Eyes Wide Open
Mighty God, You work miracles daily: the lost are saved, the inquiring enlightened, the hungry are fed. Your mercies endure forever.
Consider: "When we cannot do the good we wish to do, we must be ready to do the good we can" (John Wesley, 1703-1791).
As we read this passage we are reminded of the previous feeding of the 5,000. Again, Jesus heals many people and then responds in compassion to their need for food. Despite the similarities, however, this miracle is a separate event (Matt. 16:9-10). There are variations in the details: the grass is gone and the people sit on bare ground; the available food and what is collected afterwards differ. The greatest difference, however, is the location. On his only recorded trip outside Israel, Jesus now travels from Tyre and Sidon to the predominately non-Jewish Decapolis--ten independently governed cities in Transjordan. Like the preceding interaction with the Canaanite woman, this is a pointer to the expansion of the post-resurrection church. There is even a hint of an outsider's perspective in the expression "God of Israel" (31). And just as 12 baskets left over from the Jewish miracle possibly represent the 12 tribes of Israel, so seven here suggests a distinctly different clientele.
The puzzle is why the disciples don't anticipate a second miracle. Do they think that Jesus would only multiply bread for Israel? Can they not see that Jesus' healing ministry to Gentiles suggests that Isaiah 35:5-6 is coming true for all, fulfilling the promise made to Abraham that through him all nations of the world would be blessed (Gen. 12:3)? We know from the history of the expansion of the church in the book of Acts how difficult it was for Abraham's heirs to accept that the Gospel was equally for non-Jews.
This miracle for the Gentiles comes at a significant time in Jesus' ministry--after he has annulled the Jewish food laws, healed a Gentile girl and shown compassion to a Gentile crowd. Is it too much to suggest that even the way he distributes the bread is a glimpse of a Communion freely available for Gentiles too?
When you are faced with overwhelming situations, how well do you remember God's provision for you in the past? What could stimulate your memory of God's mercy?
Heavenly Father, I thank You that Your love is for all peoples. They are precious in Your sight. I need that love which I know can only come from You!
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