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July 25

Matthew 15:29-39

29 Moving on from there, Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee. He went up on a mountain and sat there, 30 and large crowds came to him, including the lame, the blind, the crippled, those unable to speak, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he healed them. 31 So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the crippled restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they gave glory to the God of Israel. 32 Jesus called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.” 33 The disciples said to him, “Where could we get enough bread in this desolate place to feed such a crowd?” 34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked them. “Seven,” they said, “and a few small fish.” 35 After commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. They collected the leftover pieces—​seven large baskets full. 38 Now there were four thousand men who had eaten, besides women and children. 39 After dismissing the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan. — Matthew 15:29-39

A Full Life

by Elizabeth Brown

It was Memorial Day weekend, and I had made all the plans. Just a few neighbors were stopping by for a burger. The Todds and their children would be here. Then I asked Jodi from the Y and her family. Oh, and my son’s band mates, our middle daughter’s friend from New Orleans visiting that weekend, my oldest daughter and her oldest friend. Maybe my husband’s covenant group would come and bring their wives. I looked at the two pounds of hamburger, the single can of baked beans, and the half head of lettuce and felt the panic set in.

Is this overwhelming panic of responsibility what Jesus’ disciples felt when Jesus suggested they feed the crowd of 4,000 by the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 15:32)? For three days people had been coming for healing and encouragement. Jesus saw them at their most vulnerable, and He had compassion for them. Touching, treating, healing, Jesus also did not neglect the most fundamental of needs, the most meaningful expression of comfort: a meal offered. It is a time-honored, global tradition to bring food to the sick and bereaved. When we focus on the people we are serving, the act conveys warmth, caring, and intimacy.

This is the second account of Jesus feeding a multitude in the book of Matthew. In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus blesses the small amount of food the disciples contribute and feeds 5,000 men, in addition to women and children. Why does Matthew tell us of Jesus’ miraculous multiplication twice in the book? Perhaps this type of event happened more times than the Gospel writers recorded. This repetition underscores the message of abundant living Jesus came to proclaim.

“And they (the multitude) did eat, and were FILLED; and they took up of the broken meat that was left, seven baskets FULL” (Matthew 15:37 KJV). Full stomachs. Full baskets. The idea of being filled is central to the definition of abundance. So often I think of abundance as being more material goods than I can hold and a happy, trouble-free life. Certainly this is an aspect of abundance. However, if I come to expect this as the only way to experience abundant life, I will be disappointed time and again, as the inevitable troubles of life and the reality of earth’s finiteness confront me.

Abundant living may not look like what we expect. It may be that “fullness” is what true abundance is: fullness of emotions, ranging from the depths of despair to the heights of joy, and fullness of relationships, from experiencing connection and oneness to distance and separation. It may mean allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to be FULLY human.

Our humanness delights Jesus. He wants to fill our souls with His Spirit. He even rejoices when we are not filled, for when we are empty it gives Him the opportunity to be our Savior. It is a lifetime of this process. Just as the most abundant, extravagant feast will not keep us full forever, we are constantly in need of being filled. With Christ in our lives, we can live the abundant life. 

Praxis

  1. Admit that you are a broken human being. Be OK with it. Knowing that Christ accepts you this way, ask for His filling, indwelling Spirit.
  2. A week after your last grocery run, prepare a meal with what you have on hand. Resist going to the store for any item. Be creative. Let it be enough and experience fullness.