Last night as I was chewing on Matthew’s account of the Feeding of the 5000 for the noon service today in Glenmoor, I found myself drawn not to the miraculous multiplication of bread and fish but instead to the beginning of the text and what immediately preceded it. John the Baptist has just been brutally murdered. When the politically powerful Herod made his oath to the daughter of Herodias, he had no way of knowing that he’d be asked for “the head of John the Baptist here on a platter,” and we read that he was “grieved” by this. Nevertheless, he had made an oath and was compelled to honor it.
The grief that Herod felt and the gut-wrenching sadness that Jesus no doubt experienced over the unjustified, senseless execution of his dear cousin spoke to the anguish so many of us feel over recent events in the nation’s capitol. Regardless of where people “stand,” if we take a step back and are honest with ourselves, I think we should find ourselves heartbroken.
Jesus withdrew to a deserted place, quite probably to process the painful event of John’s death. But he was followed by a crowd. He did indeed feed them, but first he saw them. These were not the powerful and mighty, the privileged and rich. These were people quite likely fed up with the politics of their time and hungry for a message of hope – a message that included them, not as a demographic but as men, women and children created in the image of God. Men, women and children longing for relationship with the God who is love. Jesus saw them, and they knew it. He saw them and had compassion on them and healed them. That was enough. More than they ever dared hope for.