“So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” (Acts 5:38-39)
“If this plan or this undertaking of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. In very simple terms, Gamaliel was saying: “No one can fight God and win.” This statement brought an end to the persecution of the early Christians by the Jewish authorities. They must have said to themselves: “Let us watch and see what would become of these illiterate, uneducated, retired fishermen going about preaching about Jesus Christ.”
Two thousand years later, the Church is still standing. What other evidence do we need to show that this undertaking is of God? As Jesus puts it: “You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).
In our Gospel passage today, we read about the feeding of the multitude by Jesus. Firstly, it is interesting to note that none of the people asked for food but Jesus knew they were hungry and worked a miracle to feed them. Very often, we complain about our unanswered prayers forgetting that most of the time, God provides for us without us even asking.
Secondly, the feeding of the multitude teaches us the miraculous power of charity. Every time they broke the bread to share with someone else, it literally multiplied. In the end, from five loaves, they had twelve baskets full of left-overs. As Anne Frank once said: “No one ever became poor by giving.”
Thirdly this miracle displays the power of God over the works of nature and everything contained in this world. As Gamaliel noted, any undertaking that is entirely human is bound to fail but when God is involved, no one can bring it down. How often and how willing am I to involve God in my daily choices and actions?
Fourthly, we learn that Jesus did not come to seek earthly power and glory but to lead us to our true home; heaven. After the miracle, Jesus withdrew from the crowd perceiving that they were about to declare him King. The multitude had not seen anything like this before and they felt (in a materialistic sense) that Jesus was the answer to all they needed.
The mistake of the multitude is still being made by many of us Christians today. We somehow forget that our true home is in heaven and that no matter how good we desire life to be, we are forever strangers (pilgrims, passers-by) on earth. Let us tell ourselves the truth. Our churches in Africa are packed full not because we are converted Christians but because of the prevailing economic situation of our continent. These souls who ate the loaves and fishes were not believers but spectators.
A good number of those who fill up seats in our churches today are just spectators. This explains the stark contradiction between our lives and that of Christ. Should it happen that our continent becomes better economically, this mammoth crowd of spectators will leave and only true Christians will remain. Proof of this is the statistic of Africans who were extremely religious while in Africa only to abandon religion completely once they travelled abroad and found greener pastures. Just the crowd wanted to make Jesus king, men of God today are not just kings but semi-deities in our society. No one can curtail their excesses because even our political leaders are afraid of them.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my confidence in you. Amen.
Bible Study: Acts 5:34-42, Ps. 27:1,4,13-14, John 6:1-15)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu