Summary: A sermon about being the hands and feet of Jesus in a needy world.
“Don’t Just Send Them to Burger King”
by: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN eastridgeumc.org
Think back to a time when you were really, really sad.
For some of us this will not be a difficult exercise.
Perhaps we are feeling this way right now, or maybe we felt this way yesterday.
For others, the last time you were really, really sad may have come after the death of a parent, perhaps, or a close friend.
Maybe it was after you had to move out of the house you had loved.
Perhaps it was the loss of a job.
Maybe it was the onset of an illness.
And maybe, when you felt really sad what, you really wanted more than anything was some time to pray in a quiet place, with no one to bother you.
Right before our Gospel Reading for this morning, Jesus has just been told that His cousin and His colleague, John the Baptist, has been murdered.
He had been beheaded, and his head was brought into a wild party on a platter.
John had been a prophet, a great man.
He had been the one who had baptized Jesus.
We can’t help but infer that the news of John’s death made Jesus very, very sad.
As a matter of fact, in verse 13 we are told that “when Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”
Jesus wanted to be alone with His Father and grieve.
Yet when Jesus slips away to be quiet and alone, the crowds quickly discover where He is and flock all around Him.
And Jesus’ reaction is not frustration or anger, but compassion.
Jesus transforms His sorrow over John, and perhaps even His sorrow for Himself, into sorrow for the crowd.
We are told in verse 14, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 the Apostle Paul writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
A famous author wrote, “Life breaks us all. But then we are strong in the broken places.”
And it’s true.
No one can counsel an alcoholic like someone who has been there.
It’s the same with divorcees, the bankrupt, and the sick and the lonely.
The Lord wastes nothing!!!
Our pain, our sadness and the comfort we’ve received from Christ are often our best ministries.
So, Jesus transforms His own feelings of sadness into love and compassion for those in need.
And if we (ourselves) have come into the story of Jesus, it is because we have been touched, ourselves, by that compassion of Christ!!!
Once we experience God’s healing love, we are compelled to pass it on!!!
And that’s how it was for Jesus’ first disciples.
They saw, first hand, how Jesus cares for people.
They experienced how much Jesus cares for them.
And so they too wanted to care for people.
Therefore as evening approached, knowing that the crowds must be getting hungry, the disciples—showing compassion—came to Jesus and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
It makes perfect sense!
Wouldn’t it be good to send them away now, so they can go and buy food rather than getting all hungry here, miles away from anywhere?
I believe that Jesus is delighted when people around Him come up with ideas which show that they are thinking of the needs of others.
But often what Jesus does with our ideas is to take them and do something startling with them!
“If you really care for them,” Jesus basically says, “You give them something to eat.”
And this is where faith really comes in.
Our small idea of how to care for people gets bounced back at us with what seems like a huge and impossible idea.
And so we protest.
“We can’t do that!”
“We haven’t got the time.”
“We don’t have the energy!”
“We don’t have the ability.”
“We don’t have the money.”
“All we have is…
… “five loaves of bread and two fish.”
But what Jesus does with what we give Jesus is so mysterious and powerful that it’s hard to describe in words.
Take the Community Block Party, for example.
That huge extravaganza all started so small and innocent like in one of our Evangelism Team Meetings where 5 or 6 of us meet every Wednesday evening at 6 pm.
By the way, everyone is encouraged and invited to join us.