You are likely familiar with the miraculous story of Jesus feeding the 5000. But do you recall the setting? It is in Matthew 14.
Herod is upset because John the Baptist has called him out on his affair with Herodias, his brother’s wife.
Herod throws himself a birthday party and the daughter of Herodias dances in front of him “pleasing” him so much that he says she can have whatever she wants. So what does this “girl” ask for? New clothes? Some Jewelry? Maybe having her own lavish sleepover party with her friends? No. “Prompted by” her unfaithful mother, who was cheating on her own father, she asks for the head of John the Baptist to be brought into the party on a platter. So gruesome. So evil.
Herod doesn’t want to do this but he is obligated to after granting her this offer in front of all the party guests. John summarily executed and his head is brought into the party on a platter and given to the girl who then presents it to her mother. Unbelievable.
From the scriptures we know John had a special place in Jesus’ heart. He is often referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loved, and upon hearing this gruesome story Jesus retreats “privately” in a boat to a “solitary place”. He needs to be alone to process and mourn.
Because of Jesus’ relationship with John there’s no doubt he was moved at the death of his dear friend and colleague. But I wonder if Jesus was also profoundly moved at the breadth and depth of man’s utter capacity to sin and do evil.
Hearing Jesus is in proximity crowds come from the surrounding towns and when his boat lands at the destination there’s a “large crowd” gathered. He has compassion on them, and healed their sick.
I ask myself how would I have reacted if thousands of people came to me asking for something I could provide them at that moment? Probably not good.
The day wears on, it is evening and they are at a “remote place”. The disciples advise Jesus to send the crowds away to allow them to get some food. But Jesus tells them to feed them. He doesn’t want to shoo them off. He goes to his Father, looks up to heaven, gives thanks to God, and multiplies 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread to feed 5000 men, plus women and children until they are satisfied. And they even have some leftovers!
I am struck by the compassion of Jesus during this time of great personal sadness. He met the needs of over 10,000 people while getting away to mourn the horrific murder of a close friend. Knowing where to go, Jesus calls on his Father, then provides. He realizes that these people need healing, they need to be fed physically and spiritually.
This story is a model of compassion, and gives us a window on the depth of our depravity and need to be healed and fed by the only one who can miraculously provide what we need. It also shows us how to meet the needs of others over our own needs.
I hope to remember this story if called upon to help someone. I hope to have compassion, give thanks, and multiply whatever resources I have if there is a need to be met, even when I am not at my best. And to be so moved at humanity’s need for a savior that I will continue to share about The Healer with those around me.