“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 14:13
This is the scene for the well known story where Jesus multiplies the five loaves and two fish to feed the five thousand. What is not often talked about is why Jesus is there. He had just learned that John the Baptist had been beheaded. John the Baptist called himself a friend of the bridegroom, a friend of Jesus. Although John was a famous prophet, one whom Jesus gives the title of, “The Greatest of All Prophets” they also grew up together. Their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth were related. Their ministries were happening around the same time, John prepared the way for Jesus, prophesied that He was the Promised Messiah, and then later baptized Him.
Although Jesus was God, he experienced heartbreak, sadness, and grief. He wept on earth and he sweat droplets of blood in agony. He felt the things we feel when our loved ones are suffering. He withdrew to this forlorn place when he heard his friend and family member was gruesomely and brutally murdered and he must have mourned.
When I’m heartbroken, when I’m sad or even just struggling, I tend to have blinders on to others and I see only my own pain. But when Jesus sees the crowd he isn’t annoyed or angry at having this private time infringed upon, but he is instead moved with compassion. He begins to serve them, to heal them, and to feed them.
But he doesn’t do it alone. Jesus’ disciples are with him. After the day is spent, the disciples ask Jesus to send the people away to get food for themselves. However, Jesus says that the disciples actually already have the food for the people and he tells them to bring it to him.
Jesus took the little that the disciples had, broke it and gave it back to the disciples to feed the tired and hungry multitudes. Jesus miraculously multiplied the five loaves and the two fish to feed five thousand people, with baskets overflowing.
I think it’s so much like us that when we are in lack, whether it’s our time, our resources, physically or mentally, we begin to operate with a scarcity mindset. We stop giving and instead we hold on for dear life to the little that remains. Our narrative becomes we have nothing to give, send the people away.
Well, Jesus says differently. Jesus says, although you’re in this place where you feel you have nothing of worth to offer, with Me, you have baskets overflowing. You see when you give, I multiply.
The holidays, which are meant to be merry, can also be downright desolate. They bring to mind those whom we may no longer be able to share them with. Their stringed lights shine bright on all of the year’s disappointments, and the promises of togetherness are in stark contrast to the loneliness that is felt among so many.
Jesus is in the crowds though and He sees us and His heart is full of compassion. Today and this Christmas, if we find ourselves in this place, instead of sending the people away may we instead humbly invite each other in.
And whether it’s a sad heart or a depleted bank account, may we decide to live out of a spirit of abundance, knowing that whatever we have to give, offered up to God, it will be broken and it will be multiplied and it will bless. After all, it is out of broken that we have many pieces to give.