9th Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 14:14
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

            Jesus loves you. Through all the hard things that might hurt you, stop you, crush you; still God loves you. As we heard last week, nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Not even His weariness, sorrow or wisdom can, as today He heard of His cousin John’s death by Herod and that Herod thought Jesus was John risen from the dead with power (Matthew 14:1-12). Jesus heard this and left but when He came to shore He saw the great crowd of people who followed to receive from Him. He saw you in your need and had compassion.

            Today as He serves you in this Divine service, He brings you the wonderful gifts only He can give. He welcomed you, forgave all your sin, has spoken to you, and will intercede for you and with you as we intercede for the whole world. In this hard world, suffering virus and restriction, yet still sickness, pain, regret, rejection, fear, death and grief, in this desolate world we need healing. The ancient Israelites in their Exodus into the desert suffered, they needed relief and food, yet God was with them and He provided all in love; drawing His people away from wickedness and their own sin, toward what is best, the peaceful, joyful holy life with God our Almighty creator. And today these slightly less ancient Israelites, again in the desert, in need of healing and food; God was with them, Jesus had compassion on them and healed their sickness, their chronic illnesses, and miraculously provided them food. Now today, we might not be in a desert, but still you are in need.

            Each of you know this far better than I could hope to. You need help. You can’t do it all by yourself. You wrestle to find peace and joy, to hold on to these things. You seek help from government, friends, family; and thank God for these, but they can only help you so much. We have psychiatrists, councillors, doctors, but still we suffer depression, anxiety, and utter despair. Who can give us what we need? Who can give rest? Peace? Joy? Even unconditional and overflowing love? Jesus. He is the healer of the world. Here in this account He had compassion, that gut feeling when you know something is wrong and needs to be fixed, and healed many their chronic diseases. This is such a wonderful gift, caring for our Heavenly Father’s good creation; but Jesus didn’t just come that we might be healthy, I want to draw your attention to what He does next.

            These people who have been healed in one verse, now receive from Jesus something far more important. Just one verse for the healing, now seven for this miracle. Certainly it shows Christ’s divinity, this re-enactment of God’s presence with the Israelites in the desert, receiving the bread of heaven. Jesus is true God, and true man. But I’ll highlight another thing the Spirit shows us from His Word. Think about what this might be referring to: Jesus told the crowds to sit, He took the bread, the offering, there with the people, He looked up to the heavens, He gave thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples to distribute to the crowds who were satisfied, with 12 baskets full left over. 12 the number of God’s people. Looked up, gave thanks, broke and gave out. Sounds a bit like Holy Communion doesn’t it? John in His gospel certainly thinks so (John 6), and the early church called our holy meal the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42). Now why is Holy Communion more important than healing a chronic disease?

            Because you don’t need a healthy body, you need to be united with Jesus body and soul. When Jesus saw Jerusalem He said, ‘how I long to gather you like a hen her chicks’ when He saw the crowds and their need, He was sick in the stomach with sympathy. Just like a parent hurting for the stupid or dangerous decisions of their child, so to and more God feels as He looks at all humanity in our need, as He is looking at you now. This is the heart of Jesus, of God who loves you. And as you come into His presence now over zoom, confessing the truth of your need, receive well His healing. Hear again, Jesus has taken away your sin, the Holy Spirit is recreating you, conforming you to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). And it hurts me that I can’t bring the bread of heaven to all of you today, yet for those of us who are able to truly participate in Christ’s body and blood, to be united in Him with God and all the saints, pray that we recognise what is happening, that we receive this wonderful gift well, that in this mystical union, as we are conformed to Jesus, we have all we need.

            All that you need is provided for. Jesus has done it (Psalm 22:31). In Him you have suffering but are dead already; and by the Holy Spirit with you by baptism you will rise again into everlasting peace joy and love. Now look around you, at least think of/remember those you know, those God has placed in your life. Do they share this promise with you? Do they know their need?

            As you think of them and receive God’s grace, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.