What did you eat today?

Matthew 14:13-21 is one of the few experiences shared in each of the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are very similar in many places, but it must have been a special reason for John to record it. 

John, like the others, is concerned with showing his readers and the world who Jesus is. John records the intent of the people, to take Jesus and make Him King. Soon afterward in John 6: 26ff, Jesus confronts the crowd,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” which leads to verse 35 where Jesus reveals “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Jesus and God

At the center of God’s creation is Jesus. The tipping point for all life is found in Jesus. Nothing is grander, more life-changing, fulfilling, earth-shattering, or joyous than Jesus. Jesus is the Gospel and if we miss this, we miss everything, everything!

I owe a lot in this discussion to the work of Dr. Thomas Torrance, systematic theologian and Presbyterian with an unwavering belief and trust in Jesus. His approach to every passage of scripture was to ask, “Who does this passage say Jesus is (Bester)?” Pastor Garrett Dawson wrote of Torrance, “What is at stake here is the belief that who we see God to be for us in Jesus Christ is who God is antecedently and eternally in himself (Dawson).” In other words, Jesus the perfect, human/divine reality of God who created heaven and earth. There is no other God than whom God reveals Himself to be in Jesus.

Torrance served as a stretcher-bearer in World War 2. He wrote of coming across a mortally wounded soldier who asked,

“‘Padre, is God really like Jesus?’ I assured him that he was the only God that there is, the God who had come to us in Jesus, has shown his face to us, and poured out his love to us as our Savior. As I prayed and commended him to the Lord Jesus, he passed away (Torrance 15).”

Torrance continues to write of the impression this had made on him and said,

“I kept wondering afterward what modern theology and the Churches had done to drive some kind of wedge between God and Jesus. There is no hidden God... no God behind the back of the Lord Jesus, but only the one Lord God who became incarnate in him. 2 Truly, when we try to look into the face of God, it is the face of Jesus Christ revealed in the gospels that comes before us (ibid.).”

Our sin divided us at Babel and God calls us together at Pentecost. We broke ourselves into Greeks and Jews; free and slave; male and female; yet the Kingdom of Christ finds us together as a great multitude of which the Apostle John writes:

I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

Division is the outcome of sin; reconciling--uniting is God’s work through Jesus.

God Cares

In Matthew’s account of this miracle, something amazing takes place. Jesus comes ashore and finds a large group of people who had followed Him, and three things happen. Jesus saw the people, had compassion on the people, and healed their sick. Jesus didn’t just ‘feel for the people’. The word translated ‘compassion’ means to have a sense of concern that flows from the deepest place in which soul-wrenching pain, love, and hurt burn with a life of their own.

Verse 20 gives us Matthew’s view of what took place, “And they all ate and were satisfied.” This speaks directly to the physical hunger they had felt after a day of walking and listening to Christ, but I think there is a deeper satisfaction that comes from having Jesus feel compassion for us.

As I pointed out, Jesus knew that there were selfish people who wanted a King who could keep them fed, as in John 6. But there were also those who, perhaps for the first time, felt okay.

I read Isaiah 55:1-5 today and it is Jesus who invites and fulfills God’s call,

“Come, everyone who thirsts,

    come to the waters;

and he who has no money,

    come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

    without money and without price.

If we are honest with ourselves it is easy to be like those described in verse 2.

“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

The reason for such forgetfulness, rebellion, or silliness is that we believe we know best. We don’t seek the way of Christ. I read of a pastor who went to see a speech therapist who was also a psychologist. Two of his children started having issues with stuttering. He shared how the doctor cursed him out for being at the root of the problem. The doctor asked when we’d taken a vacation. The pastor tried to get around the question by saying

 “I was too busy to take time with my family. I remember I used to say that the Devil never takes a vacation, so why should I?—And I never stopped to think that the Devil wasn’t to be my example (Bayly and Bayly)."

Who is our example? Who is our role model?

God’s in Charge

The disciples were consumed with assumptions. As the day grew longer “neither Jesus nor the crowd was preparing to bring things to an end, so they took the initiative (Morris 377).” How like us. We know that “God helps those who help themselves” right. No! He doesn’t. Those who help themselves end up worshipping a golden calf, murmuring against God and betray Jesus, so he might become who Judas wanted Him to be.

