Jesus Gives God’s Unending Supply - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Matthew 14:13-21
August 02, 2020

Dear friends in Christ,

I invite you to draw your attention to the Gospel reading for today. It is Matthew’s account of Jesus’s feeding 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish (Mat. 14:13-21). In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

As we talk about this, let us keep in mind what the Holy Spirit through the Apostle tells us about Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1: 15); “all things were created by Him” (Col. 1:16); “all things hold together in Him” (Col. 1:17). And Jesus said in John’s Gospel, “The One who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). As we see what Jesus did, we see God in action. We see Jesus revealing things to us about God. We see God’s compassion (Mat. 14:14); we see God upholding all things by His unending supply.

The story begins with Jesus probably in the vicinity of Capernaum. Capernaum was located at the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. It was an area under the jurisdiction of Herod the Tetrarch. This Herod was one of the sons of King Herod the Great. We meet King Herod at Christmas with the birth of Jesus. The Herod we are speaking of here is King Herod’s son.

Jesus had just heard that Herod the Tetrarch had ordered the execution of John the Baptist in prison. He had imprisoned John because he didn’t like John telling him God’s word. He had John executed at the whim and because of the hatred of Herodias. Herodias was Herod’s wife. She was also the wife of Philipp, Herod’s brother. Herod and Herodias did not like John telling them, according to God’s word, that it was not lawful for Herod to have his brother’s wife. All that is another story. What a contrast Herod and Jesus are.

The point of talking about Herod, though, is because Matthew’s account of the feeding of the 5000 starts by making reference to Jesus having just heard about the execution of John. It must have had an impact on Him, because He gets in a boat to have some get away time. He goes to the other side of the Sea, to the northeastern side. He was intending to be alone, with His disciples.

Jesus was a popular figure. He was being watched all the time. Some people had seen Him get into the boat and head east across the Sea. News spread fast. They came out of Capernaum and other towns and villages to go after Jesus on foot, as Jesus was sailing across the Sea. The crowds were walking eastward on the land to catch up with Him to be there when He arrived.

Just how big was that crowd? All four Gospels tell us that there were 5000 thousand men in that crowd, not including women and children in the count. If we include women and children, there were probably 10000 people or more. For example, if we were to use a multiplier of 1.5 as an average to factor in women or children. Multiplying 5000 by 1.5 gives us 7500 women and children. So with a multiplier of 1.5, there were 12,500 people there. Whether that kind of a mathematical guestimate is accurate, there were probably a lot more than 5000 people there.

Jesus was not angry when He saw the crowds. He did not say, “Oh man. I was trying to get away from these people, and here they are. Oh, how I wish they would go away.” No. He does not say that. He received them. He receives you.

He had compassion on them. He healed their sick. He taught them the word of God.

It was getting late in the day. It was a desolate place. If we thought of all this taking place up in the flat tops wilderness somewhere, for example, we would get the idea.

It was getting to be time for the evening meal. The sun was getting low in the western sky.

The disciples brought these facts to Jesus’s attention and urged Jesus to dismiss the crowds so they could buy some food in the nearest town.

Jesus surprised them in response: “They do not need to go away into the town to buy food. You give them something to eat” (Mat. 14:16).

It is not difficult to imagine the disciples standing there with Jesus as He says this. There are a few moments of awkward silence. As it starts to sink in what He said, their eyes blink a few times, you know, sort of fast, trying to absorb it. Then it sinks in. He really did just say that. He really did just tell us to give this huge crowd something to eat.

“Jesus, you have got to be joking,” they may have thought to themselves. Mark in his gospel tells us their response: “It would take 200 days wages of money to buy enough food for all of these people” (Mark 6:37). “We don’t have that kind of money.” John in his gospel tells us more: “Jesus, all we have here are five loaves of bread and two fish. But what are these among so many people” (John 6:9). You can almost hear the desperation in his voice.

Yes indeed. The disciples are quite capable of identifying the facts and doing the math: 12,500 people; five loaves of bread; two fish; 200 days wages worth of money would not be enough. They are living in a universe that for them was governed by the limits of math, logic, and experience. This is all they can see by natural lights. This is all natural lights can see. Is God limited by these things?

What does Jesus do? He says, “Bring them here to me.” He is talking about the five loaves and two fish.

Now things are in Jesus’s hands, like all things are all the time. But He wants the disciples to put themselves, what they have, and the situation into His hands.

Now when I ask what did Jesus do, I’m asking about more than just being able to recite the external actions He took and the results. I am asking about what went on.

So let’s say that there is a scientist standing there next to Jesus, observing; notebook and pencil in hand. What would he or she have seen happening?

Jesus took the bread. He looked to heaven. He Prayed.

“Oh that is such a nice religious ritual,” says the scientist, without any reference to actual faith, without believing there is really anything in it.

Then Jesus broke the bread. He probably also broke apart the fish.

The breaking here simply has to do with being able to distribute the bread. If Jesus had done this today, it probably would say that He sliced the bread.

Now it gets really interesting. Jesus has the loaves in His hand. He is tearing off pieces and handing them to the disciples to distribute to the people.

The scientist is watching this. He sees Jesus just keep breaking off piece after piece, after piece, after piece, after piece, etc., without exhausting the bread. The bread is multiplying in His hands. It never runs out, until Jesus has provided enough. “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16).

We know that Jesus had five loaves. He knew how much to get out of each one. So He multiplied each loaf in His hand until He knew it was enough, and then went on to the next loaf. There was order, we could even say logic and math, in Jesus multiplying the bread. Yet, He was multiplying it in a way that science, math, and logic could not account for.

The scientist could see the multiplication happening, but the scientist could not see how it was happing. The how is in God’s invisible operation in how He sustains the universe and our existence.

Jesus brings into physical view what God is always doing that we do not see. Jesus does this to show that God can operate and does operate beyond the limits of what our natural lights can account for. Recall what we said at the beginning: when see what Jesus is doing here we see God in action and Jesus revealing God to us.

Friends, you are blessed because you get to believe that God is working in and under and with all things to uphold them and sustain them. His working is invisible; the how of it is beyond us, beyond our reason, beyond our observation. But His working is there for you, for faith to believe and to grasp. You see who is really in charge beneath it all and find comfort and hope. God the Father and Jesus and the Spirit in their omnipotent power are upholding all things; they are upholding you.

And you see why God created and sustains all things. He has compassion. He is merciful, kind, and faithful. He is also able.   

Who did Jesus have compassion on? Was it just His disciples? Was it just His group? Was it just the members of His cause?

Many in that crowd were there because Jesus was a curiosity, a sensation. It does not mean that they necessarily believed in Him.

Many in that crowd were there to be sure they caught Him when He did something in violation of the tradition of the elders. They could only see the limits of the law, and man-made law at that.

Many in that crowd were there because they did believe in Him.

The point is, though, that He fed them all. “The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made,” as Psalm 145:9. Jesus demonstrates the truth of this Psalm. He also reveals who He is as Lord and God.

In the middle of the episode, Jesus told the disciples to give the crowd something to eat. They were overwhelmed. What do you have, Jesus says. “Five loaves of bread and two fish,” they say. “Bring them here to me, “ Jesus says. Place them in my hands.

And so, bring your life to Jesus, all your cares, all your concerns, all your fears, all you have. Place it in Jesus’s hands, and see what Jesus can do, whether here in time or there in eternity, according to His good and gracious will. He knows what He is doing. You may not see how He does it. But that does not matter. You believe, and He is faithful and compassionate. Let us rest in Him. Amen.


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