Jesus is sad, grieving, exhausted. He has received word that His forerunner and cousin John the Baptist was brutally beheaded by Herod. In His grief he tries to go away privately to a solitary place, so He boards a boat. And yet the crowd won't let Him go. They are needy. They are demanding. They are persistent. They are quick--for they follow on foot, by land, arriving as He does by boat. They number into the many thousands (five thousand men, alone, not to mention women and children).
If you or I had been in that situation, I wonder whether we'd have stayed on the boat and put out to another place-- even to the middle of the lake -- anywhere to get away and lick our wounds.
But not our Lord. Listen for the way eyewitness Matthew records His response:
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matthew 14:14; NIV).
He saw their need and set aside His human weakness to serve them--to meet their needs. All because of His compassion. Imagine the depth of love that would allow Him to transcend His grief to reach out to the people who trudged through the sands and dust to the solitary place--just to be near Him. It's a love I confess I don't understand. For when I'm grieving, I understand the drive to get to the solitary place--to that point, I'm with my Lord. But unlike His gracious, loving response--woe to anyone who gets in the way of my private moments of sorrow--I demand the right of indulging in a protracted season of sulky depression.
But not our Lord. He heals. He teaches. He touches. Because of that overflowing heart of compassion for His desperate creatures.
The next surprise comes that He keeps on healing and teaching and touching late into the evening. Far past His own meal time -- and theirs. The disciples, ever practical, see it, although the Lord seems to ignore the obvious. Finally, after trying to signal Him from their perches around the perimeter, they come up close. They stage-whisper to Him, "Send the people away. They need food -- and the village shops around here will be closing soon." Their own stomachs are growling--and they know just what resources they have--just enough food for them to have a bite each. A little to share with the Master and the inner circle. But it would be rude to eat in front of the crowd.
Imagine their shock when Jesus commands them, "You, give them something to eat" (v. 16).
What? We have barely enough for a bit each for ourselves! What are you thinking?
Jesus, the compassionate is also Jesus, the Master. And in His role as Master of the Universe, He takes charge (probably with a disappointed shake of His head at the doltish responses of those who have walked closest to Him all these months). "Bring them to me," He tells the disciples when they show Him a teensy supply of loaves and fishes. You know the story, Jesus taps into the resources of Heaven to multiply five loaves and two fish to meet and surpass the need--for after everyone is full to capacity, twelve baskets full remain (one for each disciple, ironically).
It's not the supply that makes this story, though. It is the heart of the Master that is so willing to provide for the needs of those who seek Him out. He's still the same, today. Although the food and healing touch may come to us in different forms, all the provision of resources we so desperately need as we care for our loved ones, all of it comes from His willing, compassionate, gracious hand.
Yet (I speak only for myself, now; take from it what you will for your own life) as I receive those resources from Him, I am tempted to hoard them like the disciples, rather than giving them away like Christ did. I see only the limits of my abilities--of my resources--and seeing the limits, I'm miserly in releasing them, lest I run out and starve myself. Again, like the disciples. Be reasonable, Jesus! You can't expect me to give them what I don't have.
His response echoes down the hall to my office this morning, Bring what you do have to Me. That's when He will bless it and multiply it and make it more than enough to meet the need around me. But I have to be willing to share. I have to be willing to take on the selfless compassion of the heart of our Heavenly Caregiver -- only then will I be the conduit for the Lord's miraculous provision to those around me who desperately need a touch, a word of kindness, and many acts of loving service.
Jesus, the Caregiver of Matthew 14, has much to teach me -- and perhaps you, as well. Today, it was a lesson about selflessness I guess I needed most.
Take a moment to read the entire passage, Matthew 14:13-21, and see what He has to offer you today.
Blessings and prayers,
© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: email@example.com