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Worship Series: Summer School - Lessons from Jesus
Worship Theme: The Feeding of the 5000
Lesson: Genesis 41:41-49 (EHV)
Gospel & Sermon Text: Matthew 14:13-21 (NIV)
Music: Lord, Have Mercy, CW 339 Today Your Mercy Calls Us, CW 332 Go, My Children, with My Blessing (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: Does Jesus Really Care About My Physical Well Being?
So I did a Google search this week on the Top Ten Bible Stories Non-Christians Know. I spent a significant amount of time researching this—about 2 minutes so you know it can be trusted! Noah’s Ark was on every list. Jonah and the Whale was on one list but not on others. Same with Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors. I was surprised that one made any list. What didn’t surprise me was every Top Ten List noted Jesus Feeding the 5,000 as one of the Bible stories that non-Christians know. That means you know it well.
That’s good. There are so, so many truths about Jesus in this account, about God wrapped in human flesh that give peace, comfort and confidence. I want you, though, to hear this story with fresh ears, as if you never heard it before. I hope to teach you truths about this story you may not have noticed to open up new peace, new comfort and new confidence to your heart!
Jesus is in the far northern part of his ministry area on the northwest side of the sea of Galilee near Capernaum. Each time Jesus was in Jerusalem, he was open to the plots and sadistic plans of the Pharisees. He would celebrate those festivals, preach and teach, then make his way back up to Galilee.
While Jesus was safely back in Capernaum, John the Baptist was killed by King Herod. John had stood up to Herod who stole his brother’s wife as his own. John said, “Oh no you didn’t!” to King Herod. (I’m paraphrasing.) King Herod’s fake, false, fraudulent wife had John murdered. Then our text.
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13) Jesus shut down his preaching. Jesus shut down his teaching. Jesus shut down his on the job mentorship training of his disciples. His cousin, his friend, his forerunner announcing Jesus—being “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”—to the world...was dead. Jesus withdrew. Don’t speed read over this. The plan of salvation just got real. The timeframe of Jesus going to the cross as the Lamb of God to be sacrificed just got real; it just got closer. His heart is heavy. His body exhausted. His time is coming soon.
But there’s no time for rest. Here’s the rest of our first verse. “Hearing of this, (where Jesus was) the crowds followed him on foot.” The chapters before this reveal Christ intensely preaching to the masses. Most preachers take a Sunday afternoon nap. We just preach the weekends. Jesus constantly preached and dodged the Pharisees’ death traps. He was emotionally beat from John’s murder. He was wiped. All Jesus wanted was time off.
Ah, but right here we get the answer to today’s sermon theme question. DOES JESUS REALLY CARE ABOUT MY PHYSICAL WELL BEING? “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (vs 14) “Large crowd” is an understatement! Later in the chapter we learn there were 5,000 men “besides women and children”, 5,000 men plus. I’ll explain why men were counted differently near the end of the sermon. Hold on for that!
Jesus had “compassion” on them. Compassion. That’s a beautiful word. If someone asked you to define compassion, how would you? Jesus had compassion on the crowd. Simply put, compassion is love in action. To see a need and be so heart driven that you won’t stop, you can’t stop until that need is satisfied. Compassion. That’s what Jesus’ heart had for the crowd.
That compassion, that love in action, is what Jesus has for you! “Yeah, but it says Jesus ‘healed their sick’. Where is that for me?” It’s happening all the time! Your physical body, designed by God, renewed by God, is constantly healing itself. With no conscious effort of your own, God designed each cell in your body as a dynamic, living unit constantly monitoring and adjusting itself to make itself healthy. When it can’t, over 50,000 cells in your body die daily, they’re replaced by healthier, new cells. Jesus cares about your physical well-being in how he designed you!
Yes, there are times we get sick in ways our body can’t heal itself. That doesn’t mean God is powerless to do something. There are hundreds of thousands of documented cases of medical professionals who say, “We don’t know how you got better.” They won’t call it a miracle. But we know it is! Jesus, the Great Physician, has power over not just the soul but also the body. But what about when someone dies? And if cancer or a terminal illness results in death, Jesus is still the Great Physician over the physical body which he will raise to life on the Last Day. If Jesus didn’t care about us physically, he wouldn’t raise our bodies physically on Judgement Day.
Jesus is Lord over your body and soul! Ruthe Pautz, a dear friend, said to me when she was battling cancer, “Well Pastor, when it comes to this cancer, I’m either going to get better or I’m going to get perfect.” Meaning if she died she would be glorified in heaven. That was five years ago and Ruthe is alive and well living in Florida! Oh how Jesus deeply cares for us!
Jesus displayed that care, that compassion as he saw the weakened, wearied crowd who had traveled to a remote side of the Sea of Galilee to hear Jesus preach. They were so excited to be in the presence of Christ, they didn’t think ahead to prepare and pack food. After traveling miles on foot to get to Jesus, after sitting out in the hot searing sun hearing him preach and teach and seeing him heal for hours, they were famished, exhausted.
