Psalm 17 : 1 – 7, 15; Genesis 32 : 22 – 31; Romans 9 : 1 – 5; Matthew 14 : 13 – 21
The reflection for this week is by Local Preacher, Adam Biddlestone (Zion).
The news that Jesus had just heard was the death of his cousin, John the Baptist. The compilers of the Lectionary have left this event out of our readings (14 : 1 – 12), so you may not be aware that this has happened. In response, ‘he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.’
In the Romans passage, Paul speaks of ‘the great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my (his) heart.’ Paul’s sorrow and anguish is over his kinsmen, the people of Israel, who unlike him are unsaved because they are cut off from Christ, they don’t, as Paul now does, have a relationship with the Saviour of the world. His people have many privileges, everything is in place, all they have to do is to accept and follow the Messiah, God over all.
I wonder if Jesus would have explained his emotions as being of ‘great sorrow and unceasing anguish.’ Afterall, John was his cousin with whom he had grown up, the one who prepared the way for him and baptized him. The circumstances of his death were that he was beheaded on the request of Herod’s niece, Herodias. There was a certain tragedy and untimely nature to his death.
I wonder if the crowds and disciples were aware of the news Jesus had just received? The crowds still followed Jesus and at a time when he needed their compassion, yet it was Jesus who, ‘had compassion on them.’ He continued to heal those who were ill. There would have been many healings performed, time slipped away and before they knew it evening was upon them.
The disciples had compassion too, they recognised the hunger the crowds would have felt, the place was remote, resources few, so they suggested to Jesus that he sent them into the villages to buy food. This presented Jesus with an opportunity to be alone again, but he chose not to send the crowds away but to feed them from what they had available.
This turned out to be just ‘five loaves of bread and two fish.’ The crowds were sat down and before their very eyes Jesus took the loaves and fish, looked up to heaven, gave thanks broke the loaves before the disciples, distributed the food and all five thousand men plus women and children were fed. A miracle indeed! Apart from what was eaten twelve basketfuls of scraps were also collected.
This takes us back to Paul and his kinsmen, with the twelve baskets seen as representing the twelve tribes of Israel. As Paul identifies, the privileges they have received are many, covenants, laws, temple worship, promises, a shared ancestry with the Messiah himself.
Maybe in the crowds among the committed followers, there are those whose interest in Jesus and his message are growing. And now there is another privilege being laid out in front of them, an earthly banquet and feast, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet and feast to come.
Lord, we thank you for the privileges of a life and faith in you. Help us as we journey through this earthly life to see glimpses of the life to come. Amen.