Jesus hosts the multitudes, feeding people’s spiritual and physical hungers. While Jesus’ blessing and breaking works an amazing miracle in a tight spot, the disciples play an import- ant part. Jesus does not lay out a grand plan before them. They simply follow Jesus’ direction without question. They gather food and collect the leftovers and thereby participate in a miracle of compassion that goes far beyond their understanding. Wil- liam Barclay, in his Bible study series, states that Jesus teaches a lesson with the blessing and distribution of the food: All gifts come from God. Barclay also notes that Jesus wants the disciples to learn their role, to receive gifts from Jesus and to distribute them. Today, many of us live in such abundance that we have trouble imagining that people do not have food to eat. But many do not. Some cannot care for themselves; some fall on hard times. As modern-day disciples, what role do we play in sharing God’s gifts with others?
In my city, a local church sponsors an event each Thanksgiv- ing called “The Feeding of the 5000.” Organizers solicit dona- tions of money and food items from the community. They recruit people from other churches to cook, serve at the church, and deliver to homes a traditional Thanksgiving meal to those who sign up. When the call goes out for volunteers, local disciples of Jesus come together from all over the county to make it happen.
Emulating the original disciples, these Christians meet a felt need of those who hunger. Grateful for the bounty they receive from God, they give what they have. It’s a joyful day for all involved. Jesus still takes, blesses, and breaks what we bring—all our gifts from God. And we participate once again in the miracle of compassion.
“Mine are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world.” (Paraphrase of a prayer of Teresa of Avila)
The heavyhearted psalmist gives voice to the feelings of many when he states, “Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry.” In the Genesis text Jacob wrestles with a “man.” At one level, this story is about human struggle with God, but at another level the story tells of a human being’s struggle with himself or herself. Yet even in the midst of our struggles, the enduring word is one of God’s grace. Romans 9 also deals with suffering: Paul’s personal anguish over Israel’s failure to receive God’s messiah, the Christ. Matthew 14 reminds us that God’s mercy is real. Obedient disciples become agents through whom God’s provisions are served to hungry people.
• Read Genesis 32:22-31. When have you felt like you were wrestling with God? What impact did it have on your relationship with God?
• Read Psalm 17:1-7, 15. In what ways does your faith give you strength in the face of adversity? Reflect on a difficult time when you felt God’s presence.
• Read Romans 9:1-5. How do the words of Peter in Acts and Paul’s words in Romans shape your understanding of the Jewish faith?
• Read Matthew 14:13-21. How hungry are you for Jesus? Are you willing to nibble and snack, or are you starving for substance and sustenance?
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