Matthew 14:13-21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:13-21

Can you imagine living in a world without instant communication? For the vast majority of human existence, that is the way it was. People lived their lives with little to no idea of what was happening in the wider world. There are still people who can tell stories about what that felt like.

I’m not that old but I remember life without TV. I remember finally getting a TV but we only got three channels. We had one phone in the house. We had the same telephone number the whole time I grew up. If we weren’t home, we missed the call. If someone else was home, they took the message. If Huntley, Brinkley, or Walter Cronkite said it, it must be true.

But today we are overwhelmed with information. We have voices in our ears from every direction, all clamoring to pitch a story to catch our attention, all talking at us but looking beyond us to the ratings and advertising dollars that keep them high on the hog. And we react to that stuff! Immediately! Viscerally! It moves us!! Well, for a few days…. and then we move on… to the next BIG STORY. It is crazy making. I’m thinking, intentionally crazy making. And right around the corner from crazy making is money making and crazy sells so they keep it coming at us.

Jesus lived in a different day. A different age. News still got around. He got word about what happened to John the Baptist. It was too much. He needed time to process it. He needed what we all need when we’re feeling overwhelmed. He needed to get away for a bit. He went off, by himself, to a deserted place.

When is the last time you did that? When is the last time that you turned off the phone, stepped away from the computer, left the TV screen black, let the newspapers pile up, and found somewhere quiet to just sit. Think. Remember. Pray. Wonder. If Jesus needed time like that, don’t you think it would do us a world of good as well?

But there is a reason why only one of seven days gets to be the Sabbath. Disconnection has its place but life is about connection and engagement. Jesus had his cares and heartaches but so did the world and they couldn’t stay away from each other for long. Pretty soon the crowds found him and they wanted what he had to give.

Here Jesus teaches us two important lessons about life. First, he channels his own pain into a stream of compassion toward the world. He didn’t have to. He could have gone with rage and anger and retribution and violence. But he came out of his time in reflection from a place of compassion.

And second, he teaches us that we all have certain basic needs, the most important of which is each other. The crowds needed teaching and healing but they also needed dinner. Whatever else might be said of this story, in the end, the disciples learning something about what it means to partner with Jesus in feeding the world with what matters. Deserted places become community centers. Hunger becomes satisfied. Scarcity becomes abundance. As my Mom used to say during the best of our meals, “Eat up, there’s more where that came from.”

Ironic, isn’t it? To live in a day with more communication but less community. More information but less transformation. More awareness of need but less willingness to work together to address it.

Maybe we would do well to take more time for reflection.

Let us pray: Come to us, Lord, in our hunger, and feed us with what truly satisfies. Come to us, in our fears, and comfort us with the willingness to befriend our enemies, to love those who challenge us, to see as you see. Come to us in our brokenness with broken bread that unites us. Bring us to that place where we know what it means to have enough. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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4 Responses to “Matthew 14:13-21”

  1. Gary Reese Says:

    Rev. Kerry – again your perspective of this story and its relevance to today’s time has been brought into the light by your choice of words. Thank you for taking the time to do this for us.

    • Marlys Says:

      Amen to Gary’s comment. So much going on. Thank you for telling us to slow down and distance ourselves from all the rhetoric.
      A time for prayer and meditation.

  2. Georgene Says:

    I share your devotions all the time. You are an important part of my day.

  3. Sharon Says:

    This was a insightful combining on both parts of this passage. So often, just the 5,000 part is the emphasis. Thank you so much for this. I share with a big group of people. I pray that you are healing well. God bless you and all of your ministries.

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