Matthew 15:32-39 – Jesus & The Homeless Man At I-85 and SC 290

Posted: January 12, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 15:32-39 (Part 2)
Jesus Feed Four Thousand

Have you ever been judgmental? Have you ever been driving on Interstate 85 southbound in South Carolina and get off on Exit 63, my exit to home, at that interstate’s intersection with SC 290 (the Duncan/Moore exit) and when you get to the top of the ramp and see the homeless man there with a sign that says “Need Food”? It is often a different man each time you come up that ramp, but he might as well be the same person. When we see him there, we look the other way so that we do not have to make eye contact. It is our nature to think that he is shiftless and lazy. He may well be the very thing that we think. In this day and age, there are often people who have a sense of entitlement that they should live off others and have others take care of them. It is often true that they simply have no clue as to what it is to work hard and earn a living. It’s just not in their vocabulary. Many of us feel anger at these types of people for that simple fact. However, it may well also be true that the homeless man with the “Need Food” sign may be a hard working person that got caught up in a cycle of mistakes of his own making or decisions forced on him by others that caused him to be here at this moment at this busy intersection wondering where his next meal will come from. We just don’t know the back story of the man on the bridge at the interstate. Should we check a person’s pedigree before we help them? Should we give them a test to see if they qualify for our help? That thought is what comes to my mind when I read through Matthew 15:32-39 this morning. As we finish this two part series on this passage, let’s read the passage again:

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.

The thing that strikes me is that Jesus is the same for us all. He does not have compassion on one people group over another. He spread the gospel to people groups that the Jews considered undeserving of God’s favor (anyone who was not Jewish) and he did not care whether or not the people deserved to be fed.

Here we see Jesus in Gentile, non-Jewish lands. He was preaching and teaching there for three days. He was spreading the gospel of God’s Good News in Tyre and Sidon. These were not God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Sometimes, as Christ followers, we can become very judgmental just as the Jews had become. The Israelite nation was to be the light of the world to the rest of the world. They were to be God’s ambassadors to the rest of the world. They were to be the people from which the Savior of the World was to come. However, what it turned into was a judgmental society who felt that anyone who was not Jewish was not worthy of sharing their faith, their religion, their lifestyle with. Such non-Jews were excluded automatically and thought to be unworthy of receiving God’s grace. They were considered dogs for worshiping other gods and were automatically condemned for it. The Jews did not care that these people had no opportunity to have been told any different. They would even condemn and exclude their own people if they did not live by the standards and dizzying array of rules established by the Jewish religious elite. Often we are the same way today, we pick and choose who we share the gospel with because those people are just like dogs to us. What would happen in our churches today if a prostitute walked into our churches? What would we do in our middle class comfy churches if a homeless man with filthy rags for clothes walked into our midst on a Sunday morning? I read a story once of a pastor who tested this theory on his own flock at his church. With the help of a make-up artist and some clever aging and dirtying and tearing of some of his clothes in his closet, he came to church as a homeless man. At his church, no one spoke to him and treated him as if he had a disease. Someone even asked him to leave because he was making people feel uncomfortable. No one recognized him, his cover was so good. He blew the church folk away when at the beginning of the service, he walked on stage in his “homeless man” outfit and began to take his makeup off, etc. Jesus did not care that these people were not Jewish. He did not care that they knew nothing of Jewish culture and what it stood for. All Jesus cared about was spreading the good news to people who needed to hear it. Often we in our middle class churches pat ourselves on the back for having events to help the homeless, but do we get to know any of these people after the event? Who are we having these events for? Do we help at a soup kitchen even though THOSE people make me feel uncomfortable just so I can say that I helped the homeless and check that off on my list of good deeds or do we really sit down and get to know these people and their stories. Do we go beyond handing them food? I am preaching to myself here just as much as anyone who reads this. I struggle with the compassionate part of what we are called to do as Christians just as much as anyone. Jesus did not care that these people were considered unworthy. He walked among them. He preached to them. He taught them about the one true God. He shows us that no one is undeserving of our love and no one is undeserving of compassion and no one is undeserving of hearing the gospel. Jesus had compassion on them because they were children of God deserving of a chance to come to know God.

It is also worthy of our consideration that Jesus did not care whether the 4,000 men plus the women and children deserved to be fed or not. He simply had compassion on them. He did not care whether they were rich or poor, hungry or well fed, deserving or not. He simply had compassion on them and make sure that they had food. Jesus had been preaching and teaching for three days. If you wondered whether “tent meeting” revivals were biblical. Well, here’s your confirmation! LOL! Nonetheless, Jesus cared that probably the foods supplies of the people were running out and he fed them. In a crowd of 4,000 men plus women and children, you probably had the whole gamut of the socio-economic strata there. Rich and poor alike. Merchants and workers. Hard workers and lazy people. People who had family wealth passed down to them and those that were newly wealthy from their own hard work. You probably had some children who thought the world owed them a favor because they had been spoiled by their parents and were angry at the world because the world did not understand that they should be entitled to everything and children who had busted their butts to become independent of their parents. You probably had the disabled person that through no fault of their own were dependent on society to take care of them because they were unable to work and you had the astute businessman who thought everyone who didn’t work as hard as he did were bums and did not deserve help. You probably had in this crowd shepherds who were considered untrustworthy and thought only to be thieves and those who thought this way about them and kept an eye out for “those people”. You probably had people if they had Facebook back then that would be all judgmental on “those people” who did not live life according to our standards. Jesus cared about none of the markers and characteristics of people. He simply had compassion on them. He fed them. He preached to them. He taught them. He loved them. He cared nothing about what their predispositions were. He simply brought the gospel. He simply met needs. Should we not be the same way? Jesus went to the cross for everyone of us not just the people who are like us. Jesus went to the cross for all not just the people that are in our same economic station. Jesus died for us all because regardless of what we look like, act like, how rich or poor we are, what kind of job we have (or not), what the color of our skin is, whether we have a sense of entitlement or not, whether we have a house or not, what neighborhood we live in or not, we all are sinners. Jesus shows us here that all are deserving of God’s grace and He showed us on the cross that His death was a sacrifice for all so that we all have a chance to be reconciled to God.

May we be a people, Lord, that has compassion regardless of race, wealth, station in life May we just love people because God created them. May we love people because Christ did not check pedigrees before He had compassion on them. May we go beyond just helping to assuage our guilt. May we really get beyond labels and have real compassion. May we be the people that you commanded us to be to go and make disciples of all nations, not just the ones who are like us!

Amen and Amen.

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