Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Feeding the 5000

 You are doubtless aware of this story from Matthew 14:13-21:

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Of course the New Testament contains other miracles: healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, curing lepers, the lame and the deaf.

Why am I bringing this up?  Our pastor a couple weeks back preached how Matthew 3:1-2:

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 

Many Christians believe that the Kingdom of Heaven is not at the end of the age, but that Christians are obligated to bring it into effect here and now.  Does this seem odd to you?  

How recently did famine carry away millions of people per year?   Feeding the 5000 is nothing compared to the last two centuries.

How many victims of polio do we still have walking with a limp (at best)?  How many lepers are still slowly being disfigured?  How many severely ill people recover from heart attacks and lead productive, joyful lives?  (Okay, I am going in tomorrow for a pulmonary function test to, I hope, resolve my shortwindedness.)  Think of all the surgeries performed before anesthesia and antisepsis.  Think of replacing a defective aortic valve.  Is that not a miracle 2000 years ago?  We do not have holy men going around healing the sick; we have systems of healthcare that alleviate suffering instead.  (I am ignoring frauds like Benny Hinn.)

As many of you already know, poverty worldwide has fallen substantially over the last couple decades.  The Judaeo-Christian legacy in the West has created a prosperity and reduced individual misery on a scale unimaginable in Jesus' time.

It has not all been progress.  Slavery was a great evil of the Western world.  When enough consciences were pricked by evangelists the West did not simply abolish slavery in the West (sometimes at enormous costs in lives and capital) but actively suppressed slavery elsewhere.   War is bad--unless you are a Jew or Gypsy in Europe or Chinese in the Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The situation is not perfect, but Christians are obligated to make it so.

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