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Jesus Feeds Many

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2010-05-16 (am) Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus Feeds Many

            The video, the crosses, makes it a bit more real, doesn’t it?  Paints a sharp dividing line between what we have, and what others don’t have.  Contrast our worries with theirs: what will I do with my life?  What will I eat today?

          There’s a part of me that wants to forget that this is happening.  There’s a part of me that wants to focus inward.  There’s even a part of me that wants to have a totally unreasonable attitude toward my life.  Do you have it too?  Do you wish you could just forget what other people are dealing with? 

          Or do you feel their pain?  Does it make you wonder, as so many people do, why doesn’t God do anything about it?  God’s answer is here, in our text this morning.

Compassion—The first thing we see in our passage, is Jesus’ compassion.  Jesus knew what was going on.  Jesus knew what the crowd wanted to do.  Having heard that John the Baptist was dead, the people were ready to take Jesus and force him to be their king.  They had all kinds of reasons to do so, but Jesus knew that it was not yet his time.  He still had much more teaching, healing and forgiving to do.  He also knew that their desires would result in his death.

          So Jesus withdrew from the crowd, he escaped their attentions, went to a different part of the lake and spent time alone in prayer.  But lo and behold, just a short while later, the crowd shows up.  They saw where he went, and they went out of their way, expended a tremendous amount of energy to get to where Jesus was.

          Jesus has compassion on them.  These people were so desperate for a leader.  They were hungry for the truth.  They wanted to be healed.  So they came to Jesus.

          Jesus had compassion.  Though he knew their hearts, though he knew that they wouldn’t truly respond in faith, Jesus healed them and taught them.  Jesus demonstrated his own Father’s incredible patience and loving faithfulness. 

          Consider your own heart.  How compassionate are you?  How quick are you to forgive?  How much do you demand to have things your way?  What is your attitude toward people who suffer?  What about those who bring their troubles upon themselves?  Those who mismanage their money, those who are vicitims of evil regimes, crappy governments?

          How much harder is it for us to have Jesus’ heart?  How much harder is it to show compassion?  Sure we can show compassion to those who respond with kindness back to us.  But what about showing compassion to those who have no way of paying us back?  Isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross?  Didn’t he die, once and for all, for sinners?  Sinners who had absolutely nothing to give in return?  Yes, that’s what Jesus did! 

          In our passage, the day drags on.  Jesus keeps healing and teaching.  The people keep listening and being healed.  Some might have left, but a vast majority stayed with Jesus.  They gave little thought for themselves.  They were focussed on Jesus.

          Such was the situation that before they knew it, the day was gone, and there was no provision for the people.  They were in a very remote place, no McDonalds anywhere.

Incomprehension—The Disciples didn’t know what to do.  In this, they demonstrate our second point, incomprehension.  They didn’t really realise who Jesus is.  They didn’t really understand that Jesus is God’s Son.  Though they saw that he was from God, they didn’t yet comprehend that he is God.  Even though they’d seen him turn water into wine, they didn’t get it.

          So, they come up to Jesus, they say, “Hey do you wanna take a break for a second.  It’s getting late.  There’s no food, send these people away so that they can possibly still get something from the nearest towns.

          Jesus is gives them one of his great answers.  Jesus is amazing at stumping people.  Remember when the Pharisees and the Saducees wanted to catch Jesus in a difficult situation, by asking him if it was lawful to pay taxes.  If Jesus said no, he’d be in trouble with the Romans, if he said yes, he’d be in trouble with the Jews.  Instead, he asked for a coin, and asked them who’s image is on the coin?  Caesar’s, they replied.  Then he told them, pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s, give to God what is God’s.  Who bears God’s image?  People do, right, so we ought to give ourselves to God!

          But Jesus simply tells his disciples, “They don’t have to go anywhere, you give them something to eat.”

          It was incomprehensible to them.  In one of the other Gospels, Philip states that it would have cost them 200 days’ wages to feed such a large crowd, and clearly they didn’t have anything close to that, let alone a place to buy it all.

