Matthew 15:29-39

After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. After sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan. Matthew 15:29-39

What can we expect after a blockbuster Hollywood movie makes a ton of money? A sequel. Maybe a whole series of sequels. Maybe even a prequel after a whole series of sequels ala Star Wars. So it is that the story of the feeding of the 5000 (plus women and children), which is the only miracle story recorded in all four gospels, is followed up by the feeding of the 4000 (plus women and children), which appears in both Matthew and Mark.

The key elements in each story repeat. Jesus helps people. Jesus recognizes their need to eat. Jesus calls upon the disciples to feed them. The disciples don’t see how they can do that. Jesus asks for whatever resources are available. He breaks the bread, gives thanks, and everyone gets more than enough to eat. Including women and children.

In a world where getting enough to eat on a daily basis was a real struggle, this story of plenty would never be forgotten. In a world without the insight and capacity of modern medicine, physical infirmity was doubly painful as it also carried the stigma of being forgotten or cursed by God. The healing ministry of Jesus was then doubly wonderful – physical healing also meant returning whole to community.

Your reputation precedes you.” I don’t know who first coined that phrase but it fits Jesus like a glove. Word of mouth – still the most powerful and effective form of advertising – said that, when Jesus shows up, good things happen. Over time the crowds just kept growing and growing. People heard about miraculous healings. They heard about the crowds being fed. Why wouldn’t people want to get in on that action?

John’s gospel calls the miracles of Jesus “signs.” I always try to remember that. Signs don’t exist for their own sake, they only exist to point beyond themselves to a destination yet to come. Signs are helpful in getting us to where we want to go but they aren’t the point. So it is with the miracle stories of Jesus. They point beyond themselves, they are not ends in themselves.

We could very well be initially attracted to Jesus because we want to “get in on that action.” We want the good things that we have heard Jesus delivers. And trusting in Jesus does deliver good things. But that isn’t the point. Like signs, the love of God which comes to us is always meant to go through us. We might show up as a guest, as a consumer, but then God walks with us toward maturity and we begin to see that God calls us to be a member, a teammate, a producer, of good in the world.

The feeding of the 5000, then the 4000, teaches us that following Jesus means being people of compassion who recognize the true hunger stealing life from the world. Compassion that translates into action, action that is magnified beyond our own capacity, in a holy, godly way. This is good news to everyone, including the easily marginalized women and children.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we remember stories of the marvelous things that you did. You teach us, in those stories, what it means to follow you. Encourage us to see beyond our own limitations to your infinite power and love. Encourage us to see through and beyond the signs which you put in our path, that we might follow you to the very end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

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3 Responses to “Matthew 15:29-39”

  1. Dave Armstrong Says:

    I agree with your comments. Sometimes we need to satisfy the physical hunger before addressing the spiritual hunger.

  2. Jimmiezunker Says:

    Clearly there is “my side bias” evidence prevalent in both Republican and Democratic evangelical Christians. Evidence of history reveals that there were Democratic evangelicals who were silent when another very high office holder was a sexual predator in the Oval Office. Where was the overwhelming outcry then. There was silence and justification from many because that victim was 24 years old instead of 14 years old. Irregardless of the age of the victim it was still sexual abuse by a married predator who certainly was old enough to know better. His guilt would never have come to the light of day if the blue dress had not been found because the silence and denials were deafening.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. Jimmiezunker Says:

    My comments were not in reference to this devotional but were in regard to a previous one.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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