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Those two words don’t mean much if you’re not hungry. However, if you are hungry, they are AWESOME!
Our cities and towns have homeless shelters, food banks and soup kitchens. Hundreds of organizations peppered across America are dedicated to getting good food to those who are less fortunate, but in 1st Century Palestine, it was a novel idea.
Israel was a subjugated people under Roman rule. Rome was the wealthiest empire of its time, but social safety nets were not a priority. It was a dog-eat-dog world where the strong not only survived but were also given permission to take advantage of the poor and step on the weak.
It is because of this reality that Jesus’ kindness was such a big deal. He was kind and powerful. He healed the sick, calmed storms, gave sight to the blind and stood up to leaders who abused their power. He was a rock star and rightly so. His kindness made him a hero to the masses and a villain to the authorities.
Jesus’ kindness toward the less fortunate, the vulnerable and the over looked is largely misunderstood. Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians all agree that Jesus was kind. We all like his acts of kindness, but few understand why he was kind. Don’t get too perplexed by this. The critics that argued with Jesus, the crowds that followed him and even the disciples who lived with him all struggled with this same issue. The day Jesus fed over 5,000 people is a case in point.
To provide a little context for this day, you need to know Jesus was trying to spend some quality time with his closest friends. He even suggested they get away to an isolated place, away from the crowds, so they could get some rest.1
The crowds were too savvy for this move. Jesus was their local hero and they were not going to allow him to just walk away. They pursued him and the disciples into a deserted place. The masses of people were so caught up in not losing sight of Jesus that they failed to notice there was no food.
The disciples were perturbed by the mob. Yet, when Jesus saw the crowd, he had compassion. Kindness welled up in his heart. He welcomed them and taught them…all day! Finally, someone noticed it was getting late. There were families with children. The crowd needed to go home.2
Jesus knew they could not make the journey without food. He asked the disciples to feed them, but they did not have the resources. The best they could come up with was some fish and bread a boy had brought with him.3
If you are familiar with this miracle, you know what happened next. Jesus took the boy’s Happy Meal, prayed over it and turned it into a feast that fed over 5,000 people. Everyone was astonished. Not only had Jesus done an amazing miracle, but he had also filled everyone’s belly…at not cost (except for the boy who lost his Happy Meal).
They loved Jesus before he did this, but now they had plans for him. Jesus’ act of kindness fueled a political hope. At first the crowd was satisfied being a part of the road crew, now they wanted to make him their king.
Jesus did manage to pull away from the crowd, but the damage had been done. They would not forget his ability to provide free food and the thought of him being their political messiah had taken root. After all, who would object to a President, Prime Minister or dictator if he could feed everyone at no cost?
The next day the crowd began to search for Jesus. When they found him, Jesus quickly exposed their spiritual ignorance. Notice his words:
“I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.”4
The people had totally misunderstood the miraculous act of kindness. Jesus wasn’t being kind just for the sake of being kind. He was trying to show them he was the way to eternal life. They could not see the spiritual impact of the meal because they were overwhelmed with idea of free food for life. They wanted the comfort Jesus could provide to make life easier and were energized by the hope of being set free from Roman rule, but missed the display of power that proved Jesus could give eternal life.
The same thing happens today. We all want Jesus’ kindness to take some of the discomfort out of life, but Jesus isn’t kind so that we can be comfortable. Jesus is kind because he wants us to see his power. If we can see his power, then we can believe in him and have eternal life.
The Bible asks this question: Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?5
God’s kind interruptions are for a reason and it is far more important than personal comfort. His kindness is intended to show us the ugliness of our sins and attract us to the love of God. If we do not understand this, we become like the crowd that hunted Jesus down. They fell in love with his kindness—not him.
Someone recently asked my wife, “Why do bad things happen?” She responded, “Have you ever wondered why good things happen?”
1-Mark 6:31, 2-Mark 6:34-35, 3-Mark 6:37 & John 6:9, 4-John 6:26-27, 5-Romans 2:4