Jesus Always Provides What We Need
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Jesus Always Provides What We Need
Text: Matthew 14:13-21
How have you felt one a loved one dies? A parent. A grandparent. A friend. Likely all of us have experienced it. Do you remember that moment when you received the news? Maybe you were even there when it happened. Your heart sank. The tears streamed down your cheek. You didn’t really want to talk or be out out and about. You just wanted quiet time with your close family and friends to reflect and regroup. Even Christians who know the joy of the resurrection feel sorrow when they lose a loved one.
Today the famous story in the gospel begins with these words: “When Jesus heard what had happened.” That’s not very helpful to you if you don’t know what had happened.
The situation was that evil king Herod the tetrarch was trying to please his girlfriend, who happened to be his brother’s wife. She and her daughter requested an execution. The prisoner was John the Baptist, a relative of Jesus and the special forerunner who prepared the way for Jesus. Here are the verses immediately before the gospel today: “[Herod] had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter 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.”
Now we understand the opening today. Verse 13: “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Jesus had just received the news that his family member, his friend, his forerunner had died in the most gruesome way. Jesus is divine, but he is also human. Just like he wept later on when his friend Lazarus died, so Jesus was saddened by this death. So he withdrew to have some alone time with his friends.
But what do we hear in the very next sentence? “Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.” By the time Jesus landed on the other side, there was a huge crowd of more than 5,000 people waiting for him. This wasn’t a crowd there to comfort and console him. They wanted stuff. They wanted his bold preaching. They wanted help. They wanted healing. They wanted miracles and signs and wonders. All Jesus wanted was some quiet, peace, and privacy. But what he got was a boisterous mob begging for help, “Jesus, help!” “Jesus, over here!” “Jesus, I need you.”
How would you react? “Disciples—pull up anchor. We’re going back across the sea.” Or, “Go away, people! Please, leave me alone! Don’t you know what happened? Don’t you know how I feel? Go away!” But how did Jesus react? Verses 14: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Jesus had just lost a friend. He wanted privacy and peace. But when he saw this crowd of people and their needs, he had compassion on them.
You might wonder how often we look like that clamoring crowd to our God. Sometimes we seem to be wandering aimlessly in life, like we don’t know what is going on and what we are doing. Problems and pains are at every turn. We’re sick. Then we’re hurt. Then we’re troubled. Then we’re sad. Then we feel helpless. We are such needy creatures. In this imperfect world of sin our imperfect lives of sin are so frail and fragile.
So we go back to Jesus again and again. “Jesus, help!” “Jesus, I’m here. I’ve followed you.” “Jesus, I need you.” If you approached your best friend or a family member that often—always needy, always wanting help—they would probably change their phone number and move without telling us.
But not Jesus. Not our loving Savior God. He looks at us and he has compassion. He’s never too busy for us. He’s never annoyed by us. He never sends us away. He welcomes us in compassion and Jesus Always Provides What We Need.
The crowd was finding that out about Jesus, but they were about to learn this truth in a way they and the the disciples would never forget. 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.”
It was a legitimate and logical request. How were all of these people going to eat? They were far from the local Publix. It was getting late. There were women and children in the crowd. Maybe Jesus should send them away now so that they could get food and so that Jesus could finally have that peace and privacy.
The response must have been shocking: “Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’” Have you ever wondered how Jesus said that? Do you think he was short and irritated with his dense disciples? Or do you think he said it with a smile on his face? We don’t know, but I like to think that Jesus said it with a kind smirk and smile on his face knowing that his disciples would be baffled by this one. And they were. “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.”
And though baffled, they should have caught on quickly. They had seen him heal people. They had seen him calm a raging storm. They had seen him provide before when he turned water into wine. But too simple because of sin and too dense because of doubt, they didn’t get it.
And we don’t usually, either. Food and water are two of the most basic needs of life. You can’t survive very long without eating and drinking. You really need food and drink every day. But when was the last time you had absolutely nothing to eat or drink on a day (other than when dieting)? Was there ever a time when you actually had absolutely nothing available to you to eat or drink?
Come to think of it, what about our other needs? Air to breathe. Shelter. Clothing. I know of no people in this congregation that has ever had to wander around without any kind of shelter or clothing. Even those that are homeless know there are places around that will give them food and clothing and shelter.
God has always given us what we need. But for some reason we don’t always trust that he will do that. As soon as we have money problems we begin to worry. We instantly imagine the worst case scenario as we imagine that we can’t pay our bills so we might lose our house and then we’ll be out on the streets and then we’ll have nowhere to go and nothing to eat and my family won’t survive and we’re all going to die!
It is so hard for frail sinners to realize that we pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” and God has never failed in his compassion to provide for our needs—even when we forget to ask or even when the odds seem against us. Jesus Always Provides What We Need.
