14 At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; 2and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 3For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4because John had been telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet. 6But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod 7so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask. 8Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; 10he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. 12His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus. 13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
I’ve never liked event planning, although I’ve done a fair amount, especially fundraisers. There are too many variables beyond my control: How many people will respond to the invitation? How much money will they donate? And, of course, how much food should I order? I’d just as soon take the disciples’ approach and send them all home to fend for themselves. Jesus, however, doesn’t share my anxieties. Perhaps he already knows what I have learned over time: things will never go exactly as planned. More people will show up than expected or the food will be late or the keynote speaker will get stuck in traffic. No matter how hard you try, most things are beyond your control. Herod, on the other hand, holds too hard to the fate of John the Baptist. He promises too much, believes too much in his own power. The harder we hold on to what we have and the more adamantly we deny the fact that this life can be unpredictable and surprising, the less room there is for the Spirit to move and the more likely the world will knock everything out of our grasp. We do what we can to plan and to make the best use of what we’ve been given, but at a certain point we must remember that our influence in the world is small. We have to release our grip on our loaves and fishes in faith. They weren’t really ours to begin with.
Jeremiah Sierra Managing Editor at Trinity Wall Street New York City, New York
What aspects of your life are you trying too hard to control? How might you loosen your grip?
Rev. Mary’s Response
What I see in both of these stories is someone (Herod in the first, Jesus in the second) trying to please a crowd. Herod in a self-serving way, Jesus in a loving, caring way. In the first story, Herod capitulates to peer pressure by keeping a vow to his daughter who then turns to her mother who then traps him into doing something he knows is wrong. In the second story, Jesus yields to the needs of the crowd – 4000 plus women and children feeding them with bread and fish.
So many times I do things for the “crowds” because I want them to like me and then I resent it. It is never as extreme as cutting off someone’s head – but my actions can be disruptive and often innocent bystanders usually end up sharing in the price I pay to “people please.” These are usually marked by times my self-will has run riot!
And equally, there are many times when I could easily spare a little bread and a little fish, but instead I fearfully hoard what I have—believing it won’t be enough or I won’t be enough. And it is only Jesus who can release the grip I have on fear to open my hands to offer what I have – feeding and filling others with the good things Jesus entrusts to me. All things come from God, to whom I am thankful always. When I do God’s will, I am usually Care-full! That is why I have to repeat continuously, all day long, God, thy will be done. Amen.
God, help us to remember that even the best-laid plans go awry and to release our false sense of control. Amen.
Crafton, Barbara Cawthorne. A Journey With Matthew: The 50 Day Bible Challenge . Forward Movement. Kindle Edition. Crafton,