          They didn’t comprehend what they had.  They had Jesus.  Still, we ought to give them some credit.  They weren’t dumb enough to withhold from Jesus what they did have.

          Ron and Ernie, today you were installed as elder and deacon, respectively.  You might be looking at your three year term with some incomprehension.  I’ve been serving the church for a little while now, and incomprehension is normal.  But don’t let that stop you from bringing what you do have.  You have gifts and abilities given you by God.  He will bless your abilities and cause them to multiply.

          The disciples gave Jesus what they had, though they doubted it was enough.

          With God, all things are possible. 

          Jesus told everyone to sit, in those days, people stood out of reverence when the rabbi was teaching.  Jesus said a blessing, broke the loaves and handed the pieces to his disciples.  The disciples, gave the bread out, and everyone ate as much as they wanted.

          It was a miracle on the scale of God providing manna, bread from heaven, and quail during their 40 years in the wilderness.  It reminds us of when Elisha multiplied 20 loaves so that 100 men were able to eat.  It reminds us of when the widow’s jar kept filling other jars full of oil.

          The disciples should have remember the things the prophets of old were able to do.  They should have recognised the prophet Jesus.  They should have been cognisant of what he had done, and what he was capable of doing.

          As we learn from John’s Gospel, Jesus is the Word, the one by whom everything was made.  Jesus was the one by whom everything came out of nothing.  The entire universe, the pews you’re sitting on, the trees we see outside, the rocks, the hills, the stars in the night sky, are there because Jesus willed them to be there.

          Because Jesus can do all that, what is multiplying a few loaves and a few fish?

          But notice the difference here.  I’ve alluded to it already.  Jesus multiplies what the disciples gave in faith.  Jesus will do the same for us, when we give in faith. 

          What is faith?  Trusting and believing that Jesus will provide everything we need.  Trusting and believing that Jesus is the source of everything.  Trusting and believing that we can, and do find our greatest satisfaction in Christ, and because of that, we can live radical lives, where we fast, not just food for 30 hours, but things we think we need, things the world tells us we need to have, to do, to be in order to truly live, we give them up, we share them, so that others can share in them and be satisfied.

Satisfaction—When Jesus gives, he satisfies.  When Jesus gave his life on the cross, paying for the sins of the world, his sacrifice satisfied God’s anger toward sinful humanity.  When Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves, the people ate as much as they wanted, until they were satisfied, and there were 12 baskets left over.

          When we trust God to give us what we need, we come to understand that what we get from God is totally satisfying, and totally beyond what we really need. 

          We can have as much as we can eat, and have left overs.  What do we do with them?  Do we spend more than what we have?  Do we hoard it all for ourselves?

          We remember the story of the wealthy farmer whose crops were so bountiful, he decided to build even bigger barns so that he could live off the excess for the rest of his life.  Unfortunately, he didn’t realise that he would die that very night.  He had no chance to enjoy his excess, nor did he even have time to tell others what to do with it.

          How do we view our lives?  Do we view them as the gifts they are from God?  Or do we view them as ours to do with as we choose? 

          I learned something this weekend.  I learned that food isn’t that big a deal.  I learned that I can do without for 30 hours and survive.  I learned that the world tells nothing but lies.  I learned that true satisfaction comes from God.

          How about you?  What have you learned?  Are you holding onto things that you don’t need to hold onto? 

          Challenge yourself this week.  Challenge yourself to be compassionate on others, regardless of their attitude toward you.  Be gracious and loving, especially if they don’t deserve it.

          Challenge yourself to confront your incomprehension.  Challenge your pre-concieved notions about God and about his world.  Look at the Bible.  Understand, as much as you are able, with the Spirit’s encouragement, who God is, who you are, and what the world is really like.

          Challenge yourself to find true satisfaction in God and God alone.  Do a fast, TV, internet, cell-phone, food, whatever.  Try it out.  If nothing else, it will give you a different perspective.  Amen.

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