A friend reminded me today of an interpretation of this miracle story that I’ve heard before. The basic gist of it is that the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was caused not by some supernatural quantitative multiplication of bread and fish, but rather by the fact that people had brought food with them and decided to share. This makes Christ out to be some kind of parental figure who gets his children to not be selfish but share. The miracle story becomes instead a lesson in morality about the importance of sharing. While sharing is important, it doesn’t quite express the freshness of the Gospel – any civilized group of people understands the probable utility and calculated risk involved in sharing; no need for the Gospel there.
“Your sins are forgiven!” These words bring consolation to those of us who understand that we need forgiveness, and who understand that we have sinned. For someone who has not understood either sin or forgiveness, it could seem like mere words or like something unimportant. We don’t know exactly what thoughts passed through the mind of the paralytic because he remained silent, but Jesus’ first words to him were not about curing his paralysis. The man didn’t seem to ask for forgiveness, nor did he seem to come to Jesus looking for anything other than a cure. Certainly Jesus reads hearts and minds, however, and provides the man immediately with the treatment that corresponds to his greatest suffering. The physical suffering may have incited the man to ask to be brought to Jesus, then again, the man may have discerned the greater moral suffering he endured from his sins and relied on his physical disability to be brought by others to Jesus.