What Do You See?
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21
Matthew 14:13-21
August 6, 2023


Receiving word that John the Baptist had been beheaded, Jesus withdrew to a deserted place, maybe in part for his own safety, but surely to grieve the loss of his beloved friend.

He also knew, this meant his time was also drawing closer to his own capture.

He needed to get away to a deserted place to grieve, to pray to his Abba Father, and to rest.

But the people came; they followed him upon hearing the news of John’s death, and they came for healing.

Although Jesus withdrew in a boat, the crowds came by foot, which means it probably had taken them longer to travel to get to this deserted place.

Jesus, in his compassion, sees the people, and he embraces them.  He cares for them, and he heals them.

He didn’t get mad that they had followed him to this place because as the Psalmist writes, the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. 

Setting aside his own feelings of grief and pain, Jesus comforted them in his compassion.

And when the disciples wanted to send them away, he said, “No!”

I’m sure the disciples were tired.  After all, they had been here with Jesus while he comforted and healed these people.  Listening to their sorrows and complaints must have been overwhelming for the disciples, because this wasn’t a small crowd.

I’m sure they knew they would have a mob on their hands if these folks got hungry and had no food to eat, so the only thing the disciples knew to do was to send them away because they saw no food here in this deserted place, no way to feed these thousands.  “Send them away, we don’t have enough here,” they said.

I can just see the group of disciples gathered there, watching the time pass by, seeing how the people were growing weary. I’m sure the disciples called a meeting among themselves, and they decided the best thing to do was to send the people on their way so that the crowds could find food elsewhere. 

I’m sure it seemed very logical to the disciples.  And I’m sure they thought they were making the best choice, but they left out one very important person in their decision making process.  They left out Jesus.

The disciples could not see what was before them because of their limited vision.  They only saw a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread, which was barely enough to feed the twelve of them, much less the thousands gathered here in this deserted place.  “Send them away,” they said.

The disciples saw empty baskets.  They saw no hope, and they had no faith or vision to see anything else.  “Send them away.  We do not have enough.”

Maybe there have been times when you have found your basket empty, and you have wondered what you were going to do to fill it back up?

Maybe you’ve heard people say, “Don’t worry, God will provide,” and thought they were crazy.

Perhaps we could entertain the idea that they are not crazy.  Maybe if we can trust God and acknowledge what is possible when we allow God to be in control, we could fill our baskets.

Now, let’s consider our basket here at First Valdosta, where it seems the basket is perhaps getting a little low on resources.  The question I have for you is, what do you see? 

Today, I want us to see the basket in a different way.  I want us to see Jesus standing next to our basket, and he’s filled with compassion, and he is lifting our basket up to bless it and fill it up for all that is needed to take care of his people.

Has Jesus led us to a deserted place so we can re-focus away from our own needs to the mission he has for us to complete, just like the mission he had for the disciples to complete, which was to feed his people.

So, I’ll ask again, what do you see?

While we are looking at our basket, let’s be clear about one thing, Jesus required the disciples to move into action. 

He didn’t just look at the disciples and say, “no worries, I got this,” and food just appeared.  No! 

First, he told the disciples to feed the people.  Jesus wanted to know if the disciples knew what resources they had in their presence.

When the disciples respond to him, they reply, “we have nothing here….we have nothing here” sounds really dire doesn’t it. 

There is absolutely nothing left, and then comes the BUT, “we have nothing here BUT five loaves and two fish.”  I would say resources were pretty low in the basket for thousands of people, wouldn’t you?

The next thing Jesus asks the disciples to do is to BRING the resources to him.

So two things of action were required of the disciples: (1) they needed to know their resources; and (2) they needed to bring them to Jesus.

It’s really amazing to me when I look at the next sentence in the scripture.  It’s not that Jesus then takes the bread and fish and blesses them.  He does one other thing first.  He orders the crowds to sit down on the grass.  Sit down and get comfortable.  Sit down and be calm.

In essence, he was saying, “rest assured that I am Jesus, and I am going to take care of you, and I need you to relax and trust me.  You don’t need to be anxious, you don’t need to fight over what is here for you, I’m going to make sure you are all fed.”

