‘You Feed Them” August 6, 2023
“You Feed Them”
The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia :
“ The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible, is one of two religious works constructed by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson compiled the manuscripts but never published them. The first, The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, was completed in 1804, but no copies exist today.The second, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, was completed in 1820 by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson’s condensed composition excludes all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels that contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages that portray Jesus as divine.
Jefferson never referred to his work as a Bible, and the full title of this 1804 version was The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, being Extracted from the Account of His Life and Doctrines Given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; Being an Abridgement of the New Testament for the Use of the Indians, Unembarrassed and uncomplicated] with Matters of Fact or Faith beyond the Level of their Comprehensions.” Now I don’t know about you all, but this last sentence did get under my skin a bit: “an Abridgement of the New Testament for the Use of the Indians, [uncomplicated with Matters of Fact or Faith beyond the Level of their Comprehensions”
I don’t know, but I always thought that Jefferson created this work because, like most of the founding fathers, he was a Deist. In other words, he didn’t believe that God ever truly interacted with those of us here on earth. To a Deist, God the creator of all that is, didn’t really do a whole lot except to hang out and just be…. God. That might explain why Mr. Jefferson was so eager to extract any mention of divine power or of the divinity of Christ, for that matter. So what gives? Oh yes,I forgot that Jefferson wanted to present the gospel to the natives – how did he put it?- “unembarrassed and [uncomplicated” .
But here’s the thing: I cannot see how it is that the day after Jesus learned that John the Baptist, whom he loved dearly, had been killed in such a grotesque fashion that, I’m sure, it made his death all the more painful; I can’t Begin to understand how it was that in his extreme grief he still devoted his entire day to healing and teaching and loving this mass of humanity that had followed him across the country and would not leave him be. And then, to top it off, this Jesus of Nazareth made sure that everyone there was fed. Tell me how these acts of compassion could be considered too embarrassing or too complicated “] with “matters of fact or faith” that they might be “beyond the level of their comprehensions.”
It’s been said that “true compassion means not only feeling another’s pain, but being moved to relieve it.” My point is that if you want to know Jesus; if you want to know the very heart and soul of our God, then you need to bear witness to the compassion of Christ and yes, to the power of that compassion.
Like Jefferson, we might get all hung up on the logistics of the matter: all those fish, all that bread – where did they come from? Well, there were 5000 men, that means there was probably an equal number of women and children and you can bet that they were packing groceries. I mean, nothing ruins an outdoor gathering worse than a bunch of screaming and hungry kids. But that’s not the point and to dismiss the entire story simply because you “don’t believe in miracles” is to perform a major disservice. The feeding of the multitudes is not about magic or hocus pocus. If anything, the feeding of the multitudes is all about shared responsibility and sharing the compassion the Christ modeled for us so well.
Once again, at verse 15 we read: 15 “That evening the disciples came to him and said, “It is already past time for supper, and there is nothing to eat here in the desert; send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy some food.”
16 But Jesus replied, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them!” That isn’t necessary-you feed them. You feed them,” and the rest of the story we all know well. The disciples, of course, put up a bit of an argument: “we only have these few scrawny fish and a couple loaves of bread. That ain’t gonna feed this crowd.” But the argument ended when Jesus said to them, “give them to me,” (vs 19) ; and he took the five loaves and two fish, looked up into the sky, and asked God’s blessing on the meal, then broke the loaves apart and gave them to the disciples to place before the people.”
“You feed them,” he said. “Don’t ask them to go to town. Don’t even order pizza. You feed them; with what you have, you feed them.” And they did, and they did.
OK, I’m not going to rag on Mr. Jefferson anymore except to say that if he really wanted to teach the real heart of the ministry of Christ to Native Americans or just people not familiar with the ministry of Jesus; if he really wanted to do this, he missed a great opportunity by extracting the story of the loaves and fishes. I’d like to close with some thoughts by my favorite Lutheran, a Mr. Delmer Chilton who tells us: “
“And he had compassion.” (vs 14)
In the middle of the world’s trials and tribulations, pains and sorrows, missteps and misdeeds, dis-appointments and despair; these four words, “and he had compassion,” reveal to us the heart and soul of the Gospel. The assurance that God knows and God cares, the promise that God understands and God heals is the one thing that can keep us going when all else fails. Jesus’ response to John’s death and the crowd’s need is a gentle whisper across the centuries that the God of our salvation is a very present help in time of trouble.
Jesus knew through personal experience, the pain of loss, the emptiness of the death of a loved one. Jesus felt the shock and hurt of betrayal and misunderstanding. Jesus experienced first-hand the utter loneliness of feeling abandoned by God. Jesus knew the confusion that comes when you do your best, but your best doesn’t seem to be good enough. Jesus’ compassion for us is rooted in his own experience of the troubles we face in life.”
So in closing, let me just say then it will always give me joy to be a part of the church that Christ Has gifted to us
When I consider the colleges and universities, hospitals and halfway houses; when I consider the massive global relief organizations like UMCOR and its many satellite programs, not to mention the hosting of drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and food banks in our local communities- when I consider these and many more of the wonderful things that the churches continue to promote it seems clear to me that the compassion of Christ has caught hold and ain’t about to let go anytime soon.
“You feed them,” Jesus tells us. And so that’s what we do; that’s what we do.
Amen and Shalom