In Matthew 14, some serious news that Jesus heard prompts Jesus to withdraw “from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”
What have you heard that prompted you to withdraw into your metaphoric boat to find a deserted place for yourself?
Did you hear:
• A medical diagnosis
• A foreclosure notice
• A-thanks-for-applying-but-you’re-not-a-good-fit-for-us letter
• A rejected bid
• A pink slip from a trusted employer
• news from a friend, “Hey–we’re moving to another town.”
• news from a high school senior child, “Mom, Dad, I want to go out-of-state to college.”
• news from a spouse, “I know we were planning to wait for a few years, but, um, we’re pregnant.”
Was this news what you heard, or did you hear something else?
For Jesus, he hears news that cousin John, the Baptizer, is executed. King Herod has seen to his demise.
John is rejected by his own people; killed by his own people, so what does this mean for Jesus, Messiah, son of God, only-begotten of the Father? Jesus already knows rejection, for as a native son of Nazareth, his own local folks already have prompted him to say, “Truly no prophet is welcomed in their hometown.” Herod is no fan of John. Herod is no fan of Jesus either. Jesus knows this.
John is executed and John’s journey towards execution began out there on Rejection Roadway. And Jesus, too, travels Rejection Roadway, has been on it ever since Jesus took the unwelcoming Nazareth on-ramp.
What Jesus heard is—a lot to take in, a lot to process, a lot to contemplate. Like many, Jesus ponders questions of, “What does this mean for me?”
So, Jesus withdraws, seeks his “one particular harbor,” gets off by himself. Maybe he mourns, maybe he ponders, maybe he prays, maybe he does all three. Aren’t those three responses familiar to us? Aren’t they our responses, too? Like us, maybe Jesus thinks, “What’s going to happen to me?” Jesus has lots of time to ponder as Jesus travels Rejection Roadway, especially since he knows the road dead ends at a cross. Maybe Jesus feels he walks this “lonesome highway” all by himself for Jesus knows his closest friends will reject him at the last.
Whatever the case, just like so many times when we are alone, wanting to stay alone, wanting others to take the hint and give us space, people crowd us, they crowd Jesus, too. Like so many they think their need must be the most important need of all, so important that interruption is not only advisable, but most assuredly warranted.
Jesus returns from the big water, gets to shore, compassionately cares for the people, makes not one bit of difference to Jesus that these are the ones who receive him, and who will turn around and reject him, ‘cause Jesus isn’t there seeking his own ends.
All afternoon long the sick are healed by Jesus, the lonely are gathered as family by Jesus, the crowds continue to lingeringly crowd. Hunger sets in; so does pragmatic fear. And the fear comes through those closest to Jesus.
“This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late,” the disciples say to Jesus. “Send the crowds away,” the disciples say to Jesus. “Let ‘em go into the villages and buy food for themselves,” the disciples say to Jesus.
To the disciples, Jesus says, “You feed ‘em.”
They reply, “Five corn dodgers? Two catfish? Too many people, too little food!” How are we going to feed this bunch with that lunch special? Jesus, it ain’t a-gonna happen. Forget it.”
Yep–out there by the big water along Rejection Roadway they don’t trust Jesus. Here at Grace Junction, do you?
They’ve been with Jesus as Jesus heals the sick all afternoon long, but still they don’t trust Jesus to handle dinner.
That’s them. That’s their issue; now what about you? What’s your trust issue?
Where do you say to Jesus, “Well, you’ve been trustworthy in this-that-and-the-other, but I just don’t trust you to handle that thing over there.” Where do trust yourself or your abilities more than you trust Jesus? Is it a sin that so tightly grips you, even defines you, convinces you that you can’t/don’t/won’t trust Jesus both to forgive you for it and to free you from it? Think it’s an issue so large that five-corn-dodger-two-catfish Jesus, can’t handle it? “WTF! Where’s the faith?” WTT? Where’s the trust?
There’s not one thing that the one-through-whom-all-things-are-made-Jesus can’t handle. Jesus is a 12-basketfuls-left-over sort of guy. And like, the Ginsu knife commercial says, when it comes to Jesus, “Wait, but there’s more.” There’s more than enough Jesus to handle life, sin, shame, feelings of inadequacy, death, even hungry crowds whose needs crash on weary Jesus like, “seas billows tempest-tossed.” Tempest-tossed sea billows or not, five-corn-dodger-two-catfish Jesus can be trusted to get it handled.
And Jesus, generally starts handling matters by asking those around him to give him what they’ve got. Jesus doesn’t ask for a situational analysis, congregational survey, or logistics brief, Jesus just asks people to bring him what they’ve got.
“Bring those catfish and corn dodgers to me,” Jesus says. “Y’all sit down,” Jesus says. “Take a load off,” Jesus says.
And now Jesus takes a load off of our anxious minds, for now those matters of catfish and corn dodgers are in Jesus’ hands rather than our own, so we can let go of fretting about dinner and look to Jesus who looks to the Father, blesses the so very much that we thought too precious little, and then Jesus passes the catfish and corn dodgers, now blest and broken, back to us as Jesus says, “Get to feeding ‘em y’all, they look “howngry.”
No angels appear. No trumpets blare. No bushes burst aflame. No one wails out five stanzas of Just as I am, while another pantingly pleads for the crowd to, “Come to Jesus and get saved.” Nope–in the total ordinariness of the common a subtle miracle is born. There by the big water along Rejection Roadway, receivers and rejecters both are filled.
It’s so ordinary a thing that not a one of ‘em realizes it’s a miracle until the food reaches the ushers seated out on the upholstered rocks in the narthex.
And when the bread reaches them, the head usher gives two-thumbs-up to Jesus for, “all ate and were filled;” the receivers and rejecters alike, all filled by Jesus.
What do you think of that? Ordinary people stuffed with ordinary catfish and corn dodgers, all participating in the only miracle recorded six times in the Gospels. Extraordinary! Ordinary people awash in the extraordinary, and they don’t even see it ‘til the end.
Everyone one ‘em full. No one left hungry. And scads of leftovers sitting by the big red doors in take-home trays and to-go cups. What a day it is out there on Rejection Roadway, where we must ask ourselves, “Am I trusting Jesus with this plate of corn dodgers and catfish? Well, am I. And if I’m trust Jesus with this plate of corn dodgers and catfish, am I trusting Jesus in everything else, too? Am I trusting Jesus when I heard this THIS? Are you trusting Jesus in matters of catfish and corn dodgers? Are you trusting Jesus in matters of salvation, death, hell, and resurrection? Don’t you know that like catfish and corn dodgers, these’ll go further, fill deeper, get dealt with better in the hands of Jesus than in the hands or either me or you?
On that spacious altar, we’ve less than a bottle of wine, less than a loaf of bread. Such little wine, such little bread—seems so little against the reality of medical let-downs, foreclosures, rejections, pinks slips, floods, wars, tensions between superpowers. Yet in the hands of Jesus, God the Father blesses the so very much that we think too precious little into being the Meal of hope and promise, the “food and drink of new and unending life,” the Body and Blood of God. Given and shed for you. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin.
You trust Jesus out there on the Rejection Roadway in matters of catfish and corn dodgers, so here at Grace Junction, in matters of Jesus’ own flesh and blood forgiveness, shouldn’t you trust Jesus, too?
Haven’t you heard the serious news, that out there on Rejection Roadway, dinner in the hands of Jesus is enough and more than enough, so here at Grace Junction, doesn’t that mean that in the hands of Jesus there is enough and more than enough to manage this dinner, and the lives and cares of me? of you?