hunger pains

Written by Joe McGarry

I am a Lutheran Pastor (ELCA) in Upstate New York. I am married and have two children. I blog at Lutheran Grilled Cheese about how we connect with God and our daily lives.

July 31, 2011

Read Matthew 14:13-21

Working in the church I have seen and interacted with people living in complete poverty. Over the years I have given a family a basket of food from the food pantry when they come knocking on the church door at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon and I have ordered a pizza for a pregnant woman and her two children because she told me they did not have any food and there were no stores open at the time. I have seen people in desperate need first hand and my heart goes out to them. I have thankfully never have been in that situation, I have always found a way to find my next meal.

That is one reason I think I have a hard time putting myself in the shoes of the 5000 being fed with fish and bread. I can’t relate to it like the other miracles that Jesus performed. For example, when Jesus turns water into wine I can picture that, I can imagine that, I have wanted that to happen before! When Jesus healed someone (the blind man, the woman bleeding, the leper, the paralyzed man) I can relate to that because I have had friends or family members who were sick or hurt and I have prayed for their healing and I believe God is active in their healing. When Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, let’s be honest, that can be a stretch of our imagination. It is hard to imagine someone coming back to life after they have been dead for four days! But it’s Jesus, I can see him doing that, and I can relate to that. I have had loved ones die before and I have wanted even a few more moments with them.

But here we are, there are 5000 people waiting for Jesus to come back to shore, they want something from him and it is dinner time. What is he to do?

The disciples have decided to get rid of everyone, but Jesus has a different plan. He shows compassion to them. He is standing before this crowd who really need him, they want him and they want to see what he is going to do next and he delivers.

However in his next steps he does not charge them for anything, he is not asking them to believe in him before he acts, he is not saying “well to get something from me you need to repent and ask for forgiveness” he just serves them because he has love and compassion for them, like he has love and compassion for us.

I believe that we are called to do the same for others in the world. Because let’s face it most of us do not know what it is like to be REALLY hungry. But 14.6 percent of the people in this country alone are in need of food and 1.4 billion people in developing countries live in extreme poverty, they live on less than $1.25 a day. The truth is that we have the ability to end hunger in our time, but we need to work together to do it. This is where I believe that the example from the disciples in this passage is important for us. Jesus tells them to feed the people and they do, Jesus tells us the same thing. Imagine if your church group went out on Sunday after church and fed 5000 people. I know people in my church would say “where are we going to get the food to do that? How are we going to pay for that?” Well God provides, and not only does God provide but He provides in abundance!

The other important thing about this text is that Jesus makes a connection between this event and the last supper. One of my favorite parts of the weekly Sunday service is communion. I love coming together as an assembly of God to receive the Holy Sacrament of Communion. First it is a humbling experience for me as a pastor to say the words that Jesus spoke on the night before his death and offer it to the people who I serve. Second, I love the aspect of joining together not only with the saints who have come before me but I am joined by those present and all those who will be coming after me, that is truly amazing. I also realized the other day what a wonder it is to be kneeling at the same rail as so many other people have done before me. All those who have participated in the life and the ministry at St. Mark’s. Those who have visited the church, those who have died in the faith and those who will be leading in the ministry in years to come.

So as these people gathered together with Jesus they got more than they bargained for. Not only were their bellies full, but their souls were full as well, full with the love, grace and forgiveness by God.


  1. Andrew Brewer

    Great insight, Joe! I love it how Jesus made it a habit of meeting the needs of the whole person: physical, spiritual, emotional, etc. As his followers, shouldn’t we be doing the same? Thanks so much for sharing this 🙂

    • papajoemc

       Thanks Andrew!  It amazes me how much Jesus reached out to everyone no matter who they were!  Thanks again for the comment. 

  2. @bibledude

    i love these reflections pastor @papajoemc:twitter! this story of of Jesus feeding the 5000 is so rich with meaning… even for our lives today. i particularly appreciate the question you present about really understanding what it means to be hungry.


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hunger pains

by Joe McGarry time to read: 4 min