Matthew 14:13-21 “Feed the World” Pastor Josh Bodden August 15, 2020
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.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
At our house, we love to cook. We don’t go out to eat very often so we try to make sure we have good homemade meals at least a few times a week. But as our kids are getting bigger it becomes a bit more difficult to make sure we prepare enough food for everyone. One of the best and worst feelings of cooking is when there are no left overs. You’re glad that everyone liked it, but now you have to find something else to make for the week! Now we just have six people to feed. Ever wonder how the disciples must have felt when they looked at the crowd of thousands upon thousands of people? “The number who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14:21) Now it's been many years since I’ve had to do really complicated math so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but if I’m right, that’s a lot more than 6 people. And all the disciples had with them was about enough food to feed my family! Without leftovers! Yeah. Maybe we can understand why the disciples were nervous. Maybe we feel the same way when God tells us to look out at the world. He says he wants us to feed them. With what? How can we possibly satisfy billions of people?
Now Jesus had to teach his disciples a lesson. Earlier in the day the disciples had taken a boat ride across the lake with Jesus to try and escape the crowds so that they could have some private time with their Lord; only to find a huge crowd waiting for them on the far side. Jesus spent all day healing and teaching them. And now the disciples are getting worried. “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.” (Matthew 14:15) That’s their solution. The best way to help these people is to send them away. Let’s just forget that the few villages nearby aren’t anywhere big enough to have enough food for all of these hungry people. Let’s just send them away from here and get back on our way. And they would have gotten away with it too…if it wasn’t for Jesus. “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16)
How? I mean, we’re talking about what: 6,000? 7,000? 10,000 people? It’s not like when Egypt had Joseph storing up all the extra grain for 7 years to provide enough food for all the years of the famine. They had plenty! “Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.” (Genesis 41:49) They even had enough to sell to other countries and to keep Joseph’s family safe. All because God blessed Joseph and the work he did. Joseph could have easily fed all of these people. But instead of grain beyond measure the disciples only had what, like 5 loaves of bread and a couple of fish? And Jesus wanted them to feed all of these people? He had to be wrong.
I mean, he has to be wrong about us too. A world of hungry people…starving for the Gospel. We want them to get what they need. We want them to hear about God’s love. And there are people who need their physical needs met. Those who are hungry, and cold, and in need. People who desperately need the Gospel as well as someone to feed them. But we’re busy and it’s getting kind of late. Can’t we just send them away and let them hear about God somewhere else? We just don’t have the time. And we definitely don’t know enough of the Bible. What if they ask questions that we can’t answer? Anyways, we don’t have any God given gifts to tell people about Jesus. It would just be better for everyone if they heard about God somewhere else. But where? Sure there are other places to hear God’s Word, but there are so many false teachers out there ready to lead the lost down the wrong path. No, God doesn’t call us to send people away but to give them what they need. “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16)
Jesus’ disciples were great people, but they were also sinners who needed to be reminded who they were walking with. “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish…Jesus replied, ‘Bring them here to me.” (Matthew 14:17,18) Then Jesus told everyone to sit down on the ground. He took this very small amount of food for this huge crowd and he gave a prayer of thanks. A prayer of thanks for food that would be a stretch to feed just Jesus and his disciples? It should have been gone in a few seconds. But then he started handing it to his disciples to give to the crowd. And they just kept spreading it out, making sure that everyone had something to eat. Not just a bite, but until they were full. And when the disciples were done picking up the leftovers they had 12 baskets filled with bread. Now there are tons of explanations of why God made there to be 12 baskets of leftovers. But put yourself in the sandals of those disciples who just wanted to send those people away. And now you see this huge crowd fed and satisfied and you’re standing around with the all the other disciples and each of you is holding a full basket. From a meager 5 loaves to an abundance. God told the disciples to feed the crowd, and then he supplied everything that was needed.
When God says, “feed them” he gives us everything we need to do the work he calls us for. Just look at us. We can’t deny that we are sinners. Filled to the top with sinful desires, and thoughts, and actions. But God came to us and took all of those sins away. But he didn’t leave us empty. He filled us with his grace and forgiveness. His mercy is with us every day. He guides us and protects us. And when we have fallen into sin, our loving God came to us and healed us. And every day he feeds us with his Word. Every day. He gives everything we need for salvation. He gives us himself. He gives us life. “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry , and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” (John 6:33-35) We are filled with God’s boundless love.
And now Jesus points our eyes to the world that is in desperate need. He says to us, “You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16) With what? I’m not smart enough. I’m not trained enough. I’m not good enough! Brothers and sisters in Christ, the work has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the one who supplies all that we need. He is the source of mercy and kindness that will fill up the world. In fact he has abundance. Let’s bring God’s message of sins forgiven to those who need to hear it. Let’s share his promises with those who are lost in unbelief. Let’s go to the world to let them know that Heaven isn’t reached by hard work or earthly accomplishments. Instead, Jesus has opened eternity to everyone by his sacrifice. He is the bread of life that has come to feed all who are hungry and in need. And you and I get to be like the disciples: passing that message of his gift to everyone around us. And as we share the Gospel message we also want to help them out with their physical needs. Jesus’ work that day when he fed that huge crowd was first and foremost one of building them up spiritually. But he didn’t send them away without also seeing to their physical needs. That’s something we forget so easily.
We are called to care for the spiritual needs of the world as the most important, but God reminds us that we are also supposed to feed, shelter, and clothe those in need. This has nothing to do with politics. It has nothing to do with big government or small government. It has nothing to do with socialism vs. capitalism. It has everything to do with God’s love for us. The Bread of Life who has given us everything we need for this life and the eternal one to come calls for us to show love to those in spiritual and physical need. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:15-17) God has filled us with the abundance of his forgiveness, and we are moved to show his love to others. And so we go out into the world looking for how we can help those in need. How can we as a Synod reach out to those in need. How can we as a congregation? What can we do as individuals and families help those who are starving and cold and sick? First and foremost with the Gospel, but also looking for how we can share our abundance with them.
When we look out at the world it’s easy to wonder, “Who is going to feed all of these people? Who is going to share the Gospel with them? Who can possibly heal them and help them? Should we just send them away?” But Jesus lovingly turns to us and reminds us, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16)
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. Amen.