Our reading for today centers around one single day in the ministry of Jesus. One vital occasion. One solitary event. And the occasion is… lunch! Now, I think we all agree that lunch is an occasion. But an event? I guess that depends on your point of view.
When our daughter, Andrea, was in high school, lunch was an event. It was divided into three periods and at one time or another, most of the 1,200 kids in her school made their way through those cafeteria doors. It was loud. It was busy. And it was the most relaxing time in an otherwise pretty programmed school day. You eat. You talk. You linger. And, of course, you notice who else is eating, talking, lingering.
For our youngest child, though, lunch was a whole different ball game. Actually, it was the nuisance he had to go through so he could get to the ball game. Eric barely looked at what his Mother had so lovingly packed in his vinyl bag before inhaling it in three bites, washing it down with a couple of swigs of orange juice, and throwing it all back into his backpack (and I mean all, as most days I would have to wade through assorted lunch debris to find the reusable containers for the next day), before hitting the field.
The meal we read about in Matthew chapter 14 is definitely an event... and it’s one to remember. Following the execution of John the Baptist, Jesus had gone off to be alone. Soon the crowds found where He was heading and set out, by the thousands, to follow Him. And do we blame them? Jesus had physically healed scores of them. He had, more than once, silenced the arrogant lips of some religious experts and spoke words of life and love and grace like they’d never heard before. And now, along with all of this, the renowned prophet – the beloved cousin of Jesus, John the Baptist – had been beheaded just because of the message he had preached. The people were astounded. They were intrigued. And on this particular day, they were hungry.
Now there are a couple of interesting points here for us to consider. First, the disciples, the followers of Jesus, appear to, well, try to take command.
That evening the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place, and it is getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the village and buy food for themselves.” ~ Matthew 14:15
Can you imagine? The servants of the Saviour telling Him what to do? I imagine Jesus had to hold back a smile as they spoke to Him so boldly. But what I really liked was Jesus answer to His “puffed-up pupils.”
But Jesus replied, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them.” ~ Matthew 14:15
Wouldn’t you just love to have seen the disciples’ faces after that? I imagine their expressions shouted “With what?!” Now, let’s stop a minute and consider the scene…
Lunchtime? Yep. A few thousand hungry people? Mmmhmmm. Divine Worker of miracles right in front of them? Yeeessss... So, why were these disciples, these constant companions to the miraculous, even questioning where the food would come from? What’s even more intriguing is, why did Jesus let them?
I believe that Jesus was teaching His disciples – both of long ago and this present day – a vital lesson about considering others. He wants us to notice their need. To hear their hunger. To acknowledge their appetite. If we bring what we have to Him, He’ll take it, bless it, and just like on that day, He’ll multiply it.
And the people will be fed.