Matthew 14:13-21 describes a very interesting event during the life and ministry of Jesus on Earth.
It is a very popular passage which describes how Jesus fed over five thousand people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. This miracle is usually the focus when discussing this passage but what makes it even more interesting is the circumstances leading up to it. Just before this miracle, John the Baptist (who had prepared the way for Jesus’ arrival) was killed and died a very gruesome death. When Jesus heard this news, He withdrew from the people around Him and tried to go to a deserted and private place in a boat by Himself. But this was during the time when Jesus’ ministry was fully active. He had many followers and many people often went to Him for teaching, healing, and deliverance. So when Jesus left for some solitude that day, instead of leaving Him alone, people heard where he was going and ended up following him there by land on foot.
Now one of the most important people in Jesus’ life and ministry had just been killed. It’s very understandable for Jesus to try and get away from everyone for a little while – for some solitude, or to pray, or for whatever reason. However, the crowd of people would just not leave Him alone. He headed out by boat to cross over to a deserted place. But when he got there and went ashore, crowds of people had circled around by land and were waiting for him there instead. What’s amazing in this situation however, is Jesus’ reaction to seeing the people there.
“And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.” – Matthew 14:14 (NKJV)
He was moved with compassion for them.
He did not become frustrated for not being able to have the space or time He wanted for Himself. He did not prioritise His own comfort or needs or wants. He didn’t run away from the people or politely ask them to give Him some space. But despite whatever He was seeking for Himself in that moment, He was able to look beyond His own interests. Rather than dwelling on what he wanted and satisfying that, he instead felt compassion for the people and went out to minister to them.
‘When it was evening, His disciples came to Him saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.”’ – Matthew 14:15 (NKJV)
This seems like a fair point. It’s late, they’re all in a deserted place with no food nearby, and there are thousands of people around. The disciples didn’t have the resources or the ability and maybe not even the energy to feed and take care of them all. It was a huge responsibility. So the suggestion for the people to go and look after themselves, seems somewhat understandable.
‘But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”’ – Matthew 14:16 (NKJV)
I can imagine the surprised and confused looks the disciples would have shared in this moment. I always find this specific interaction between Jesus and His disciples slightly amusing. The way they are reacting to and approaching this situation is completely different. The disciples were eager to get rid of the people. They must have thought they’d all had enough for the day, including Jesus. But Jesus had other ideas. He specifically chose to go above and beyond what may have been expected in that moment. He wasn’t obligated to feed the people. He’d already spent a considerable amount of time ministering to them that day. But He didn’t say ‘that’s enough, I’ve done my bit’ and removed Himself from there. He went beyond the teaching, healing, and deliverance service.
He went further to show so much kindness, compassion and care by providing for them.
We all know what happens next… The disciples respond and say that they only have five loaves and two fish; Jesus asks to bring them to Him; He blesses them; the loaves and fish multiply. The crowd is fed.
Looking at this whole scenario (especially from an introvert’s perspective) … If I was in Jesus’ position, first of all, when I had really needed some space and time for myself but instead ended up with lots of people around me, would the first thing I feel be compassion? Second, would I have stayed there till evening or would I have tried to get away at the first opportunity? Thirdly, go as far as feeding them? Jesus was so kind. He was so loving and compassionate. He went above and beyond even when it put Him out. His love for people far surpassed His need to fulfil His own comfort.
‘Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.’ – Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)
We live in a world and time where the cultural norm is self-absorption and self-care – it’s all about ‘me, me, me’ – giving very little room for the consideration of others. Even the natural human tendency is to fulfil the needs and desires of the individual while forsaking others. But Jesus didn’t live to serve his own interests. He lived first for His Father and second, in service of others. He rarely prioritised Himself, His comfort or what He wanted. He was so selfless. So although the world and our flesh push us in the opposite direction, as Christ’s representatives on Earth, we are called to mirror His life and character. Rather than self-focus, His love, compassion, and selfless nature must be what shine through us in greatest measure.
When our hearts and attitudes match His, our life becomes a vessel through which God provides for multitudes.
We may think we don’t have much to offer to others just like Jesus’ disciples who answered, “we have here only five loaves and two fish”. But when they brought what little they had before Jesus and He blessed it, it multiplied to feed thousands of people. Just like so, what we have may seem small and insignificant in our eyes in comparison to how or who we need to serve. However, when we bring whatever we have before God, even when we can’t see how, He knows what He can do with it. What He has blessed has no limits or boundaries.
But for God to do what He wants to do through us to touch others, we must take up our cross, die to ourselves and follow Christ and His example. Our hearts must be tuned to His and our attitudes must match His. What’s expected of us it to be willing and available and continually strive to grow closer to God in love, intimacy, knowledge and obedience. As we do, the Holy Spirit will continually transform us into the image of Christ so we look more and more like Him every day. Therefore as we yield to Him, may we become people who not only look out for our own interests, but for the interests of others also. May we be inclined more towards being moved with compassion for people and serving them, rather than serving our own interests. May we truly become reflections of Jesus in heart, in character and in life. That must be our aim.
By guest writer Abby Folle
God Loves You, Always & Forever!3