“When Your Grocery List Runs Short”
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
August 6, 2017
Matthew 14:13-21New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Feeding the Five Thousand
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Have you ever been to the grocery store, carrying a long, long list of items to prep for a dinner to conquer all dinners, completed shopping, driven home in the rain, taken all of the groceries inside, only to find you didn’t get a key ingredient for the meal you planned? Sometimes, we just miss something!
We have before us this morning one of the most popular stories in the NT–the only miracle that is found in all four gospels. It’s position in Matthew and Mark is interesting because it immediately follows the brutal death of John the Baptist.
Yet, it is strongly connected because according to Matthew, upon hearing of John the Baptist’s death, “he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” Jesus must have been experiencing tremendous grief, not only at his cousin’s death, but of the one who originally recognized Jesus’ special role.
Matthew reveals no details as to place, thought, or perspective except that he went (in the Greek, ‘retreated’) to a “deserted place.” You would think that would be acceptable and applicable for most people. But for Jesus, who was well into his ministry, popular by demand, and was followed by “the crowds” rather than left in solitude, he was bombarded by his followers.
Now, most of us would have “pitched a fit,” complained to our travel agent, asked for our money back, and Ubered to another location.
Not Jesus, for “when he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.” (v.14). Paradoxical at best! Jesus all the way!!
But then, Jesus had friends! Friends who were trying to look out for him and protect his solitude by suggesting that the crowds disperse, go by the Circle K and grab a snack on the way home. But Jesus would have none of it and instructed his disciples to feed them!
THEN THE KEY LINE: “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
I’m sure the disciples thought Jesus had flipped his lid! You have got to be kidding! We had planned on a dinner for 13 or so, not 5,000. I’m fairly certain their grocery list did not include an overabundance of items. I can see Peter and James looking over their list saying, “what did we forget? You’ve got to be kidding!”
Yet, the decisive element of this story is profound. It’s a narrative filled with compassion. Jesus vacated to a “deserted place” in order to be in solitude for his grief, the disciples attended to him in order to provide compassion, the 5,000 journeyed to seek and express compassion form the Messiah in a “deserted place.”
NOBODY CAME FOR DINNER!
When ordered to feed the masses, everyone understood the need and the desire of giving and serving in what would be the most unlikely of circumstances. Once they received, they were able to share with those who had gathered.
One of the unique parts of this story is that it doesn't end with the feeding of the masses. We read that when the masses had been fed and the miracle accomplished, there was more left over for each disciple to take more. The Greek word translates closely to “lunch boxes,” boxes that were “over filled almost to over-flowing” so each was reminded that God’s provisions (divine and human) were not just adequate but filled to overflowing even in a deserted place.
As seen in the Old Testament, so many analogies to food, the desert, and hierarchy of rulers we witness a counter-measure that Jesus brings to us in a meal that doesn’t matter if you forgot something on the grocery list, God is going to provide. The idea of the meal is seen throughout the Bible, in good ways and in bad ways (as we see in Herod’s killing of John the Baptist) but we ultimately see that God through Jesus offers a life-giving feast embodying the grace of an ever-present and abundant God.
Let us come to the Table of Our Lord this morning with a deep need to be compassionate to those around us and be touched by God’s deep abiding mercy in our lives. Come, let us keep the feast! AMEN & AMEN