When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me.
And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
–Matthew 14: 13-20
The phrase “desert place” means a place of desolation, dry and barren place, or in some cases, empty pasture land for sheep to graze in.
What’s the first thing that you think of when I say desert? Well, I can tell you what it’s not. The first thing that pops into your head isn’t a tropical rain-forest with waterfalls and greenery. When I say desert, your mind will automatically go to a place with which it associates that word: a dry, dirty, dusty and barren wasteland. That’s what a desert is to us. A desert is a place that no one would want to go to without a very good reason.
Go back and read the first two verses of this passage again. Jesus goes off into a desert place, a barren place, a wasteland with no food and no civilization. These people, these multitudes who have seen His power and witnessed the miracles, follow Him even to this desert place; forsaking themselves because it is late in the evening and there is no food around. Many of these people have come many miles from their own homes, and are sacrificing their sleep, their time, and their livelihoods to follow Christ to a desert place.
It’s interesting to note that after the repeated use of the phrase “desert place”, Jesus commands the people to sit on the grass. In the traditional sense, we think of a desert as a place that would most likely have no grass at all. But, if this desert place is pasture land, it is conceivable that many shepherd and their flocks were there for Jesus’s teaching and witness to the miracle. It must have been reminiscent of the night when Jesus was born. Jesus always had a special place for the meek, the lowly, the shepherd and simple fishermen.
But, notice that when you follow Christ He provides for your needs. So, it is fitting that this miracle of provision takes place in a pasture, where the Good Shepherd can both hammer into His disciples, and display for His sheep that He will provide for His own. The food is nice, and the miracle is necessary, but the point is to show His people His power of provision. He takes care of His own.
If you follow Christ, He will not desert you in the desert place. “He maketh me ton lie down in green pastures” means so much more when we see it lived out here. He restores their souls and bodies with the physical and spiritual food that He alone can give. That’s just who He is. I hope you began to look at this passage a little differently. I know I did.
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist