You call yourself a Christian, right? You do realize that just by doing that, you are taking on a very specific job description. You are now “His witnesses”. You are the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth”. You are “Christ’s ambassadors”, a “holy priesthood” you are to be “Declaring the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light”. Do I have to go on? Realize it — you have a job, whether you like it or not, you are blessed to serve. There is no such thing as a part time Christian. Just by being one, you are a minister. That’s what it means to be a Christian, a servant.
And I know, sometimes that doesn’t sound so great. Sometimes serving is the last thing you’d want to do – but that’s just when we’re not seeing it in the right way. So today, let’s look at the account of Jesus feeding the 5000 in Matthew 14 and realize that we are all blessed to serve. Here’s how the story starts.
“13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
So, let’s set the scene. Here is Jesus reuniting with his disciples after they just got back from the missionary trip he had sent them on. They are busy reporting to him the things that had happened on their mission. Matthew also mentions the news about John the Baptist’s beheading — remember, this was Jesus’ cousin and co-worker — that didn’t speak well for Jesus’ work and certainly reminded him what he had coming. Put all this together and it makes sense that Jesus sought out a solitary place — a place to be alone with his closest friends and talk, rest, just recoup a minute from all that was going on. Have you ever been there, where you just need a minute to get your head straight?
But, you saw it in the text, he didn’t get solitude. Instead a huge crowd was waiting for him. But Jesus didn’t turn the boat around or let out the sails again. Did you catch what he did? Our text says, “He had compassion on them”. Real literally, the word has in it a picture of his guts churning. It says – his intestines were moved for them. He had that very human, pit-of-the-stomach feeling of seeing someone you love intimately suffer. Any parent knows what he’s talking about if they’ve seen their child suffer helplessly — you would happily switch places. But you can’t, so your guts are moved. You feel compassion and would do anything you can to help, right? But, then, what about when it isn’t your spouse or your child?
Honestly, doesn’t that happen, when we view someone as more of a hassle than an opportunity to serve, to help? I’m sure it won’t take you too long to remember the last time when you didn’t help someone who needed it because it wasn’t convenient for you or they weren’t really lovable. Think of all the things that don’t get done because we’ve got better things to do or because we need our rest, whether that’s the church work opportunities we don’t take, the encouragements we don’t give or the physical help we avoid. That’s sin, seeing our service as how it affects me instead of how the one you are serving needs it – even if they don’t know they need it. And if that’s how we treat others, think of how we should be treated.
Jesus should have turned that boat around, dropped off his disciples and sailed off into the sunset because of how little he was appreciated. But instead, he saw the need. So he healed them. He healed us. It was the very same guts, the very same compassion that caused Jesus to go to another hillside, and give the bread of life, his body, on the cross. We were unlovable, but he saw our need and he had compassion. And knowing what it would take, an innocent sacrifice, he looked up to heaven, stretched out his arms and was crucified, praying for you and me, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” We needed such help, and his guts caused him to give it.
He served us his own life, and now, seeing this, we are blessed to serve. Understanding how he saw us in our need, let’s seek to see others. They are all around us. Sometimes it’s obvious. But not always. I mean, who knew Robin Williams, one of the most talented comedians around, was feeling like that? It doesn’t always make sense, but people are hurting – and don’t know where to turn.
See them. Serve them with the Master’s mercy.
But wait, as much as we may want to help someone, have you ever felt like you were not able to? That’s how the disciples felt when Jesus told them to give this crowd something to eat. I mean, there were more than 5000 in the crowd. He must be crazy! But, look at the method of his madness. He was showing them whose work it was. Once they realized they were helpless, he said, verse 18, “Bring them here to me.” Jesus makes it clear who is doing this miracle. Looking up to heaven and thanking God, he gives the bread back to the disciples and tells them to hand it out. And they do. And you know how the story goes — everybody not only gets a taste, but eats their fill, so much that they can’t even finish it, and 12 baskets of leftovers remain at the end.
Can you imagine how much fun that would have been for the disciples? Of course, it wasn’t their power, but they got to be a part of it; giving what gifts they received from Jesus. Christians, that’s what your ministry is; whether you’re sharing the physical gifts God has given you with others or the spiritual ones. You’re giving God’s gifts, and that’s a source that never runs dry. So do it. You are blessed to serve.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 8 & 10:30am. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.