When this story begins, Jesus has just learned of the murder of his cousin John at the order of Herod. He wants to be alone for a while. But, as always, the needs of the broken world intrude upon his solitude. Great crowds pour out of the towns and follow him to the isolated place to which he has withdrawn. Instead of sending them away, he has compassion on them and moves among them, healing the sick.
At the end of that long day, the disciples want him to dismiss the crowds, but Jesus, in his boundless mercy, wants not only to heal them but also to feed them. The miracle by which he accomplishes this is, as usual, so quiet and achieved by such indirection that it’s possible the crowds themselves don't notice it anymore than the guests at the wedding at Cana knew that he had turned water into wine.
“Not counting women and children,” about five thousand men ate of the mysteriously multiplied loaves and fishes. “And all ate and were filled,” with twelve basketfuls left over. Even the “no-account” women and children had plenty. Jesus fed them all.
A woman likely had prepared and sent the five loaves and two fishes, probably as lunch for a child. The miraculous abundance begins with a humble, small, ridiculously inadequate offering from among the “discounted” for whom Jesus always has compassion: women, children, the poor, sick, blind, lame.
If we too offer Jesus all that we have, however humble, small, ridiculously inadequate it seems, he will work wonders with it. In divine humility, God uses us—“you give them something to eat,” Jesus tells the disciples—and uses created things—even barley loaves and little fish—to accomplish redemptive purposes.
Grant us, God of compassion, the courage and humility to offer all that we are and have to you, that you may accomplish blessing beyond our imagining. Amen.
Jacob is attacked one night by an unknown assailant and wrestles with him until morning. We discover that the assailant comes from God, so Jacob is given a new name, Israel. The psalmist is feeling unjustly accused and cries out to God. He is confident that he would be vindicated if all the facts were known. In Romans, Paul deals with difficult theological issues. He states that he would sacrifice his own soul if his fellow Israelites would accept Christ. Jesus teaches a crowd that is growing hungry, and his disciples are trying to figure out how to feed them. They see only what they lack, while Jesus asks them what they have. This story is a lesson about offering God what we have and trusting God to multiply it.
Read Genesis 32:22-31. When have you been forced to wrestle with yourself or your self-identity? How did this struggle reveal a blessing?
Read Psalm 17:1-7, 15. When have you felt the need to serve as your own advocate before God? How has this experience affirmed your trust in God?
Read Romans 9:1-5. When have you experienced Paul’s anguish that others do not accept what you have come to know in your faith, whether by conversion, denominational change, education, or encounter with God? How do you continue to be in relationship with such family or friends?
Read Matthew 14:13-21. When have you witnessed small acts of sharing that have led to great abundance?
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