The disciples were forgetting this, but Jesus was about to give them a huge reminder. “Bring them here to me,” Jesus said about the five loaves of bread and two fish. “And he directed 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.” It was a visual reminder amid all this chaos where every good and perfect gift comes from.
“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.”
Those of you who know me fairly well know that I can put down a good amount of food. My son eats like a horse, too. I’m pretty sure our whole family could polish off five loaves of bread and two fish in one sitting. I’m also pretty sure that five loaves of bread and two fish would fit in one or two baskets to begin with.
What would you think if you were a disciple serving that day? There were less pieces of food—five loaves and two fish—then there were disciples. You start handing it out, breaking off pieces. You break off more and more. You keep handing it out over and over. We might think of our kids carnival where we serve food to almost 5,000 and the lines are hundreds of feet long.
But these people weren’t having a few nibbles of fish and few crumbs of bread. It says, “They all ate and were satisfied.” They were completely full. More than 5,000 people—maybe 10,000 counting women and children—were completely full from food that my family could eat. And not only that, as the disciples made their rounds, they started collecting leftovers. And not only that, they collected more basketfuls at the end than they would have started with!
We experience the same thing so often. Maybe you haven’t seen the instant miracle like this. But God certainly provides in nearly miraculous ways. If you’ve ever done spring cleaning or had a garage sale, then you know what I’m talking about. You do an inventory of all the things in your closet or your garage or your storage or your refrigerator or your freezer and suddenly it strikes you, “I can’t believe I have all this stuff! Where did this all come from?”
But you know the answer. It comes from your gracious God. It comes from the Lord who looks on you in your needs, has compassion on you, and then showers you with more blessings than you can even stuff in your house and garage. A day like this for the disciples, and a story like this for us today reminds us that Jesus Always Provides What We Need.
There’s one more question to ask though: “Why?” Why did Jesus do this? Why didn’t Jesus send them away to grab a quick bite from Steak ’N’ Shake? It would have helped the local village economy to feed some 10,000 people. Why did Jesus multiply the loaves and fish? Why did Jesus even take time for them in the first place when he was trying to have some peace and quiet? We could keep going. Why did Jesus turn water into wine? Why did Jesus calm a dangerous storm? Why did Jesus heal people? Why?
Yes, Jesus had compassion on them and was revealing that he has the power to provide for their every need. It’s great to be some great philanthropist or humanitarian who dedicates his life to helping people. But Jesus was more than a Mother Theresa or a Gandhi. Jesus gave these people a glimpse of his power so that they could see his real purpose and his real power. Jesus was revealing to these people that he was the promised Messiah—the Savior.
He meant what he said when told the disciples, “[These people] do not need to go away.” They didn’t need to go and catch dinner. Those people needed to stay there and listen to the Savior preach about repentance and forgiveness through him.
And the disciples didn’t need to worry about how to feed this huge crowd. They needed to be shown by Jesus, passing out and collecting one crumb at a time, that they were disciples of the almighty God who had come to save his people from their sins.
This is the compassion that Jesus had for that crowd, for his disciples, and for us today. So great his is compassion and love that Jesus Always Provides What We Need. But Jesus doesn’t only provide what we physically need. Most importantly, Jesus always provides for our spiritual needs.
When crawl to him in humble repentance, covered in sin and guilt, Jesus washes you clean once more in his precious blood. When you come to him for love and mercy and forgiveness, Jesus shows you the healed wounds in his hands and feet. When you come to him for stronger faith, for greater hope, for peace that will fill your heart, Jesus shows you his empty tomb and promises you life with him forever.
Day after day Jesus provides what we need. He fills us up with his Word until we are full and satisfied. And then when we hunger for more love and more forgiveness, he even gives us his own body and blood in a Meal that feeds and nourishes our faith.
Today we are surprised, almost shocked and appalled, to see Jesus mobbed by this crowd when he was trying to find some peace and quiet after John the Baptist had died. That surprises us. But Jesus’ reaction does not. He saw these people and he had compassion.
It’s the same reaction he has toward us. He has compassion on us. He feeds us. He clothes us. He shelters us. He protects us. And while he does all this, in even greater compassion he hears us, he answers us, he loves us, he forgives us.
Today we see this miracle that some don’t understand and that most wouldn’t believe. But we do. We understand and we believe because we know that this is what Jesus does. Because Jesus has compassion for us, Jesus Always Provides What We Need.
Posted on August 29, 2014, in Church, Sermons and tagged 5000, Church, Daily Bread, Feeding of the 5000, Feeding of the Five Thousand, Five Thousand, God's Providence, Jesus, John the Baptist, Loaves and Fish, Matthew, Matthew 14, Needs, Provide, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.