Marc Chagall, Jacob wrestling with the angel, 1931
Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall, Nice, France
Vie de Jesus Mafa, Jesus Multiplies the Loaves
He plays a game of chicken
With this Yahweh, testing whether
He can entrust all he has
To the promise of abundance;
He sends them, unprotected,
Wrestling all night with what he's done.
The grabber gets a blessing,
Although it doesn't come scot-free -
Faith limps in this, our family tree.
Along comes Jesus. He's alone,
In his own way, wrestling, too.
The crowds can't get enough of him;
Can his disciples do it?
But they need another lesson -
Astonishing numbers fed!
Not disaster we expect,
Is news that comes again this week,
When of this God, we dare to speak.
Scott L. Barton
[The phrase "hilarious unexpectedness" is from Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale. See http://www.frederickbuechner.com/content/weekly-sermon-illustration-gospel-comedy.]
The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
* * *
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.