The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:21)
We know that Jesus performed many miracles as noted in the Bible, but as often as we read about these events, John suggested that many more were never recorded. Indeed, in John 21:25 we read this statement, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
Jesus Is God
What was recorded demonstrated several important things about Jesus: that He was God, that He had compassion on mankind corporately and individually, and that He often reached people by satisfying a pressing physical need first before delivering a spiritual lesson.
In Matthew 14 we have an account of Jesus feeding 5,000 men plus women and children. In Mark 8, we read of another account where Jesus fed 4,000. In both instances the people were hungry; in the account in Mark we learned that the multitude had not eaten in three days!
We know Jesus performed miracles to demonstrate God’s love to mankind. But, He also established a pattern for the church to follow, one that believers have practiced with varying degrees of success or have ignored completely, expecting the “state” to handle such matters instead.
Well, it isn’t the state’s responsibility to help people, although in this day of cradle to grave care, most people expect that, particularly in Europe and also in Canada and now the United States. Please don’t take this statement as an indictment against contemporary Western political thought. Rather, what the church of Jesus Christ should consider is whether she is caring for Jesus’s flock as outlined in John 21 or deferring her responsibilities to another entity, namely the state.
Today, the needs of the populace isn’t much different than in Jesus’ time. Some people still go hungry, others have pressing medical needs and aren’t finding relief from Medicaid, while still others simply need to know that someone cares about them.
The congregation of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., does their part to minister to people in Jesus’ name by assisting church members and people in Cherokee County. The church has a food pantry, a thrift store, and ministers to widows, single moms and the elderly by providing minor home repairs or handling yardwork.
The church also sponsored a dental clinic in cooperation with the Georgia Dental Association. Called the “Georgia Mission of Mercy,” this cooperative approach tapped 1,500 volunteers, including 300 dentists, to help 2,179 people needing oral care. Approximately $1.5 million of dental care was provided, a cost that no one would have been able to handle individually nor could the church without volunteers. Notably, 25 of the dentists were First Baptist attendees.
The Salvation Message
The question that begs to be asked is this one: was the gospel shared with the community? I can’t say for sure, but I know that the church fulfilled an admonition attributed to one of the early church fathers, Augustine, who reportedly said, “preach the gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” Of course, people still need to hear the salvation message, but demonstrating God’s love first to them is an excellent way to prepare the heart for a follow up message.
What is your church doing to make a difference in people’s lives? Hitting straight home, what are you doing to show someone that God cares for them? As Jesus showed to His disciples, tending to the needs of people first can put them in a position to help them listen second. This also demonstrates to people that God wants to reach them where they’re at whether that means watching their kids, removing leaves from a gutter, or performing a root canal.
Photo: Benjamin Flux
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