There are a few stories in the Bible I read and skim, like a girl who has read these stories for her whole life. They tend to be familiar and comfortable, like putting on my favorite pair of slippers. But once in a while, I read with new eyes, with new understanding. Jesus gently leans down and points out a passage. “This one is for you today,” He says.
In Matthew 15, there is a crowd of people coming to Jesus. They are lame, blind, crippled and mute. They are sick and broken and desperate to be healed. Many of them are unable to come alone and the Bible says those who brought them laid them at the feet of Jesus.
What a tired, weary group they must’ve been. Both those who needed healing and those who cared for them, needing rest for their weary souls and their tired feet. But they were not only weary, they were expectant. And hopeful. And determined. They were looking for Jesus, a man who could heal. Their trip to the mountainside meant everything.
I wonder about the look on Jesus’ face as he looked at the weary crowd. The Bible says He told His disciples He had compassion on them. When He looked into their eyes, He saw so much more than their broken bodies. He saw the ridicule they had endured, the way they had fought to get to Him. He saw those who had risked so much to care for the ones they loved…. And He had compassion.
The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Matthew 15:31
When I read closely, I realize Jesus’ compassion didn’t end with their physical healing. I wonder about the process that day. Did He go to each person individually and touch them? Or did He heal them in one huge swoop? Whatever His method, after it was all over, they were all still standing there. And we see His compassion went beyond.
Because after Jesus healed them, He fed them. He took the bit of food the disciples scrounged up (seven loaves of bread and a few fish) and thanked God for it. Then He broke it and the disciples began to hand it out to the people— who were standing on the mountain wondering just what to do with their feet that walked and eyes that could see.
Not only did He feed them, but they ate enough to be satisfied. There was more than enough to go around, an abundance for those who had brought only their broken.
I wonder why He took the extra step to feed the people. Jesus did what they expected, but He also did what they did not expect, with humble food— just bread and fish. Jesus is the master of taking simple things and making them miraculous.
They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over Matthew 15:37
On the day we buried Annie, everyone dispersed and Peter and I were left, holding one another, looking at the tiny casket that would soon be buried deep in the ground. And I felt like my whole life was shattered, like I didn’t know how to do anything anymore. Even the tears did not come easily…. as if my pain was too deep even for the relief that comes with crying.
I tend to push that memory down deep, but it comes back up around this time of year. There’s a certain crispness in the air that does something to my heart and I can’t fully explain it. Every year when the anniversary of her death comes at the end of September, I am reminded of my need to place the shattered pieces of my heart into the healing hands of Jesus.
We live with broken pieces, much like the leftovers the disciples picked up on that mountainside. Because Jesus knew that just because they were healed didn’t mean they would magically have an amazing life. He knew the scars to their bodies, to their hearts. He knew the words that had been spoken to them, the anger they had, the sorrow they felt. He didn’t expect them to disappear. And so He fed them and He picked up their broken pieces.
He had compassion on them.
What do we do with our broken pieces? When our hearts are shattered and the dust has settled and we’re left holding something that can never be put together in the same way again?
Do I really trust God to look at those broken leftovers of my heart and make them into something that gives life, that provides satisfaction? On these beautiful late September days, when the tears come without warning and I’m taken back to Annie’s grave, her funeral, the hospital room, it takes everything I have in me to walk to the mountainside to be with Jesus. I struggle to see the beauty of my brokenness. I find myself weary and soul-tired. And yet, when I lift my shattered heart to Him, I see how He redeems our pain, how He gently cares for me. I see that He not only heals, but He also fills me with satisfaction and, dare I say, joy.
I still have questions, I still grieve. But like a balm to my soul, He has compassion for me. Maybe the miracle that day wasn’t only that Jesus healed the people and turned a bit of food into enough to feed thousands. Maybe the miracle was that He sees our broken pieces, our broken hearts and lives and makes them into something beautiful. He trades our weariness for hope and our sorrow for expectation.
May you find Him today, wherever you are. May you see His compassion for you and trust Him with your brokenness.