As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “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.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:15-16
Jesus was an unusual spiritual leader with a passion for people. Unlike the other contemporary religious leaders of his day, Jesus focused more on people than on process, policy, and politics. His style of leadership was personable and practical. Jesus was approachable and amicable. Therefore, those who were deemed impure and did not meet the expectations of the religious establishment were drawn to Jesus because He was more concerned about their transformation than their condemnation. Thus, tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, and those who were infirm followed him wherever He went.
Indeed, Jesus was a magnet for the marginalized and the oppressed. He spent more time meeting people’s needs than anything else. Whether He was talking with the Samaritan woman at the well, going to Zacchaeus’ house to have dinner, or having His feet washed by a prostitute, Jesus upended the social-cultural norms of His day so He can meet people where they were.
In today’s text, Jesus is confronted with a very large crowd of people who listened to His teaching attentively for an extended period. Jesus had compassion for the people and healed the sick among them. As evening approached, Jesus sought to feed their physical hunger in as much as He fed their spiritual hunger.
The world is hungry for compassion, love, and spiritual transformation. People are struggling with mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual stress. They are looking for a personal touch from the Lord. Disciples of Jesus Christ have been given this most important assignment to let the marginalized, oppressed, poor, needy, hungry, or destitute know that Jesus sees their plight and knows their struggle. These people are often forgotten or disregarded. Many of them are made to feel as if they are cursed. But being poor or needy, physically, spiritually, or emotionally sick is not necessarily a curse.
Jesus has given us the power to turn curses into blessings. We do so by meeting people where they are. This requires a personal touch. It challenges us to be focused more on people than buildings and traditions. What does a people-focused ministry look like? Leveraging the resources of a church to empower its community. Empowering disciples to serve the needy and connect with them on a personal level. It may require us to preach the gospel more with our actions, love, and compassion than with our words.
Those who are people-focused relish the opportunity to spend time with the elderly to help them overcome loneliness. They mentor young people to help them find their place in society. Many volunteers to help single mothers so they can take a break and replenish themselves. Some of them work with after-school programs, homeless shelters, or battered women shelters. They visit people in prison to demonstrate love in action.
The Bible speaks of the Church as the body of Christ. Indeed, the Church is a spiritual living organism made of people. The focus of the Church should always be on people and their needs. We must not be like the Pharisees who were more concerned about upholding religious laws than helping and nurturing people so they can experience the love of God.
Questions for Personal Reflection
What does it mean to be people-focused?
What lessons have you learned from today’s text about being people-focused?
Prayer- Blessed Lord, thank you for helping me to be more focused on people than processes and traditions. Please reveal to me ways that I can be more focused on people in my ministry. Soften my heart so I do not behave like the Pharisees and prioritize religion over relationships.