Most of you have heard the story before. Matthew 14:13-21. The crowd was huge. Jesus was teaching and healing. It was late in the day and they were in the middle of nowhere. Everyone is hungry but there is no food...except five small loaves of barley bread and a couple of scrawny fish. It is a boy's lunch. Andrew brings it to Jesus and after praying, Jesus feeds thousands with it. End of story, right? Pretty straight forward. But there is much more here. This story is one of a handful that can be found in all four gospels, so it made an impression on many folks. Each version is a bit different, but we will look at Matthew's account.
At the beginning we see a very human Jesus. He has been in Nazareth, His hometown. And He went to His home church to worship, but when He began to explain the scriptures to the people, they got angry and tried to kill Him. Now He is on the move again and someone has brought Him the news that John the Baptist has been killed...beheaded. The news caused Jesus to go off by Himself. No doubt He was remembering and praying. John the Baptist is thought to be Jesus cousin. Their mothers were pregnant at the same time, both in miraculous ways. It was John’s call to go before Jesus. He was the one Isaiah prophesied about. John was the voice of one crying in the wilderness...prepare the way of the Lord. And it was John who was standing in the Jordan River, baptizing, when Jesus came walking along. John looked up, saw Jesus, and cried out behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John’s death was painful for Jesus. And...it reminded Him that His own death was not that far away.
Jesus did not have much time to Himself because the crowds found out where He was, and they followed Him. Jesus knew what it was like to never have a minute to Himself. There were always people pressing in on Him. And here we see the shift between the very human Jesus and the divine Jesus. Matthew tells us Jesus had compassion on the crowd. These were His people and they too were hurting. Some were sick and needed healing. Others were grieving and some were looking for any sort of hope Jesus might offer. You might even say it was the usual kind of crowd. Today, many of us could be standing in that same crowd. Some of us are sick and seeking healing. Some of us know the pain of grief that seems to keep washing over us, day after day. And how many of us are looking for just a glimmer of hope to show us things will eventually be OK?
The crowd, the disciples, and Jesus were in this deserted place all day and towards the evening. And the disciples were beginning to get impatient. Send the crowds away they told Jesus. They need to get something to eat. But perhaps, it is the disciples who were hungry and tired. Send them away so we can eat. I would imagine the crowds Jesus often drew were not the rich and famous. They did not go to fancy places. Jesus’ crowds were the same folks Emma Lazarus spoke of when she said, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” These were Jesus’ crowds. It must have worn on the disciples. Day in and day out they saw people who desperately needed Jesus.
If we are honest with ourselves, that is who we see as well. We see people without hope. We see people whose hearts and lives are broken. We see people who are hanging on by a very thin thread. We see people who hurt, who are angry, people who are hungry both physically and spiritually. But unlike the crowds, they don't gather around. They slog through life putting one foot in front of another in the hope that tomorrow might be better. We are those people too, like it or not. We may go to a quiet place to cry out or lick our wounds, but many of us will carry on and no one will be the wiser. We have friends and neighbors in this group. We have coworkers and classmates here too.
Perhaps some know Jesus, but they don't know how to go to him. Some have asked Jesus for help but have not seen any answers. Many do not know Him at all. They are just part of the hopeless crowd. Jesus’ healing does not usually come instantly. In fact, that is the exception and not the rule. And sometimes healing does not come this side of heaven. We too want to be free of that which weighs us down. And Jesus has invited us to come to Him...everyone who is weighed down with one thing or another. He has walked where we walk. He has known what we know. He has” been there, done that”. Jesus goes before us today, and every day. He promised to walk with us every step of our lives. We may not be able to physically see Him. We can't reach out and touch the hem of His garment, but He is here...ALWAYS
In His grip
Pastor Matt W