(Scripture Reading: Matthew 14: 13-21; Suggested Hymn Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven, Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #4)

By Jean-Luc Lezeau, Associate Director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries

Summary: When love controls and becomes the passion of one’s life, it does not calculate how others might react to its utterance. It simply expresses itself

Moved by compassion. The occasion was unparalleled! More than 5,000 people were miraculously fed by a gift from Jesus Himself, with only five loaves of bread and two small fish. In Matthew 14:13 we read: ?As soon as Jesus heard about the news of the death of John the Baptist, he went of f by himself in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed by land ...and He had compassion on them and healed their sick? (Mk 6:30; Lk 9:10). Jesus longs to mourn the loss of John, but He can’t even do that in peace. After a brief time alone, the people press in. Jesus and His disciples have no time to eat (Mk 6:31). How many of us would be irritated, dismayed and deeply resentful to be met by a demanding crowd when we are weary, seeking peace and quiet?

Jesus’ compassion encompasses the press of His basic needs. Instead of being resentful, He chooses to accept the situation as a call from His Father to minister to the people. He views their eagerness, their helplessness, their need for Him, as a loving shepherd sees his sheep or a patient mother regards her clinging children. Jesus draws new strength from His Father and lays aside His own wishes. He does not rebuff the crowd. Compassionately, He heals their sick and teaches them (Mk 6.31).

As evening comes the disciples approach the Master: ?The people are hungry and there is no place for them to buy food. They’d better hurry if they want to reach a nearby village before sundown when the shops close.? They are probably thinking more about their own hunger. The people haven’t asked for any food except for the spiritual sustenance Jesus is giving (Mt 14:16).

A mission possible. But Jesus’ answer is not what they expect. You feed them. It is the human acid test that He wants to pass on to them. John 6:7 tells us of Philip’s reaction to the challenge: ?Impossible, it would take a small fortune to feed them all. There are only five loaves and two fish, another disciple declared.? For them to follow Christ’s command, a minimum amount of food would have cost a small fortune.

We often feel that we need a small fortune to accomplish our mission. And if we can’t implement that project or if we don’t have the expected result, it is because we didn’t have all the means that we needed at the start. With our human perspective this is how we evaluate and manage God’s affairs. We see the little that is there and compare it to the huge need we perceive.

Fortunately Jesus sees this situation as an opportunity to teach the disciples a lesson about human cooperation as it is linked with Divine power. He calls for the bread and the fish, asks God’s blessing on the food and begins breaking the bread. Then He gives the food to the disciples and asks them to distribute it to the crowd. Had they not trusted their Master, they would have lost the privilege of taking part in the miracle.

God often waits for us so that He might perform miracles through us. ?You feed them.? Wasn’t this the mission that Jesus gave us when He left? And here we are today saying, ?But we have only five loaves and two fish.?

The meaning of giving. Giving. What is the meaning of our giving to God? What is the meaning of God’s gifts to us? The perfect example of giving is found in John 3:16--the verse Martin Luther calls ?the gospel in miniature.? Ellen White says that ?for this work of redemption, God gave the richest gift of heaven?--Manuscript Release 12:228. In his work, Embracing God, David Swartz declares: ?God’s pockets were empty. He spent it all; He could give no more than all of Himself.

The next story begins as a precious aroma floods a room full of elite guests. It is during this special occasion that a particular lady demonstrates her love in an incredible manner. Everyone recognizes the fragrance--it is a world famous perfume--perhaps equivalent to Chanel No 5. It is famous not because it is common but because it is so precious. Everyone had gone by the local shop that sold it and looked at it with awe. If the shopkeeper knew them, he may have let them carefully handle the jar to sniff the perfume--the faint fragrance barely seeping through the alabaster jar. Now it engulfs the room, and what began as an act of gracious love-- an expression of grace received, becomes a moment of shame and embarrassment.

You see, when love controls and becomes the passion of one’s life, it does not calculate how others might react to its utterance. It simply expresses itself. This is not the cheap love that is synonymous with debauchery. This love has nothing to do with carnal desire or with depravation, although the person at the focal point in this story knows what debauchery is. No, it is love expressed to the One in whom she has found forgiveness and peace. And now she realizes that He is leaving her, as He is leaving all His disciples (Jn 12:1-8).

Mary’s tears of passion and love fall on Jesus’ feet and she dries them with her hair. She has broken that alabaster jar of precious ointment. Anticipating the death of her Master, she purchased the aromatic oils, valued at more than a year’s salary! Mary was probably the only follower who really understood Jesus’ declaration that He was going to die. The disciples were not preparing for anything special except, perhaps, for his crowning as king. They were only ready to quarrel among themselves as to who would be sitting at His right hand.

The cost of the gift. In today’s world, we think that a $30 bottle of perfume is very nice. If you pay $300 an ounce it would be extravagant and something very precious. Only a very few in our society would have the money to spend $30,000 for a small bottle of perfume. Imagine the incredible act of pouring it all out at one time, not just dabbing it behind the ears and on the wrists, but breaking the bottle and spilling it out. Yet the drama has just begun. Judas, the treasurer, asks the wrong question: ?Why didn’t she sell this and give it to the poor?? The poor are always a good excuse for asking for and handling large sums of money--perhaps with the hope that some crumbs will fall on the ground and that we can profit from it.

Have you ever wondered where Mary got the money? You remember her story. The funds she used were probably from the earnings of her sinful life. We ask, "How could Jesus accept an offering earned through prostitution?" What is the difference between our offerings and Mary’s? Wait a minute! How can we compare the honest earnings we make by working hard with Mary’s earnings? I am a third generation Adventist! I have been working for the church for over 25 years, have been a missionary in Africa for 11 years, and I can tell you that life has been tough! You certainly can’t compare my offerings with Mary’s!

Do we live a sinless life? Are our sins smaller that Mary’s? Is there such a thing as a small or a big sin? Mary’s offering was accepted in the same way that Christ accepts your offering and mine. There is no difference. He accepts it as an act of worship from one He has redeemed.

Conclusion. We need a fortune to feed the crowd, said the disciples. Mary spent a fortune to express her love to her Master. Which of these situations are we in? Do we need a fortune to fulfill God’s mission? The truth is, friends, He doesn’t need our fortunes. What can we give Him that isn’t already His? It is His mission and, if our faith is rightly placed, He will provide what is needed in His time. His only request is that we be faithful stewards of what we have and that we do not grieve for what we do not have.

After all, don’t we know that if we have not given our hearts to God, all other gifts are in vain? The act of giving can only be an expression of our surrender to Him. ?It is the only way to show our gratitude and love to God. He has provided no other.?--R&H, Dec,1887.

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July–September, 2001

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