Thursday, November 17, 2016

Give Generously - A Tale of Fish and Bread

By Jean Blackmer
 “Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’” Matthew 14:15

It had been a long day. Early that morning Jesus heard the news that John the Baptist had been beheaded. The disciples watched as Jesus wept. He then got into a boat and tried to go someplace he could be alone but the crowds followed. Hundreds of people walking from all different towns tried to get to Jesus, to hear him speak, feel his healing touch and answer their cries for mercy. Many carried sick adults and children on stretchers. Most wanted to receive or witness a miracle. It seemed like everyone wanted something from Jesus and he needed a break, or so the disciples thought.

Instead of mourning the loss of John, Jesus came back to the shore from the boat and healed the sick. His compassion overwhelmed his sorrow and that day he didn’t stop healing even to eat. Trying to control the crowds as Jesus performed miracle after miracle, pushed the disciples past a point of exhaustion. As the sun sank low over the horizon, the bone-weary disciples began to turn the people away.

Their compassion had diminished. 

Honestly, I think they were sick and tired of the sick and tired. They needed a break. They assumed Jesus needed a break too. Jesus didn’t seem to get the hint. So, they went to talk to him and said something like, “We’ve had a long day. This is a horrible place. It’s hot and sandy. There’s nowhere comfortable to sleep. We have no food or water. Send these people away. They can go into the village and buy their own food and water.”  

But Jesus said, "They need not go away; YOU give them something to eat." (Matthew 14:16)

They disciples were done for the day. Jesus wasn’t. The last thing they wanted to do was feed this demanding crowd whose needs seemed unending.

“We have only five loaves and two fish,” they pleaded hoping Jesus would see the situation from their point of view. But, they relented and handed over all they had. The rest is history. Jesus did not say, “Ok. I know you’re tired and need a break. Let’s go find a place to eat, relax and sleep for a few days.” He kept doing his work. 

Jesus compassion did not end when the sun went down.

If you’re familiar with this story you know Jesus miraculously multiplied the five loaves and two fish and the disciples fed the five thousand men plus women and children, that adds up to possibly more than 15,000 people.The disciples had come to the end of their rope. Yet, with Jesus command to keep giving even though they were finished for that day, they gave. Then Jesus took over and did more than they ever could have done on their own.

Most people who live out their faith with service at some point feel drained and unable to do anymore. Like the disciples, we want to say, “Please send these people away. I’m exhausted. I have nothing left to give. I just want to get some sleep.” Thankfully, Jesus never gets to that point. 

We do need rest. But, based on this conversation between the disciples and Jesus we shouldn’t take a break from compassion – putting love into action. As Scott said in his message recently, as a group we need to take care of vulnerable people at the cost of ourselves. We need to give what is needed in the moment. 

Our giving matters, it's making a difference in our communities.

When the feast was finished and everyone was tucking in for the night, I imagine this mishmash group of Jesus followers looking up at the starry sky feeling full and thankful they didn’t send the crowds away. As they closed their eyes and slept I wonder if they dreamed of baskets with a never ending supply of fish and bread

The disciples had participated in a miracle. They knew what had happened was not due to their own strength and ability but through the love and supernatural power of Jesus. Like the disciples, we can give our time or money or fish and bread, beyond what seems reasonable or comfortable and watch as Jesus multiplies our gifts.

Jean Blackmer is married to Zane and mother to three boys. She’s authored three books, including MomSense: A Common Sense Guide to Confident Mothering, contributed content to more than 20 books, and written articles for a variety of magazines. She loves her family, chocolate, scuba diving and being outside as often as possible.

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