The Gospel according to Matthew tells us of a great miracle performed by Jesus, the feeding of the five thousand. There have been many theologians who have attempted to downplay, or explain away, this great miracle, telling us that the people there were merely hoarding food, and began to share it with others as the basket was being passed around.
If this were the case, Matthew would most likely not have included this event in his Gospel. He certainly wouldn’t have described it as a miracle.
What Matthew’s story does do is not only demonstrate God’s miraculous powers, but also his compassion for the suffering.
Many of those who had come to see and hear Jesus had traveled great distances. They were tired and hungry. Still, they were willing to endure this inconvenience for the chance to see the great prophet they had heard so much about.
Jesus knew that many of those who were present would never come to accept him, and that some perhaps would be among those who would demand his crucifixion on Good Friday, yet he had compassion on all of them.
Jesus spent the three short years of his ministry healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons, even raising the dead… all this to demonstrate the true nature of God, which was, and is, his love and compassion for the suffering.
Yet, we know that Jesus did not heal everyone around him. He did not do away with poverty and hunger. In fact, he told his contemporaries, “The poor you will have with you always.”
So how do we reconcile a God who came to heal the sick yet continues to let sickness and disease eat away at each and every one of us? How do we reconcile a God who came to feed the hungry, yet lets millions of people starve to death?
The answer lies in the one thing that separates Christianity from all other religions; and that is the fact that our God is a suffering God.
When we are hungry, he feels the hunger. When we are in pain, he feels the pain. When we are sorrowful, he feels the sorrow.
When Jesus came into the world, he took on every attribute of man. He knew what it was to feel hunger, and pain, and sorrow. And when those around him were suffering, he had compassion on them, and, being God, was able to help them.
We, being created in God’s image, also share in that same compassion. When we are able to, we help those around us. But we also know there are times when we are unable to help.
There are times when as fathers, or mothers, we have to let our children suffer the consequences of their actions. We listen with great anguish to the cries that come from their little mouths. They don’t know why their parents feel they must go through these things. They only know that it hurts. To them it’s as if their whole world is collapsing. We feel their pain in our hearts. Yet we know that, in the end, it is best for them. We can accept this.
We also know that sometimes God, being our Father, will allow us to suffer for our own benefit, even though there are times when we seem to suffer needlessly, when there seems to be no lesson learned, and no benefit provided.
And, just like our children, we are not capable of understanding our Father’s plan for us. We don’t know why certain things happen to us. We only know it hurts. And that at times it feels like our whole world is collapsing around us.
Still, God, out of his love for each and every one us, does everything he can for us. He leads us, he cares for us, and he is always with us, guiding us along the path to everlasting life in his heavenly kingdom.
When Jesus fed the five thousand, he demonstrated God’s love and compassion for us. But more than that, he demonstrated his Fatherhood over us.
If we are to accept his Fatherhood, then we must commit ourselves to his care and allow him to be who he is, the Father of all mankind.
If we can do this, we can be counted among the children of God, and can look forward to an everlasting life in the heavenly kingdom which our Father has prepared for us. Amen.- Fr. Craig Luesing