Verses 16-18 each begin with the word ‘but’. “But Jesus said…” and then commands them to feed the people. The nature of this command is seen in that Jesus uses the pronoun “you” which, unneeded in Greek, when used makes it even more emphatic—think of it in terms of Jesus using your middle name when He calls you.

The disciples wanted the people to go away. This was how they handled people who they felt were too inconvenient to see Jesus. They tried to protect Jesus from parents who wanted their children blessed. They believed tried to manage Jesus. They saw themselves as the Messianic Chief of Staff who was to plan Jesus’ agenda and take care of those who, they thought, He didn’t have time to deal with. 

So, when Jesus issues His command to the disciples they are rocked on their heels. He doesn’t give them the means to do what He commanded. He doesn't even offer a hint.

 “But…we only have five loaves…” Jesus listens with the intent to do what He had already planned to do. What He teaches us is to turns ours and their attention away from the hopelessness of the situation and the easy solution and invites them and us to think how they and us could help (Morris 377-378).”

Once again Jesus speaks beginning with “but bring them here to me” the sack lunch they had found. Not only does Jesus ‘satisfy’ the hunger of the people but he demonstrates before 5,000 the fulfillment of manna given from God to the people. He shows His compassion is not reserved for those who bring perfect lambs to the temple but all who are far off.

Let me close, reminding us to remember who and whose we are. I was blessed to have Dr. Abd-al-Malik teach Hebrew at Fuller. I didn’t learn much Hebrew, but I became acquainted with a man who lived a life he described as “teaching is my spiritual child (Barber).” Among the things I learned was to “Trust Allah and believe” by the way Allah simply means God in Arabic and probably flows from the ancient term El for God in Job and elsewhere.

The other thing I remember is his humility. When someone would say, “Dr. Malik” he would often stop us and explain “it’s Abd-al-Malik, the servant of the King I am not the King, that is Jesus.” May we remember we are the servant of God and not speak and ask as if we are a god… Let’s pray.


 Works Cited

Bayly, Joseph, and Timothy Bayly. Out Of My Mind. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1993. Print.

Barber, Mary. "Everybody's 'Favorite Teacher' At Cal State L.A. Doesn't Intend to Become History Just Yet." Los Angeles Times. 1985. Web. 31 July 2020.

Bester, Joco. "More Than A Miracle." Sermon Central. 2013. Web. 29 July 2020.

Dawson, Gerrit Scott. "Recovering the Ascension For The Transformation of the Church." Theology Matters 2001: 1ff. Print.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Thomas F. Torrance, A Passion for Christ, Lenoir: PLC Publications, 1999, p. 15

 Works Consulted

Amenyah, Ivy Drafor. "Feeding the Five Thousand." Sermon Central. 2017. Web. 29 July 2020.

Bayly, Joseph, and Timothy Bayly. Out Of My Mind. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1993. Print.

Barber, Mary. "Everybody's 'Favorite Teacher' At Cal State L.A. Doesn't Intend to Become History Just Yet." Los Angeles Times. 1985. Web. 31 July 2020.

Bester, Joco. "More Than A Miracle." Sermon Central. 2013. Web. 29 July 2020.

Dawson, Gerrit Scott. "Recovering the Ascension For The Transformation of the Church." Theology Matters 2001: 1ff. Print.

Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 14–28. Vol. 33B. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1995. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.

Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. Vol. 9. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. Print. New Testament Commentary.

Jackson. "Facebook Post Inspires Michigan Mail Carrier to Give Kidney To Stranger." MLive. 2019. Web. 1 Aug. 2020.

Köster, Helmut. “Σπλάγχνον, Σπλαγχνίζομαι, Εὔσπλαγχνος, Πολύσπλαγχνος, Ἄσπλαγχνος.” Ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological dictionary of the New Testament 1964– : 548–559. Print.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Rushford, Greg. "What Is The Role Of The White House Chief Of Staff? - Dummies." dummies. 2012. Web. 1 Aug. 2020.

Thomas F. Torrance, A Passion for Christ, Lenoir: PLC Publications, 1999, p. 15


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