Hi, my name is Matt. I am a student here in Sheffield and have been a member of STC for 3 years. The passage we will be going through today is found in the gospel of Matthew 14:1-21. And I would love to focus on the interaction between Jesus and his disciples in verses 15-18 in the middle of the story of the feeding of the 5000. This passage is in a well known story of the Bible, and the miracle itself, however incomprehensible it may seem to us, lets us see some of Jesus’ character. I think it’s important to remember that every miracle we see has a purpose and is not for show – no matter how cool it is. And this one is pretty cool.
We pick up the story in the middle of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life. Halfway through, we have seen Jesus come to meet with lots of different people and how they interact with him very differently. Initially in the book, in chapter 1-4 we see his lineage and upbringing, then it comes to a section of his rich teaching from chapter 5 -7 in the Sermon on the Mount. This is then followed by his interactions with various different people from healing the sick, calming the storm and answering their questions in chapters 8-9.
Intertwined within these 3 sections are stories of different disciples being called and we hear of the following Jesus is starting to accrue. Up to this point the disciples have very much lived up to their name as followers of Jesus. They have been watching, hearing and asking. Then in chapter 10 we see that Jesus has been preparing them for this moment as he sends out the 12. No longer are they to be followers but apostles too.
Fast forward through Jesus’ parables and that lands us here in chapter 14. In the first part you will hear of the sad story of John the Baptist being beheaded for standing up against Herod’s immoral relationship. Jesus’ response is to find a solitary place – so what happens? The masses come to find him. Come to see the great teacher. We will pick up the story here at verse 15 :
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.”
The disciples know the score. It’s late there are thousands of people and they need to go home for some food. They see the problem and come up with a solution – and it all makes sense.
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
But then Jesus throws a spanner in the works, you can almost feel the disciples turn round to look at him and say “what?”. “That was never part of the agreement”, or “We can’t afford that”. “Jesus is supposed to be the Messiah, the chosen one, God incarnate.” I find this so interesting that not only does God chose to use the disciples, but he asks for them to find a solution for the problem.
Not one that makes sense, not one that’s just clever. Again you can imagine the disciples stressed on how to supply such vast amounts of food. You know that feeling, right?
But for all the stick the disciples usually get for missing out on what Jesus is actually saying, this is the crazy part. I personally think it is one of the main reasons Jesus chose them as his disciples. They tried and kept trying. They keep asking questions when they don’t understand. So they went around asked for food. They thought “I don’t know what I am doing but Jesus said “that they don’t need to go away”. So I am going to search for food I guess.”.
I love to see how Jesus gives opportunity for the disciples to grow in their faith and leadership. As they start to move into a more active ministry to put into practice all they have seen Jesus do. But what do they come back with:
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said.
Jesus knew what was going to happen. But he wants to use this miracle for growth, faith and salvation. The disciples have done all they can and brought it before Jesus. I think that is the most important part – bringing it to Jesus. How many times have we seen problems in our life and called out to God?
Or probably closer to my heart given God my solution for the problem. I am in that process of trying to decide what to do after I graduate from uni. And if I am honest I have no clue. I see the problem and there are so many solutions that would work, that would make sense. But I keep coming back to this. To what I know, which is life is so much better when I am living in the will of what Jesus has in store for my life. My experiences have told me that all too many times. So what should we do?
Come back to Jesus but he might not respond miraculously, he might start with a question or with a challenge “you find them something to eat”. “What are you doing about the problem?”. As his disciples we have to try and research and listen. I have heard many friends wait for Gods miraculous door to swing open – and by his grace it does happen, but not always. And I hope not due to our demanding or ill preparation.
It is not simple but vital to come up with answers by actively asking God for them, whilst trying to search for the answers too. If we emphasise too much on either of these, then are we really asking Jesus for the answers? More likely we are demanding or neglecting his role.
So what do you relate more with? What is Jesus saying to you? Is he gently pulling you back to sit in in this tension searching and asking?
Jesus you know everyone who is here listening. Would you help us to come to you with our problems but also to see our role in the solution. Teach us patience in the waiting and humility in the trying. And be with us today I pray.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 14:1-21
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’
Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.
On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me here on a dish the head of John the Baptist.’ The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.
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 those who were ill.
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 that 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 told 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.