The Reading today is from The Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 14:14-22
The story of Our Lord Jesus Christ feeding the great multitudes is one that we have heard often and it’s possible that it no longer surprises us. Maybe it no longer has anything to say to us…….When we find ourselves feeling this way, almost bored with the story we need to force ourselves to go deeper to seek the hidden treasure that is so often right in front of our face………….
What kind of a man is this Jesus, that 5000 men would follow him as he walked around from town to town. 5,000……that does not even count the women and children who would have been following Him. We can guess that there may very well have been 10, 15 or 20,000 people or more.
One can only imagine the lines and crowds of people pushing and readjusting to get a glimpse of the savior. While people waited with their friends and families many couldn’t even hear Jesus as there were no megaphones or microphones and He was too far away. At the end of a warm day out in the sun, with miles of walking and waiting with the crying of children and the moaning of the sick, the people would’ve been exhausted to say the least. The disciples sense this and so they come and speak to Jesus and tell him to dismiss the crowd so that they might find a place to eat and sleep. That was a reasonable suggestion by all accounts, except one.
Time and time again we see that Our Lord is thinking on a level we never even knew existed, He is the epitome of thinking outside the box, and thinking inside the Kingdom. If we think about it, it makes complete sense. It’s absurd to think that people who had waited hours and days for physical healing and words of life would have to leave the Lord because of something as simple as bread. As a rule of thumb, when you are sitting with the Son of God you don’t worry about where your next meal is coming from.
Make no mistake though, This was not seen as a small thing but as a great miracle. The Son of God took something as simple as a few loaves of bread and multiplied them for the benefit of all. He still uses bread to work miracles today. Every Sunday in the Orthodox Church we come here to the liturgy. And we witness a miraculous transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ Himself, who is the bread of life. This is what the Apostles learned and taught us nearly 2000 years ago.
We who are hungry and feel so much emptiness are invited to see things differently. We are compelled to think inside the Kingdom. We are busy with life. We are tired and weak. That is not the right time to think about leaving the presence of God. That is not the right time to depart from the community of Christians. If I gave you the opportunity to be present for this miracle you would all jump for joy. You would get to see the Lord and hear His words and share of the bread that He had blessed. Now I invite you to truly jump for joy. You come and hear the words of Jesus and pray together as church (which is the body of Christ) and you do one better than eating blessed bread. You partake of the bread of life, the Lord Himself who invites us to eat with Him and to be filled by Him.
Think outside the box and inside the Kingdom and you will see that the Lord Jesus didn’t merely have compassion on those weary travelers in this gospel passage. He has compassion on us. The Church does not exist to create feelings of guilt or resentment. The Church is the sign of the compassion and love that Christ has on all people. The Church is the place where we are recharged and renewed to continue the long hard road with Jesus Christ. When the priest asks where you’ve been he is not interested in your social life. He isn’t even looking to make you feel bad. The priest is wondering why you are traveling alone and without food for the journey. It is unwise to travel alone and without the proper supplies. It is even more unwise when we are already exhausted.
We thank God that we are still part of this amazing story. Christ is already here. Our souls will be filled and refreshed. Come and invite others to meet the Lord and to share this meal that has no end….and glory be to God forever AMEN.