So today I thought I would "be deliberate" in my Bible reading -- as in Phil Joel's "deliberatePeople" website/idea. It's just basically choosing a "standout verse" in your daily reading and journaling about it. He has a specific reading plan that I followed for a couple of years, but this year I'm more or less "meandering" through the Bible, mostly the New Testament. (Does it make me a bad Christian if I admit that I find most of the Old Testament depressing? It's important stuff, of course, and you can't just say, "Oh, I'm all about the New Testament, the Old is passe," or whatever. But sometimes I just can't read it day after day, especially in, like, the book of Judges or Kings. I do, however, absolutely LOVE Isaiah.)
Anyway, so I read Luke 9:1-17. In this passage Jesus empowers his disciples and sends them out to preach and heal, and also there is the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Of course, there is a ton one could write about these two stories, but what struck me today was that Jesus didn't just want the gospel preached -- he also cared about the people's physical needs.
So I have a couple of standout verses: v. 2: "... He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick." And also v. 13: "You give them something to eat."
Jesus easily could have just sent the disciples to do nothing but preach. And He could also have just sent the crowd home to eat. The Bible doesn't mention whether Jesus resumed preaching after they all ate, or whether they ate and went home. So I can't say for sure whether He wanted them fed so they could listen some more, or simply because He had too much compassion on them to let them continue to be hungry. However, based on what I've read in the Bible and what I personally know about Jesus, I imagine He just didn't want them going hungry that evening.
I love all this, and I think it says a lot about the God we serve. He definitely cares about our souls more than anything else. But He also knows we are human beings living in the here and now, and that we have physical needs in our lives that need to be met. I have often heard ministries that feed people, that go into communities and help the poor, heal the sick, etc., say that you have to meet the physical needs of the people before you can set about meeting their spiritual needs. It only makes sense -- hungry people, sick people can't concentrate much on the "esoteric" stuff until they are filled and healed (or at least in a more comfortable place physically speaking).
But I think that, even beyond the sort-of "ulterior motive" of helping people so they can enter the Kingdom (which is, of course, the most important thing), Jesus just loves to help people. He loves to reach into our worlds, into our hurt, and show us His love and compassion. He loves to wrap His arms around us and love on us! From experience I know He doesn't always choose to heal or to lift us up out of our circumstances, choosing rather to carry us through the difficult times instead of just making them go away. Personally, I would rather He always just took the tough stuff away before I had to endure much of it. It takes a lot of struggle sometimes to get to the place where, by faith, I accept that He's doing something I don't understand and then relax and let Him do His stuff. That's when He really shows that the spiritual is more important than the physical. But I'm glad there are all those times in Scripture where He shows us that He cares about the physical aspects of our lives, too. I'm glad He's a God whose love is so all-encompassing, who is all about compassion, and who never wants to just leave us where we are to get by on our own. That's when it's so obvious that God is our "Abba" (daddy), that Jesus is our brother, that the Holy Spirit is our comforter.
Yeah. I like that.
So, on another note, I have discovered the most hilarious, true, often uplifting and always interesting blog called "Stuff Christians Like." You should check it out. It is SO us!
Blessings for a beautiful day!