Then he takes the fish and bread and looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to give to the crowd.

Then, another very important step.  Jesus himself did not give the food to the crowd.  After he had blessed it, he put the disciples back into action, and he had them (the doubters) feed the crowd. 

Jesus wanted them to see and understand the new vision.  He needed them to re-focus from thinking, “we have nothing here” to “look at all we have” when we allow what we have to be blessed by God who is capable of multiplying all our resources to the measure that is needed to feed his people.

Are we taking inventory of our resources?  Are we looking to see what we can bring to Jesus that can be blessed and multiplied to meet all our needs?  Or are we too focused on seeing an empty basket? 

Have we stopped to consider new resources and people that are before our eyes that could do tasks we are not asking them to do?  Has Jesus already sent people willing and capable to serve?  Maybe they are waiting to be asked or waiting to see where they can best help.

Have we lost the vision of hope and our trust in the blessings of Jesus?  Jesus wants us involved and present to receive his blessings. 

Where is our faith, our hope, our vision?  Where is our Jesus?

Is our Jesus up there waiting on us to arrive in heaven?  Is our Jesus in the closet waiting for us to pull him out when we need him like seasonal items we rotate throughout the year?  Or is our Jesus in our hearts and in our minds calling us into action right now in this moment and in this place?  Do we see him standing here at this baptismal font and at this communion table waiting to bless you and all that we have?

Do we have the same compassion Jesus showed on that day when he fed thousands of people? 

The second half of the word compassion is passion.  Do we have the same compassion with passion that Jesus had when he fed these people?

I believe Jesus is waiting to give us our food in due season.  He’s waiting for us to stop saying we have nothing, when there are plentiful resources right here in this congregation.  He’s waiting on us to stop focusing on distractions that take up enormous time and energy and refocus on what he wants us to be focused on which is taking care of his people with the resources we already have.

Jesus is waiting for us to show up with our resources so he can bless them and fill our baskets with spiritual water with compassion.  What do you see?

The hour is late.  Are we ready to send the people away or are we, all of us together, ready to find ways to bring them in and take care of them?

God shows us that when we hit a roadblock in life, there might be another way to get around.  It might be more difficult, and it might take longer, just like when the people followed Jesus to the deserted place, and they had to travel by foot rather than boat. 

They found another way around to get to Jesus so they could be healed.  They didn’t give up because they had faith that there was something better ahead for them.

Think of it this way, an ant can’t build a mound by itself.  It takes a colony, and the bigger the colony, the bigger the mound.  The more they work, the more they are active and involved together with the same focus, the more they get done.  Those ants can get a lot accomplished in a short time as a community.  As a family.

What do you see?  I see just like the Psalmist said, “The Lord is good to ALL.  The Lord opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every LIVING thing.  The Lord has compassion and is merciful.  The Lord upholds us and gives us our food in due season.

My prayer is that you change your picture, your vision.  Consider us as a family, because that’s actually what we are, and for some, we are the only family they have.  So let’s take inventory of our resources.  What are they?  Who are they?  Where are they?  And how do we bring them to Jesus to be blessed?

We have two resources here waiting to be blessed this morning in Evan Phelps and Zachary Routsong, our Confirmands that are willing to continue their faith journey.  In a few moments, I’ll ask them to join me at the baptismal font.  I also want to thank the teachers of the Confirmation Class, Dave Carter, Sue Miller, Dick Shelton, Lamar Cole, Sherrida Crawford and Sissy Almand, and a special thank you to Sue Miller for cross stitching their gifts.

My prayer is that you change your vision and you see the people you are.  You are God’s people.  You help each other and you pray for each other.  You are loved and cared for by each other, and more importantly, you are cared for by Jesus.  The doors here to this congregation are very open and Jesus is waiting for you all to go into action together.

What do you see here in this deserted place?  Empty baskets or baskets of resources waiting to be blessed by Jesus?             

*Cover Art by Stushie Art, used with subscription.