The Postscript – 1/7/18
Yesterday at Baltimore Bible Church Pastor George preached on the miracle found in Matthew 14:13-21.
Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.
This is the only one of Jesus’ miracles to be recorded in each of the four gospels. It comes on the heels of John the Baptist’s murder at the hands of Herod. Jesus had withdrawn to a secluded place to grieve the loss of his cousin. His teaching and healing were so popular at this point, however, that an enormous crowd followed him. Matthew records that there were 5,000 men there, meaning the crowd could easily have been up to 20,000 strong. That’s about the size of the crowd at a sold-out professional basketball game; a huge group of people. Imagine seeking solitude to mourn the loss of a loved one, only to be greeted by 20,000 people, all of whom wanted his attention. He could have sent them away, or just stayed in the boat finding another place to go. But the Lord, seeing their needs, both spiritual and physical, had compassion on them like “sheep without a shepherd” as Mark 6:34 tells us. He took the time to heal their sick, and “taught them many things” (Mark 6:35).
After an amazing display of humanity and compassion, Jesus puts his divinity on full display. From nothing more than a snack he provided not just a meal but a feast for the entire crowd. In a time of relative poverty, many of these people had probably never eaten a meal as large as this one. The word translated “satisfied” was often used to talk about the fattening of livestock before slaughter. It was eating to fullness, not just easing hunger.
The people immediately recognized that this was an extraordinary event. Two prophets (Elijah and Elisha) multiplied food in the Old Testament, but the crowds recognized that Jesus’ work outpaced them all. John’s account tells us that Jesus had to quickly withdraw because they were going to make him their king. They saw that He was capable of miraculous provision.
In this account there is an amazing parallel to the Shepherd of Psalm 23. Jesus seats the crowd on the green grass (Mark 6:39), and provides for their wants. He compassionately sets himself as a shepherd for the shepherd-less. From studying this parable our we should be encouraged that we serve such a compassionate and powerful God.