Today's message is based on Matthew 14:13-21
So we’ve all heard or read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with fishes and loaves.
Actually, if you counted women and children, there were probably twice that number.
It was one of the most famous of the many miracles Jesus did throughout his ministry.
An amazing story in that so many were blessed by him, and with leftovers even!

But what often gets lost in this story is what precedes the miracle of fishes and loaves.
Jesus has just learned that John the Baptist was killed at King Herod’s order.
Herod did this on a whim when Herod’s wife requested it through her daughter.
Herod, as we know, was a no good scoundrel whom Jesus had little use for. 

We also have to remember the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist.
John was the forerunner to Jesus’ ministry and John foretold Jesus as Messiah.
John was considered to be a prophet sent by God for this important purpose.
It’s also believed that several of Jesus’ disciples had been followers of John first.

Plus, on a more personal basis;…. John was actually family to Jesus.
Remember before Jesus’ birth we hear that story when Mary went to visit Elizabeth and the baby jumped in her womb at her arrival and the sound of her voice?
Elizabeth was Mary’s relative and that baby who jumped in the womb was John.

So, at hearing the death of John, Jesus is likely filled with emotional pain and sadness.
That’s probably partly why he was intending to take a little time off from his ministry.
So he got in a boat to go to a deserted place to rest, and grieve, and gather himself.
But when the crowd found out where he was, they followed him from their towns.

At that point, Jesus had three possible options to pick from in terms of what he’d do.

One was he could wave them off and said ‘Look, its been a trying day; my relative was killed; and I’m beat right now.  Please go away and come back tomorrow.’

Or,…he could have thrown them a few bones to placate and keep them happy for a bit.
Maybe given them a short half-baked sermon or done a few quickie miracles.

But Jesus opted for neither of those, even though no one could blame him if he did.
Instead, “he saw a great crowd; and had compassion for them and cured their sick”.
Jesus could have seen the crowd and rolled his eyes and said ‘How much can I give?’
‘Give me a break here, Father, and let me have a little of deserved peace and quite’.

Yet, he denied himself a very much warranted time out and did for others in need.
Despite his own need for compassion and emotional healing, given the circumstances,
his compassion spilled out for them and their need to be healed and fed.
Healed and fed, both physically but also spiritually with a message of hope from God.

And so that’s what he did.   He healed them and then fed them.

He healed them of their physical maladies and, when evening came, he fed them all.
But those acts of physical care also reflected a message of spiritual care as well.
For in doing those things, Jesus tells them (and us) a couple things about God.

Of course, the miracles of Jesus tell us of his and God’s amazing power.
But more important than that maybe, is that this story tells us about God’s love.
That love is not just there on a sunny day, when I got time or you are worth loving.
Its based on the simple fact that God cares about people enough
to sacrifice for it.

So THIS is what God’s love and the love we talk about in the church and the world is.
Christ-like love is not just a warm feeling for kittens and touching movie scenes.
Nor is it our showing appreciation in reciprocation for when someone loves us.
Its about having compassion for others by putting yourself in their shoes.
And its about sacrificing yourself for the sake of another who needs that love.
Its about denying ourselves, maybe even what we deserve, to give that gift to others.
If our love does not push us to or near the limits of what it costs us,…then its shallow.

Our son, Danny, who lives in Pittsburgh was laid off from his job and is looking for one.
This past Tuesday he had a follow up interview after he did one on line the other day.
But on the night before he hoped to prep for this, he was up all night with his kids.
He did not tell them I am too tired or give them a quick fix half baked effort.
He gave of himself, even though he was shot in the keister the next two days.

That’s just one small example but I hope it helps us get the idea.
Real love, true Christ-like love involves sacrifice of some sort or another.
Sacrifice of our finances, our convenience, our feelings, even our health and wellness.
Doing for others, not just when its convenient or we’re happy to do so,…
But giving up things or part of ourselves when we’d realistically maybe rather not.

And the idea of God’s love is not just for family and friends;… its for everyone.
Because all people are hungry for compassion and love!
Jesus didn’t go and heal and feed only his immediate friends or people he knew.
He did those things for everyone who came to him and were there that day.

Through his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus' compassion and love for us grants us our reward in heaven.
But in the meanwhile and the world today,….. we get other rewards here and now.
Because anytime we are filled with compassion and show love for another in a sacrificial way,… 
when we pour ourselves out in love like that,…
we are filled with even more love than before,…. for God and for others.

Amen