Today’s scripture reading is the only miracle account that is included in all four gospels of the New Testament (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-14). I tend to read this miracle account from the perspective of what Jesus did in responding to his disciples’ request for Jesus to send the crowds away so they may buy food for themselves. I tend to read about what Jesus did in the multiplication of the resources that were at hand as the disciples said, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish. I have tended to read about what Jesus did in the multiplication of the fish and bread when he took the 5 loaves and 2 fish, looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples who, in turn, gave them to the crowds.
This morning I invite you to consider with me another way of hearing the only miracle account that is included in all four of the gospels. I invite us to hear the story of the multiplication of the fish and loaves from the perspective of why Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves. To help us consider why Jesus multiplied the 2 fish and 5 loaves I invite you to hear Matthew’s account of Jesus’ multiplication of compassion as detailed in Matthew 14:13-14 with fresh ears of faith.
“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.”
This is not the first time that compassion defines Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 9:35-36 tells of Jesus’ compassion this way:
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Today’s scripture is not the last time that compassion defines Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 20:34 tells of Jesus’ last healing story as Jesus heals two blind men before he enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.
Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” The reason why Jesus had compassion for the crowd in today’s scripture reading is because his ministry was defined by his suffering together with those were suffering. The reason why Jesus has compassion on the crowd is because Jesus, himself, is compassion.
Jesus invited the disciples to see the suffering crowd through his compassion as he told them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Jesus invited his disciples to see the possibilities that were before them rather than their self-imposed limitations as they told Jesus, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
Did you notice how Jesus responded to the disciples’ self-imposed limitations?
- Jesus used the resources that were available when the disciples told Jesus that they had 2 fish and 5 loaves
- Jesus blessed the resources that were available as Jesus looked up to heaven and blessed and broke the loaves
- Jesus included his disciples in responding to the hungry crowd as he gave the blessed food to his disciples who, in turn, gave the blessed food to the hungry
What did Jesus do in responding to his disciples’ concern about the hungry crowd? He multiplied the loaves and fish so the hungry could eat.
Why did Jesus respond to his disciples’ concern about the hungry crowd? Jesus responded because he was compassion. Jesus responded so his compassion might be multiplied as he gave the blessed food to his disciples who, in turn, gave the blessed food to the hungry crowd. Jesus responded so his disciples could respond with compassion as they saw those who suffered.
Mother Teresa taught about compassion as she told of a man who came to her house to tell her about a Hindu family of eight children who had not eaten anything for days because they had nothing to eat. She took enough rice for a meal and went to their house. Telling of her encounter with this family, Mother Teresa said, “I could see the hungry faces, the children with their bulging eyes. The sight could not have been more dramatic! The mother took the rice from my hands, divided it in half and went out. When she came back a little later, I asked her: “Where did you go? What did you do?” She answered, ‘They are also hungry.’ They were the people next door, a Muslim family with the same number of children to feed and who did not have any food either. That mother was aware of the situation. She had the courage and the love to share her meager portion of rice with others.”
As we hear the story of Jesus multiplying the fish and loaves, we may tend to think only about what Jesus did in responding to the hungry crowd. There is, however, a deeper question to consider for the only miracle story that is found in all four of the gospels – the question of why Jesus responded with compassion to the hungry crowd. Our answer to this question can satisfy our hungry souls as we suffer together with the suffering through the compassion of Jesus.
May God bless us with the multiplication of compassion.
The Multiplication of Compassion
by Pastor Marc Brown
August 6, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: Matthew 14:13-21
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for August 6, 2023
Scripture Lesson Matthew 14:13-21
The Good News “The Multiplication of Compassion”
Music “Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore” by Cesareo Gabarain
Closing Music “Pastorale” by Lani Smith