Tag Archives: Matthew 14

Surprise Ending or Not?

Feeding of the 500 by artist Justino Magalona

About five thousand were fed. As soon as the meal was finished, Jesus insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. Matthew 14:21-22

The surprise finish to the feeding of the five thousand story is how the crowd reacted.  Or more accurately did not react.  After most miracles the crowd or disciples or religious officials reacted verbally to what they have seen. For example in Matthew 12 when Jesus healed a blind and mute man two reactions came forth:

 All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.”  Matthew 12:23-24.

 Yet there is no exclamation after feeding five thousand.  Is this because the disciples did the work of distributing the loaves and fishes and the people didn’t recognize Jesus’ participation?  Or is it because they didn’t see the wonder, assuming the disciples simply had access to lots of food? Or is bread and fish something that people just took for granted?

 I don’t know the answer, but it creates in me the desire to be more grateful for the food I eat and to look for opportunities to help feed others.  This Wednesday at noon  a group of us are going to help pack food for Feed My Starving Children in Eagan, MN.  And the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recently sent me an e-mail regarding the famine in the Horn of Africa.  Jesus still needs our hands and dollars to feed our hungry neighbor. 

 Maybe that is why there is no reaction; the story is not finished.  Only when all the people are feed will we stand in amazement at what God has done through his people.

 Lord Jesus, there are still hungry people in our world.  May you use my loaves and gifts, my dollars and cents, to feed those who need help.  And teach me the art of being grateful and gracious with the bountiful food you have given me.

Will it be Platter or Basket?

So often we read short sections of the Bible and thereby miss some of the obvious connections between the sections.  For example, I am preparing to preach on Matthew 14:13-21 in which Jesus feeds five thousand.   The story is in all four Gospels and is quite familiar to many Jesus followers.  What I had not really noticed before is the connection to the story prior to it in which John the Baptist is beheaded by King Herod (Matthew 14: 1-12).

"Salome asks for St. Johns' Head" by artist Bernardino Luini, 1510

John had ticked off King Herod when John confronted Herod’s of sin of marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias.  Herod had tried to spare John’s life while he was a “guest” in his prison. But when Herod held a huge birthday bash for himself, Herodias’ dancing daughter coerced the king into serving John’s head on a dining room platter.  How appetizing was that?  The lavish birthday party ends in blood and death.

Then we shift scenes to Jesus and his surprise party.   Instead of a palace feast, it is a deserted lake shore and the only dancing comes when the disciples try to find food for the crowd.  What started as an impromptu healing service turns into a glorious feast with food for all.  “And all ate and were filled” (Matthew 14:20). 

The Basket of Bread by Salvador Dali 1929

Twelve baskets of leftovers for the guests to carry home!  What a sharp contrast to Pilate’s party that ended with a burial and an empty platter.

Yet my guess is, if you or I had received an invitation to attend either the Celebrity Birthday Banquet or the uncertain camp out, we would have chosen the Banquet.   It is only with hind sight that we discover where the real party breaks out.  

How do we, as followers of Jesus, prepare the way for Jesus’ Spirit to break out in a fresh way among us?  How do we take what we have and fill the hungry with good things? Do we expect God’s miracles to be at work among us?

Lord Jesus, show us how to feast with you daily while feeding the hungry around us.