Christmas Preparation: Love for those in need

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Read Matthew 14:13-21, which you can do here. Answer the following questions:

  • Jesus was withdrawing ‘privately to a solitary place’ because he had been informed that his cousin and staunch supporter, John the Baptist, has been executed.  But when his boat landed, he saw that a huge crowd of people was waiting for him.  How would you have felt, in a moment of personal grief, if this happened to you?
  • How does Matthew tell us that Jesus felt about these people?
  • As dusk approached, the disciples offer Jesus a suggestion that he dismiss the crowd so that they can go get dinner.  Jesus offers an alternative.  What was it?
  • What was their objection to Jesus’ order?

Perhaps you’ve heard this story before.  It is one of the most well known miracles.  And that’s why we know it.  ‘The Feeding of the 5,000’ is a miracle.  Wouldn’t you agree?  But what if the story isn’t really about that?  Or at least not all about that.  Is it possible that a major part of this story is found in the conflict between Jesus and his followers?  Hear it again (in my paraphrase):

Disciples:  These folks are getting hungry.  Let’s tell them to fend for themselves.

Jesus:  I’ve got a better idea.  They’re hungry, right?  How about YOU feed them!

Disciples:  Come again?  Jesus, we’ve barely got enough for the 13 of us!  We’ve got…let me count…only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  What you want is impossible!

But it wasn’t!  And by the time it was all over, there was exactly one overflowing basket full of food left over for EACH disciple.

Jesus’ desire to feed them was directly tied to his compassion for them.  That’s what love is: a deep sense of care and compassion that sets aside our own need (in Jesus’ case, it was his need to grieve) in order to meet someone else’s need.

I serve on the board of a non-profit that seeks to eliminate childhood hunger by providing kids who need help with a backpack filled with food every weekend. These kids are able to eat at school (on a government subsidized meal plan), but when they aren’t in school they often go hungry.  This small, fledgling backpacks ministry began 5 years ago with a handful of kids in a single elementary school.  Today, we feed 700 kids every week.

This week, I attended an annual board gathering for this ministry.  What was most compelling at this celebration was to hear the stories.  These kids DON’T pray for snow days…because snow days mean no school, and no school means no food.  Some of these kids who sleep in houses without electricity.  Without running water.  Without heat.  One of the things I love about our church is that we are passionate about this program – aptly called Backpacks of Love.  We love these kids, even though we don’t know them.  They’re hungry, and we hear the words of Jesus saying, “YOU give them something to eat.”

Backpacks of Love is a close partner with PCC, and serves Chesterfield, Powhatan, Buckingham and Cumberland.  We hope to expand that area to include areas in each of our physical campuses (like Amelia and Fluvanna) at some point.

I’m convinced that Love cares about those who are in need, and Jesus’ life exemplified that truth.  Are you aware of the physical needs around you – hunger and shelter and care?  Pray that God would open your eyes and touch your heart this Christmas as he moves you to ‘give them something to eat.’

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