Summary: A sermon about loving people the way Jesus does.
“A New Way Forward”
Jesus liked to eat.
The disciples of John the Baptist noticed this enough to ask Jesus why He didn’t fast.
Jesus’ enemies noticed this enough to ask the disciples why Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners.
They called Him a glutton and a drunk.
Jesus’ parables often include wheat, or fruit trees, or banquets or vineyards.
One scholar has written: “If [Jesus] had not traveled by foot so far and so often, it is quite possible that He would have been a little chunkier than He appears in most stained-glass windows.”
It’s been said that some of the best stuff in ministry happens over meals.
And I’d agree with that.
Happy and painful news is shared.
Creative ideas are hatched.
Relationships are formed.
People laugh and have fun together.
It’s hard to concentrate when there are rumblings in our tummies.
Jesus knew this well.
That’s one reason why Jesus, in our Scripture lesson for this morning, tells His disciples: “You give them something to eat.”
Of course, Jesus is referring to a crowd of thousands of people.
And so, from the disciples’ point of view, Jesus is asking them to do the impossible!!!
I mean, I can relate.
How about you?
Imagine being in a big, sold-out basketball arena—with no concession stands—and being asked to feed all those folks.
That’s the kind of situation we are talking about.
Sounds scary, actually.
It depends on how you look at it.
The feeding of the 5,000—which is actually more like 15,000 since they only counted the men—is one of the very few stories about Jesus which is recorded in all 4 Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
That means that it was a REALLY big deal!!!
It was something that a lot of people talked about for a long time.
It was major news.
No one ever forgot it.
And it makes a huge theological statement about how God can do a lot with a little.
Jesus was really starting to get popular at this point.
You know, I often think about those rock or pop bands that finally hit it big—seemingly out of nowhere--because of a song or album which has suddenly gone off the charts.
Imagine how it must be for them to go from nearly complete obscurity to international sensations in a matter of weeks or months.
Everyone wants a piece of them.
Everyone wants to be with them.
Everyone wants something from them.
This is how it was for Jesus at this point.
And it must have been exhausting.
And so, our passage for this morning starts out with a worn-out crew.
It says, “because so many people were coming and going…they did not even have a chance to eat, [so Jesus said to His disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
So, they took off to a solitary place, out in the middle of nowhere, but we are told that people saw them “leaving and recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.”
It sounds like those old news reels of the Beatles in their glory days, stuck in a limo, with hundreds and thousands of screaming fans running after them.
They just couldn’t escape.
But instead of getting mad or frustrated, we are told that Jesus’ response to the people was one of “compassion,” because, “they were like sheep without a shepherd.
So, he began teaching them many things.”
It’s good to know that compassion is a primary characteristic of Jesus.
Jesus forgot all about His empty stomach when He saw people in need.
Have you ever become so passionate and excited about something that you forgot to eat?
That’s how it is for Jesus when He comes across people in need.
Compassion trumps everything for Christ.
Is that the way it is for us?
I wish it were for me.
Imagine being that altruistic, that full of the love of God for others—that free from self!!!
Most of us have probably heard the term “sanctification” or “Christian Perfection.”
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, defined Christian Perfection as having a “habitual love for God and neighbor.”
This is to be our goal.
Many churches in America are in decline, most, as a matter of fact.
According to many experts: The NUMBER ONE reason for this is a lack of compassion or love for others—for those outside our doors.
Research shows that churches which grow have made the hard decision that they will love those outside their doors as much as Jesus does.
William Temple, the former Archbishop of Canterbury once said, “The Church is the only organization organized primarily for the benefit of its non-members.”
That is some pretty heavy stuff.
In Philippians we are taught to “make [our] own attitude[s] the same as that of Christ Jesus.”