Springboarding off of the Apostle Paul’s life focus, clearly expressed in 1 Corinthians 2:2, Pastor Greg launched an “open-ended” message series on January 12th, 2020 – focusing on “Just Jesus.” He is walking us through the entire New Testament, pulling passages from the Old Testament for context, and keep us focused throughout the year on “Just Jesus.”
This is week 57, Matthew, part 55 in the series. Today Pastor G covers Matthew 14:14-23. This is the famous account of “The Feeding of the Five Thousand.”
Welcome to week 57 of our Just Jesus series. This is Matthew Part 55. Last week we heard about the execution of John the Baptist by the evil King and Queen Herod and Herodias. When Jesus heard the news He withdrew from the crowds and the disciples and went out on the Sea of Galilee to be alone with God the Father and mourn the death of John. As soon as He landed on the other shore the crowds had already run around the shoreline to get there ahead of Him and were waiting, en masse, to ask Him to heal them. The last verse we left off with last week was Matthew 14:14
When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. ~ Matthew 14:14
Even though Jesus was feeling badly about John, after a brief recharging period of alone time, He jumped right back into the ministry of healing. He felt compassion (splangknidzomai – gut busting, gut wrenching sympathetic pain) for their suffering and He had to do something about it. So He starts miraculously healing them. If you are ready to hear what God has put on my heart to share with you this morning please do me a favor and say or type HIT ME WIT IT G! I’M READY!
When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” ~ Matthew 14:14-16
This is the beginning of the famous “Feeding of the Five Thousand.” It is recorded in all four Gospels and is filled with profound symbolism, a foreshadowing of the Lord’s Supper, a lesson in the provision of God and our part in cooperating with Him in ministry, doing our part. At first, the disciples do what we often do. We see a problem or a need and we pray to Jesus. We speak to Jesus and point out the problem, as if He needed us to tell Him the obvious. Jesus, You probably didn’t notice this so we thought we would bring it to Your attention. We just noticed all these people are hungry and didn’t think to bring food with them. They are so enthralled with you and the healing you are bringing both to their physical bodies, spirits and emotions they don’t want to leave. We think a good idea would be for you to send them away to buy something to eat.
Jesus responds by reminding the disciples that they are His representatives. This “Jesus show” everyone has been enjoying is just the beginning of what He came to do. These acts of caring for the sick and infirmed and hungry are going to be the responsibly of Jesus’ followers and that responsibility starts here. He shocks them by saying “You give them something to eat.” As we often do, when called by God to take action on a problem that seems too big for us, insurmountable even, they complain. As they look around the area they see (Matthew soon tells us) 5,000 men PLUS some large number of women and children as well. Their first response must have been “You’ve got to be kidding! There must be close to 10,000 people or more here. How in the world can you expect us 12 guys to feed all of them?
You can relate to that can’t you? Hasn’t God touched your heart on occasion to take action on something that seemed utterly impossible to you? At first, you resisted, made excuses for why it couldn’t be done? Hello Somebody! I’ve done that soooooo many times in my life, forgetting, momentarily, that God never sets us up for failure. If He calls us to do something He also plans on giving us whatever we need to be successful. In Isaiah 55:8-11 God tells us:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. ~ Isaiah 55:8-11
Whenever I feel God pulling on my heartstrings, telling me to do something, give something, risk something, that seems too big an ask of me I always return to this passage in Isaiah. God’s Words, God’s plans, God’s projects are always successful. They always accomplish exactly what He desires. When He declares something will be done it always is. The report of His project never comes back to Him empty or void.
I remember when it became clear that God was calling us to Hawaii seven and a half years ago. I had been through catastrophic injury, job loss, bankruptcy. We tried to sell the possessions we had in Ohio and made some money from them but for the most part God just told us to give everything away. We didn’t need it. We gave away most of our furniture, jewelry, appliances, electronics, cooking utensils, books, DVD’s CD’s, clothing. Our vehicles were repossessed. Yet God kept saying “Give it away.” I remember thinking of this feeding of the 5,000 command to the disciples: “You give these 10,000 people something to eat” and I remember reading Isaiah 55 and trusting “God is not going to set you up for failure. If He is asking you to do this you don’t have to understand. You don’t have to know how it’s going to work out. You just need to trust Him that it will.”
So we gave it all away. When we moved here, everything we owned in the whole world, fit into six suitcases and four medium boxes we shipped here. EVERYTHING we owned. We had to come up with a first month’s rent and deposit. We had no vehicle. We had no furniture. No cooking utensils. No money. It honestly seemed Impossible as we were making preparations over the six weeks or so from when we were offered the position and when we were supposed to be here. When we came for the interview, the church was going to reimburse us for our flights but we didn’t have credit cards to pay for the tickets. We had to borrow the money from some friends and pay them back later. When we finally flew her permanently it was the same thing. The church was going to reimburse us for the flights and an additional $5,000 for moving expenses. Most people ship a whole container full of stuff when they come. We didn’t own any furniture or any vehicles. So we negotiated using those funds to be reimbursed AFTER buying a vehicle and some furniture AFTER we arrived instead. If you’ve ever tried to buy a good used car in Hawai’i you know what a tall order that was going to be too and again, we had no money to buy with and be reimbursed later.
