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Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21 (NIV)
- Hymn CW 708 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
- Hymn CW 603:1,3,4,5 “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above”
- Hymn CW 517:1,3 “Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness”
- Hymn CW 509 “Feed Your Children, God Most Holy”
August 6, 2023 Matthew 14:13-21 Pastor Wolfe
The Christian trusts that God will provide
Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 might be his most well-known miracle. In fact, outside of his own resurrection, it’s the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John. Maybe people don’t know or remember the details, but they understand it’s an incredible thing. A crowd of thousands (5000 men PLUS women and children) fed by Jesus using just a boy’s lunch. No doubt, it is one of Jesus’ greatest miracles, and it fits perfectly with our theme of God’s providing what we need. But before we look at what God provides (and how well he does it) there’s something else we need to see here first. Listen again to the beginning of the text: “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.” What Jesus had heard, was that John the Baptist had been beheaded by King Herod. Jesus had gone to this remote location on the Sea of Galilee to be alone with his disciples and pray. On top of that, Jesus had been so busy healing and teaching that his disciples had no time to study and learn from him themselves. So how do you think Jesus felt then when he saw the shoreline filled with people? If you’ve ever been called in to work on your day off, or got home after a long day only to be handed a “honey do” list, then you know how Jesus felt. Most of us would have told Peter to keep on sailing! But that’s not what Jesus did. All the Gospels talk about Jesus’ compassion, but Mark adds a little more: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Instead of anger and resentment, Jesus looked at the people and felt sorry for them. A crowd of desperate people. Thousands of them, many of them sick. Every one of them looking for something from him. Despite that, Luke tells us that Jesus welcomed them. That’s the first thing we need to learn about how God provides for his people. It’s not driven by our worthiness to receive anything, but by his pure compassion and grace. When Jesus looks at us he sees people to care for, the way a shepherd cares for a lamb in distress. That means we can always trust that God will provide for us, even when no one else will. When those who call themselves friends talk more about you behind your back than offer encouragement to you. When the family you love causes more hurt than help. Sadly, it’s even true of people in the church sometimes. Maybe you’re new to the “church” thing. You thought you would come here and find people at their best but instead found a group of people who say one thing and do another just like everyone else. Sinners just like the rest. Even we pastors get cranky sometimes and would rather not answer the phone because we just want some peace and quiet.
How extraordinary then, miraculous even, that Jesus is not like us! His love for you is perfect and constant. His love doesn’t keep office hours. He welcomes sinners like us and like that crowd in Galilee. And what did Jesus do for them? Everything! Matthew tells us Jesus healed their sick. Luke records that Jesus spent the day teaching them about the kingdom of God. Finish this sentence: “I need…blank.” Take a second. We have a lot of needs. We want Jesus to fix our marriage. To make our bodies prettier or stronger or healthier. To make school easy. To make our jobs more stable.
To be sure, Jesus provides those things that we need for this life, and we’ll get to that in a minute, but the best thing Jesus provides for us is the truth. The truth about life and death, sin and grace, heaven and hell. Too often we disregard this first essential thing that we need Jesus to provide. What Jesus wants for you above all is to take you to heaven with him. It’s what he wanted for that desperate crowd, so he taught them that their problems went beyond illness and hunger, or loneliness or want. They were truly and eternally separated from God by their disobedience and hard hearts. We hear it in worship. Jesus teaches us in his word that our sins are a problem.
But if you think back to that crowd of sinners in our text, they had one thing going for them. They were eager to see Jesus. Not even a 7-mile journey on foot through the desert wilderness had kept them away from him. They knew where to go to find him and they went. The same way you knew where to find Jesus and came to him tonight. Before there was any special seating, any miraculous feeding, Jesus was already providing the people what they needed. Salvation. And not just telling them about salvation, but winning it. A perfect life. An innocent death. Jesus surely explained to
that crowd that God demands payment for sin, but that God forgives the sin of all who trust in him. The kingdom of God was near indeed! And Jesus teaches us even more as he we hear in Scripture about the cross where it happened and Easter’s tomb that proved it. Fellow Christians, on a weekend where we’re talking about God providing for us, let’s not forget that he’s provided the thing we need most of all. A home in heaven, assured by his sacrifice that brings us forgiveness. Anything else God gives – well that’s just icing on the cake.
The miracle at Galilee does show us how well Jesus provides though. John records that as Jesus saw the crowd coming towards him, he casually asked a disciple named Philip: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” John also records that Jesus already knew what he was going to do – he was giving Philip a chance to show his trust. Maybe it’s not obvious but here’s another reason we can trust that Jesus will provide what we need. He not only loves us; he knows what we need even before we do. Even right now Jesus knows what you need. Whatever you said to yourself when I asked you earlier – A companion? A job? A vacation? Jesus already knows even better than you do what you need, and he will give it – at the right time. This is why part
of the definition of a Christian is one who trusts that God provides what we need, not one who demands that God provides what we need. Someone once said: “God prefers to develop our character, not our comfort; he seeks to perfect, not pamper.” So if your life seems like one emergency after another or if you’re not sure how you’re going to make it to the next day, much less the next payday, know that it isn’t because God isn’t watching. He gives us the things we truly need, not the things we think we need.
Back in Galilee, as evening approached, the disciples urged Jesus to send the crowds back to the villages to buy food. Their attitude was “Don’t bother the Master and us.” But Jesus said: “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Philip had been thinking about it all day and answered, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Andrew, Peter’s brother, at least went looking for food but reported, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” As far as Philip and Andrew could figure, there was no way to feed the crowd. They had counted their resources and it just didn’t add up.
What they missed in their count, though, was Jesus. They forgot what they had already seen. At the wedding in Cana, Jesus took gallons of water and multiplied it into gallons of wine. If he could do it there, he could do it here. And that’s what Jesus did. In all the Gospel accounts of the miracle, the feeding itself is extraordinarily simple. Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to God for it, broke it and then gave it to the disciples. Then they passed it out to the people. The people ate until they had enough, and when everyone was done the disciples collected the leftovers and found twelve basketfuls of bread left over.
So what do we learn today from this familiar miracle? Can we trust Jesus to provide what we need? Yes! In fact he gives us so much more than just the bare necessities. Pastor Enter’s sermon last week was a great reminder of how much more God gives than we actually need. But what about those who truly don’t have what they need for life? Those who are starving or abused or in danger? Doesn’t Jesus care about them? Doesn’t he provide for them? Of course he does.
But you need to see one more part of this text. Verse 19, “he gave them to the disciples and the disciples gave them to the people.” Most often, God provides for those in need using the hands of his people. It was the disciples who actually handed out the bread Jesus gave. And so we are called to give out what he gives to us too. We share our earthly blessings of wealth and health, as we love our neighbors the way God loved us, helping in every way that we can. But also our spiritual blessings, taking the faith and hope our Savior gives and sharing that with others too.
But this miracle isn’t primarily about us – it’s about Jesus. Who he is and how he provides for us. Whatever your need is, my prayer is that you realize it is Jesus who will provide for that need. Big or small, physical or spiritual – every blessing comes from him. Here on the shores of Galilee we see that Jesus cares enough. That he is powerful enough. And he is wise enough to give us just what we need. Leave today feeling fully satisfied, blessed in faith and life. Christians, trust that God will provide for our every need. Amen.