“The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they
had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted
place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and
going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in
the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them
going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the
towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a
great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like
sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a
deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so
that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy
something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give
them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two
hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And
he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had
found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them
to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass.
So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the
five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and
broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the
people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate
and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken
pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered
five thousand men.”
My daughter Becka did something the other day that touched me: On her way home from a long day at school (she’s an education major at the University of Texas at Arlington), she stopped by a Jack-in-the-Box for a taco. We were talking on our cell phones at the time, and I commented on how “gross” I thought Jack-in-the-Box food was, but she loves it! An hour later, she sent me a text message saying, “I bought a homeless man dinner, and he cried, and now I can’t stop crying.”
I posted it on my FaceBook page saying, “Tears are a gateway to the soul, allowing us to connect at the heart with our brothers and sisters, all of God’s children around the world, who are suffering.” I think more people responded to those words than any others I have ever posted. Later in the week, the Governor of Alabama declared that he only considered “Christians to be his brothers and sisters.” And his statement set off a storm of controversy; it also made me feel sad for him, and others who believe like him because that is an incredibly small vision of God.
When God took Abram on a walk outside, showing him the stars, saying, “So shall your descendants be!” With two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, Abraham and his two wives Sarah and Hagar then gave birth to three of the world’s largest religions ~ Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; there was a time that I might have called them great; however, our inability “to play nicely in the sand box” prohibits me from saying that right now. Like it or not, we are all children of God, regardless what you choose to believe about God; the ways in which we practice our religion and faith define us in the outside world.
In scripture from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus was beginning to grow weary and tired, and he recognized that both he and the disciples needed rest; however, a crowd of people had gathered to hear him speak, some traveling great distances just for a chance to hear a word of hope, and he had compassion for them. “Compassion means to feel what others are feeling, to have great empathy for someone with love and to act out of charity and kindness.” So when the disciples told Jesus that it was getting late, they were hungry, and he needed to tell “his new friends” (all 5,000 of them) to go find something to eat! … His response was, “You give them something to eat!”
Gandhi once said, “With all of the hungry people in the world, it is no wonder that God came to us as bread!” Can you imagine how the disciples felt when Jesus told them to go into a crowd of thousands of hungry people with a few loaves of bread and couple of fish? I remember watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when the hungry, thirsty and starving people were stranded in the Superdome in New Orleans, desperately crying out for water and food. Hunger and thirst like that makes people say and do things they could never imagine in ordinary life. Maybe Jesus wanted the disciples to see hunger pains face to face; perhaps he needed for them to see the bloated stomachs of children up-close and personally; it’s possible that he intended for them to look a mother in the eyes and see her tears of desperation with little ones begging for more; or a father’s broken pride, knowing the whole world knew how he had failed to provide for his family. Maybe Jesus just wanted the disciples to know how broken felt … because in the end … that is what they collected … the broken hearts, and broken dreams … and broken pieces of the people’s lives … left behind there … on the shoreline … over 12 baskets full!
One day you may meet a stranger who needs something, and you may not have anything to offer but a “fast food meal”, Frederick Buechner says, “You may not have anything to offer but the love of God embodied in a tiny piece of bread and a cup” … but if that day comes, and you respond with compassion, you can be assured that there will always be enough.