Prejudice Dies Hard

By Rich DuBose

Photo by Dreamstime

There were two occasions when Jesus fed a large multitude of people. The first was near Bethsaida on a remote hillside where a crowd of 5,000 plus Jews had gathered to hear him speak. The second was on a mountain in the region of Decapolis where 4,000 plus Gentiles had converged for a three-day marathon of inspirational teaching and healing.

Both times the disciples lacked faith that Jesus could supply enough food to feed the respective crowds. The first time they could argue they had never seen anything like that done before. But the second time they lacked faith that He would do it again because the people were Gentiles (heathen).

"At Bethsaida they had seen how, with Christ's blessing, their little store availed for the feeding of the multitude; yet they did not now bring forward their all, trusting His power to multiply it for the hungry crowds. Moreover, those whom He fed at Bethsaida were Jews; these were Gentiles and heathen. Jewish prejudice was still strong in the hearts of the disciples, and they answered Jesus, 'Whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?'" (Desire of Ages, p. 405).

How can we satisfy "these" men? The disciples were unsure why God would want to provide for the needs of non-Jewish people, who in their eyes were "heathen." Once again, Jesus was pushing his followers beyond their comfort zone and they were struggling to understand what he was up to.

The idea that God is indiscriminate with his blessings and is even willing to bless those who are outside of "the church" is still foreign to many. Yet Paul says, "God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners" (Romans 5:8, NLT). One of the greatest qualities of Christian discipleship is to be able to show mercy and compassion to all people—including those whom we may think are undeserving.

Questions for reflection

1. Why are these two miracles featured in the gospels? What is the take away for us today?

2. How can your church demonstrate God's mercy to some of the people, or groups of people in your community, whom Christianity has labeled as "undeserving?"