SCRIPTURE: Matthew 14:13-21
13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.15 That evening 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 food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” 17 “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered. 18 “Bring them here,” he said. 19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
When Jesus got the news about John, He wanted to be alone so He left by boat and went to a remote area but the crowds got wind of it and they followed on foot from many town and communities. So much for Jesus having time to be alone. Crowds seldom think about the needs of others. They were coming from every direction and congregating around Jesus. When He saw the huge crowd, He got out of the boat and began to heal their sick. Can you imagine what it was like to live in Jesus day? To know that if you could get your sick ones to Him, He would heal them. When you are sick, it is hard to focus on anything other than healing. I know it seems awful selfish for the crowds to stalk Jesus for the purpose of getting their sick ones healed but I think we would have done the same thing. I see myself in two places in this story: first I am a part of this selfish and needy crowd that is pursuing its own self interest. I don’t want to see myself there but I am among them. I also see myself in the unbelieving disciples but we will get to that in a moment. Right now, I want to talk about the crowd.
I have no doubt about it, this crowd is following Jesus because of His miracles. Yes there are probably some who are gathering to hear Him teach but for the most part, they were following Jesus for what He could do for them, not what they could do for Him. They were not following Him because they loved Him. These folks were not ready to die for Jesus. They were ready to dine with Him at His expense but not lay down their life for Him. So by and large we have a selfish crowd that is pursuing their self-interest. What is absolutely amazing is that Jesus knew their motives and yet He had compassion on them. Jesus saw the crowd and had pity. Whereas if I saw this crowd of beggars, I would probably think, “I can I get back to the house without them following me.” I don’t like crowds as a general rule. I would like to see a crowd at church on Sunday, that is the exception to the rule but generally, I don’t like crowds. Crowds intimidate me; they make me feel small and insignificant. I stopped going to college football games because I don’t like crowds or being crowded. Crowds overwhelm me. I am no match for a crowd. The good news is that Jesus has compassion on crowds and He is not intimidated or overwhelmed. Praise the LORD! I am sure glad that He does not share my hang ups! Amen! You better believe it!
It is interesting to note that I am not the only one who does not like crowds: the disciples came to Jesus and said, “It’s going to be dark in just a little and we are out here in the middle of nowhere, send this horde packing, disperse them and send them home.” Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary–I want you to feed them.” Remember, I am quoting from the JEV [Jack’s everyday version]. “Are you crazy LORD, what are we going to feed them; we have five loaves of bread and two fish and there are thousands of people here. We can’t feed them. We have nothing to feed them with. If there was a Krogers on the back side of this hill, we don’t have enough money in our treasury to even buy them all a snack, let alone a meal.” It is good to remember at this point that Jesus had infinite patience. I can just see Him shaking His head in unbelief and maybe a little chuckle. “Bring Me what you have and then have the people sit down on the grass.”
- So first of all: the disciples surrender their meager resources. It wasn’t much but it was all they had.
- Jesus takes what they gave Him blesses it. He prayed over it. I have no idea what He prayed but He blessed the lunch.
- Next Jesus breaks the lunch and gives the pieces to His disciples. There were 12 of them and only five loaves. I don’t know how many pieces He broke the loaves into before giving it to them.
- Then the disciples distribute the food to the crowd. How did Jesus do this? I don’t have a clue.
Here is the shocker: they all ate and were full and they had 12 baskets left over. Watchman Nee, the Chinese theologian said, “a basket for each unbelieving disciple.”
There are several lessons in this story
I. God has infinite resources: the more He gives, the more He has to give. Giving does not diminish His wealth. This is why we cannot out give God. There is a limit to our resources but He has no limit.
