A meditation on Matthew 14
| posted 7/05/2011
What a day. It started with Jesus learning of John the Baptist's death and ended with him walking on water. In between was the feeding of the five thousand. What an emotional roller coaster. Down, then up, then down, then further down, then really up. Wow, no doubt Jesus and his disciples were all exhausted, physically and emotionally.
They were all bummed from the news of John the Baptist's death. Watching their leader hurt had to have been difficult and confusing. How do you console Jesus? Did they think the way we do today—that leaders don't cry, that instead they kick butt and take names? Did they think, Come on Jesus, we have to take on the status quo and defeat the Romans.
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I don't know if it was quiet due to the news of John's death, or whether they were chatty for the very same reason. Grief does funny things. Either way, they were getting away from it all and looking for a place of solitude. When they landed and the crowds converged on them, the disciples responded just like we would today: Hey, there's been a death in the family. Go on, give the man some space.
Jesus' Different Perspective
But Jesus had a different plan that shocked his faithful crew. He not only had compassion on the crowds and healed them, but when the day wore on and everyone grew hungry, he told his disciples, "You give them something to eat." This is one of those moments I would have loved to be present at, just to see and hear the disciples' reactions. I don't know if they said it, but they must have thought, What?!? There are 20,000 people here? That's impossible! Judas, how much money do we have? Ooo, this isn't gonna be pretty.
To say the least, this was an awkward moment. We don't know what kind of side conversations there were among the disciples. They had to have been very frustrated with Jesus, and greatly concerned for him at the same time. If you've ever been around someone who has lost a child, a spouse, or another close loved one, you know that sometimes their thought processes can become confused. They think strange thoughts and do odd things. The disciples may have been thinking that Jesus was going through this type of grief over the loss of John. What a heavy load that was for Jesus, and for the disciples.
But they did what Jesus told them to do.
Jesus' Amazing Response
Let's be honest: given the situation, the tension, and the emotional uneasiness, it's a miracle that the disciples even sat the people down to feed them at all. Maybe one of the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Come on Jesus, it's been a tough morning. Let's go over here by the water, take a deep breath, and clear our heads." We don't know all the discussions, but what we do know is that, in the end, they came to terms with Jesus' request and sat the people down.
With that, the rest of Jesus' plan began to unfold. He took two fish and five loaves of bread and multiplied them. I don't know what image this conjures up in your mind, but this was a boy's lunch. Boys were considered men at age 12 in that society, so it's safe to assume this was lunch for someone younger. Unlike today's Americans, these people were not wasteful. I'm sure it was just enough for a child's lunch. In today's vernacular, let's call it two fish sticks and an order of biscuits. To be frank though, even if it were two large tuna fish and five giant loaves of bread, it still would have taken a miracle to feed all the people.