Super-Size Your Faith (Matthew 14:13-21)
I know you might find this hard to believe, but I really enjoy eating.
I mentioned some time ago that when I was a junior in high school, I was privileged to go to Denver, Colorado, on a school trip with DECA. When we arrived in Denver, our teachers pulled out a big wad of money, and they announced that the Rotary Club had donated money so we could eat at The Broker Restaurant while we were in town.
I don’t believe that before or sense that I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant as unique as The Broker. The Broker once housed the Denver National Bank, and while some things had obviously been changed to make the building a restaurant, the building is fairly much as it was as a bank over a hundred years ago. My group ate in one of the old vaults, and it was very obvious that we were down in an old bank vault.
I remember after all these years that I ordered the filet mignon. I don’t remember the price tag, but I remember thinking it was very expensive. But, what I really remember was the atmosphere, so unique.
As we were driving to church on Sunday evening when we were in Williamsburg, the four of us were talking about where we wanted to eat supper. As we were talking, I instantly thought I would try to rectify one of the major problems with living in Roanoke. The GPS said that I could. We get in the car after worship, and I’m the only one who has any idea where we’re going. We pull into Chili’s and every face lights up. I don’t like chicken as a general rule, but the chicken crispers at Chili’s are to die for, in my opinion.
You probably like to eat, too. That’s a good thing because there’s a potluck this morning! I’ve eaten with a good group of you either in a restaurant or in my home or yours and you like to eat. Rebecca and I are so grateful when you leave goodies here after a potluck.
In this morning’s text, we read about a potluck of sorts.
No, people didn’t bring anything and share with each other like we’ll do this morning. In fact, there was only a “lad” with five barley loaves and two small fish (Jn 6:9). As you can imagine bread and fish were the staples of the Palestinian diet in the days of Jesus; meat was quite expensive, and you only ate meat at special occasions.
Jesus, out of great compassion, feeds a multitude in this morning’s text. Matthew tells us that the Lord fed “about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Therefore, it’s very difficult to know how many people Jesus fed on this occasion. Matthew uses that pesky word “about” here—Did Jesus feed more or less than 5,000? What does Matthew mean by “about”? It’s generally believed, however, that Jesus fed somewhere between 10 and 20 thousand on this occasion.
This act demonstrates that Jesus is the King of the Jews. Every part of Matthew’s Gospel proclaims Jesus’ kingship; this Gospel is a very masterful piece of literature that stays on target and makes a single point.
This section shows that Jesus is a benevolent King who cares for His subjects. Chapter 14 opens with a feast being given by King Herod; there is great physical lust and John the Baptist pays a great price for it.
Jesus also has a feast. Instead of killing, Jesus heals. Instead of commanding the head of John the Baptist, Jesus commands the multitudes to sit that He might feed them.
As Jesus feeds the multitudes, He demonstrates His power over nature—He’ll do that again in this chapter when He heals and when He walks on the water and calms the storm. Jesus teaches His disciples an important lesson. He teaches them: “You can super-size your faith because you serve a ‘BIG’ Jesus.”
Scripture (Matthew 14:13-21)
“When Jesus heard it”: the death of John the Baptist—John’s disciples told Jesus after they had buried John.
Jesus left to go off by Himself. He is in deep grief—a member of His physical family and His forerunner has been killed. While Jesus goes to get away, the multitudes somehow hear where Jesus is going, and they get there on foot before Him.
Jesus sees the multitude, has great compassion for them, and healed their sick.
The Lord is physically and mentally exhausted, but His love prompts Him to serve. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34). I know the context of John 13 is disciples loving disciples, but think of how Jesus loved sacrificially, and how He calls us to love in the same way.
He served according to the needs of others. The Lord really needed some rest; He needed some “downtime.” However, He saw a great need in the lives of the multitudes, and He served.
The disciples urge Jesus to send the multitudes away that they might be able to go away and buy themselves some food.
There were several towns within walking distance where the folks could have gone and bought their own food.
Jesus told the disciples that they needed to feed the crowd. By Jewish custom, it wasn’t the responsibility of the teacher to provide food for his students. Yet, we all know that Jesus is going to do that very thing.
