Posted by: mattcolvin | December 5, 2011

Fish in Heaven? Matthew 15:29ff.

Tuesday of the Second Week in Advent: Matthew 15:29-end.

34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”
And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.”
35 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. 37 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left. 38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.

(Fish by daughter of Ange Vergéce, illustration for Manuel Philes’ De Natura Animalium)

I have always wondered what this was like to watch. How did it work? I know, I know, by the power of God. But if you were watching one of the disciples give the seven loaves to the multitude of 4000+, what did that look like? When did the multiplication happen?

Perhaps the closest OT precedent for this miracle (and for the feeding of the 5,000) is the jar of flour in the widow’s house when Elijah stayed with her. But since that was used for baking, there would have been times when the jar was shut, and it seems most plausible to imagine it being refilled by God during those times. Or are we to imagine that the widow could have turned it upside down and kept shaking it, and could have filled her whole house with flour that way? Surely not, since the text says it “was not used up”, not that it overflowed.

I have also always wondered why there are fish present in these miraculous feedings of thousands of people. And why do they occupy no place in Christian tradition or rituals? (We once attended a United Church of Canada service where the liturgist thanked God for “feeding us with bread and fish and wine and water”. It got my hopes up, but the Supper was just bread and wine after all. No sardines, fortunately.

Jesus eats fish after his resurrection. One of my friends asked me this week whether there will be sacraments in heaven. I replied that the Lord’s Supper is an anticipatory taste of the heavenly feast, and that we should not suppose that sacraments are too “fleshly” or “material” to be part of the life of the Church in the age to come. It seems to me that we will have bodies, and that eating food together is one of the main rituals that persons with bodies do. So perhaps fish will feature as one of the foods that we eat in a future sacrament?


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