The Compassion of Christ - Matthew 14:13-21
This past week was one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a very long time.
Saturday, we had our presbytery meeting, which is a meeting of pastors and elders of the Pee Dee region. And I had to prepare for it. Sunday, I preached. Monday, I went to a funeral visitation.
Tuesday, I preached at the graveside. Wednesday, I prepared for this sermon and had a great time at our Food and Fun event at Ebenezer park. Thursday and Friday I continued to prepare for this sermon and went to our Men’s Breakfast on Friday morning.
I’m not complaining. I love doing this. It’s a true privilege. But like you, some weeks are busier than others. This was one of those particularly busy weeks.
And it’s after a busy week like that you just want to kick your feet up and relax. Have you ever had a week where you’re just trying to survive till 5 o’clock on Friday?
But how about this: You’re living for the weekend because it's been a hectic week. You’re grinding to get to 5pm on Friday. So you can have a relaxing weekend. You finally get there, kick your feet up, you’re finally able to unwind... and then you get a phone call.
You have some urgent family matter that needs your attention right now.
Isn’t that frustrating? The whole time you’re handling it, you’re thinking I don’t want to deal with this right now.
You see our passage from Matthew chapter 14 begins in a similar fashion. Jesus had just learned about the death of John the Baptist and wanted to be alone. He wanted to grieve the loss of his friend. He needed to mourn.
But what happens? The crowd follows him. Knock, knock - hey Jesus I know you’re busy but could you heal me? Knock, knock - hey Jesus you look kinda sad, but I’m really hungry right now.
But here’s the difference between us and Jesus: People are never inconvenient for Jesus Christ. He wants to minister to us.
Jesus will minister to you even when your motives are wrong.
But the crowd was needy. They wanted Jesus to heal their sick and they weren’t afraid to inconvenience him. They weren’t afraid to barge in on him so to speak.
And notice what Jesus didn’t do, he didn’t do what you and I would have done. We would have told the crowd, “Folks I’m tired. I need some private time. Come back when I’ve recharged my batteries.” Jesus was moved by compassion. His heart went out to them.
So he healed their sick in spite of his need for rest and their selfish motivations. He wanted to do it.
Sometimes our motivations and desires can lead us astray. It’s not good for your emotions to dictate every decision you make. Jeremiah 17 says, the heart is deceitful above all things.
And yet in spite of this, God has compassion on us. Have you ever gone to church for the wrong reasons or with a terrible attitude? Maybe that was you this morning.
Husbands and wives: Have you ever gotten in a huge fight as you’re walking out the door to go to church?
Children: Have you ever told your Mom and Dad, “I don’t want to go to church today?”
But have you experienced this: Despite the challenges of getting to church on Sunday morning, in spite of the arguments, the frustrations, the horrible motivations, you sit down in your seat and Lord ministers to your soul? Wouldn’t it make sense in those instances for the Lord to refuse to minister to you?
God is so compassionate, kind, and gracious that even when your motives are terrible, he’s still willing to minister to you.
Jesus will minister to you when you recognize the spiritual is greater than the physical.
Apparently, they were in Bethsaida Julias, and there isn’t much around. So, in order for the multitude to eat they needed to head out into the surrounding villages (at least that’s the disciples thought). But notice what Jesus says, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
First, Jesus completely rejects the idea of dismissing the crowd. The disciples had a reputation of constantly wanting to dismiss crowds. They even tried to dismiss little children.
Jesus wants the people to stay with him. But why would Jesus tell the disciples, “YOU give them something to eat?” Jesus certainly knew what he was going to do, so why would he say that? Did he actually expect the disciples to give the crowd something to eat?
Interestingly, this is one of the only stories that is recorded in all 4 gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all report Jesus feeding the 5,000.
Mark actually tells us how the disciples replied to Jesus suggestion that they feed the 5,000. They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
They were only thinking in materialistic terms! After all the miracles they had witnessed, they still didn’t know how they could feed all those people. Jesus knew they couldn’t provide food for all those people. The appropriate response from the disciples would have been, “Lord, we can’t feed all these people, but YOU can.”
They were fixated on the issue and didn’t realize that the person that could fix it was in their presence. Jesus told them they needed to feed the crowd so they would recognize their dependence on Him.
They needed to take all their issues to Jesus and the issue they couldn’t see past was a massive hungry crowd.
A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help. Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, "Jump in, I can save you." The stranded fellow shouted back, "No, it's OK, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me." So the rowboat went on.
Then a motorboat came by. "The fellow in the motorboat shouted, "Jump in, I can save you." To this the stranded man said, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith." So the motorboat went on.
Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, "Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety." To this the stranded man again replied, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith." So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.
Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven and he said to God, I thought you were going to save me. What happened? To this God replied, "I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"
It’s a popular illustration, but the reason I shared it with you, probably for the millionth time is because sometimes we can’t see what’s right in front of us.
The disciples were still more dependent on the material world than Christ. They had calculated how much money it would cost to feed the multitude! A half a year’s wages! Are you like the disciples in that whenever you’re in a pinch, you start thinking about all the ways you could fix it instead of taking it to the Lord?
Do you expect material things to save you? A bigger house is nice, a newer car is helpful, more money in your pocket is great but none of those things will save your soul. They won’t bring you closer to Christ.
You see, I think Jesus wanted to expose the disciples dependence on the material world. The bottom line was the disciples still didn’t believe that Jesus could provide for them.