So, God led us to start a Go Fund me page. To tell our story and put it out there with the hope that God would touch the hearts of some people to loan or donate some funds to us to help us restart a new chapter of our lives. And people did. I think close to $10,000 came in over that month. We had enough to seal our rental deal. We had enough to buy the plane tickets, some basic furniture and appliances, and a month’s worth of food. God led us to a 2005 GMC Envoy that served us really well for over five years. Many people in the church and community donated other furniture and small kitchen appliances and plates and cups and silverware and televisions and artwork.
So I can relate to both the crowd and the disciples in this story. Almost 8 years later we are out of debt except for our car that we had to buy when the envoy finally bit the dust. Although the dealer fixed it up enough to resell it to someone who lives here in the village. We see it rolling around all the time. Not everything was cleared by the bankruptcy so it still took several years to pay those things off as well. But now, our credit is repaired. We have way too much junk in our condo that we need to start giving away again. We take a load of stuff to the Salvation Army about every other month but we still seem to end up with more. We’re trying to get back to that same level of simplicity and utter dependence on God that we enjoyed when we first arrived.
Annette and I recently re-discovered a video we shot once we had the condo all set up that we sent home to family and friends. As I’m walking through the condo I am saying someone donated that couch to us. Someone donated that table and chairs to us. Someone donated that TV. Someone donated that toaster oven. Someone donated those nightstands. Someone donated that easy chair. Our landlady has been incredibly generous and we pay less rent than others with similar places. It was really touching and incredible to relive the generosity the disciples of Jesus all around the world showed to us when Jesus asked them to “give Greg and Annette something to eat.” Let’s get back to the feeding of the 5,000 that was really more like the feeding of the 10,000. Jesus has just told the disciples to go the extra mile and give these people something to eat.
They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” ~ Matthew 14:17
This is pretty typical for most of us as well. When faced with a challenge we usually look at our liabilities instead of our assets. We point to our scarcity of resources instead of recognizing the abundance that is available to us because of our relationship with our God who owns everything in the universe. In Ephesians 3:20 Paul reminds us God is the One
… who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us … ~ Ephesians 3:20
God is the one who stood on nothing, in the middle of nowhere, took absolutely nothing in His hand, threw it into the middle of nothing and created everything. You say you “ONLY have five loaves and two fish” that is HUGE compared to what God had when He created everything that exists. After the disciples share what they see as an insignificant amount, Jesus responds.
And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” ~ Matthew 14:18
And that’s the secret of success right there. It’s true. Without Jesus, the five loaves of bread and two fish were definitely not going to make a dent in the hunger of a crowd of 10,000 people. The disciples seem willing to give, willing to share, but their gift alone wouldn’t matter. The difference is they gave it to Jesus and trusted Him to multiply their gift. I wonder, what is Jesus asking you to trust Him in, in your life? Bring Me your dreams. Bring Me your goals. Bring Me your marriage. Bring Me your children. Bring Me your career. Bring Me your finances. Bring Me your health. Trust whatever you do have to Me and trust that you cannot outgive Me.
Those of you who were with us during our Wednesday night series called “Money Matters: Being Rich In What Matters Most”, remember, each week we said there was good news and bad news for fully devoted followers of Jesus. What is the Good News? Right! We are rich! What is the Bad News! Right We are rich! To whom much is given, much is required. Our exceedingly generous God calls us to be generous as well. The Apostle Paul wrote about this in 2 Corinthians 9:8-10
And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work. Just as it is written, “He has scattered widely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness remains forever.” Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow. ~ 2 Corinthians 9:8-10
That is EXACTLY what is about to happen here. The small grace, the small gift of the disciples, God is going to make overflow. He’s going to multiply it and cause the harvest of this gift to grow exponentially. Watch what Jesus does with the five small loaves and two fish.
Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds ~ Matthew 14:19
Notice Jesus points everyone to the source of where this miraculous overflowing of grace comes from. While Jesus is God in the flesh, His primary focus on earth was to live as a perfect human being, modeling a life of righteousness and modeling what a relationship with God the Father is supposed to look like. He looks up toward heaven and says the traditional Hebrew blessing over the food. It is not recorded here but we know He would have said the Hamotzi
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz. Blessed are you, Lord our God, ruler of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth.
