I have been sat for some time just dwelling on a familiar story. Familiar, not because it is a go-to passage in the Bible but because it is similar to a more well-known passage. Here is the story of the feeding of the 4,000 which is preceded of course by the more popular feeding of the 5,000. Some probably think it was the same miracle but it wasn’t as Matthew will reveal later (16 v 9-10).
These 3 words are speaking the loudest to me: Presence; Care; Learn. But let us read …
“Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.” (Matthew 15 v 29-39)
The 5,000 miracle occurred near Bethsaida, a Jewish region; the 4,000 miracle occurred in the Decapolis (according to Mark), a Gentile region.
The 5,000 Jewish miracle had 12 basketful of broken pieces perhaps referring to the 12 tribes of Israel; the 4,000 Gentile miracle had 7,000 basketfuls where the number seven is known as complete perfection (that the complete gospel is for the Jew and the Gentile). The feedings by Jesus were for both groups of people, the gospel is for all.
So come back to the 3 words:
“The people were amazed … And they praised the God of Israel … they have already been with me three days”
The crowd lingered with Jesus. Camping out on the remote mountainside and caught up in the powerful presence of Jesus.
Let’s not get caught up with each other too much. I am not minimising this problematic world of social distancing with empty church buildings but what good are crowds without Jesus? His presence is everything. Those moments of feeling ‘marvelled’ (NASB); the place of wonder (ESV); this is what I seek, don’t you? When did we last linger with the presence of the Lord? The people were caught up in the praise of God. Which God? The God of Israel, here in our nation, alongside us, His presence in our presence, the divine exchange. I believe that is still possible for you and me, don’t you?
“I have compassion for these people; they have … nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
Jesus was concerned for these people not only whilst they were with him but on their journey home too. The heart of care for people is needed today. People are not a commodity to be used as a statistic; or to feed ego; they are people incredibly loved by Jesus. I don’t think the most important ability for a Pastor is whether they can preach or how charismatic they are or even how evangelistic they are. Give me someone who cares. Give me someone who is concerned that people don’t get harmed along the journey, That’s the heart of Christ which we all should have.
Isn’t this interesting?
His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
When are we going to stop asking Jesus the same questions?
When is Jesus going to stop asking us the same questions?
When are we going to keep watching Jesus do what He wants us to do?
Are we learning? Some people never learn and so they go through life with the same scenarios being played out time after time.
Presence; Care; Learn.