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Sermon 6th August 2017: Feeding the 5000

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August 07, 2017

Below is the manuscript I used for my message yesterday 6th August. I went a bit off script at different times. If you want to see what that means, you may need to come to the church in person!!!

Matthew 14:13-21 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sermon

Introduction to sermon

Jesus provides for all of our needs and not our wants. How often have you heard that statement? How often do we use it as a reason for an unanswered prayer? You know how it goes… I prayed that God would give me something that that seems completely a want and He didn’t come through. We use this statement as a theological statement so much that we tend to get an impression of God that He will only give us the absolute barest of essentials. It almost portrays God as a mean spirited person who is only interested in existence and not at all interested in giving us things that we just purely desire. That somehow it’s almost blasphemy to ask for something on top of surviving. That’s not the God whom we see in this passage. As we go through this passage, look for the times that Jesus goes over and above what is needed. Look for the times that Jesus does more than the bare minimum to exist. Its there. 

Body

Something that we need to know and can find from the other gospels regarding this part of Jesus journey is that the disciples had just returned from a trip where they were healing the sick and casting out demons.  

The disciples had just returned from a trip which would have wrecked them emotionally, physically and spiritually.  They had seen amazing things but had not really even had much chance to even eat.  On top of this Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist has just been executed.  I would have said that the previous little while had not been plain sailing at all.  In fact, even in this account from Matthew, Jesus had the disappointment of not being able to minister effectively to those that he knew.  For those of us that have family who don’t believe, we know that pain that can come from that.  We know how hard it is to not be able to share the good news and to see those we hold most dear choose to follow Jesus.

It is amongst all of this weariness, pain and disappointments that we find ourselves jumping in on this part of the journey.  Jesus and his disciples head off to a solitary place.  Perhaps to rest, perhaps to cry, perhaps to mourn, perhaps to de-brief but mostly to just be alone for a bit.

Then we come to what is, for me, one of the most compelling parts of scripture.  We read in verse 14 that Jesus had compassion on the crowd.  This crowd that had invaded their solitude.  This crowd that sought to take away any time that this little band had to recover. 

The word compassion is a very strong word.  It is more than just feeling sorry for them.  It is more than just understanding how they feel (or empathy).  The Kittle dictionary meaning for this word (which is used as a verb or doing word here) may mean “to eat the inner parts”.  We might use the term “gut wrenching” emotion for these people.  It’s a very powerful and forceful sense.  This emotion that Jesus felt overrode any need or desire for themselves.  Jesus was driven by his guts to heal the people around Him.  Above and beyond what is needed. These people would have survived without Jesus for a day or two.

It is here, though, that we see the stark contrast of the disciples humanness and Jesus divinity.  They were still hoping to get away to solitude, to rest, to recover.  Jesus had healed the sick that were present.

Yet, Jesus was intent on continuing to minister to the crowd.  Jesus knew what he was doing.  He knew that he had healed them and now they needed something else.  He was willing to do it. To give them more. So the disciples get together all the food that was around.  Five loaves and two fish.  Not a lot but maybe enough to feed the disciples.  

Jesus takes the ordinary, the small thing and makes something big out of it!  He takes, he blesses, he breaks and then shares the meal.  

Warren Wiersbe makes a good point on what happens here in one of his books.  He says that as disciples of Christ, we are distributors and not manufacturers.  We don’t manufacture the miracles but we do get to distribute them.  A good thought when our ego’s may get in the way.

Jesus has blessed, broken and shared the five loaves and the two fish. Some try and draw a comparison to Communion in these acts. While it does seem to fit, we also need to remember that Jesus hadn’t yet instituted communion. The last supper hadn’t happened. And I don’t remember fish being on the menu at our communion table. This blessing, breaking and sharing is the usual custom of the Jewish community. It’s how they prepared to eat a meal. So, in effect, it isn’t so unusual. The remarkable thing is that Jesus expects that over 5000 men (not including the women and children) will be fed from this puny amount of food. Again doing more than the absolute minimum. We then read that they all ate and were satisfied. Not just enough to survive until the next meal. Satisfied!

