2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?
Jesus in a Desolate Place
We find Jesus in a very important place in this text – a desolate place. It’s important for the crowds that Jesus is there because they are there. It’s important for us that Jesus is here in this desolate place because we are here. Look around and what do you see? Weeds, thorns, violent power struggles, death, sickness, desolation, poverty, abuse, broken bodies, broken souls, broken families, broken people, every man for himself at times – a wilderness. Experiencing things like this should be too much of a surprise when you come to recognize where you are. It wasn’t always this way, but “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Gen. 2).” Hence, Psalm 23 calls this the valley of the shadow of death.
Despite the Warning Signs, We’re Surprised Sometimes
This is an awful story and I’m sorry to share it, but it makes the point. Recently there was a man who was killed by an alligator. He jumped in, being drunk, to a body of water that was surrounded by signs – “No Swimming. Danger. Alligator.” The warnings were there. He knew, not fully knowing in his drunkenness though, what was present in the environment. Then, the environment did what all the signs said it was going to do. Was the man surprised? Of course he was! Should he have been? No.
This teaches us about us. We too often don’t take Scriptures warning signs seriously. Or, we forget them. Or, we don’t believe them. Anger isn’t going to make you feel better. Don’t act and look lustfully – it’s not going to be worth it. Don’t depend on your money, your house, your health, your awesomeness. Romans 6: For the end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. Watch and pray, lest you fall into temptation. Meditate on the Bible. Receive the Lord’s Supper. When those warnings or encouragements turn out to be right, we’re sometimes surprised. “O, I thought it would be different this time.”
Forgetfulness is a sin common to all. The disciples ask how they can feed the people. This questions comes perhaps just a few days after Jesus fed 5,000 men with 5 loaves and 2 fish. When He says: “I have compassion” did they think right away of the last time?
No. Of course not. They’re like you. And me. Always forgetful that the Lord is compassionate and abounding in steadfast love. Instead of looking to Him, they think he’s laying the problem on them to sort out. They freak. Absolute panic: “How can one feed all these people with bread here in this desolate place?” Just like you and I freak when we let the size of the problem divert our eyes from His face and the One who is this desolate place with us.
Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
He doesn’t scold, but I do wonder if He sighed. In any case, He does it again. Same miracle. Bread taken, thanks offered, loaves given into the hands of the disciples with some small fish to feed the crowd. And, just like before, what Jesus takes in His hands to bless is enough and more than enough. Seven baskets full of leftovers gathered up after everyone had eaten and was satisfied. To this crowd who had sought first the kingdom of God, how true it was that everything else they needed was added unto them.
The Desolate Place Teaches 1.) Jesus is There and 2.) Jesus Provides
Where does this happen? In the desolate place, the place of danger, the wilderness. There’s an interesting thing about this place – when things aren’t available to us, we sometimes begin to see what we should really rely on. When something happens to remind us that our heart should not cling to anything or anyone except God, we sometimes do just that and reap the benefit. When things always go well, when there’s always enough food on the table, happiness abounds in the home and workplace, and there’s not a sin that bothers your conscience with guilt and shame – the reaction of the heart is not often contentment, it is sometimes pride and misplaced trust. Sometimes God lets those things fail to let you know how misplaced that pride is – to uncover your forgetfulness and shortcoming of faith.
When that happens and you realize that you’re actually in a wilderness, a desolate place, He is there to remind you that He is there with you. First, to let you know he understands. 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. He knows your need. It is not hidden from his eyes, nor his experience. Every pain that you have, every form of grief and care, has pierced his tender heart as well.
Second, though, He provides (5-9). Every sin of forgetfulness and shortcoming of faith, every time you have clung to something that will fail you, everything has been placed on him and answered. No guilt for you, only wholeness. His is an all-atoning sacrifice. Everything has been answered. He has made you by His mercy and power and He will keep by His mercy and power.
Eat and Be Satisfied
He knows you will faint on the way home without what He provides. “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” The One who is with you is the Giver, the Baker, the Cultivator, the Farmer, the Shepherd, the Pastor, and even the Food. The only thing you have to concern yourself today is eating. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8And they ate and were satisfied.