“Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks” (John 6:23).
I wrote a column yesterday that mused why the Gospel of Mark saw fit to mention the “green grass,” of all things, on the very event-filled day Jesus fed a multitude and then calmed a storm at sea. It seems at first glance that it would have been like a reporter coming upon a chaotic domestic murder scene and noting in his notepad that the butter had been left out. Nevertheless, I offered my hunch as to why the green grass was a relevant and not obscure detail.
Today’s random (or you decide) phrase for our consideration is the one italicized in the verse above. This narrative again concerns an event-packed day. One would think the reporting of it would be very selective and would hit only the high points and not mention such small things as that this is the place where Jesus had prayed yesterday before they ate the bread.
Let me put it this way: If someone were to ask you what you did yesterday, would you answer, “I met Jenny for coffee. I returned a pile of overdue books to the library. I did food shopping. I had the broken taillight on the car fixed. I prayed before lunch. I ate lunch. I spent the afternoon with my mother”? Who ever mentions yesterday’s prayer before lunch when recounting one’s activities?
But the Holy Spirit sees to it that John mentions it. He evidently wants you and me to know that this place is where Jesus prayed before distributing bread.
I can think of two possible reasons for the inclusion, and then I welcome yours:
- Thanking God for your food before you eat it is as important as anything else you do in the course of a day. It is more important than coffee with Jenny and more important than the trip to the library and more important than your broken taillight repair. If you think to mention those other activities as noteworthy, then praying before your food—and, by the way, praying here and there all throughout the day—is as or more important. It’s not that we have to do it every time, but the evangelist throws it in here just to remind us of the fact.
- Perhaps the Holy Spirit wants the prayer noted because it was a prayer that issued forth a miracle. This was no ordinary meal the multitudes ate but a meal that came about through prayer. The Holy Spirit wants us to be totally aware of the fact that prayer was instrumental and is still the way the kingdom moves forward. Like Jesus once said about his evicting of a demon after others who tried before him had failed to evict it: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29).