Sunday August 6, 2017 Sermon at St. Edmunds Church, Oslo
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Priest: Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew (Matthew 14:13-21 NRSV)
All: Glory to you, O Lord
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.
Priest: This is the Gospel of the Lord
All: Praise to you, O Christ
He Saw a Great Crowd, and Had Compassion for them
Our Gospel text today is a narrative of an event in which Jesus compassionately meets the needs of several thousands of people in a miraculous way. This miracle in which Jesus multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed about five thousand men (or about 10-15 thousand people in total) is one which has been recorded by all the evangelists in the four Gospel accounts (see Mk. 6:31–44; Lk. 9:10–17; Jn. 6:1–13). After Herod Antipas killed John the Baptist, Jesus decided to withdraw to Tiberius through the sea of Galilee together with his disciples. This was a deserted place by the mountain where not so many people lived. A Great Crowd from the surrounding villages and towns followed him by the land and soon joined Jesus.
When he saw a great crowd, he had compassion on them and healed the sick. The day was about to end, the sun was going down, soon it would be getting dark and there were only five loaves and two fish just enough for Jesus and the disciples. So, the crowds had no food. They might get rowdy because of hunger and it needed a six months’ wage to feed the crowd, which the disciples didn’t have. So, they requested the Lord Jesus to disperse the crowd such that they may go and find food by themselves.
Note, the place was a deserted one, the surrounding places might not even have enough food for the crowds even if they had money to buy. The Lord Jesus said to his disciples; “They need not to go hungry, give them something to eat.” Jesus knew there wasn’t enough food, John records that he said this thing to test the disciples. The disciples were only able to avail five loaves and two fish. Jesus asked the crowd to sit down, got the loaves and fish and blessed them. He then gave them to his disciples to distribute to the crowd. The crowds ate and were filled, twelve baskets full of food were left over. Here, we see;
Jesus’ compassion on the crowd demonstrate God’s compassion to mankind. God is all compassionate, the scripture testifies; “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:8-9). The word compassion here means “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering” (Kenneth Sauer).
Compassion is ““a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering” (Kenneth Sauer).
Jesus’ ministry had been a compassion ministry. He is seen being compassionate in supporting the weak, compassionate in healing the sick, compassionate in comforting the bereaved, compassionate in feeding the hungry, compassionate in bearing our burden, and compassionate in seeking the lost. This model of ministry is what Christ has left for the church—as an institution and as individual members of the body of Christ. To support the weak, feed the hungry, comfort the brokenhearted, heal the sick, bear each other’s burden and most importantly to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to the seemingly lost world.
By his compassion, we are healed, not just of physical infirmities, but from our spiritual sicknesses. Mankind has fallen short of the glory of God, Jesus came to restore us back to God, he therefore compassionately heals us from all unrighteousness. In our today’s epistle reading, we see Paul, who elsewhere testifies that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim. 1:15) would like to see his people healed spiritually. He would rather be cut off from Christ than his people being out of Christ.
By his compassion, we are fed, not only just by food which satisfies our stomach, but also by the Gospel which is food to our soul. We need the Gospel (word of God) as much as our daily bread—for man does not live on bread alone but by every word which comes from God. In this passage, I am always struck by Jesus’ statement, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Historically, the Lord God has always provided for his people. He provided mana and quail in the desert when the Israelites needed something to eat, he provided them water to drink.
Here, Jesus fed the five thousand men, in another episode he fed another four thousand. He, in the Lord’s prayer has thought us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” We can trust him for our cares. His provisions are always sufficient—here the twelve baskets of leftover food weren’t just a waste but a prove of the Messiahship of Christ that he ably provides for all Israel (the 12 tribes).
The feeding of the five thousand is also a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. The banquet of the kingdom of God is here contrasted by a messy banquet of an earthly kingdom in the preceding passage where Herod Antipas celebrated his birthday. Isaiah foresaw the heavenly banquet long ago, he wrote:
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Is. 25:6).
Jesus fed the five thousand on a day when the Passover was approaching. Similarly, sitting with his disciples, on Maundy Thursday, a day before the Passover meal was eaten, the LORD Jesus instituted a banquet in what we now celebrate as the Eucharist.
Jesus, the king of the kingdom has declared; “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn. 6:35). And, he gives an open invitation to everyone saying; “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’” (Jn. 7:37-38).
Every Sunday here at St. Edmunds, we gather to break bread and drink wine—which is the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus hosts us for this feast and, we do this in remembrance of his dying for us. But time is coming when all who believe in him will dine with him in a royal banquet. I am highly anticipating that day, are you? Amen! Rev. J
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture Quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV) 2011.
Rev. Julius Izza Tabi is the founding Director of this online New Dawn Ministries. He holds a Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues from the Norwegian School of Theology. Julius also is a pastor in the Anglican Diocese of Ma’di and West Nile of the Church of Uganda who believes that God’s timeless truth of salvation must be preached to all Nations. Help Donate here to support the New Dawn Ministries. You can also support this ministry by purchasing Julius’ popular books Triumphing Over Odds and Suffering and Pain? from Amazon. Thank you.