II. Jesus is our greatest asset and we have a tendency to forget this truth. I have heard more than one preacher tell this story so I will make it a parable because I find it hard to believe that it happened the same way to two men. A church was in financial trouble. They had built a new sanctuary but their contractor was a crook who cut a lot of corners and the building did not pass the city inspection. The church was out a lot of money and could not use the building. The pastor was beside himself and gave in to the pleas of his people and they started doing fund raisers to try to pay their debt for a building they could not use. The R.A.’s [had to be Southern Baptist] were selling peanut brittle, the G.A.’s cookies, the WMU was selling furniture polish and the Brotherhood was dong Swamp John’s. Then the preacher got an opportunity to go somewhere else and he left them high and dry. God called him away! Right! When they called the new pastor, he came in and surveyed the situation and then called a deacons meeting. He said, “Men, no more Swamp Johns, no more peanut brittle, cookies or furniture polish. We are going to get right, give right and get out of this mess that we gotten ourselves into.” One old deacon spoke up, “Just how are we going to get out of this mess if we stop raising money?” “We are going to trust Jesus,” said the preacher. With that the old deacon sat down in disgust and said, “Has it come to that?” We make Jesus the last resort. He should be our first option. He is our greatest asset. The answer was staring the disciples in the face and they didn’t see it. Jesus is the answer for the world today, believe me there’s no other, Jesus is the way.
III. Our human resources are never enough, never! We are always a dollar short and a day late. They had only five loaves and two fish and there were 5,000 hungry people in that crowd. No wonder the disciples felt intimidated. Notice what happened. Our resources in the hand of Jesus feeds the multitude. If I share the gospel with someone else do I have less to share with the next person? If I share the love of Christ with another person, does that diminish the love of Christ in my life? But even in terms of material resources, we must put what we have in Jesus hand. He and He alone can meet the needs of the multitudes. He and only He can turn our little into a lot. I don’t have one doubt that if we made our resources available, we would see miracles. Our problem is selfishness and greed. We want to keep our lunch. Do the crowds intimidate me? Yes they do. Are my meager resources enough to make a difference? Not unless I give what I have to Jesus.
IV. God’s Plan: Jesus plus our resources. You did see the miracle? When they put their meager resources into Jesus hands, He multiplied their resources and made them more than adequate to feed the multitude. Some people make excuses, “If I had enough to make a difference, I would give but what difference will my little bit make with some many needs?” Your little bit will make a lot of difference if you are willing to entrust it to Jesus. NOTE: Jesus can’t bless control freaks. You have to give what you have to Jesus with no strings attached. You have to take your hands off. I knew a millionaire a few years ago that professed to be a tither but he was no tither. Trust me, if he had tithed, I would have known it. He gave a little here and a little there and he counted it a tithe. He basically told me, “My tithe is too much for a church this size.” Yeah right? The truth was he was sending his tithe to various causes that he supported. In other words, he wanted to give but he did not want to lose control after he gave. That’s like those who have donated things to the church and then came back and get them. I am as serious as a heart attack: people have donated things to the church, ask for tax credit, got mad, came back and collected their things and I have been tempted to turn them in to the IRS. The only problem is I despise the IRS much more than I do Indian givers. I came across a little poem when I was a young preacher boy that sums it up…
As my children bring their broken toys with tears for me to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to Christ because He was my friend.
At last, I jerked them back and said, “How could You be so slow?”
He said, “My child, what could I do, you never did let go.”
It doesn’t matter if you have a ton of talent or very little talent: what matters is that you surrender what you have to Jesus for Him to take and break. The hungry multitudes cannot digest your pride: Jesus has got to break it down so it will be digestible. It doesn’t matter if you work for minimum wage or if you are like the millionaire. Jesus is not going to bless your resources until you let go. You can talk about how much you give but the truth is: you are in control, all the way. You don’t give a dime unless you see its final destination. You have pitiful faith and you will never see the miracles that Christ could do through you if you would only trust.
I want you to notice some thing that is very important in this story: Jesus did not take their lunch against their will. Jesus never robbed anyone. It just not His nature. He will take what you give but if you do not give it willing, He will not take it. In other words, He will not stop you from being a greedy miser. If that is not where you want to go: you must put a stop to it and you need to do it now. Most folks don’t want to hang out with misers, they just want to be in their will. You can be loved or you can be tolerated until you die and lose control of your wealth. It’s your call!