Sermon, The Nineth Sunday after Pentecost, August 2, 2020
(Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7,16; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21)
“Feed Them: Do something with what you have”
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The arrest and beheading of John the Baptist ended John’s ministryand signaled the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. John ushered in Jesusby asking his followers to repent through his sermons although his confrontational style to Herod got himself an unfortunate and disgraceful death. Jesus received the news of John the Baptists’ death when he was in Capernaum, the home village of Peter, John, Andrew and James.
As a result, Jesus withdrew from perceived danger of being arrested and possible death before his designated time, place and method, (the cross). Prior to taking a recess to an undisclosed place, he dismissed the crowd and his disciples to have time for himself although they caught up with him later at Tabga, north of Capernaum along the sea of Galilee. Jesus healed the sick until when the disciples asked that the crowd be sent away for lack of food. Jesus had compassion for the crowd, and also wanted them to have a sign about his being though a miracle.
The dialogue which ensued between Jesus and the disciples is of great interest in whole sign (miracle) of the feeding of the multitude.“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.’ (Matthew 14:15). The disciples identified a great problem and devised easier means to deal with it, which was to just push it awayby getting it out of sight. Just send them away and all will be fine for the disciples.
Jesus pushed back by making the disciples to own the problem and forced them into doing something about it. “He said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16) Jesus knew what he was going to do and used his authority to order his disciples to work with him. The disciples responded with another problem that there was not enough food but five loaves and two fish. All the disciples saw was scarcity not abundance of the blessings from God through Jesus.
“Bring them here to me” he said and sit the people. Bring me what you have and let me work with it for the good of all and the glory of God. He looked up to heaven, blessed, broke and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to distribute to the hungry crowd. Please take note that Jesus repeats the same pattern on Maundy Thursday whenhe instituted the holy Eucharist (our spiritual nourishment). Jesus wanted his disciples to do their part and leave the rest to him to complete. The crowd ate to their fill and twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered. Abundancy!
We are the present-day disciples who are facing the needs and challenges of society. We can’t just look but use what we have to help. The disciples surrendered five loaves and two fish which was probably enough for their lunch. You attain virtue only when you give what you value most for the purpose of God and the good of others.
In the movie “The other Pair”, the important quote is that, “you will not attain virtuous conduct until you give of what you cherish”. The movie features a scene where a poor boy with a broken sandal was chasing a train to help a rich boy whose shiny shoe fell while boarding the train. However, it was powerful when the rich boy on a moving train removed the only shoe he had left and threw it to the poor boy in response. He gave what he cherished most.
In the previous weeks, we have read about the images of the kingdom of God, the sower, yeast, mustard seed, large catch of fish, treasure and pearl of great price. The miraculous feeding of the five thousand takes us back to the parable of the mustard seed in which Jesus addressed multiplication and growth of God’s provision and grace.
Jesus taught his hearers about not focusing on the inadequacy rather than abundancy. The emphasis is to surrender and place what we have in the hands of God who accepts and blesses us beyond our expectations. It is then that we glorify God, the source of all things.Let us give it up for Jesus who pays attention to our physical needs and deeper human hunger which can’t be satisfied by bread and fishbut with his redemptive act. Amen.