*I ended up preaching 'off the cuff' this morning, so the sermon below is QUITE different. Hope it's helpful. Bless you this week! ???WRM??
"The Miracle of Mercy"
13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ???This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.??? 16Jesus said to them, ???They need not go away; you give them something to eat.??? 17They replied, ???We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.??? 18And he said, ???Bring them here to me.??? 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.??
There is a place from which Jesus Christ does His saving work; a place that enables Him to love others, regardless of their sins or place in society; a place that holds firm in times of trouble and in times of hardship; a place that is so open and spacious that the world has been invited to make it their foundation for life. That place is called mercy.??
In our text this morning, we see Jesus lose a family member and friend, heal the sick, feed thousands, and perform a miracle that must have reminded the people of what Moses did when he called down manna from heaven to feed the multitudes in the desert. But as I read this passage, I was struck by something behind this text.??
The most obvious thing was the multiplying of the loaves and fish. But what I wanted to know was not how Jesus performed the miracle. My question had to do with whether or not there were two miracles going on here instead of just the one. For me, multiplying the loaves and fish in order to feed thousands of people is absolutely incredible. This is not something you see everyday. I don't see a lot of TV Evangelists multiplying food for the hungry these days. But there's something else that feels just as scarce in the world today: mercy. For me, I can't shake how Jesus had it within Him to show so much MERCY on these people in the midst of His own pain.??
Day-in and day-out, there are opportunities for me to meet others' needs on a much smaller scale with a much smaller miracle…and…I DON'T DO IT. What spoke to me from this scripture was not the feeding of the masses or the disciples response to send the people away; what got me was where Jesus was, both physically and emotionally, when others came after Him.??
Jesus removed Himself physically from the presence of others after hearing the news that His cousin, John the Baptist, had been killed. He went away, creating space between Him and others, putting them at arm's length. Don't we do this? Something happens in our life ??? the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the struggle of a relationship, the rebellion of child, the pain others have caused ??? and we have to take time, a break, a breather, so that we feel like we can function again or think through things. This time is important to us, is it not???
But for Jesus, the crowds find out where He is and they come after Him. Now, that space, that sacred space, has been violated. Most of us would be angry. We have found ourselves at times saying "I just need to be left alone." But here is the great difference between Jesus and us: Jesus has compassion on the people. He sees that they have needs as people come to have their sick healed. And out of His grief, out of His hurt, Jesus shows abundant mercy and heals their sick. How? HOW? How does Jesus do this? How am I supposed to do this when the world seems to be caving down all around me? Where does that kind of mercy and power come from???
It comes from above, from a relationship with God; a relationship where Jesus has opened Himself up and been filled with the love of God and then turns and gives it to others. That is the amazing thing about grace, about mercy, that it is meant to spill over out of God and into your life and then into the next person's. As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 86 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.??
This is the kind of love that Jesus subscribes to, that He has filled the well of His heart with. To be abounding in mercy, to be steadfast in our love, means to love others with a love that knows no depth. This kind of love is where Jesus draws His living water from.??
And so, for me this morning, the real miracle here was Jesus' ability to show mercy out of His wounded-ness. Jesus was able to be totally self-less in a moment where many of us would have locked the door or turned off our cell phone. But the scripture doesn't stop with Jesus healing the sick. It continues on, saying that after He healed the people, He then turned and fed the multitudes. The disciples knew their location was going to prohibit the people from accessing food easily and the hour was late. Their reaction was to send the people home, Jesus had done enough in their opinion. The people needed to fend for themselves now. But for Jesus, this is not enough. His answer is for the disciples to feed the people. In their lack of understanding, Jesus steps up to the plate, and with a few loaves of bread and some fish, all ate and were filled.??
For Jesus, there is no closing time when people's needs are on the line. Don't mistake me here, I'm not trying to be unrealistic. Each of us must take care of ourselves, both physically and emotionally. I've said it more than once that we cannot give what we do not have. Many of us may need to come to Jesus to be healed before we can be fed, like those in the story. But what I am saying is that when it is the mercy of God that is your supplier, your ability to meet the needs of others will far surpass what you think is possible. Jesus proved this to the disciples as He took dinner for a few and made it a meal for many.??
What is the point today? The point is that there is a place called MERCY where you are invited to come and draw God's waters of grace from the well of Love that is found in Jesus Christ. Mercy is a miracle that can be born in us as we draw closer to God. That miracle is one that I see performed less and less today by the Church. Without mercy, we will become the great caricature that the world has made us out to be; a great institution that feeds off judgement and ridicule.??
But what we fail to understand in exercising mercy is that mercy changes us. Or may be we understand mercy all too well and we are scared of changing. Showing mercy does not mean condoning the sins of the world. Showing mercy means taking the sins of the world and forgiving them, opening up the world to God's transforming grace. Mercy is about change and transformation. Those who were healed by Jesus experienced change, those who ate from Jesus' abundance experienced change, the disciples who knew how little food there was in the beginning experienced change.??
What would it mean, Church, if we were to dig down deep into the heart of God and pull out the abundant mercy that flows freely for us and others? Would it mean change? Would it mean that we would finally begin to understand what it is that Jesus Christ has been trying to tell us through His merciful crucifixion for 2,000 years? Would it mean that we would finally understand Matthew 5.7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy…???
Jesus Christ has gone to the cross for us and today we all have the chance to taste and see that the Lord is good. That choice is before us today; the chance for us to say YES to God, to say with our lives, with our words, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Will you do THAT today? Will you draw from the well of God's heart and give a love to others that the world can never provide???
You who have been shown mercy, teach others what it means to be merciful. You who need mercy, come and find it here among God's people. May it be so, in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.??
Written with Essay on iPad