Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Daily Devotion for Lent 2019 - Day 19

Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:1-36 (NRSV)

Grief is difficult for all of us - even Jesus.

We're not sure what kind of relationship Jesus had with John the Baptist.  Luke tells us that they were cousins and we know that even distant family members were close in this culture.  We know that John baptizes Jesus which is significant.  Some believe that John was a kind of mentor to Jesus as he began his public ministry sooner than Jesus.  As Jesus gives him high praise, we know that he held him in great esteem.

When he hears about John's death, he goes away to be by himself.  We all have different reactions to grief.  Sometimes we need to be alone.  Other times we need to draw together as a community to express our loss.  This seems to be the case of the crowds as they come together and seek for Jesus to offer them words of comfort.

To put this in perspective, their spiritual leader was executed by their own government.  Herod was put in place by a foreign power to keep the peace.  It was a way for Rome to pacify the people, sending the message, "See, we are really looking out for your best interests!"  When your representative starts murdering religious leaders, something is going wrong.

Jesus begins to heal their ills.  When the hour grows late, the disciples want to send them away but Jesus responds "They need not go away; you give them something to eat."  This is a wonderful reminder of the Christian response of table fellowship.  There is something healing about eating together.  It bonds us together as community.  Within the miracle of the feeding, we see that there is enough left over for twelve baskets.  This symbolizes to us the twelve tribes of Israel.  There will be enough to sustain all of the people of God - those gathered and those scattered.

Feeding others bonds us in ways that
are so primal to who we are.
The disciples come to greater faith in Jesus as they worship him following his mastery over the water.

When people later come to touch the fringe of his cloak, this would signify that they identified him as the Messiah.  There was a tradition that the fringe or tassels of the prayer shawl worn by the Messiah would have healing powers stemming from Malachi 4:2 where "wings" and "corner of the garment" were translated from the same word.  

It is within this chapter that we see Jesus as divine and yet as very human.  Within our own moments of grief where we feel so vulnerable, maybe this is where we are also the most divine.

Vulnerability is so difficult for us.  What if we embraced it more often?

What kind of trust would this take?

As Jesus frees us from our ills, maybe Jesus can also free us from our posturing - even with ourselves.

Prayer for the day:

God, we are the happiest when we are really able to be ourselves.
We love the times when we gather with people with whom we can truly relax.
This creates a special kind of community that gives us life.
Unfortunately, these times may be rare.
Help us to lower our own inhibitions in being who you have created us to be.
Help us to create safe spaces where others may do the same.
May this be a way that we continue to reach out to touch the fringe of your cloak.

Photo by Katie via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

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