Jesus Changed the Hungry—not Herod (Mark 6:7-44; 8:1-21)
You would’ve thought he’d be happy. He was surrounded by all the luxury that ancient Palestine could afford. He was ruler over a sizable chunk of land—he was the top of society. The King, of sorts. And he lived in a luxurious palace—several palaces actually. He had all the food he could want. And the best clothing. Guards who did his beck and call. But he wasn’t happy. The reports kept coming and, with each one, he grew more and more upset. Many worried that he would go insane like his infamous father. He ignored the whispers and entered the dark, accusing thoughts of his heart…
Demons cast out. Sick healed. Why, some even spoke of a little girl being raised from the dead! And not just one Healer—several. One main One going around, who had sent out twelve of His goons to do the same things! Many thought He was just another prophet. Like Elijah. But Herod knew better. His heart wouldn’t let him get away with it. He knew who this was—it was John. The man he had beheaded mercilessly, all because his wife’s daughter asked for it. All because, in his lust, he had promised the dancing girl whatever she wanted—up to half his kingdom! And she, with her wily mother Herodias, asked for John the Baptist’s head. And he had agreed! He regretted it ever since. He killed that just man and now his ghost had resurrected to do even greater miracles…and raise a coup against Herod himself!
Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great and ruler of Galilee, had a deep, abiding hunger. Food didn’t cure it. Not even the greatest pleasures that his kingdom afforded him could quench it in the least. The slaughtering of his enemies didn’t do it, though that had worked before. No, it was because he killed his enemy that he felt this way. Because he had killed John! Why did he let himself get carried away? He had just imprisoned him so he could observe him! So he could appease his pestering wife (formerly known as his brother’s wife). But now…John was dead. And Herod was to blame. And his hungry heart was eating him whole. He needed something—he needed healing. But he didn’t know how to get it.
Little did Herod know that this great Healer was not John the Baptist risen from the dead. It was Someone greater. God Himself was walking around in Herod’s domain, yet the king didn’t even know it. Not only was this Man God, He was also the only One Who could fill Herod’s hungry heart.
Jesus’ twelve disciples returned with quite the stories of all they had done—healing, casting out demons, preaching the Gospel. They were all talking at once until Jesus quieted them, laughing. He suggested they get away from the hub-bub and have a good “debriefing” session. Some R&R. A strategy retreat. So they crossed the sea to a fairly uninhabited place…only to find it very inhabited. By at least five thousand people, thronging the low hills that arose out of the sea. There was barely room for Jesus to stand on shore. The disciples groaned at this vacation interruption. They knew what this crowd wanted—their great Master, Teacher, Healer, Changemaker. Jesus took it all in stride and had compassion on this hungry crowd.
Like Herod, these people had hungry, hungry hearts. Yes, after a day of running to catch up with Jesus and standing to hear Him teach, they were physically hungry. But they were also hungry for something deeper. Something food wouldn’t fix.
You know this story. Ten loaves + two fish + five thousand hungry people + deserted area with no Starbucks (or even Walmart!) = what? Do the math—it doesn’t look good. Wait a sec. We forgot to add something to our equation. 10 loaves + 2 fish + 5000 people + no Walmart + the Changemaker = enough food for everyone + 12 extra baskets. The desperate situation became a dynamic display of the Changemaker’s power. Not only could He heal people—He could also multiply atoms in nature. Pretty awesome. And He does it again with four thousand people in chapter 8! He’s on a roll!
But Jesus is so much more than just a slot machine. It’s not, “Come to Him and get food or healing or a better life!” He offers stuff much better than that. He offers satisfaction for hungry hearts.
What Herod struggled with was what many of us struggle with—guilt. We know we’ve done wrong. We’re sinners. But if we come to the Changemaker, He can take our measly life and add His power to equal…something much better! If we try on our own to solve our hunger, we’ll only get hungrier. Herod tried to ignore the problem, apparently. Instead of going to figure out who this new Healer was, he stayed in his palace and dwelt on his sin. And got depressed. Eventually, he would meet the Changemaker, in Jerusalem when He was on trial. And what did Herod do? Tried to get Jesus to perform for him. To do magic tricks. He didn’t want Jesus’ heart-healing. He wanted to be entertained. Jesus didn’t follow along. So Herod sent Him back to Pilate and let the innocent Changemaker be sent to the Cross.
He was so close…so close to finding satisfaction. And yet so far. He never found the answer to his guilt.
How about you? Do you come to Jesus to get stuff out of Him? Or do you come with a hungry heart, asking Him to solve your problem? If you do, make sure you bring some baskets. Because you may leave with more grace than you ever imagined.