Yesterday’s reading in the Revised Common Lectionary were all about feeding. Isaiah 55 spoke of coming to the water, and asked why spend money on that which is not food. Our Gospel story was from Matthew 14 and told of the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000+ in a desolate place.
There is a great deal debate over this reading – did Jesus do a real miracle by multiplying the loaves and fishes, or was the real miracle that people saw Jesus sharing what little there was and they began to share. I don’t think it matters – regardless of the how, thousands were fed – that’s a miracle.
Instead, I would rather focus on the fact that this was a desolate place – that’s the terminology we are given. Desolate, deserted, empty – they all mean the same thing ultimately. These terms signify that there is no life, nothing of value. And this is where Jesus goes.
The people go to where Jesus is. I think it’s quite fitting that the crowd would search out Jesus in a desolate place. Desolation isn’t just a physical place – it’s a state of being for some people, maybe for many people. So many people are empty, exhausted, and their state of being is desolate. There is no life where they are. Yet, if they are searching, they are hungry. They are hungry for food, for love, for attention, for care, for mercy, for forgiveness.
But where there is desolation, Jesus shows up and amazing things happen. Jesus shows up and people are fed. Not just enough to kill the hunger pains, but we are told to their fill. But it doesn’t stop there – the disciples collected the leftovers and found 12 baskets full. That’s because when Jesus shows up, there is overflowing abundance – never to run out.
Jesus shows up and amazing things happen. People are fed love – in overwhelming ways. Where they had only received conditional love, Jesus gives unconditional love – to the point of death. We are overwhelmed by God’s love and have more than enough to give to others.
Jesus shows up and we receive forgiveness. Forgiveness that we don’t deserve and can’t possibly do enough to earn. Yet, it is given – in overflowing abundance. So much so that we take the extra and give it our to others who need forgiveness.
Jesus shows up and we receive mercy and grace and so much more. And we receive these things in overwhelming abundance. So much so that we give it away.
The miracle isn’t that God is this good. The miracle is that we are invited to participate in handing out God’s overwhelming abundance to others. The miracle is that it doesn’t run out – ever. When Jesus shows up to places where there is desolation – to lives where desolation runs rampant – lives change in overwhelming and abundant ways. Thanks be to God!