14 When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion for them and healed those who were sick. 15 That evening his disciples came and said to him, “This is an isolated place and it’s getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
16 But Jesus said to them, “There’s no need to send them away. You give them something to eat.”
17 They replied, “We have nothing here except five loaves of bread and two fish.”
18 He said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves of bread and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them and broke the loaves apart and gave them to his disciples. Then the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 Everyone ate until they were full, and they filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. 21 About five thousand men plus women and children had eaten.
Jesus healed and cared and fed and loved. He showed us that a champion serves those in need. In this story, Jesus had just received news that Herod Antipas had killed John the Baptist (Matthew 14:9-10). Jesus withdrew to grieve, needing spiritual renewal. But when a large crowd found him in that remote place, he “had compassion for them.” He wouldn’t let his disciples send them away—he gave them the physical food (as well as the spiritual food) they needed.
Lord Jesus, you provided food for the hungry Galilean peasants when they came to hear your teaching. Thank you for being the God who fills my deepest needs. Amen.
* Barclay M. Newman and Philip C. Stine, A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew. New York: United Bible Societies, 1988, p. 458.
Once again, our GPS reading gives us my favorite view of Jesus – the very human Jesus, who suffers the same things we suffer but, because he also carries the heart of God, shows us the way we should go forward when we don’t know how to go on.
In Matthew 14, we see Jesus grieving the horrible, violent, death of his cousin John. He tries to go someplace quiet to deal with his grief, but crowds from all around followed him, asking him to heal their sick. Tired and feeling the emptiness that grief brings, he was stirred when he heard people calling out from their own pain and grief. He healed them, and more.
Jesus was tired, and he was grieving, but when he saw the crowd and knew their need, Matthew 14:14 tells us he felt compassion and took action. The stirring of his heart toward that crowd was even stronger than his own sadness and exhaustion. The heart of God won out over the human emotions of grief and physical tiredness. He even felt compassion for the crowd’s need for food and showed his disciples the power of God’s provision by turning small amounts of fish and bread into food for thousands.
In that crowd there would have been all kinds of people. There would have been people who loved Jesus already and had followed him to his place of retreat just to be near him. Some of them were sick and needed physical healing. Some needed to hear his teaching and have their lives changed forever. Some of them were probably his enemies. He didn’t ask them to prove that they were worthy of his stepping away from much needed rest and spiritual renewal.
He spoke to them. He healed them. He fed their physical needs.
At this point in our weird and upsetting journey with COVID-19, most of us are experiencing some form of grief. Many have experienced the terrible grief of losing someone, but we are also grieving other losses – the ability to gather together in person for worship, time with the whole family gathered for special occasions, casually visiting with friends and neighbors without masks and tape measurers, play dates for children and adults. Some of us are grieving job losses and financial setbacks, strained relationships, and the loss of feelings of safety and security.
We are tired, and maybe a little bit numb, from all the changes and losses and unknowns. It may be hard for us to hear and react to one more sad story, one more exposed need, one more cry for help.
In Galatians 6:9, Paul tells us, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap the harvest if we do not give up.” Jesus showed us that, even in grief, we can take action for others and find meaning in what seems meaningless.
When our hearts are weary, the heart of God in us will step up and help us take action. It doesn’t have to be as big as healing and feeding a crowd of 5,000 people. The opportunities for showing God’s love and compassion to those around us can be as simple as checking in (safely) with a neighbor who lives alone, calling a friend who might be struggling, leaving a home-cooked meal on someone’s doorstep, giving blood, writing a postcard, or listening to others without judgement.
There is a great opportunity coming up for us to feed a crowd and act with compassion to fill a need coming up with the next BUILD-A-BOX FOOD DRIVE at Resurrection Leawood. For more information, visit this page.
Thank you for giving us your heart and spirit that never grows weary when ours is overcome. Help us to feel the compassion you feel, and take the actions that will help heal others and ourselves.
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