Our Lord’s Abundant Table (Matthew 14:15-21)
Our Lord's Abundant Table
Bob Shank is a motivational speaker and tells this story about himself. He was in high school football, on a team with a variety of ethnicities. There was another player on the team named Manny, who was 6’5” and 260 pounds. When they were practicing, Manny would often start with Bob Shank, who was 172 pounds. One day, as the team lined up for scrimmage, Manny took an opportunity to teach a lesson.
Manny grabbed up Bob Shank by the face mask and yelled in his accent, “Chank, you’re a defensive tackle, not the whole team. I don’t want you playing the whole field. Here’s your job.” Manny stepped back and scratched a 10’ x 10’ square box on the ground. Manny said, “Chank, here’s your square. If anybody from the other team comes into your square, it’s your job to put them on the ground. Do you understand?”
Manny moved down the line, doing the same thing with five linemen and two linebackers, assigning 100’ sq patches of grass to each one. In that way, each one knew what his responsibilities were.
We can tense up over what we need to do on a daily basis, specifically opportunities to serve when we think we don’t have the time, the energy, the resources, to help someone who needs helped. We can become frustrated. We can become cynical. We can think, “I can’t do it all,” so we end up doing nothing.
But, we’re not assigned to do everything for everybody. God calls us to do what we can do and to use His resources to do it.
In Proverbs 3:27-28, the wise man wrote: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.”
God calls us to serve and to do it with what we have, not to make excuses because of what we don’t have. We’re going to study this morning the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 recorded in Matthew 14. As you turn there, I want to remind you of what James, the Lord’s brother, wrote in James 2:15-17:
&amp;quot;If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Jesus not only taught that, but He lived it and this miracle in Matthew 14 teaches us some valuable lessons about the resources we have at our disposal. We’re not going to study this OT example, but write down 2 Kings 4:42-43 and notice that the prophet Elisha did a similar thing back during those times. Several of Jesus’ miracles parallel some of Elisha’s miracles.
I also want to note that this miracle is one of the few events, one of only two miracles, from the life of Jesus that is found in all four gospel accounts. The other miracle found in all four gospel accounts, naturally, is the resurrection. There are many that are found in Matt, Mark, Luke, and John but not very many are found in all four. This one is found in all four.
THE NEED - 14:15, 21:
The place where they were was desolate. The hour was late. The disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd away so they could go into the villages and buy food for themselves.
Verse 21 tells us that there were 5,000 men besides women and children. Since women tend to be more spiritually minded than men and because every family, conservatively, would have probably 2 kids (or more), then we are conservatively estimating a crowd of maybe 20,000 people! A huge crowd!
The need today - People who need Jesus Christ. People who need Jesus Christ in their lives. But they are distracted. Some of those distractions are willful distractions - they really don’t want to think about spiritual matters. Some of those distractions are not chosen, like health issues. But they are distractions that keep someone from focusing on spiritual matters.
THE CHALLENGE - 14:16-17:
The challenge Jesus gives His disciples is to use what they have, find their resources. “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” The “you” is emphatic - you give them something.
Matthew leaves out part of the conversation between Jesus and His disciples. According to Mark, Luke, and John, the disciples respond, “Are we going to spend 200 denarii on bread and give them something to eat?” You understand that one denarius was a day’s salary so 200 denarii were 200 days’ salary. That’s roughly all of someone’s paycheck from January through almost all of July - that’s 212 days! The median income in the US in 2018 was $46,800 so that 200 working days’ salary today would be the equivalent of spending $29,900 feeding a crowd of this size!
Now, $30,000 to feed 20,000 people leaves about $1.50 for each person. We’re planning Ana’s open house in May; can we pay a caterer $1.50 for each person? That’s the challenge! Now, in John’s account (6:7), the apostle Philip suggests that 200 denarii are not enough to feed that number of people. Of course, if there were this many people, there would not have been very many cities or villages that could have fed that number in such a short space of time.
What did they have? They did an inventory and John’s account (6:8-9) tells us the apostle Andrew found a boy who had five loaves of bread and two fish. Again, not enough. This bread was probably the size of our pita bread and one loaf was good for perhaps one person. John also tells us it was barley, the food of the poor. So this food, five loaves and two fish, might feed 2 people, maybe 3 if you are counting calories.
The challenge today - When you and I look at our resources - our time, our energy, our finances, we often see what meagre resources we have and we know we do not have enough. Of anything. We don’t have time to serve all the people who need to be served. We don’t have the energy to serve all the people who need to be served. We don’t have the money to evangelize all the people who need to be evangelized.
