by Daniel McCabe
Feeding of the 5000
Matthew 14:14, “He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”
At the end of an unusually long day, you step through the front door, yank off your tie and head straight for your favorite chair. Off go the shoes, back goes your head, and at that very moment the phone rings. Someone might really need you, but who could blame you if you let it ring?
You’ve been chasing children from room to room for hours, and you can hardly believe your good fortune that they’ve actually fallen asleep at the same time. You lie down on the bed with the rare opportunity for a nap, but hear the back door open and your husband walk in from the yard calling your name. He might really need you, but if you stay put, he’ll probably find what he needs on his own and slip back outside.
Jesus just learned that his cousin, John the Baptizer, had lost his head to an executioner’s axe. Grief poured through Jesus’ body, overflowing his soul, wringing out his spirit, leaving him speechless, and pounding his bones to dust. If you’ve lost a friend, a spouse or a child, you’ve known the ache, the fog, the loneliness. After hearing the heart-wrenching news concerning his friend, Jesus understandably sought “a deserted place” to heal (Matthew 14:13). A remote place away from noise and demands. A place to pick up the broken pieces of his heart and to call on his heavenly Father for spiritual renewal. On a quiet spring afternoon he headed for a verdant mountaintop that looked out on the peaceful waters of the Sea of Galilee just to its south.
But just then the phone rang and the back door flew open. Jesus heard the cries of the needy calling his name. By the thousands they had intercepted him before he reached his cherished destination. They longed to be healed by Jesus, to touch him, to hear him speak. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record this story—the only Bible story recorded by all four men. We call it “The Feeding of the 5000,” for in that “deserted” place the people grew hungry and Jesus subsequently performed a spectacular miracle in multiplying five small loaves of barley bread and two fish into enough for everyone—with twelve baskets to spare. Not only does this miracle astound me, but so does the heart of my Savior. Matthew writes, “He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (14:14). In other words, despite his grief and despite his need for solitude, Jesus did not turn away from the sorrow and needs of the multitudes. He received them. He blessed them. He served them.
Today in the small village of Tabgha in a well-watered valley along the north shore of the Sea of Galilee sits the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. On the church floor pilgrims will quickly spot a well-preserved mosaic of two fish flanking a basket of barley bread, marking the traditional spot of the multiplication miracle and arguably one of the most beautiful ancient mosaics in all of Israel. It serves to remind us of the hand of our Savior who by this miraculous act foreshadowed his own death upon the cross—the Bread of Life would be broken for all in order that every hungry and believing spirit might be filled. But it also serves to remind us to have compassion for the grieving and needy, despite our own exhaustion and despite our heavy sorrows.
Further Reading: Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14
Dr. Daniel McCabe is the pastor of Faith Bible Church in Spring, Texas. He is a contributing editor for The Jerusalem Connection Report. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.