In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“And they all ate and were satisfied.”
Why did they go out there? It was a deserted place, a wilderness. There were no modern amenities, no comforts, no shelter, not even any food, apparently. Why would they seek this One man?
So they heard that He healed a few people already. Ok, so He healed a lot of people already, anyone that was brought to Him, this Jesus of Nazareth. But certainly not all of them were sick or injured. Why follow this man?
They all must have heard the news. They must have known why Jesus departed to go into that wilderness. He was grieving. His good friend, His cousin, the forerunner John the Baptist was just beheaded, He was dead now. Jesus was mourning. Is that what happens to those who associate with this Son of a carpenter?
It is surprising why so many followed Him to so unwelcoming of a place. Perhaps they knew something that we have trouble seeing, that we have trouble believing.
Who is this Jesus that men would follow Him to deserted places?
“And when [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them.”
σπλαγχνίζομαι - Jesus had compassion on them. This is one of these words in Greek that the sound it makes really does quite a bit to explain it's meaning. σπλαγχνίζομαι – it's not only a feeling, but it is a stirring of the inner parts, there's a physical reaction with it. Jesus' grief over the loss of His friend couldn't even suppress the love and compassion He had for those who really needed Him now. He couldn't help what He was experiencing, it was a driving force. Which brings up the other dimension of this word σπλαγχνίζομαι. (It's fun just to say!)
The other part of this word is what happens because of the emotion. Jesus was driven / to action. He didn't just think, “Oh, Wow, these people really need help, best of luck to them.” His love for them drove Him to action. Action which the disciples couldn't even imagine.
“Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a desolate place, and the time is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.' But Jesus said, 'They need not go away; you give them something to eat.'”
You can imagine the disciples response, “Hah! Good one, Jesus.” Then perhaps the awkward silence like when you thought someone was joking, but they were really being serious. / Jesus was being serious. He really would have the disciples give them food, all of them, till they were all satisfied.
At this point in the story of the Feeding of 5000, you may recall the OT story of the Israelites in the deserted place, the wilderness. So much complaining, saying things such as, “you brought us out into the wilderness to starve.” At least that what it looked like. The wilderness was a harsh place, hard for any individual to survive, let alone a whole nation, including their livestock and luggage.
But then, God provides, / miraculously. He gives the Israelites manna and quail, not just once, but continually, daily. The daily bread from heaven, St Paul calls this their “spiritual food”.
Now back to Jesus and the disciples. What did the disciples think was going to happen? There was a wilderness, a large crowd of people, hunger, no food, and God. / Looking back it's easier for us to make this connection, having heard this story over and over again. We know the outcome, so we jump to the proper conclusions, and we again cast our judgment upon the disciples. How foolish, right? How could they not see? O them of little faith!
But think about it, it was a wilderness. There literally was nothing out there. The word that is used to describe the place where they were also means solitary, alone, deserted, uninhabited. When John the Baptist was out in these neck of the woods (although there probably wasn't much timber around), John ate locusts and wild honey. How appetizing!
What were they to think. They were simply expressing their own care and compassion for the people. “No food, nowhere to get food, we should just send them all back home.” It's a logical and reasonable idea.
But then, God provides, / miraculously, again, just like with the Israelites. “[The disciples] said to [Jesus], "We have only five loaves here and two fish." And [Jesus] said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.”
Even in that desolate, empty wilderness, God provides in abundance.
The wilderness of this life can be harsh. There is much to bear, many burdens and set-backs, many things to grumble about, too much suffering. Often, we feel the sting of loneliness, we know this world's solitude all too well. Our daily lives can seem like we are walking aimlessly while the toughness of life beats down upon us like a scorching sun, wringing out our energy, threatening our destruction at every turn. At work, family life, at school, the craziness of friends, even taking a trip to the store can be stressful. Is there any hope? Is there any relief? Who will be our companion upon the way? Who will provide for us, nourish, encourage, and protect us? These and so many other thoughts cloud our mind each moment, even right now, right?
But then, God provides, / miraculously. He will be our companion. He will relieve us, provide, nourish, encourage and protect us. And not just once, not just occasionally, but always, in every moment, abundantly. In the midst of this wilderness of your life, hear His promise. Why did Jesus come? “that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus came that you might have abundant life in the midst of the barrenness of this world. He came because this world is so empty. He came because of His σπλαγχνίζομαι . He is compassionate towards you. He sees you, where you are in life, what you are dealing with, your suffering and loss and hard and confusing life, He sees you and knows you. And He loves you too much not to take action. He acts on your behalf. He gives you what you need, the one thing needful, He gives you everything that He has, He gives you Himself.
What is the greater miracle? That Jesus would provide food for the crowds, (those people would be hungry again) or that His true Body would be given to you in the appearance of bread? What is the greater miracle: that your stomach is full for a few moments, or that your spirit is fed the eternal, heavenly food?
Israel had a foretaste of the spiritual food, you have the real deal, you have the real One. When God acts and provides this food, you are truly satisfied. Israel ate daily of 'their' spiritual food. Come, eat daily of your Food. Munch upon the Words of Scripture throughout the week, then come and Feast on the Lord's Day.
Why did you come out here? To this place, this solitary place, this old building to sit in the heat; whey did you come? You probably have air-conditioning at home, right? Some people would call you crazy for doing this. But they don't know, do they? You know. You have followed Jesus out here. You knew He was going to be here. You are sick and need healing—you knew Jesus would heal you. You are hungry and need the right kind of food—you knew Jesus would give you only the best, Himself.
You came for Jesus. He's here! Let's be satisfied again. Let's eat.
In +Jesus' name. Amen.