When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Many years ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote: "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare" (Isaiah 55:1-2). Beautiful words by the prophet, but what did he mean? "You who have no money, come buy and eat." That sounds like a paradox: How do you buy anything without money?
Although traditionally we buy things with money, there are other ways to buy things. Jesus, for instance, bought us with his blood. And "to all who receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God" (John 1:12), with all the rights of a child. And that is the point of today's story, where Jesus feeds the multitudes without them having to pay for anything. There are no limitations on what they can eat either because food is available in plenty, and when they are done eating to their heart's content, there is still plenty left over.
However, if we look at our lives, it always seems to be a struggle. Why? Because as Isaiah said, we spend money on what is not bread and our labor on what doesn't satisfy. He's saying we are expending our energy and efforts on the wrong things, on the things of the world that do not satisfy or last! I know we need things. God knows we need things. But we don't need to chase after them. As Jesus said, "Why do you ask: 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' Doesn't your heavenly Father know that you need them? Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (see Matthew 6:31-33).
We first need to seek the kingdom of God. That is heaven. Faith is the currency in play here. Some of us imagine, like the Pharisees, that we can work our way into heaven. But, as Paul says, "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is the GIFT of God" (see Ephesians 2:8-9). No matter how rich we imagine we are, we are all paupers, spiritually bankrupt people. As Paul says, "ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. However, all are justified FREELY by God's grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (cf. Romans 3:23-24). Do note the words' gift' and 'freely.'
Once we find the kingdom of God, everything in it is ours, again at NO COST. Let me repeat this: once we find the kingdom of God, everything in it is ours. In words we have read so many, many times, but perhaps still not fully comprehended, Paul says: "The Spirit himself testifies that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16-17). As inheritors, we have already secured all these things we still sometimes madly run after. Let us not. "Your Father." Jesus said, "has been pleased to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).
So, come, buy and eat. Without money!
May the Spirit be with you.