Will it be Platter or Basket?

So often we read short sections of the Bible and thereby miss some of the obvious connections between the sections.  For example, I am preparing to preach on Matthew 14:13-21 in which Jesus feeds five thousand.   The story is in all four Gospels and is quite familiar to many Jesus followers.  What I had not really noticed before is the connection to the story prior to it in which John the Baptist is beheaded by King Herod (Matthew 14: 1-12).

"Salome asks for St. Johns' Head" by artist Bernardino Luini, 1510

John had ticked off King Herod when John confronted Herod’s of sin of marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias.  Herod had tried to spare John’s life while he was a “guest” in his prison. But when Herod held a huge birthday bash for himself, Herodias’ dancing daughter coerced the king into serving John’s head on a dining room platter.  How appetizing was that?  The lavish birthday party ends in blood and death.

Then we shift scenes to Jesus and his surprise party.   Instead of a palace feast, it is a deserted lake shore and the only dancing comes when the disciples try to find food for the crowd.  What started as an impromptu healing service turns into a glorious feast with food for all.  “And all ate and were filled” (Matthew 14:20). 

The Basket of Bread by Salvador Dali 1929

Twelve baskets of leftovers for the guests to carry home!  What a sharp contrast to Pilate’s party that ended with a burial and an empty platter.

Yet my guess is, if you or I had received an invitation to attend either the Celebrity Birthday Banquet or the uncertain camp out, we would have chosen the Banquet.   It is only with hind sight that we discover where the real party breaks out.  

How do we, as followers of Jesus, prepare the way for Jesus’ Spirit to break out in a fresh way among us?  How do we take what we have and fill the hungry with good things? Do we expect God’s miracles to be at work among us?

Lord Jesus, show us how to feast with you daily while feeding the hungry around us.

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