The feeding of the 5,000 is, like all of Jesus’ miracles – a remarkable demonstration of his power and authority. It is also a wonderful example of Christ’s love and compassion for people.
Jesus had just learnt of the death of his friend and cousin John the Baptist. We must never forget that Jesus was both fully human as well as fully divine. We read in other accounts in the gospels how Jesus showed emotion and feeling – he wept at the death of his friend Lazarus, he was moved with compassion when he saw people in need and here in this passage, we read how Jesus withdrew to a solitary place to be alone. We can identify with that I’m sure. There are times in all of our lives when we want to be on our own. Maybe during this lockdown you have felt the need to withdraw from the crowds, from the stress of it all, from the anxiety of all that is going on in the world right now.
Jesus withdrew to a solitary place. Perhaps the last thing he needed was crowds of people wanting to see him. And yet notice Jesus’ reaction when he didn’t get the peace and quiet he was searching for – Matthew tells us that he had ‘compassion on them.’ He translates his sorrow over the loss of John, and perhaps his sorrow over himself, into sorrow for them.
And then, as evening approached, the disciples came and suggested that Jesus should send the crowds away so they could go and get some food. It was remote place and they would have needed to travel quite a way to find anywhere. But again, we see the compassion of Jesus – he said ‘they don’t need to go away – you give them something to eat.’
I can just imagine the disciples thinking ‘oh great! I might have known he’d say that!’ By now they must have got used to Jesus not doing what most other people would have done – Jesus always had such compassion and time for people didn’t he? Matthew records another occasion later on in his gospel when the disciples wanted to send the children away when Jesus was really tired and in need of rest, and Jesus said ‘no, don’t send them away – let the children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ The kindness and the compassion of Jesus.
How do we respond when we are tired and people want us to listen to them? When people need our help? When our plans and desires don’t go how we have hoped they would? What is our reaction? Are we frustrated and irritated? Do we tell them to go away? Or do we have compassion for them? Do we show kindness and grace?
And so Jesus says to the disciples ‘you give them something to eat.’
I can imagine the conversation going something like this…
‘Well what shall we give them Jesus?’
‘What have you got?’
‘Just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.’
And then Jesus says what I think are some of the best words ever – ‘give them to me.’
Story – a friend of mine called Rob is a Church of England Priest and he was telling me how he had bought a metal music stand online and when it had been delivered it was all bashed and battered as it had clearly been dropped and wouldn’t stand up properly. Now he had bought it second hand so there was no chance of returning it free of charge or whatever so it would have cost him a fair bit to post it back to where he’d bought it from, plus there’s all the hassle of arranging for it to be returned, contacting the courier who had not delivered it correctly and so on, and so he contacted a friend of his who he knew would be able to fix it so it worked ok.
And so this friend of his turned up with a huge hammer, and he spent some time just hitting it with his hammer and he managed to fix it so it worked absolutely fine. And my friend Rob said to this guy, ‘thank you so much for doing that – you’ve saved me so much time and energy and effort of sending this back and waiting for a new one. You’ve sorted it out – I could never have done what you’ve done’. And his friend said, ‘it’s fine – you see some of us have hammers’.
And that phrase ‘some of us have hammers’ just really struck me as being really important. Each of us has something that we bring to God’s Kingdom. And just as Jesus said to these disciples ‘what have you got?’ And just as the disciples must have asked the people in the crowd ‘what have you got?’ he says to us too ‘what have you got in your hands?’ And then he says those all-important words ‘give it to me.’
You see, so often we think we don’t have anything that we can do for God and for mission in God’s world. But we all bring something unique and God can use us in his Kingdom when we give him what we have.
What do you have in your hands? Maybe that phrase ‘some of us have hammers’ speaks to you too. Give to God the things that you can do, the things that you are good at, the things that you enjoy and let God use those things in his Kingdom to help others.
Deacon Sue Peat