“He welcomed them and spoke to them about the
healed those who needed healing.” – Luke 9:17 kingdom of God
A football fan went to the Super Bowl one year. To his great surprise, the seat next to him was empty. At halftime, curiosity got the better of him, and he asked the man on the other side of the empty seat if it belonged to him. The stranger replied, “It was my wife’s seat, but she died.” The first man responded, “Oh! I’m so sorry to hear that. But I’m surprised one of your family members or friends didn’t jump at the chance to come to the game and sit in your wife’s seat.” “Yeah,” the other man said, “I thought it was strange too. But they all insisted on going to her funeral today.”
If we see an empty seat in the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday, we’re pretty surprised. But if we see an empty seat at a Sunday morning worship service … well, that doesn’t surprise us at all. It’s just a reality in our nation today that people get more excited about watching a bunch of men chase after a pigskin than they do about spending time with Jesus.
But in Luke 9, we see a crowd of over 5,000 people go chasing after Jesus to have him minister to them on a hillside. These people went out of their way to be with Jesus. On that day, on that hillside, it was standing room only. Thousands of people came hungry for Jesus, even if it wasn’t necessarily for all the right reasons. But by the end of that day, everyone in that crowd would come to one conclusion: Jesus Christ really satisfies.
It all started soon after Jesus’ disciples returned from carrying out his marching orders. He’d sent them to heal the sick, cast out demons and spread the gospel, and they’d probably been gone for weeks if not months. Now the disciples needed some 12-on-1 time alone with Jesus to recharge their batteries. They were on a green hillside, the perfect spot for some R & R. But soon their retreat was interrupted by a tiny little crowd … of several thousand people. The disciples were probably dismayed. But verse 11 tells us, “[Jesus] welcomed them, and spoke to them about the
, and healed those
who needed healing.” kingdom
Mark says that when Jesus saw the large crowd, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). Jesus and his disciples were physically tired, emotionally drained and badly in need of some spiritual refreshment—but when Jesus saw thousands of needy people coming his way, his heart broke for them. So he put aside his own tiredness and tapped his spiritual reserves as he spent hours loving on these people.
As evening approached, the disciples asked Jesus to send the people away so the crowd could get back to town and find food and lodging. Jesus replied with a command: “You give them something to eat” (v. 13). That was a tall order. In verse 14, Luke tells us that there were about 5,000 men in the crowd. But Matthew tells us that there were also women and children, so probably between 10,000 and 15,000 people had gathered there. Then Andrew stepped forward and said, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9).
The apostles’ feelings of helplessness are understandable, but remember, they’d just spent the last month or so healing diseases, curing sicknesses and driving out demons left and right. These disciples had been doing the impossible on a daily basis. But on this day, during their interrupted retreat, they froze up.
But Jesus took the little boy’s lunch, lifted it up to heaven and prayed. Then he began breaking the bread and handing it out to the disciples. And as the bread and fish were passed out, the disciples looked down in their baskets and saw more. So, they handed out that new bread and fish. No matter how many times they reached into the basket and removed bread and fish, bread and fish were still there! Everyone in the crowd of 10,000 ate. And when the leftovers were picked up, there were still 12 basketfuls of bread and fish.
It’s one of Jesus’ best-known miracles. What can it teach us today?
Well, sooner or later, needy people will interrupt your R & R. When that happens, Jesus calls you to tap your physical and spiritual reserves and serve them with compassion. Most parents of newborn babies have to learn this lesson immediately. A newborn baby has to be the most needy creature on the planet. If a baby has a dirty diaper, he screams. If a baby is hungry, she screams. If a baby has nothing better to do, he screams! Parents, by giving us babies, Jesus has taught us a lot about having compassion, hasn’t he? And he has called you and me to share that same kind of compassion with other needy people who come our way at the most inconvenient times.
Also, notice that the disciples’ power to do the impossible could never be separated from their ongoing dependence upon their Master. Both for them and for us, Jesus is the supply, and we are his conduits. And through him, we have the spiritual reserves we need in order to do his work. Remember, you and I are powerless to heal or save anyone. But Jesus desires to heal and to save through you and me—even when we need a break. Even when we’re running on fumes.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.