Then the disciples went and collected twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And again, there is more than just enough.

A quick thought on the number 12. When I was at college, a subject I studied was on Matthew. There was a theologian (sorry, can’t remember his name) that suggested that the whole book of Matthew was structured in such a way that it all revolved around the story of the Canaanite woman who asked Jesus for the scraps left over from the table. There is some merit to this idea. There were twelve baskets left over (the twelve tribes of Israel) in this story and as you read further you read about Jesus feeding 4000 there are 7 baskets left over. A reference to the 7 great nations that existed in that time. The theological precept was that Jesus has come to not only save Israel (12 baskets) but the hole world (7 baskets). A good thought.

But back to the feeding of the 5000. Jesus provided far more than was necessary to feed everyone who was there. His compassion for them extended beyond the basic need. 

Challenge

When we read of Jesus feeding the 5000, we have many mental images.  It’s such a familiar story that we cannot help but to remember what we have learnt before.  The Sunday School teachings, the many sermons, the times we have read this passage as part of our quiet times.  The challenge for us to keep it fresh in our minds, to not let it become a mundane part of the bible.  Hoh hum...Jesus fed 5000 people.  No biggie.  As if it happens all the time.  If we do that, well...I think we need to re-think how we read our bible.  

This story is truly amazing!  Did it really happen?  Of course it did!  Matthew, Mark, Luke & John wouldn’t all record it if it didn’t!  There is no doubt that it was an actual event.  And as an actual event have you ever considered the amazingness of what happened?  

When was the last time you were stunned by the compassion of Jesus?  This bible we read...it is so full of amazing things that we need to constantly have fresh eyes when we read it.  Eyes of a child reading it for the first time.  We need to be stunned every day by what Jesus did, what he does and what he will do.

These people that Jesus taught, healed and fed weren’t just his disciples yet he chose to feed them all.  They weren’t His part of his regular community, yet he chose to feed them all.  He does have a gut wrenching compassion for all people.  He does want to see our needs met but He wants so much more.  

He doesn’t ask us to follow him to have this provision either.  There are so many that need to be fed, so many that need physical provision in their lives.  If we were to wait until people choose to follow Jesus before we provide them help, we have missed the whole point as well. Part of following Jesus is sensing this gut wrenching compassion for all that have need and discerning how we are to be a part of alleviating it.  We cannot afford to forget about Jesus compassion, nor his desire to provide more than just the bare essentials. 

There are two points we need to remember. Jesus wants to give us more than just the ability to survive. He wants to give us our hearts desires. I’m not talking a prosperity doctrine here but I am saying that Jesus can and will give us more than that. He wants us to thrive not just survive. So, pray for your hearts desires. Ask Him to give you things that aren’t just a necessity. He may say no, but he may also say yes.

The other point we need to remember is that as we live our lives seeking to help others…because we know the gut wrenching compassion that Jesus has for others. Let’s be generous in our assistance. If we are to follow what Jesus does, we need to give more than the basics. If we are trying to provide for the homeless, we need to work out how to make sure they are satisfied. If we are seeking to feed the hungry, we need to do more than just a watery soup and left over stale bread. 

Evangelism, for me isn’t quoting bible verses at someone. Or purely showing them the gap between their lives and God, which we call sin. Its showing them an extravagant love that only Jesus can motivate. That extravagant love that saw Jesus moved by gut wrenching compassion to heal the sick and feed everyone until they were satisfied.

 It’s as we can serve people in this way that we can also bring the message of the gospel to them.  The message of the good news of Jesus Christ.  The message of an eternity in right relationship with the creator of all things. Why, because God will speak to them. Jesus will be present in our dealing with them. They will see our compassion and the compassion of Jesus.

That's our challenge. Expect more from God than the barest essentials. Expect to be satisfied. But also expect ourselves to give more than the barest essentials. 

Go well.

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