Just as every observant Jewish person would do at their meals, especially Sabbath or Feast meals, He said this blessing and then broke off pieces of the bread. He gave them to the disciples, who gave them to the crowd and they took turns, breaking off a piece of bread and then passing it to the next person. I’ve always found it significant and encouraging that this group of people, who thus far, have been primarily motivated by what they can receive from Jesus, are also practicing generosity in this meal. What so often happens in our society, the first couple of people could have hoarded the bread they received and not shared it with others, or they could have only shared it with their family or personal friends. There is no indication of that here. Each one took and shared with everyone else. What is the result when this kind of profound interdependency and generous sharing occurs? Look at verse 20.
… and they all ate and were satisfied … ~ Matthew 14:20a
Think about that for a minute. Probably 10,000 people ate from five loaves and two fish and they were satisfied. SATISFIED. The Greek word used here is chortazó. It means to fatten, to gorge, to satisfy any desire. It’s the same word used to fatten up livestock. So these people didn’t just have a small bite each. They literally PIGGED OUT and were stuffed when they got done. They ate until they couldn’t eat anymore! That’s how Jesus gives, grace upon grace, upon grace overflowing! AMEN! YAY GOD! No one goes hungry. Everyone shares all that they have with everyone else. That’s the intent of the Kingdom of God yeah? Remember the first church in Acts 2? That’s how they lived ALL OF LIFE! There were no mega-wealthy or destitute poor among them. They all took care of each other and all made sure everyone had enough.
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart … ~ Acts 2:42-46
THAT is the picture of Kingdom Living. Jesus says to all of us “YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT!” Jesus’ brother, James wrote in James 2:15-17
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. ~ James 2:15-17
So, everyone has had their fill. Their bellies are all swollen with bread and fish. And the disciples go out to do cleanup. Look at what happens.
They picked up what was leftover of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. ~ Matthew 14:20b-21
Again, 5,000 men who ate, plus women and children that were not counted. Maybe as many as the men or more. Possibly 10,000 people ate until they were stuffed from 5 loaves and two fish and there were still LEFTOVERS – TWELVE FULL BASKETS of leftovers! I always wonder how that went down. Like, if I were there, participating. Someone hands you a chunk of bread or a chunk of fish and you break off a big hunk. As you pass it to the next person does the bread or fish just miraculously grow back to look exactly like it did when it was handed to you? It had to be something like that. And think about how many times it all got passed throughout the crowd. You handed it off a few minutes ago and yet here it comes back around to you again and again and again.
Imagine sitting at the Lava Lava Beach Club and watching the edamame pu pu you got for the whole table miraculously refilling every time you pull out a pod. By the time the meal is over there is a two-foot-high ring of empty pods all around the table. THAT would be amazing! What must the crowd have been thinking at this point? We know from other passages that they liked this idea of a permanent meal maker in their midst. They were content to hang out on this hillside and eat for free while they listened to Jesus for the rest of their lives. That figuratively and literally sounds like heaven to me as well. We also know they were ready to make Jesus king. They were convinced this was the long-awaited Messiah and it was time to force His hand against their Roman occupiers. Jesus, knowing this was their plan, shifted the event quickly.
Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. ~ Matthew 14:22
That’s enough miraculous buffets for now. It’s not time for me to march into Jerusalem as the king yet. Time for everyone to go home. We get the ideas the disciples didn’t really want to go but Jesus compiles them to do so and He sends the crowds home as well. Remember, it was just yesterday Jesus had heard about John. He knows He has a similar fate coming as well. He will be put to death by the rulers of Israel. He spent some time alone the night before but was immediately pulled back into healing and feeding ministries. He wants to finish that recharging alone time with God the Father.
After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. ~ Matthew 14:23
We talked about this a little bit last week as well. Jesus OFTEN withdrew from the crowds to be alone with the Father. He is modeling that as vital, healthy, spiritual behavior for us as well. It’s easy to stuff yourself physical body with food while letting your spiritual body starve to death.
If Jesus, God the Son, in His humanness, still needed regular time with God the Father realize that you and I need it profoundly more so. In our quiet times with God, His light reveals in us, the places that need healing and forgiving. For our battles are never won or lost in full view of the world but in the hidden rooms of our lives. Have you ever met Him in that quiet place? Have you ever been alone with God? It is there that He will show you the secrets of your heart.
Let’s go to prayer together right now. Let’s each of us, as much as we can in this space with other people around us, let’s each be “alone with God” in the quiet place for a time of silent prayer. If you are watching online, do this as well. Sit or kneel alone with God. Pour out your heart to Him and then listen to what He says in response. Commune with Him right now and ask Him where in your life He is calling you to trust in His provision. Even more, where is He calling you to share the abundance He has shared with you? Trust that He will meet not just meet your needs in the process, but fully satisfy them with overwhelming, twelve baskets full, of grace upon grace. Be a man, a woman truly after God’s own heart. AMEN? Let’s pray for two minutes and then I’ll close us with a brief prayer as Joel and Benny come.
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~