Can you imagine having crowds follow you everywhere, wanting you to solve their problems? Pastors and teachers can probably identify with the exhaustion Jesus and his disciples must have felt in this situation. Jesus has heard of the death of John the Baptist. Perhaps he has many reasons to keep a low profile—but the crowds follow.
The people want to see him, to hear him, and to experience his healing touch. Disregarding his own need for time alone, Jesus feels compassion toward the people, so the healing and teaching begin. Perhaps they lost all track of time. I wonder, though, why would people in that day and age leave home without provisions? Did their eagerness to see Jesus make them absent of common sense? Perhaps the urgency of being with Jesus precluded their planning for their physical needs.
Jesus charges the disciples with the task of feeding the crowd. In the middle of nowhere, what can they do but ask the crowd to share? They find little—just five loaves and two fish. But when Jesus blesses and breaks the loaves, it feeds more than five thousand people. Jesus met all the people’s needs that day—men, women, and children.
We often ask God for help with our physical, emotional, or spiritual problems. We may feel inadequate for the task ahead. There never seems to be enough time or enough resources to do what we need to do. We lose hope when obstacles seem insurmountable. But we can feel confident that God will come to our aid, displaying the same compassion as did Jesus that day.
Compassionate God, we lift in prayer our pastors, teachers, government leaders, and others who serve God’s people. Give them strength to cope with the demands placed on them. Amen.
The heavyhearted psalmist gives voice to the feelings of many when he states, “Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry.” In the Genesis text Jacob wrestles with a “man.” At one level, this story is about human struggle with God, but at another level the story tells of a human being’s struggle with himself or herself. Yet even in the midst of our struggles, the enduring word is one of God’s grace. Romans 9 also deals with suffering: Paul’s personal anguish over Israel’s failure to receive God’s messiah, the Christ. Matthew 14 reminds us that God’s mercy is real. Obedient disciples become agents through whom God’s provisions are served to hungry people.
• Read Genesis 32:22-31. When have you felt like you were wrestling with God? What impact did it have on your relationship with God?
• Read Psalm 17:1-7, 15. In what ways does your faith give you strength in the face of adversity? Reflect on a difficult time when you felt God’s presence.
• Read Romans 9:1-5. How do the words of Peter in Acts and Paul’s words in Romans shape your understanding of the Jewish faith?
• Read Matthew 14:13-21. How hungry are you for Jesus? Are you willing to nibble and snack, or are you starving for substance and sustenance?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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