Advent: December 20

Matthew 15:29-38

From there, Jesus went along Lake Galilee. Then he climbed a hill and sat down. Large crowds came and brought many people who were crippled or blind or lame or unable to talk. They placed them, and many others, in front of Jesus, and he healed them all. Everyone was amazed at what they saw and heard. People who had never spoken could now speak. The lame were healed, the crippled could walk, and the blind were able to see. Everyone was praising the God of Israel.

Jesus called his disciples together and told them, "I feel sorry for these people. They have been with me for three days, and they don't have anything to eat. I don't want to send them away hungry. They might faint on their way home." His disciples said, "This place is like a desert. Where can we find enough food to feed such a crowd?" Jesus asked them how much food they had. They replied, "Seven small loaves of bread and a few little fish."

After Jesus had told the people to sit down, he took the seven loaves of bread and the fish and gave thanks. He then broke them and handed them to his disciples, who passed them around to the crowds. Everyone ate all they wanted, and the leftovers filled seven large baskets. There were four thousand men who ate, not counting the women and children.

We are familiar with the story of the five thousand hungry people. This is another one. What was the miracle? That four thousand people have been fed? There’s a far greater thing going on – large crowds had brought many people who were crippled, blind, lame or dumb. Jesus healed every single one of them. People were restored to mobility, blind eyes could see and deaf ears were opened.

Food was probably not on the minds of the crowds. They had seen this amazing man Jesus heal a son, a father, a mother, a friend. They had seen crippled limbs return to full functionality. Blind people were seeing. Deaf people were beginning to figure out what language and speech are all about. They were all praising God.

Jesus expresses concern about the people’s welfare. They would be getting hungry. The disciples have some rations. I’m not sure I’d want to eat fish or bread that has been in a bag for three days in a desert place. Both would be rather dry. You wouldn’t see a miracle like this today if food safety officers had turned up on the scene. From these meagre rations Jesus provided food enough to feed four thousand men and their wives and families. A lesser miracle than feeding five thousand? I’d rejoice if I could feed twenty people from those rations!

Jesus takes rough and tired elements and turns them into a feast. Again we see Jesus’ extravagance and lavish hospitality as seven baskets of leftover pieces are collected – I’d love to know what they were going to do with those basketfuls!

As to the question I posed yesterday: Lord, don’t you care that we’re going to drown? (Mark4:38)

Could we see this miracle today?

Would you climb a hill to see Jesus?

Would you stay three days (that’s longer than Mary stayed with Jesus)?

Would you dare to take a disabled person with you, with an expectation of healing?

Father God, teach me how to trust in your abundant, extravagant and lavish provision for me and those I love. For too long I have held back, refusing any more than my imperfect human mind and my weak faith considers to be sufficient and not wasteful. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

Paul