Two of the most influential countries in the world have not been behaving themselves this week and it is causing a host of problems for those near them. The Russian Federation and the Ukraine have been at odds concerning right of ways and payments relating to the flow of Russia’s natural gas through Ukraine. Now Russia has turned off the spigot, so to speak, in order to spite Ukraine. One big problem…the gas that flows through the Ukraine supplies much of Eastern Europe. Without delving any further into the politics of why this has all come to take place, it has presented a humanitarian crisis in those countries that are affected in the middle of a harsh winter. It would be awfully difficult to withstand zero degree temperatures if Atmos all of the sudden said…sorry, no more natural gas.
So…we may appreciate, from a little different perspective, how important are our basic needs, especially if we have been in a situation where we have not had shelter, clothing, heat or cool, food or water. The compassion that is lacking in Russia and Ukraine is not absent in the One who gave all of those people life…and He truly cares about those who are struggling. Compassion for people is a fundamental aspect of love from a caring heart. Jesus set the ultimate example of the One who came to meet men’s needs…both physical and spiritual. In essence, the following story concerns the Chief Shepherd feeding 5000 or more of His sheep.
In Matthew 14:13ff, despite the traumatic time that Jesus faces in the loss of His cousin and friend John the Baptist, the needs of the crowds who were following Him…touched Him. He is moved with compassion, which really is an interesting word -- in the original it is splanchnizomai. What a grand word! The Greeks believed that the bowels were the center of emotion…which is what the word indicates. It is much strong than to have mere sympathy for another, but means to have one’s inner being stirred…a gut felt feeling of anguish. This was Jesus' feeling toward this group.
The disciples find themselves in a confusing and difficult situation…they think --“Lord, we’ve got a problem…we have 5000 hungry people and have nothing to feed them.” Certainly the disciples had to know that Jesus was powerful enough to meet the need, yet they do not turn to Him for help. When they consider the time…it’s evening, and the place…it’s desolate, they come to the conclusion that nothing can be done to solve their problem -- so they tell the Lord… “send them away.” If the disciples had read their Bible :-), they should have gone to school on the fact that the Lord fed the Israelites for 40 years as they wandered in the desert, so it was a possibility.
Here, Jesus says...feed them. He desires to teach them a lesson in faith and surrender. If they believe, there will be a solution to their problem.
Andrew finds a young man who has a typical lunch and brings him to Jesus. He has basic Galiliean rations…bread and fish. Jesus asks the crowd to sit, and they do so, obediently. Then, He blesses the food, by thanking the Father. The disciples take the food and distribute…and distribute…and distribute some more. The food, miraculously multiplied, is enough to feed everyone! Twelve baskets are taken and filled with the leftovers of the bread and fish after the people had eaten all that they wanted – nothing was wasted. This reveals that, in effect, no one ever gave anything to Christ, but that it is given back compounded and multiplied. Jesus gives abundantly.
This message brings to mind some thoughts and questions. How often do we respond to needs like the disciples did and the Lord did not(?)…estimating them in the light of our own resources and from a humanistic perspective? We should never be so out of spiritual focus that our generalized first response to situations of faith or benevolence is “can’t do it”...we only have five loaves and two fish, besides it's getting late and I need to get home to watch American Idol.
We must never forget that although we may be limited in what we may think that we can do in a given situation or circumstance…God is not. It all comes down to what kind of faith do we really exemplify in our lives...one that sees from a human prespective only or one that truly trusts in the Lord's power. The Lord cares about people’s needs…those who know Him, those who don’t. There is a hungry world feeding on empty substitutes; we have something to share – spiritual Bread, eternal life...and we must have the compassion to give it to them. Blessings,