Jesus had just been told that his cousin, John the Baptist, was dead. That he’d died a brutal, senseless, unnecessary death at the hands of a petty and small-minded king. Who could blame Jesus for withdrawing from the crowds and taking a boat to a lonely place? Sometimes we all need to create a place of refuge and silence in order to think things through…to put our priorities in order and our lives in perspective.
The crowds were determined, however, to find Jesus, because the problems of this world never seem to take a holiday. The crowds walked all night and were there to meet Jesus in the morning. And so Jesus, full of grief, spent the entire day serving the needs of the people who thronged to see him. And Matthew’s testimony to all of us about that day is this: the only thing in this world more relentless and unyielding than our suffering and troubles is the compassionate love of God revealed in Christ Jesus.
At the end of the long day the disciples had had enough. They told Jesus, “send these people away.” But Jesus only had compassion. Blessing five small loaves and two fish, he broke and gave them out. And after everyone was filled, sated, and satisfied, says Matthew, there were enough pieces of bread and fish remaining to fill twelve baskets with the leftovers. It’s just the same for Christ’s followers in today’s world. How blessed we are, each time we share communion, to find ourselves filled, satisfied, and taking up the remnants to carry home!