You know, God will provide for you in miraculous ways you never would have seen coming! When the chips are down where do you turn? Where do you run for help?
Jesus will minister to you when you realize that the Gift points to the Giver.
Have you ever gotten a present for your birthday or on Christmas with the tag missing? So you don’t know who gave it to you or where it came from?
It’s even worse when it’s a very thoughtful gift and you don’t know who got it for you. On our son’s first birthday, we got a stuffed animal in the mail. It’s a stuffed dog and he immediately loved it.
No return address and no tag. We had no idea who it was from. So we were racking our brains trying to deduce who it could have been from so we could write them a thank you note. We wanted to ensure the right person got credit for the gift.
The same is true for our passage. After Jesus told the disciples to bring the five loaves and two fish to him, Matthew records, “and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing.”
In other words, Jesus offered up a prayer to the Father, thanking him for the five loaves and two fish. He knew what was about to happen.
He knew he was going to multiply the bread and fish because he had compassion on crowd and he didn’t want to see them go hungry.
And with that he miraculously multiplied the bread and fish. You might think, I say a blessing before eating too. So what?
Here’s the difference: Jesus could have multiplied the five loaves and two fish without saying a word. Jesus is God. All authority had been given to him. But he wanted the disciples and the multitude to understand the miracle as a beautiful gift from God.
He wanted to ensure that the right giver got credit for the gift. For many in the crowd Jesus was a means to an end. If you were sick, Jesus could heal you. If you were hungry, Jesus could feed you.
If Jesus didn’t go out of his way to pray to the Father and bless the food right before he miraculously multiplied the bread and fish, would anyone think about God?
The disciples weren’t even thinking about what God could do and they had seen countless miracles. Just like the crowd, if we’re not careful we’ll gobble up gifts without considering the giver.
Jesus’s prayer before multiplying the bread and fish is a helpful reminder for two reasons: First, it’s easy for us to undercut God and take the credit for something He has done.
It could be taking credit for your personal gifts, talents and abilities. Pastors might actually be the worst about this. How many times have you heard a pastor bring up how many professions of faith happened after one of his sermons?
If folks come to saving faith under your ministry, praise God, but you didn’t do that… God did it. The trouble is when we want the credit for something that God has done. We want to believe that we contribute something to the work of God.
Sermons that are self-serving can be the same. Sermons where the pastor is the hero of every story robs God his glory.
And second, we can be completely thankless for what God has done. You might know that you got something you didn’t deserve. That we got something in spite of ourselves and refuse to give God credit for it.
Or you take something for granted, like your family, your job, whatever it might be. Even the fact that we can worship here openly is something we take for granted. Believers around the world wish they had that privilege.
You know, we have so many reasons to be thankful to God. To praise his name. Do you do it?
You really need to take another step back to really see things clearly: when you begin with the premise that everything is God’s and nothing you have is your own will completely reorient your view of your possessions and what you have in this life.
You see, that’s why you should pray before your meals. From the money you “believe” you’ve earned to the food on your table is a gift from God. But how often do we nonchalantly throw up a prayer to God before we eat? Do we really believe that the food on our table is a gift from God? Or do we believe we’ve earned it?
All the gifts in this life are a precious gift from God. Everything we have points to the giver.
But the greatest gift from God is Jesus Christ. I wonder if you take him for granted like the food on your table or the money in your paycheck?
But here’s what I believe is so powerful about this passage: Jesus ministered to the crowd in spite of their poor motives, in spite of their inability to think spiritually, and in spite of their inability to see God through the miracle.
Jesus ministered to them. He took their pain away. He healed their sick. He fed their hungry bodies.
And he did it all when he was exhausted and in need of rest himself.
Jesus Christ is always willing to minister to you. He’s always willing to take your pain away. That’s why he died on the cross. Do you believe that?
You see Jesus knows exactly what you’re going through and he says, “Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
Jesus wants to minister to you. Will you let him do it?
At the beginning of this sermon I described the frustration of being inconvenienced.
There are some moments that are much more inconvenient than others. And as folks living in the south, most of us are painfully aware of inconveniencing someone else. We want others to like us. To think highly of us. To know that we’re considerate.
But here’s how I want to conclude this sermon: Are you willing to inconvenience Jesus Christ?
You know too often, I think we only pray for the “big things” because we don’t believe Jesus wants to hear about the small “insignificant” things in our lives.
And so if it’s not a cancer diagnosis, a layoff, the loss of a loved or some sort of other major life event, it’s not worth praying for.
If we’re going to trouble Jesus with our problems we need to at least make sure it’s worth his while, right?
We convince ourselves that Jesus doesn’t want to hear about how our kids are driving us crazy. Or the fact that I’ve been sad a lot lately and I don’t really know why.
Or I’m close to not praying anymore for a friend’s salvation because I’m seeing no progress.
Those are examples of “small things.” But Jesus will minister to you even in the small things.
Maybe you and I need to follow the example of the needy crowd: knock, knock, Jesus I’m sick! Please heal me! Knock, Knock Jesus I’m hungry! Please feed me!
Are you willing to chase Jesus down no matter how close or far away he might seem? Are you willing, like Jacob, to wrestle with Him and not let him go until he blesses you?
If you’re willing to cast your cares on Christ, he will minister to you. You will never inconvenience him.
That’s the compassion of Jesus Christ.