DUNCAN/Five thousand fed
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 14:13-21. At this significant point, Jesus performs what is perhaps His most famous miracle–the feeding of 5,000+ in the midst of his ministry on the northeast shore of Galilee. We will see three things from this passage. First, Jesus gives us an example of compassion for others. Second, Jesus demonstrates that all the power for ministry comes through Him. And third, Christ only can meet the soul needs of people. Jesus is the source of life.
I. Jesus Gives Us an Example of Compassion for Others
In verses 13-16 we see a beautiful picture of the compassion of Christ and we learn that we as Christians ought to emulate this kind of compassion. Jesus knew that He needed rest and He desired some solitude. He desired time to pray and to be with His heavenly Father. So He withdrew from his public ministry, got into a boat with His disciples, went to the other side of the lake seeking some solitude. And when He got there the crowds had already anticipated His movements and had made their way from little towns like Capernaum and elsewhere, and they had made their way to the seashore so that when He stepped out of the boat they were already there. Hundreds and hundreds of them were waiting for Him to minister.
Christ was tired. He was in need of rest. But when Jesus steps ashore and sees the crowds, His reaction is immediate and instinctive. He does three things when He sees the multitudes. First, Matthew tells us He feels compassion on the multitudes. And this is not simply a feeling, this is not simply an emotional response, because it works forth in two other things. Jesus’ response to the crowds following Him serves to impress upon His disciples the mandate for their own self-sacrificial ministry. Jesus had called His disciples to be shepherds of the flock. And in this passage He is giving them an example of how you shepherd a flock. The shepherd denies himself for the sake of the flock. That’s the example that He’s set for them. The disciples very practically wanted to send the people home. But Christ, because He knew that He was the people’s shepherd, desired to care for them. And He wanted His disciples to have that same type of attitude in ministering toward the flock. Jesus is modeling perfectly self-denial for the sake of ministry and compassion on people who were hard in their hearts.
II. Jesus Demonstrates That All the Power for Ministry Comes Through Him
In verses 16-20 we have the account of Jesus calling for the disciples to bring Him loaves and fishes and let Him show them how He will provide for the multitudes. And there are several lessons that the disciples needed to learn in the command that He gave to them. The first lesson that He is teaching them is the responsibility to minister. He is saying to His disciples and to us that he is placing the responsibility on us to minister. It’s not an option. We don’t have a choice. We are His. He has bought us with a price. But there’s a second thing He’s teaching by giving them that command. He’s teaching them that in order to minister the way He wants them to minister, they can’t do it in their own power. He tells them to feed the multitudes. Well, they immediately recognize that they can’t feed the multitudes. It’s obvious to them. There are five loaves and two fish. There are more than 5,000 people out there. The disciples, you see, need to learn their own inability to carry out Christ’s command to minister before they are able to minister.
Do you hear that? They need to know that they do not have the ability to minister before they are able to minister. Because that ability, that power, that source, that strength is only found in Christ. And so the very command of Christ to the disciples, “You feed them,” is going to drive them to their knees. It will drive them to their faces in dependence on Christ because they don’t have a clue how they’re going to do this. So by telling the disciples to give the crowd something to eat, Jesus in not only stressing the responsibility for compassion, but He is reminding them of the true source of ability to minister. They will never to be able to discharge the command that Christ has given them in their own strength. Only Christ can do what He’s told them to do. When you feel overmatched for service to Christ, Christ has you exactly where He wants you to be. In fact, the worst service we can do for Christ is when we think we can handle it ourselves. And so as we minister we need to remember this too. We face incredible obstacles in our own culture in doing ministry. It looks bleak. You look and you ask, what will be. And the next generation if it’s like it is now. We look at our own city and we say how in the world can we match the problems that we have to minister to. Here’s the answer. We can’t. But He can. And when we realize we can’t but He can and we’re going to go and do it anyway, not knowing how He’s going to minister through it; we’ve gotten the right answer. And so Christ calls us to minister. All the power necessary for feeding the sheep comes from Him, the chief shepherd of the flock, and it comes from Him alone. And so we minister only in the Lord’s divine power and seeing this miracle wrought is a reminder of how limitless that power is.
III. Christ Only Can Meet the Soul Needs of People. Jesus Is the Source of Life
In verses 19-21 Christ is pictured in this passage as the only one who is truly able to meet all the soul needs of people. In feeding the multitudes, Christ is showing his disciples that He alone is able to supply all our needs, material and spiritual. In fact, that is the third lesson that He teaches. The third lesson that they are to learn is that Jesus Himself is the source of life. He is the one who has what they need. This miracle points beyond the specific provision of that bread. It points beyond the gift of the bread to the giver of the bread. Jesus’ point in doing this miracle is to draw the disciples’ eyes from the physical provision of bread to Christ’s spiritual provision for what we need for eternal life. As that bread was necessary or that food was necessary to go on living, so the spiritual provision which He makes for us is necessary if we are going to have eternal fellowship with Him.