Today, our gospel message comes to us from the 13th chapter of Matthew, beginning with the 14th verse, “Jesus feeds 5000.”
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. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
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.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said. 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. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children (Matthew 14:13-21).
Father, You sent your Word to bring us truth and your Spirit to make us holy. Through them, we come to know the mystery of your life. Help us worship you, one God in three persons, And reveal yourself in the depths of our being, by proclaiming and living our faith in you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus feeding the five thousand and walking on water are probably two of the best-known miracle stories. I remember being taught them in the early years of my Sunday school career. The morals of these stories are still the same that they were so many years ago. In the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus demonstrates that God is a God of abundance. When Peter steps out of the boat and begins to sink because he allowed the wind and the waves to distract him, we learn that we should keep our eyes on Jesus. Still, there is so much more that we can learn from these two miracle stories.
Jesus’ actions are exciting in Matthew’s recording of this story. In verse nineteen, Jesus looks up into heaven, blesses, breaks, and gives the bread to the disciples. These words are straight out of the early church’s communion liturgy. They are the same words that Paul uses when he is discussing the celebration of communion, in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:23-33).
How odd that Matthew would use these words from the communion liturgy to describe what Jesus did before the crowd of people. We can only assume that it was intentional, and we can seek to understand what Matthew was trying to communicate to those early Christians. In this story of abundance, Matthew was telling the people of the early church that God provides as abundantly in both the spiritual and physical realms. This blessing is an important lesson to learn.
It’s interesting to watch the disciples as the story unfolds. First, they want to send the crowd away to fend for themselves. Jesus tells the disciples that they should care for the people. The disciples respond in verse 17, “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.” The emphasis is on “we have here only.”
Isn’t that often our response? It certainly was Moses’, Isaiah’s, Jeremiah’s, and David’s responses when God called them. I know it was my response when I sensed the Spirit calling me into the ministry. All of the ministers whom I know thought the same way. We didn’t have anything to offer. We couldn’t do the task that was placed before us. Many people, when asked to serve in a specific ministry, respond this way.
Look what happens, though. The disciples give Jesus what little they have, and Jesus gives the loaves and fish to the people. Everyone is fed. Jesus can take what we have and make it enough—even more than enough.
We keep thinking that God is a stingy God—a God of scarcity. This way of thinking is usually because our list of wants is way longer than our needs. When we change our perspective, stop focusing on our needs and offer prayers of thanks for what we do have, God suddenly appears to be a God of abundance.
We struggle with this truth, though. We take a tentative step of faith because we wonder if God will help us and use our talents. We hesitate to increase our giving because we aren’t sure if God will continue to provide for our needs. We content ourselves with a full life rather than an abundant life because we keep trying to compromise with what the Spirit is leading us to do.
After experiencing Jesus’ abundant provision, the disciples find themselves on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a great storm. Jesus comes to them walking on the water. The disciples see him, and in verse twenty-six, Matthew records that they are terrified. Peter asks Jesus to have him walk on the water. Jesus beckons him, and Peter obeys. He walks on the water, but then notices the waves, takes his eyes off Jesus and starts to sink.
We have seen how God has abundantly provided for us both spiritually and physically. We are now challenged to hear God’s call, get out of the boat, and follow Jesus. Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the wind and waves don’t faze us. If we start to sink, Jesus reaches out to us and pulls us up. Such is a life of faith of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I think of the words of Jesus that he came to give life that satisfies. I confess that I have been trying to find things of this world to satisfy me, and they aren’t working. Lord, I believe that you alone can do that, that you have already done that.
Lord, I thank you for freeing me, freeing me from the chains that bound me, from trying to keep up with this world, from the law of sin and death. Lord, because you have freed me, I can experience abundant life.
Because you have set me free, Lord, I can have a new perspective. I am thankful for your gift of salvation for eternal life. I am grateful for the inheritance you have given me. I am thankful that I can communicate with you and can experience the beauty of your presence.
Lord, I thank you for sending the Holy Spirit, who guides me and reveals wisdom. Thank you for this “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance,” which reminds me that we are sons and daughters of God (Eph. 1:14). I thank you that he leads me to minister to others, to help free them from their chains and offer them this same abundant life.
God, help me remember these promises when the world looks more appealing, or when I get distracted by things going on around me. Help me not to envy those who seem to have it all. Lord, I have it all because of you.
I thank you for the eternal inheritance you have given me, and that one day, I can enjoy the beauty of your Kingdom and your presence forever.
In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.
Click HERE to find out more about how to have a personal
relationship with Jesus Christ
Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Sermon contributed by Kevin Ruffcorn.
God provides abundantly for God’s people, but God also takes our small gifts and makes them adequate for the task.