Jesus Did What?

May 27, 2010

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, or even if you’ve just been around Christianity, most likely you’ve heard or heard of the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish.  It is a story used to teach many different principles; it’s preached from many different angles, and has been successful in building many people’s faith and believe in Jesus and the miraculous.

Recently in intern class, our director, Jonathan Bowles, has been teaching us that in order to get the most out of what we read in the Bible, we need to read what comes before and after a particular verse or story.  Basically, read it in context of what’s happening around it, not just in and of itself.  Well, if you back up the story of feeding the five thousand to see what happens right before it, the previous event gives a new and deeper meaning to the story.

Right before the story of the five thousand is the story of John the Baptist being beheaded.  John was beheaded at the request of Herodias, the wife of  King Herod, even though King Herod himself didn’t want to kill John.

After that, it says in Matthew 14:12-14,  ” Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.  As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns.  Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

This must have been a personal loss to Jesus.  Not only was John Jesus’ cousin, but he was the one who prepared the way for his coming and baptized him (see Matthew 3).   These are Jesus’ very words about John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11, “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.”  We see that this new must have affected Jesus because it says, “As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone” (Matthew 14:13).  It affected Jesus so much that he wanted to be alone.  And yet, when he saw the crowds who followed him, he didn’t say,  “I’m dealing with something and need to be alone.”  He didn’t focus on his own personal pain or what he was dealing with internally.  Instead, he ministered to the people’s needs.  He had compassion on them, healed them, performed a miracle, and fed more than five thousand people!  All at a time when he had just experienced a personal tragedy.

How do you respond in times of personal tragedy? In times of internal pain and struggle? Even if you are on your way to “be alone,” if someone is in your path in need, do you stop, put aside your own issues, and care for them?

This perspective on the story encourages me.  It shows me that when I am faced with trying times, times when all I want to do is be alone and mourn, that it is in fact possible to not only minister to, but to heal others and let the miraculous happen.   Our own personal struggles do not determine or hinder our ability to minister and touch people’s lives.  It simply doesn’t.  Too many times, I see people shrink back due to something painful going on in their lives.  Instead of allowing your personal circumstances to cause you to “be alone,” let that pain produce compassion for others in your life.

I think pain is acutally intended to be a catalyst for growth in our lives; it sparks a change; it lets us know we need to change.  But often times, we allow it be a tranquilizer or paralyzer in our lives.  It stops us dead in our tracks, caught waist deep in quick sand and sinking fast.  I don’t believe for a second that’s what God wants for us in our lives.  I think He takes great joy in seeing us overcome and be victorious in the midst of painful situations in our lives.

So the next time you experience a large dose of pain in your life, I encourage you to allow that pain to cause growth, change, ministry, and miracles in your life.  Don’t shrink back.  Instead reach out in compassion to those in your life and see what God can do!

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