Pentecost 9 – Sunday, August 6, 2017

August 6, 2017  

Matthew 14:13-2

There’s a sneaky preface to our gospel reading this morning; there’s a reference to the personal life of Jesus that folks tend to gloss over to get to the point of the reading.
Jesus was grieving.

When we read the story of the feeding of the 5,000, we hear the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Of course we do! Jesus fed 5,000 people with just a little bread and fish. That is a story worth telling.

What we might not notice is that the story begins with a quick bit of information. Jesus had just heard news of something, news that made him want to find a place to be alone. What did he hear?

The verses prior to the ones we have as a reading today tell us. John the Baptist had just been killed. Murdered. Brutally murdered by King Herod, who had John’s head placed on a platter as a gift. When John’s disciples told Jesus the news, Jesus “withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself” (Matt. 14:13).

Some translations of the text say Jesus went to a “private place.” Others say he went to a “solitary place.” The point is, Jesus wanted to be alone.

Jesus was grieving.

Jesus didn’t get much time to himself. He wasn’t given much time to grieve. The crowds needing him, followed him.

The good news is, even in his grief, Jesus loved them. Jesus had compassion for the people in the crowd who followed him. Because of his compassionate heart, because of his love—Jesus chose to heal those who were sick, and he fed everyone.

The 5,000 people that followed Jesus (and imagine for a moment, being followed by 5,000 people!) did not ask Jesus to feed them. Jesus saw their need. Jesus said to his disciples “…give them something to eat (Matt 14:16).

It is written in the book of 1 John

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that [God] loved us…” (1 John 4:7-9).

Martin Luther, in his commentary on 1 John wrote “These are simple words, but they are words that require faith in the highest degree” (Luther’s Works, vol. 30, p. 301).

God is love.

Another scholar wrote about 1 John chapter 4 “God has decided in our favor apart from our ability to reciprocate, gracing us with love prior to and independent of any response we might offer, for no reason other than that love is the very nature of God that is knowable by human beings” (NIB vol. 12, p.433).
What does this mean? The scholar writes that it means “love looks like Jesus.”

Love looks like Jesus.

Love looks like Jesus, who in a moment of intense personal loss and grief set aside his own needs to tend to the needs of those needing him.
Love looks like Jesus who, sent by God, tended to our greatest need: salvation.
Love looks like Jesus, who said to God “Not my will but thy will be done” as he surrendered himself to the cross.

Love looks like Jesus.

God’s love was made perfect in and through Jesus.

Like us, the church I served in Houghton, MI years ago has communion every Sunday. One of the members there once told me that, if there was one thing I did consistently in my sermons from Sunday to Sunday—it was to tell people God loved them.
I had a seminary professor who reminded me when I was a student, even if I am saying the words “God loves you” for the millionth time, there might be someone present who is hearing those words for the first time.

God loves you.
Love looks like Jesus.

When I bless children at communion I say a few different things, depending on the child. Most often I say “God loves you.” I mark them with the sign of their baptism, a cross on their forehead, and I say “This is the sign of your baptism and it means God loves you.”

There were identical twin girls, little girls worshipping in the church I served in Houghton. Their names were Rebecca and Stephanie. Every Sunday their mom brought them to church. Every Sunday I marked them with the sign of the cross and told them God loves them. One Sunday, I marked Rebecca with the sign of the cross and told her God loves her. Then I marked Stephanie with the sign of the cross and told her God loved her. Then Stephanie looked me straight in the eye and loudly proclaimed “God loves you, too.” Her words washed over me, filling me with joy. God does love me. God is love.
Luther wrote “Indeed, God is nothing else than love… all God’s blessings flow from love” (LW, vol. 30, p. 300).

Thanks be to God.

Amen.