Jesus finds out about the beheading of John the Baptist and then heads out into the desert apart from civilization. But a multitude of people followed him from the cities and came to be healed of sickness. After Jesus heals them the disciples ask Jesus to send them back into the cities to get their own food because the desert had none to support them. But Jesus had no plans to send them back. He was about to perform a miracle instead. He would take five loaves of bread, two fish, and then feed 5,000 men with it.
Biblical scholars have pointed out that women and children would have also been there, so the number was more likely around 20,000. But that’s not really important because as you will see the story is not literal. The message behind this miracle, as always, is about the soul of man.
I was impressed with the pastor’s sermon from one perspective. He pointed out that Jesus is not actually the one who distributed the bread and fish: Jesus commanded the disciples to feed the multitude. The only part Jesus actually played in the miracle was the blessing of it. Then the scriptures state that he handed them the loaves and fish and suddenly there was enough to go around to 5,000 people. What’s going on here? I use to wonder this: when the disciples starting handing out the food, did it just eternally keep getting bigger with every chunk taken apart and handed out? Of course there is something deeper the author of Matthew would like to teach us.
The pastor was right on about one thing. The miracle wasn’t about Jesus. The Bible makes it clear that it was about the disciples. The pastor then stated how this story is really about us, that we need to go out and heal and feed the world with whatever we have to give. Good for him. We should use the resources that we are blessed with to help someone in need. But what the pastor didn’t mention, at least esoterically, is that the allegory is full of symbolism to instruct us about the higher development of our own soul. This is the real reason Jesus isn’t actually performing the miracle.
Remember that Jesus was moved to go into the desert away from civilization after the sorrow of learning that John the Baptist was beheaded. The desert has special meaning. Johannes Tauler, the German Mystic of the 14th century and personal disciple of the Meister Eckhart himself, once stated:
“The hidden God is far above every outward thing and every thought, and is found only where thou hidest thyself in the secret place of thy heart, in the quiet solitude where no word is spoken, where is neither creature nor image nor fancy. This is the quiet desert of the Godhead, the Divine Darkness…”
In other words, the desert symbolizes that place of solitude where the lower mind (ego) can be weaned from the external realities of physical life (the world) and all it contains. The Christ himself did not need to do this, but his act of going to the desert to feed the multitude is wherein the lesson lies. The 5,000, essentially us, need to wean the lower mind of the things of this world in order to unite it with the higher mind and nature. Let’s get into the proof, shall we?
Why five loaves of bread? Although the bread itself is symbolic of the bread of life from above (Jesus breaks it after looking up to heaven), there are five loaves because the story is teaching us that we must consecrate the five senses to a higher calling. We must use them for noble causes, not anything that would be mired by worldly desires: lust, greed, etc. The reason Jesus gave the bread of life, the blessing of heaven, to the disciples to distribute is because the disciples themselves are symbolic of the superior qualities of the soul. These qualities are there to intervene for us when we allow it. Then in turn, when we use the five senses we are blessed with for noble causes the lower mind is lifted and is on route to eventually be united with the higher mind, where it becomes transformed.
The two fishes are symbolic of the senses and perceptions (reinforcing the symbolic nature of the five), which are possible, according to esoteric literature, of the astro-physical body. I have taught more about this on other articles, but in case you haven’t read them, don’t let these terms scare you. They are not New Age. They were around during Plato’s day, and even before. The astro-physical body is just part of the templet of the physical body which allows the lower nature feelings and desires to be. Nothing fancy about it. It’s basically an energetic conduit that the ancients were well aware of.
That being said, this story is symbolic of feeding the soul, not the body. Five loaves of bread and two fish didn’t really get divided into thousands and thousands of pieces to feed upwards of 5,000 men and an additional 15,000 for the women and children.
So what should we really take away from this story? Mainly that when we use the five senses for the highest of purposes, we honor our true selves, and raise the ego to new heights of spiritual transformation. Thus, even our five senses, which are so often taught to be the root cause of reinforcing the ego, can be part of the blessing from above that helps raise us. When the five senses are used for evil, we regress. But when used as a blessing, we move forward, especially developing the moral nature.
As always, please share your thoughts and any additional things you might have noticed from the passages.