Matthew 14:13-231

I’m sure all of you, when you read certain passages from the Bible are reminded of particular times in your lives and the way those particular readings have impacted on you.  This happened to me over the last couple of weeks as I was reading the story of the feeding of the 5000 people.  I was reminded of the first time I preached on this text.  This was the first and only text I preached on at the ‘Sem’, by co-incidence when I wrote that sermon we were a few weeks out from the Athens Olympics.  Today we’ve just begun the first week of the Beijing Olympics.  During that particular sermon I chose to use a DVD to illustrate my point.

I had pre-arranged with my classmates to sit in the front row and cheer as I played back the 4x100m men’s freestyle relay from the Sydney Olympics.  During the swimming of the last exciting leg of that race I got someone to call my mobile phone.  At the point where I answered the phone, they shut off the race.

The point I wanted to make was that as we shifted from being students of theology to become pastors, lay-workers or teachers in the church, there are going to be interruptions come along at inopportune times.  I never did let them see the end of that race.  At morning tea I was chastised and even a couple of years later at the time of my ordination there were still comments being made about not allowing them to see the end of the race.  The point was still there, there will be things come along in our lives that we just aren’t ready to be taken away from, and it happens to all of us.

That’s kind of what happened to Jesus in our story.  He’d just taken a little while to be by himself out in the boat as he came to terms with the news of the death of his friend and relative, John the Baptist.  When he came ashore he saw the large crowd and he had compassion on them.  He would have had a great excuse to get back on the boat and take more time for himself, to mourn a little longer and further prepare himself for ministering to this large crowd, but instead he had compassion on them.  Rather than selfishly think about himself and his needs, he immediately began caring for the sick and then later for those who were hungry.   

How do you think you would react in a situation like that?  Would you be happy to give up your quiet time and start serving others?  How do you cope with interruptions to what you’re doing?  Sometimes these interruptions are unavoidable, sometimes they’re not.

The other day I was on the bench in the middle of an ice hockey game, I was opening and closing the gate to let the players on and off the ice in a national championship and my phone rang.  At the time it was important to the flow of the game that I be focussed on the job at hand, but I checked the number and realising it was the church office I thought I’d better answer it.  So there I was, phone in one hand, gate latch in the other, trying to juggle them both, get the right kids on the ice at the right time and have a discussion with Julie about, hmmm you know what I can’t even remember what she rang about now.  I don’t think it was overly important, but it could well have been.  Just for that moment as I answered the phone I had to choose between vocations.  Which was the most important; could I manage both at the same time?

The coaches commented after the game at how ‘unusual’ it was for the team manager to be answering a phone call in the middle of an important game, but they coped, we didn’t get a penalty for having to many players on the ice at the one time, so it was all ok.

Sometimes things will happen in our lives that draw our attention away from what we think are important things.  We need to prayerfully consider whether it is worth our while allowing that distraction to take place.

Are you the sort of person who stops at the scene of an accident or would you drive by and hope that someone else takes care of things?  Do you worry about your own welfare before offering what you have to someone in need?  Would you gather up your loaves and fishes and share them around or keep them for yourself?

Jesus gathered up and shared, because he cares.  In his compassion for both the physical and spiritual needs of the crowd, he took the loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke it and gave them to the disciples to distribute.

All four gospels follow the same sequence as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 11, Jesus took, gave thanks, broke and gave.  It’s interesting to note that of the four gospel accounts of this story, Matthew is the only one who doesn’t explicitly say that Jesus gave the disciples the loaves and the fish to distribute.  Matthew only states that Jesus gave them the loaves.  For me this is Matthew’s way of emphasizing the parallel between this miraculous feeding of the 5000 and the meal which he continues to share with us to this day, that of the Lord’s Supper. 

The compassion of Jesus on this occasion continued through to his death on the cross for the salvation of each and every one of us, to his resurrection and ascension and continues today.  He continues to provide for our every need, he supplies us with our daily bread, just as he did for the crowd by the lake.  He continues to care for us and provide healing through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

He didn’t mind being interrupted in his quiet time, he wanted to care for his people, perhaps next time someone interrupts you, whether its your daily devotion, prayer time or relaxing in front of the TV, prayerfully consider the needs of the person behind the interruption, maybe God is sending them to you for a reason, maybe through him you can offer some care and compassion to them and help them through a time of need.  Who knows maybe they’ve come to shift your focus off of yourself and onto something more important.  Call on Jesus for help in that situation, ask him to guide you and give to others what he has first given us.