July 27, 2008: How Does God Handle Bad News?

Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, just like You, none of us on this earth is immune from being slammed by bad news. None of us is immune from becoming upset and out-of-sorts when evil intrudes into our cozy corner of life. Today, let us fasten our gaze upon You and how You handled such bad news. Let us learn from You. And in the process, we’ll find solace and comfort in knowing that You’re always in control and that nothing can ever separate us from Your great love for us. Amen


TEXT: Matthew 14: 13-21

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Where have all the real men gone? Where have all those strong women who helped forge our nation disappeared to? When Molly Pitcher lost her husband to British gunfire during the Revolutionary War, do you know what she did? She quickly manned a cannon and helped return fire! Go to any graveyard in New England and look at the family grave plots. Examine the headstones. An entire portrait of a whole family can be found. In most of those families at least half of the children died before age 10. Often either mom or dad died young, too. They experienced great tragedy. And yet, it’s also obvious that none of them gave up. They went ahead and forged their own lives and thereby, collectively, a nation. They were rugged, strong-willed individualists. Almost without exception, if we are to take the inscriptions on their headstones seriously, they were also Christians!

We are all products of our environment. And over the past 100 years our nation along with the entire world has changed. That change goes hand-in-hand with the devolution of Christianity in our culture. It used to be that when a family, a town, a state, or the country was confronted by something “bad”, people stepped up to the plate and worked at solving it. Since Christianity teaches personal responsibility (we call it repentance) single people didn’t point fingers, or talk the issue to death and do nothing, they acted! They didn’t leave their families or their neighbors to “the bureaucracy”, they didn’t wait for someone else to act, no, they acted. They helped. They got involved. Why? Because the love of Christ was in their hearts.

As we meet Jesus today, He’s just experienced a jolt. He’s just gotten the bad news that John the Baptist has been beheaded by evil King Herod. As you listen to the rest of the story about what followed, keep this question in mind:



This feeding of the 5000 is a miracle text. All these miracle texts have one over-arching truth imbedded in them. That is that Christ is truly the Son of God. Yes, Jesus is God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. And at His incarnation He joined total Godliness with human flesh. He became true Man. He became another Adam who was made in the image of God. That image of God is sinlessness which Christ possessed fully. That being said, Christ also possessed the totality of human emotions, including our ability to experience and feel real pain. We get an inkling of that pain in the first verse of our lesson. “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”

The death of His cousin, the one who also baptized Him, shook Christ. We can only imagine the sadness it caused Him. And so, like most people during such an emotional moment, Christ wanted to be alone. He wanted time to pray and commune privately with His holy Father. He left the lakeside and took a boat across to the far shore.

But the crowd of people who had come to hear Him speak knew nothing of this. They were so enthused that they watched where His boat was going and trekked around the lakeshore to meet up with Him again. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

What do we see from these opening verses? We see that when He received bad news Jesus took a little time to regroup Himself and then He went right back to work! He acted! He saw the needs of others and He met those needs. He didn’t delegate. He didn’t put anyone off. He didn’t send messengers to Jerusalem and ask social services to get involved. Instead He showed His huge heart of compassion for them and channeled His emotions into tangible deeds. In short, He honored John’s memory by doing miracles and showing everyone that John’s preaching wasn’t in vain. For John pointed at Christ and proclaimed Him to be the Messiah. Here Jesus shows it!


So, you think you’ve had a bad day? You’re tired and grumpy and just want to be left alone. Think about Jesus’ bad day. He’s been jolted by John’s news. He’s been up all day. He’s been drained by caring for thousands of souls. Now the day is fading and even the “slow on the uptake” disciples recognize: “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

That seems logical, doesn’t it? And most mere humans would take such logical advice to heart. Then, afterwards, they would pat themselves on the back for their concern for the masses. But, Jesus wasn’t any mere man. He was the Son of God. So, again, He jumps into action and quizzes the disciples. “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” We can only imagine the quizzical looks the disciples shot at each other! “We have here only 5 loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.” Again, this is akin to: “let someone else worry about the problem.” It’s their way of passing the buck of responsibility, isn’t it?

With that, Jesus took that meager food, blest it, gave it to the disciples to distribute, and in the end, when they picked up leftovers, they had 12 basketfuls of food remaining! This after over 5000 men, along with women and children had been fed! A miracle. A miracle of power and compassion. Yes, to paraphrase Paul today: “Not even the absence of food could be allowed to separate these hurting souls from the Love of God in Christ Jesus!”


So, How Does God Handle Bad News? Does He whine and complain? No. Does He debate the issue to death? No. Does He hand it off to another? No. Jesus is the real thing. He’s a real Man, made in the image of God, made the very way God intended all humans to be. He’s totally responsible and totally compassionate. And He acts accordingly.

Each of you has faced bad news over the past few weeks, or you will over the next few weeks. Something will happen at work, at home, or in the neighborhood that will bring you great upset. When that occurs, I want you to remember this wonderful lesson. I want you to remember what Jesus did. And I want you to remember the blessed results. And then, then, I want you to take His actions to heart and show compassion and to act, as well. God didn’t leave you soul’s salvation to “somebody else.” He sent Christ to save you with His life for yours on a cross. Likewise, God allowed that upset into your life for you to show the compassion that Jesus has showered upon you! And when you do that, you’ll recapture a small slice of the realness of Adam and the image he once possessed! Yes, you’ll discover the realness of humanity in sync with our Creator! Amen