Consider the Plants, Week 8: Grass

Post Author: Rev. Ashley Updegraff

This is the eighth and final post in a series of commentaries based on the Revised Common Lectionary texts in Year A that focus on plants. You can follow the series by clicking on the "Consider the Plants" tag at the bottom of this piece. 

Prayer of the Day

God of abundance, You provide all that we need. Thank you for your gifts of bread and fish, grass and grain, care and rest. Give us eyes to recognize all that you have given us, and turn us into a generous people, willing to share what we have with joy and compassion, trusting that, in you, there is always enough. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.  

Commentary on Matthew 14:22-33

I live in the Midwest. Right now, in the middle of summer, parched due to lack of rain, the grass that surrounds me is primarily brown, with a few splotches of light green and even fewer splotches of bright, vivid green. 

Living in the central plains of North America, grass (no matter its color) is abundant. It is everywhere. It surrounds people’s homes, it covers football fields and soccer fields, and it lines the side of every road. Grass is a common, mundane thing here, often overlooked and taken for granted. 

But that wouldn’t have been the case in a country like Israel/Palestine, where desert makes up much of the terrain. In vast swaths of the region, grass simply can’t grow.  The reference here, to grass, helps us locate Jesus’s miracle within the geography of the country. By instructing the gathered crowds to sit on grass, Jesus is narrowing down the possible locations for his feeding of the 5000. If you advance just a chapter ahead in Matthew’s gospel, the location narrows further. Chapter 13, verse 1, tells us that “Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.” The text has placed Jesus near the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Galilee. In chapter 14, he is still in this region, still near the sea. 

The region of Galilee is a lush, fertile land. This is due, primarily, to the elevationit sits higher than other portions of Israel, and thus benefits from lower temperatures and higher rainfall.

A decorative image of the Sea of Galilee, featuring grass in the foreground.

I had the privilege of traveling to Galilee in 2013 and took this picture of the Sea and its grasses.

It’s here, in this grassy landscape, that Jesus spends an entire day healing the sick and injured. As the day ends, Jesus’s disciples urge him to instruct the people to go home, to find something to eat, or simply to leave. But Jesus has other plans. He will feed these people who have gathered to be in his presence. He will feed them with five loaves of bread and two fisha very little amount of food to feed well over five thousand people. He will provide them with food and with hospitality, which begins with an invitation to “sit down on the grass.” 

This is one way grass functions in Matthew’s telling of this famous story: as an invitation. The grassy spot provides a place of welcome, of hospitality, and of respite. Grass functions this way for us, too. We would much rather sit down on the grass than on mulch or rocks or even sand. A patch of grass in the middle of dirt, or in the middle of a country where grass doesn’t always grow, is a place of respitea place of rest. It’s an invitation to come and sit, to come and stay awhile. In instructing the crowds to sit on the grass, Jesus is extending an invitation to dwell here, to be present in this moment, and to rest in the presence of Jesus. 

And yet, the first thing I do when I am sitting in grass for any length of time, is to start plucking it up. It is scratchy and prickly. It tickles my toes and ankles. It is, sometimes, uncomfortable. So I pick the pieces that irritate. I remove the coarse edges. I eliminate the blades of grass in my immediate vicinity, collecting green sprouts and tossing them far from me.  

Grass, in this way, is both invitational and uncomfortable. It is both a lovely place to rest and an annoying irritant. 

Which mirrors what Jesus is up to in this miracle. Jesus is inviting the crowdand usinto a reality of abundance. This is an invitation into the abundance of God. Jesus is providing an invitation to take up a new way of beingone that relies and trusts in God’s provision. It is a way of being that believes there is enough for everyone and that insists that everyone be fed, and not just fedbut satisfied. It is a way of being that assures there will be left-overs and proves that it is possible for everyone to eat and for abundance to remain. Jesus’s miracle is an invitation into generosity, into sharing, into satisfaction, and into abundance. 

This can be uncomfortable for us, especially if we are not used to this. We don’t like to acknowledge that there is enough for everyone. We prefer to be ruled by fear and scarcity. We would rather look out for ourselves and our own than admit or confess that maybejust maybethere is enough for all.   

The place of this miraclethe grassheightens the reality of the miracle itself: we are invited into Jesus’s way of abundance, where there is enough for everyone, despite how uncomfortable that makes us. 

Hymn Suggestions

Evening and Morning, Evangelical Lutheran Worship #761
Text: Paul Gerhardt
Tune: Die Güldne Sonne

Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us, Evangelical Lutheran Worship #789
Text: Dorothy A. Thrupp
Tune: Bradbury

Day by Day, Evangelical Lutheran Worship #790
Text: Carolina Sandell Berg
Tune: Blott en Dag

Rev. Ashley Updegraff is an ordained pastor in the ELCA, and currently serves a congregation in the Minneapolis area. She knows that life is messy (take her for a cup of coffee and ask her how!), but she also knows that God shows up in the mess. Reminding herself and others of that is her full-time job. She also mothers her big blended family, loves adventures with her husband, Aaron, and reads whenever she can. She writes at

Image by: Ashley Updegraff
Used with permission
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