There is a need, a tremendous need. And there is a challenge, an overwhelming challenge that would easily tax our resources. But we have more resources than we think…
THE ULTIMATE RESOURCE - 14:18-19:
Jesus tells His disciples to bring him those loaves and fish. He tells His disciples to have the people sit down on the grass. As an interesting collaboration, John (6:4) tells us it was close to the Passover feast, which was in the spring of the year. This is also the second Passover mentioned in John which suggests this was maybe two years into the ministry of Jesus. Mark tells us they were seated in groups of hundreds and fifties (6:40). Luke tells us (9:14) that Jesus told them to divide up into groups of 50.
The ultimate resource is to put your needs and challenges into the hands of Jesus Christ. He takes those five loaves of bread and the two fish, looks up to His heavenly Father, blesses the food, breaks the bread (tearing the loaves in pieces) and gives them to the disciples, who distributes the food to the crowd. The way Mark words this - “He kept giving them to the disciples” (6:41) - suggests that the miracle was being performed in the very hands of Jesus. He was multiplying the bread and fish as they left His holy hands.
The ultimate resource today - It is still Jesus Christ. When you and I rely on our own strength to serve, to give, to provide for ourselves and others, we are destined to: 1.) Wear ourselves out; 2.) Be inefficient; 3.) Maybe even fail at what we’re trying to do.
But Jesus has no limitations. That’s why it is so important for us to grasp the nature of God as He reveals Himself in the Bible. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving. God, and therefore Jesus, have no limitations. They are the ultimate resource for us to trust for the resolving of our problems and those we are seeking to serve.
THE LORD’S ABUNDANT TABLE - 14:20:
The power of the miracle is found in verse 20. Let’s break this verse down and look at each component part:
They all ate. All 20,000 people ate! Not a single person, not any of the disciples, not a woman, not a child, not a man went away hungry. Jesus provided the needs for every single person.
They were all satisfied. Not only did all 20,000 eat, but, as if it were Thanksgiving, they all ate until they were stuffed! They are all satisfied. This verb typically refers to stuffing cattle for the slaughter. Bartholomew made one more pass with some fish and bread and everyone he talked to said, “No thanks. I’m full.”
There was more leftovers than when they started! There were twelve full baskets of leftovers - apparently each apostle carried a basket to collect the leftovers. John (6:12) tells us that the command to save the leftovers was given by Jesus Himself. That ought to be a lesson for us. Jesus does not waste. Jesus efficiently uses everything He can. We ought to learn not to waste any more than we have to. But, the leftovers - more than what they had when they started!
The point is: You can’t out-give Jesus. Don’t you know that if the whole world, every single person who was alive at that time, every man, every woman, every child, who was alive at that time, if they could have passed in front of Jesus, He would have fed every single one of them out of those twelve baskets of fragments. There is no end to the blessings Jesus can give to us and through us.
Family, the Lord’s table is abundant. We feast at the Master’s table. We satisfy ourselves with the blessings of the Lord’s table. Let us not fear to use our energy and time and money to serve and to evangelize others. I know sometimes we fear that we won’t have enough for ourselves but this event teaches us that we’ll never out give Jesus Christ. If we use our resources for His glory, He’ll see that not only are our needs provided, but that we’ll have more than enough. More than enough. I wonder if Jesus gave those 12 baskets of leftovers back to that little boy whose lunch Jesus had taken and multiplied!?
I want to make one more comment, from John’s account, when the people saw and experienced this miracle, they recognized in Jesus the “Prophet who is to come into the world” (6:14). We recall that when Israel was wandering in the wilderness, God fed them with manna sent from heaven and with quail. The observant Jew would see, probably, that miraculous feeding reflected in this miraculous feeding. Jesus is God in the flesh.
1. We can easily be stretched beyond our ability to serve or help.
2. God wants us to use the resources we do have.
Shamgar had an oxgoad, Rahab had some string,
Gideon had a trumpet, David had a sling,
Samson had a jawbone, Moses had a rod,
Dorcas had a needle, But all were used for God.
3. God also wants us to rely on Him to provide for our needs. He is not intimidated by our problems.
4. Let us use God’s abundant provisions to serve those around us who need our help. John, the apostle of love, writes: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18).
Take home message: Let us use God’s abundant provisions to serve those around us who need our help.