(Rice seeds being distributed in the Rio Coco in Nicaragua)
What is Your Hunger? What is Your Gift?
by Bishop Chris Giesler
Preaching Text: Matthew 14:13-21
If you back up from the verses assigned for today to the beginning of Matthew’s 14th chapter, you will see that John the Baptist’s life has ended most grotesquely. And so, as we begin this reading, Jesus, no doubt distraught by the news of John the Baptist’s brutal murder, wants to get away from it all for just a while. Simply put, he needed some time to grieve. Yes, even Jesus might be one who would grieve such a death because of its violence. I think Jesus was hungry for some time alone with his heavenly Father. So he gets in a boat to go to a deserted place.
But even as Jesus is hungering for spiritual solace, so are a bunch of other people. These were people with broken spirits. They were hungering to be free from Roman oppression. They were hungering to be free from severe poverty. They were hungering for relief from the diseases that follow malnutrition. Life expectancy was little more than 40 years in those days. These were hungry people, and when they heard where Jesus was going, they walked around the Lake as Jesus traveled by boat. Now the Lake is surrounded by small villages, and folks from all of them flocked to where Jesus would land his boat. So, instead of finding solitude in which to process his grief, a hungry crowd was waiting for him.
Instead of disappointment and anger, what do we see from Jesus? Compassion. I would be disappointed not to get my time away if it were me. I would have responded with frustration, driving people off, asking for privacy and a chance to catch my spirit, but not Jesus. He looked upon the assembled throng and had compassion, knowing that these people were hungry.
As with many parts of the world today, one can go from a neighborhood of relative wealth to a place of poverty rather quickly. If you have vacationed at a resort in the Caribbean, you know what I am talking about. In Jesus’ day, it was the political elite and the religious leadership who enjoyed all of the wealth. Herod and his court, the Roman government officials, and the leaders of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem would have enjoyed all the food they wanted and more. But, just down the street, most families would have been happy with just the scraps from the tables of the rich. Most of the people who arrived to see Jesus on this day would have been spiritually and physically hungry. The scripture text tells us that when Jesus looked at the crowd, he was filled with compassion. His heart was broken because of their suffering and the injustice of how the food was distributed.
Jesus steps into this hunger with his compassion and provides for their sustenance. While we often look at these miracles as if it is something that Jesus does not do today, I firmly believe that Jesus is still at work today. To allow this to happen, the first step is to bring our hunger to Jesus. These people traveled great distances for this chance to meet the Savior. Today, we simply have to turn to him in prayer, scripture study, and worship.
What are we hungering for?
- A spiritual companion?
- A Spirit of forgiveness
- The ability to receive forgiveness
- Freedom from self-oppression
- A deeper relationship with the savior
- A sense of belonging somewhere
- A desire to break from the commercialism and materialism that dominates our society
- Are you weary from the stress of your work?
- Are you weary from the stress of family and personal issues?
What are you hungering for today? I believe that just as Jesus looked upon the crowd 2,000 years ago, Jesus looks upon us today with that same sense of compassion. So, open your souls today and be fed by the grace of our Lord. It is only when we are fed, that we are able to feed others. This step toward Jesus is the first step in finding our mission today.
As Jesus faced this hungry crowd, he first challenged his disciples to come up with food, and they laughed at him; we have barely enough to feed ourselves, much less this immense crowd. So Jesus says bring what you have, meager as it might seem. And then his words should sound very familiar. “taking,” “loaves,” “Blessed,” “Broke,” “gave to disciples,” “ate,” and “all.” This is not communion but it is the holy ground of providing for others. And then his disciples took what now has become a banquet and shared the food with the hungry crowd, and they were filled to overflowing.
Jesus here multiplies paltry resources and provides abundance for all. So, bring your hunger to Jesus. Bring your meager resources to Jesus. Amazing things will happen.