In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life there is what I believe to be a provocative and helpful sequence of three events recorded in chapter 14. I have been seeking to personalize these events and hopefully you may seek to do so as well.
First there is the violent, gruesome death of Jesus’ friend, his earthly cousin, John the Baptist. This man had baptized Jesus to inaugurate Christ’s ministry. John is beheaded by Herod, his head laid out on a platter separated from his torso. John’s followers, grief stricken, take his dismembered body and bury it.
Then, “…they went and reported to Jesus.”
I am moved by these words, “reported to Jesus.” In the margin of my Bible, I write, “And so can I report” to Jesus. Horrendous events coupled with great grief — What am I to do? Whatever that may be, reporting to Jesus, the one “acquainted with grief,” provides me a source of comfort, strength and stability in the midst of my tears that nothing, nor none other, can provide.
The second event is the mass event, the feeding of the 5,000. The need is for food and sustenance. The disciples want Jesus to send this multitude away because they lack the resources to meet the need. Jesus says, “Bring your resources (five loaves and two fish) to me.” In doing so, Jesus takes the resources, looks to heaven, blesses the resources, breaks the resources, distributes the resources to his disciples who distribute to the masses, and “they all ate and were satisfied.”
So, I ask myself, what do I have that seems so meager and so inadequate to address the needs that are pressing in upon me and upon others? My resources at best are insufficient. Does this insufficiency paralyze me from taking action and doing what I can? Might I rather be called to simply offer my resources — physical, emotional, spiritual — to Jesus and let him do with them whatever he would?
The third event in chapter 14 of Matthew takes place after Jesus sends the fed and satisfied multitude away as well as his disciples. We read, “He (then) went up to the mountain by himself to pray; and when it was evening, he was there alone.”
Jesus. Alone. Praying.
Again in the margin of my Bible, I write, “What must this have been like!” For me, there is a great and inexplicable mystery here but a mystery worth pondering: God the son in intense and tender intimacy with God the father and in the fellowship of God the Holy Spirit: The eternal uncreated God communing, communicating, in communion. No one else present and yet The Presence that predates all time. It is my hope and my prayer that my life and yours as well might in small, but significant, ways participate in this alone time with God, bringing our griefs, offering our meager resources and experiencing his presence right here, this day, in Sheridan, Wyoming.
Gary Kopsa is a minister at Volunteers of America Northern Rockies.