So were the disciples. “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.’” (vs. 15) The disciples wisely saw a problem. Five thousand hungry men plus women and children. Scholars estimate this crowd was 20,000+ people. Rather than dealing with the problem of the people’s physical needs, the disciples wanted to get rid of it. They were done. “Send the crowds away.” I don’t blame them. The logistics were impossible. They didn’t have enough food. There was no place to get food. If word got out that people starved and died being at a Jesus rally, that would be way bad for PR.
I love Jesus’ reply. “You give them something to eat.” (vs. 16) “Um, what Jesus? Us? You want us to feed 5,000 plus?! Jesus, we just want to go home!” John tells us in his gospel account Jesus said this “only to test [them], for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” (John 6:6) What’s the test? Think about it. What’s the test? It’s the same test you have at random times, in random ways. How am I going to get through this? How are ends going to meet? How will this work out?
“YOU give them something to eat.” (vs. 16) What Jesus said, Jesus meant but all they had was a boy’s happy meal lunch of five small barley loaves (barley bread = bread of poor people) and two small fish. Emphasis on SMALL. That was enough for a small boy. Not even enough for the twelve disciples to have their fill. That’s insulting to give that to 5,000 “Hangry” (hungry-angry) men plus women and children when they’re starving.
But remember, this was a test. Jesus was testing the disciples to get to work relying on God. They gave Jesus the bread and fish. He prayed. He blessed it. He ripped it in half giving half to each disciple. There are 14 halves and 12 disciples. A leftover half of bread for Jesus and a half a fish for Jesus. Imagine being Peter. You have HALF of a SMALL piece of bread. You walk to the first group of fifty hungry people. Those people knew Jesus was about to do something big. But all you have is half of a small dinner roll to feed them. “Here. Take a little. A little! Take a little. Take a little. A nibble. A tiny nibble!” It runs out. 17 of the 50 got a little nibble. You go back to Jesus to complain it’s all out. But before you can open your mouth, he smiles a knowing—compassionate, I’ve got this, just trust me to bless this—Jesus smile and hands you another half piece of bread. What?!? You go back to number 18, 19, 20 and keep going. One nibble at a time. Another trip all the way back to Jesus and back out again. Over and over again. Then back to number 1, 2, 3 for another nibble. This would’ve taken HOURS! But it happened. Jesus was right. “YOU give them something to eat.” They did the work of bringing; Jesus did the work of blessing.
Jesus cares about your physical needs and he shows that by blessing your work, your effort. You do the work of bringing; Jesus does the work of blessing. It’s easy to complain, “But Jesus, couldn’t you just bless me a wee bit more!?” He blesses and provides in small ways but he provides. Jesus cares about your physical needs. He shows you that constantly in your life. You have what you need, not always what you want. But what you need.
Actually, you have more than you need. Did you know if you have a least a dollar in your pocket or purse, a least a dollar stored away in the bank, a home with doors that lock and food in your home that you won’t eat this week that means you are wealthier than 70% of the world! Oh how Jesus cares about your physical needs! But that’s not his main and only focus.
That’s what the people in our text were just about to figure out. After they got their fill of free fish and bread, the people didn’t see Jesus as their Savior. They saw him as their free lunch ticket and something more. John gives us this incite into his account of the Feeding of the 5,000. “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:15) Remember I told you I’d give an explanation why the 5,000 men were counted? 5,000 is the number of the Roman Legion fighting force. 5,000 men. The Israelites had a full Legion of fed up and fed full Jews to take on the Romans. They were in the northern reaches of the Jewish nation. By the time they marched to Jerusalem, that one legion of men would add another, and another, and another. 5,000 to 10,000 to 15,000 or more ready to fight the Romans. AND with Jesus they wouldn’t need to worry about one of the toughest parts of sustaining an army, the food rations. They had Jesus! PLUS, our text told us this happened just before the Passover Festival in Jerusalem. They were an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 MORE Jews in Jerusalem on top of everyone that lived there. This would work! They could overtake Rome!
But Jesus withdrew. That was not the plan. Jesus wanted something more than physical freedom for them; he came to give them spiritual freedom.
Another Passover Jesus did ride into Jerusalem, not with a legion of 5,000 men but on a donkey. The crowds that Palm Sunday again tried to make him king. Little did they know he was already King, King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The people wanted Jesus to fill their bellies; Jesus came to fill their souls. And he did by being in the belly of the earth in death. God died. Jesus’ hunger for you, his desire to love you, is so great he willingly died so you might live. He had the power to feed 20,000+ people; he had the power to stop the cross from happening to him but Jesus used the cross the stop the devil from having power over you.
If he cares about you that much, if Jesus is willing to suffer the pain of the cross, separation from God we deserve and die trusting he would be raised from the dead...if Jesus was willing to do all that for you, then know, then trust, then have confidence he will give what you need. He will sustain you. He will provide your need. And often times, even more.
Does Jesus really care about your physical needs? All you need to do is look at the cross to see how he loves you! And when you do, you’ll notice all the ways he blesses you. Amen.