The next scene in Matthew’s gospel should start to sound familiar to us by now; in fact, I think Matthew is counting on that. Jesus, out in the country, has crowds flock to Him. They bring their sick. Jesus heals them. “The lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others,” Matthew tells us. Jesus is not a specialist; the Great Physician is a general practitioner and He is relentless. Finally the people are taught and healed and it seems time to go home. But Jesus does not want to send them away hungry and so the episode from last chapter is repeated, the many being miraculously feed by little. Yet everyone is satisfied.
But let’s go back a moment, because there is a statement Jesus makes in all of this that is worthy of consideration. It comes after all the healing is finished; I imagine everyone is kind of milling about, looking to Jesus, to see whether He has more to say or if they should pack up and head home. Jesus looks around and He says this:
“I have compassion for these people…”
Then the food gets rolled out. But put yourself in the disciples’ shoes for a moment. They are tired. They have been with this crowd for three days now, Matthew informs us. Every ailment known to man has been dealt with and by this point, if they are anything like me, they are saying, enough is enough. Send them home. But Jesus has one final grace for them.
I came to faith at a Bible camp and volunteered there all through my teen years. Bible camp is a wonderful environment for young people to begin their walk with Christ and grow in it. But there has always been one big challenge: you can stay there forever. You have to go home. For the many kids who weren’t returning to a home where their parents were Christians or at least supportive of their faith, the change in environment was no less traumatic then taking your garden seedlings into the outdoors after months inside. The harsh realities of life can make immature things shrivel.
So Jesus makes a meal for them. He doesn’t want to see them collapse on their way home. He has compassion on them. He has compassion on us.
Jesus wants you to thrive in the life of discipleship. This does not mean it will be an easy path. But you will have the resources necessary to make the trip. The unlimited storehouses are at your fingertips as you walk the trail that Jesus has blazed before you.
So stop a moment with him and taste some of that bread and fish. Because He cares about you. He wants you to get home.
Lord, you are glorious! And your love is immeasurable.