Can you imagine the look on the disciples’ faces? I dare say that if I came home and told Tammy that we were getting ready to feed 20,000 people, she’d probably hit me upside the head with a frying pan to get some sense into me, and if that didn’t work, she’d call those nice men with white coats to come and get me.
Why would Jesus tell the disciples to do something that could not be done? Exactly because it could not be done—Jesus is trying to demonstrate to the disciples their inadequacy for the task at hand.
Jesus is going to instruct the disciples to do many things that they could not do. He’ll tell them to go into all the world with the gospel . . . He’ll tell them to speak the truth in His name . . . He’ll tell them to lay down their lives for His cause. How did the apostles do precisely what I’ve just said they couldn’t do? The power of God was upon them! Jesus is about to teach the disciples in a big way that His power makes up for all their inadequacies.
Jesus had everyone to sit down, He blessed the food, and has His disciples distribute the food.
The people ate until they were full, and the disciples gather up the leftovers in 12 large baskets. There is some evidence that traveling Jews often carried baskets with them; therefore, the baskets may actually belong to the disciples.
I love that Jesus has the disciples distribute the food and gather up the leftovers. What an object lesson to involve them in what Jesus did!
“You can super-size your faith because you serve a ‘BIG’ Jesus.” Jesus needed to teach His disciples that lesson so that they could go forth with His message. We need to learn that message in order that we might be busy in the Lord’s work today. How does this text help us in modern ministry?
Understand your inadequacies.
The disciples learned their inadequacies on this day. They come to Jesus and say, “We need to send these folks to buy food.” Jesus says, “No, we don’t. You feed them.” The disciples could never have fed 15,000 to 20,000 people with the seven items they had. Only the power of God could allow them to do so.
I would like to see you make a list of things that make you feel inadequate. Is it teaching Bible class? Is it speaking to someone after a loved one has passed away? Is it praying in public? Is it teaching a neighbor the Gospel?
I fully understand that we have different talents—e.g., the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30)—however, do we always feel adequate for the tasks for which we are talented? Moses didn’t feel adequate to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Jeremiah told the Lord that because he was a youth that there was absolutely no way for him to be a prophet.
After Peter and John are beaten in Acts 4, it seems that the Apostles were at least concerned that they may not be adequate for the task in front of them; they pray: “Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29). Since they prayed for boldness, it seems to me that they were at least concerned they might not have ample boldness.
Pray about your inadequacies.
The Lord has promised to answer our prayers according to His will. “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (Jn 14:14). “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 Jn 5:14).
In each of the examples we used earlier, the Lord took care of the inadequacies because He was asked to do so. The Lord gave Moses a spokesman in his brother Aaron. The Lord told Jeremiah that he would speak the words God gave him, and that the Lord would be with him—Jeremiah had no reason to be afraid of threats. When the apostles prayed for boldness, “the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
Act on your inadequacies.
I’d like to see you minister in some way this week that causes you to feel inadequate. Vacation Bible School is this coming weekend. Joe has all the teaching slots filled, but maybe you could help with a class. Maybe you could tell A.W. that you’d be willing to lead a prayer. Maybe you’d tell Shawn that you’d like to try your hand at teaching.
Step out of your comfort zone and act.
Trust God’s power to overcome your inadequacies.
As Jesus fed the 20,000 or so folks in this narrative, the disciples would learn to rely on Jesus’ strength in a big way.
There are times in my ministry that I need to rely on God’s power because I am so inadequate. I was once awakened at two in the morning because the son of a church member shot himself during an ill-conceived game of Russian roulette. What do you say when the father grabs you with tears running down his cheeks and says, “Preacher, pray for my boy”? What do I say to a deacon who has just resigned because his wife had moved in with another man? What could I say to the 25-year-old widow who lost her husband because OSHA standards weren’t being met at the coalmine? What do you tell her to say to her two small kids? What do you say at the funeral of someone who has, according to Scripture, left this world damned to hell for all eternity?
God can strengthen our inadequacies. As Paul prayed that his “thorn in the flesh” would be removed, the Lord answered and said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Ephesians 3:20-21. Paul, writing in a context of material need, writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). No one was willing to be with Paul during his first trial, “[b]ut the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Tim 4:17).
Will you allow God to strengthen your inadequacies?