Looking back on my life you could say I was a bit of a know it all as a child or at least the sort of child who would quickly think he understood something and would not be told any different. It makes me wonder how on Earth I would cope if I was a parent to a child who was anything close to how I was when I was younger as I am sure I must have frustrated my parents no end when it came to being told anything.
One of those things I thought I knew was the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes with a few fishes and some bread because I don’t know how many times as a child I heard the story of Jesus taking a few loaves along with some fishes and performing a miracle. Yet years later I discovered that there were two separate occurrences of Jesus performing this miracle first feeding five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21) and then later on feeding four thousand (Matthew 15:29-39). Yes, I took time to read the Bible rather than just half taking in what was being said in church.
In taking that time to really read the Bible God has shown me some thing else, that I completely missed some valuable lessons that this story teaches us, something which God showed me when I found myself reading Matthew 15:29-39 over and over again one day, unable to move on as the depth of this story kept revealing itself.
So focusing on Matthew 15:29-39, and the feeding of the four thousand, I know that as a child I would have told you that it was just another example of Jesus performing a miracle. But let me break it down to what God has opened my eyes to which is contained in this story of a miracle, and let me say I am sure many will already know this but there will be those like me who only got miracle from it.
1) People with a need came to Jesus
Isn’t it kind of the way, you hear people say that it was at their lowest, when things looked the bleakest that they found themselves calling out to God for help, finding him in the darkness and desperation of what seemed an impossible situation. And it was the same back in Jesus’ time, it was not those who were full of themselves and believed in their own abilities to control their lives but those who were humble and needed help who travelled miles to see Jesus.
2) Compassion not duty
In the NIV translation of Matthew 15:29-39 it says that Jesus said “I have compassion for these people”. That to me is the big lesson here as Jesus healing those who were brought to him was not a sense of Jesus doing his duty or feeling obligated to heal them but because he genuinely felt compassion for these people. And that compassion didn’t just focus on their wellness but also sustenance as he knew they would need to be fed before they went on their way.
3) He gave thanks for what he had
In the context of Matthew 15:29-39 Jesus was giving thanks for the loaves and fishes, maybe he gave thanks for more we don’t know but it highlights a sense of gratitude. Again this wasn’t Jesus saying thanks out of obligation, it isn’t written that Jesus said “Oh well, better say thanks then – rub-a-dub-dub thanks for the grub”, nope he did this because of a genuine gratitude and to lead by example.
4) He didn’t just provide he over provided
One of the verses I often see on the internet when it comes to scripture placed over a photo, yes I do those as well, is Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And of course it is that whole prosper aspect of that verse that sense of not just having enough but more than enough which people tend to focus on. And here Jesus is proving that through this miracle of the loaves and fishes as he didn’t ration out the food or give the people just enough to sustain them to get home but he provided more that enough with 7 baskets of scraps being picked up.
5) No ego here
Whilst I hope it wouldn’t be this way I reckon if I performed a miracle of feeding thousands I would have finished with my arms out wide seeking praise for what I had just done. But we have none of that with Jesus, he healed, he showed compassion, he provided and after the crowds had ate he sent them on his way, no ego what so ever because it was all about compassion for others.
Now as a Christian I want to die to myself and be like Jesus and so Matthew 15:29-39 provides me with these great lessons; have genuine compassion for others, be grateful for what you have, trust God to provide, and help others but not for the praise and adulation. But even for those who don’t believe in Jesus these few verses are such an amazing guide for living a better life which will not just improve the World but improve your own bit of the World because when you help others it has a positive emotional and psychological impact on your own feelings.
Of course in this World it can be hard because not only do we have our struggles but at times it can feel like we live in a dog eat dog society. And so as Christians we can become a bit inwards, blocking out what we see around us for various reasons. I know I am as bad as anyone and recently I watched a video of a sermon a pastor gave on compassion where he mentioned that during one Easter walk of Faith he watched as one after another taking part walked past a woman selling The Big Issue. And it made me think how many times I had done that myself when it would have only taken a minute to stop, chat, and buy a copy of the magazine.
So what is the point of all this, why have I written this blog post. To be honest it started to highlight how some times we can miss the beautiful lessons which the Bible has for us and it is only when we slow down and take time to really read the scripture that we get to see those deeper lessons. But now I find myself just asking everyone who reads this to take a minute to think of a time where for what ever reason you didn’t act with compassion towards someone, not just family or friends, and think about how you can do it differently next time an opportunity arises. Whether you are a Christian or not don’t we want to make this World a better place?