ENOUGH TO SHARE,
by Rev. Rick Thompson
Sleepless Nights, Genesis 32:22-31
by Rev. Randy L. Quinn
Grace, Genesis 32:22-31, by Rev. Thomas Hall
God in Lonely Places, Gen.
32:22-31, by DGBradley
Caring For the Hungry,
Mat. 14:13-21, by HW in HI
A Table in the Wilderness,
Mat. 14:13-21, by ML in PA
Beyond the Comfort Zone,
Mat. 14:13-21, by Nailbender in NC
Taking Our Place
in the Crowd
Sermon based on Matthew
by Rev. Karen A. Goltz
of us are pretty familiar with most of the major characters in the Bible. We
know about Jesus, we know about Peter, we know about Paul, we know about Mary
and Joseph. We know about the disciples, the chief priests, the Pharisees, and
the scribes. But there's another major character that I think gets overlooked
most of the time, and I believe that this character is just as important as any
other. This character doesn't really have a name, but is almost always
there. This character is known simply as ‘the crowds.'
crowds first appear after Jesus has gone among the people, teaching them and
curing them of their illnesses. The crowds begin to follow him, listening as he
gives his sermon on the mount. They follow him everywhere, and he continually
has compassion for them, and teaches them and cures their ills. Jesus sees them
as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, and he takes
responsibility for them, becoming their shepherd. He continues to teach
them, continues to cure their sick. Sometimes he calls them to him, but mostly
they follow him of their own accord. Sometimes Jesus sends them away, but they
always return. They joyously welcome him to Jerusalem, and then they come after
him with swords and clubs at Gethsemane. Persuaded by the chief priests, they
demand that Barabbas be released, and that Jesus be crucified. They have their
moments of great faith, and they have their moments of great doubt and fear.
They suffer, and they rejoice.
But who are these crowds really? Who are the people in them?
various points throughout Matthew's gospel, an individual person will come out
of the crowd and approach Jesus. It's a leper, asking to be cleansed. It's a
centurion, asking that his paralyzed servant be healed. It's a scribe, asking
to follow Jesus. It's a church leader, asking that his daughter be restored to
life. It's anyone with a need, be it physical, spiritual, or emotional, for
themselves or for someone close to them. It's anyone of any station in life who
is harassed, anyone of any station in life who is helpless. It's you, and it's
There are times when we can relate to Peter or Paul. There are times when we
can relate to the disciples as a whole. There are even times when we can relate
to the chief priests, the Pharisees, and the scribes (though we may not want to
admit it). But with the crowds, it goes beyond merely relating to them. We
What was it like to seek Jesus out on this particular day, knowing that he'd
purposely gone off to a deserted place to be alone? Why didn't we just leave
him be? I imagine it stemmed from our being so harassed and helpless. We
needed something, even if we weren't exactly sure what, and we knew that there
was hope and rest with Jesus.
we left our towns on foot, seeking Jesus. And we found him, sitting in a boat.
We were unsure of ourselves, not really knowing why we had come, not knowing
what to do now. And Jesus saw us milling about on the shore, and once again he
had compassion for us. He came to us, and he cured those of us who were sick.
And we watched in awe, knowing that nothing like this had ever happened before,
praising the God of Israel for these miracles, unaware of the greater miracles
yet to come. As evening came, we were still there, in Jesus' no longer deserted
Perhaps we felt a little bit of panic when we realized how long we'd been
there. Perhaps we felt a little lightheaded from being in the sun all day, with
no food. We hadn't realized it before because we were so engrossed in Jesus'
miraculous healings, but we realize it now. I imagine we were somewhat confused
when he ordered us to sit down on the grass, but we did it anyway. We saw him
bless five loaves of bread and two fish, and give them to the disciples. We saw
the disciples begin to distribute the food, and those of us in the middle and in
the back were rather envious of those up in the very front, the ones who would
get something to eat before the food ran out.
those baskets continued to be passed along, and we could see that people were
taking more than a crumb or two. As the baskets got closer to us, we could see
that folks were taking big pieces, handfuls, enough to satisfy a full day's
hunger, yet the food in the baskets never diminished. Imagine the awe we felt
as the baskets were actually put into our own hands, still overflowing with
bread and fish even though thousands before us had already eaten. We had seen
how much food there was to begin with, and that there wasn't even enough to feed
Jesus and his disciples, let alone those of us in the crowds. Yet we ate and
were filled, and passed the baskets along, and all of us ate and were
filled, with food left over to spare. We couldn't believe it, because we had
just experienced the impossible. But we could believe it, because we'd
just experienced Jesus.
first encountered Jesus when he walked among us, and, not knowing the whole
story, not even understanding what we did know, we followed him. There
have been times when he specifically called us to him, and there have been times
when we've just followed him on our own accord, but he came to us first. There
have been times when we've been filled with awe by him, and we've been certain
that with him we could find hope, and rest. And there have been times when
we've shunned him, pushed him away from us as we sought another, rejected all
that he had to offer us.
I still talking about Matthew's gospel? Or am I talking about what we
know to be true from our own individual experiences, our very own
there even a difference?
have encountered Jesus. He came to me and, even though I didn't understand, I
was curious, and I wanted to see more. I followed him. I went to church, I
talked with other Christians, I read the Bible, I prayed. Sometimes things
happened in my life that some people would call coincidence, but I was certain
that it was a miracle, performed especially for me. Maybe it was as simple as
getting a phone call from a friend at a moment of deep loneliness, and once it
was as complex as being offered a full scholarship for seminary three days after
losing a job I never would have quit in order to go to school. I've also
shunned Jesus, run from him, wanting nothing to do with him, because I'd been
influenced by people who said they knew him, and the picture of him they painted
was of someone cold and distant, strict and demanding, unforgiving of my many
sins and inadequacies. I've denied his very existence, and put my trust in
myself, my own ability to take care of things, my own strength to face things,
my own wisdom to know things. And as I lived my life crucifying Christ, I
myself became battered and broken, because by myself I can do nothing. And the
Christ I crucified, in my own life and as a person within the crowds,
came to me again, took my brokenness upon himself, lifted me up, forgave me, and
showed that he always walks with me.
crowds in Matthew's gospel only got to experience the earthly Jesus, the one who
was tied to a particular time and a particular place. We experience the risen
and eternal Christ, through whom God made the world, through whom God saved
the world, who exists at all times and in all places. It is through Christ's
resurrection that we can reach back and be that crowd, and it's through Christ's
resurrection that the Jesus they experienced teaching, healing, and performing
miracles can be here with us now.
a few minutes we're going to celebrate the Eucharist. The words of institution
are taken from the Last Supper, which Jesus had with his disciples only; the
crowds were not there. However, the Last Supper was not the only time Jesus
took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to all to eat. You were there when
he did it before, and I invite you to be there again today, and relive that
experience. Only this time, Jesus will not just be giving you the bread, but he
will be coming to you in the bread. Amen.