Jesus feeds 4000…
About that time a vast crowd gathered…
In Mark we see a man, an individual, healed, made whole, rescued from the deafness that he’d been afflicted with because sin brought brokenness into the world. The news spread and crowd gathers. In Matthew’s account of this story, we see the crowd is made of people whose bodies were broken by sin, the lame, the mute, the deaf, the outcasts. Not by their mistakes or choices, but the brokenness we all start out with. Matthew says Jesus healed them all. The crowd is so amazed by what’s going on, they stay for 3 days and run out of food. This is the second time a huge “revival” crowd had gathered. The first time, they didn’t bring food, so Jesus did a miracle and fed them. This time, they came prepared; they packed their lunch and brought it with them. But after 3 days of miracles they’re out of food again. This time the stakes are a little higher it seems. Last time the disciples suggested sending them into the towns and villages to get food, but Jesus says you feed them. This time Jesus is concerned if he sends them away, they’ll faint on the walk home. Clearly they are out in the back country, people have followed him into the wilderness to see the King of the Kingdom in action.
And Jesus has “compassion.”
Jesus doesn’t feel sorry for them. He feels their pain, he feels their suffering. So much so that it makes him sick to his stomach that people are so desperate to be loved, to experience healing, acceptance, the love of God, life, that they would stay out in the wilderness for three days without enough food to get them home. He has compassion on them. He felt the rejection of his home town, of his brothers and sister, of the people who were waiting for him to come but didn’t recognize him when he got here. He’d been taken out into the wilderness and tested and tempted and made hungry, not for 3 days but 40. But he knew people needed not only bread, not only something to let them survive, but they needed God to really live. He knew that God wanted to meet every need, spiritual, emotional and physical. So he did. He healed their bodies, he revealed the kingdom and filled them with the joy of the kingdom so they worshiped the God of Israel and then he fed them lunch.
Jesus knows how you feel, he knows what it’s like to be rejected, he knows what it’s like to be tempted, he knows what it’s like to be separated from God, he knows what the wrath of God feels like because of sin, he knows what it’s like to have your friends let you down and abandon you, he knows what it’s like to be afraid, he knows what it’s like to be beaten, he knows what it’s like to be ridiculed.
“How are we supposed to find enough food for them here in the wilderness?” Once again, Jesus disciple at a loss for what to do and Jesus says, ‘show me what you’ve got and watch this.’ A feast of fish sandwiches ensues. Imagine this headline in the Cape Breton Post “7 Biscuits and a Few Smelts Feeds 4000+” People at the Tim’s in Bras D’Or would be talking it up then wouldn’t they. The disciples it seems, much like you and me, never know what to do. They’re often thinking in purely physical worldly terms, even though they are seeing the kingdom of Heaven in action all around them. They’ve been so trained by their flesh, by their religion, by their culture, that they have a hard time opening themselves to kingdom of heaven thinking. They were just faced with this exact scenario last month, but they go to their default human reaction; ‘now what are we going to do?’ Well they do exactly what we should always do, let Jesus provide and then give out what he’s given us. Jesus broke the bread and gave it to the disciples to give out. He gave them what they needed to complete the task in front of them. He’ll do the same for you. If he tells you to do something, he’ll give you what you need to do it. Not only did he provide what the disciples needed, it says everyone ate until they were satisfied. Their needs were fully met, they were full. And there was an abundance left over to share. Not just food, there were stories to tell. People went home talking about the encounter they had with Jesus. People left seeing the reality of the kingdom of heaven; broken bodies made whole, filled with joy and lunch and leftovers.
“Show us a miraculous sign”
The Pharisees never seemed to be looking in the right place. These Pharisees who were supposed to be the leaders, the ones who cared for the peoples souls because they knew God so well, were always thinking about themselves. They were probably furious that Jesus had revealed the power of the kingdom to all these common folks, to all these infirm outcasts who had clearly done something very wrong and were being punished for their mistakes. Show US a sign, we’re the important ones, we’re the ones that God should be sharing his kingdom with. They had failed to see the signs all around them; people being healed, food being multiplied, people being raised from the dead. They were totally blind to the kingdom in action and fully concerned, not with God, but with themselves; their own righteousness, their own wisdom, their own kingdoms. Jesus said I will not give this generation any such sign. They weren’t interested in the reality of the kingdom and they wouldn’t have seen it anyway. If it didn’t fit inside their box of who God is and how he works they couldn’t accept it. So Jesus, troubled in his spirit because he knew they would never change, because he knew most of them would never see the thing they most desperately needed, namely Him, turns and walks away and leaving them to their own will. He leaves them to continue following their own understanding.
“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod”.
The disciples forgot to bring the leftovers, someone grabbed one loaf of bread thankfully, but in typical young man fashion, no one is responsible, no one thought ahead, no one brought lunch. Still thinking entirely worldly (and apparently forgetting the ridiculous gigantic miracle they just saw…for the second time) they get in an argument. ‘Dude, you were supposed to bring the baskets… Jesus is going to be T.O. again.’ In very cryptic hyper metaphorical terms Jesus says, “Beware the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod”. Of course the disciples are thinking, great he found out we forgot the bread and Jesus goes reality check on them. ‘are you kidding me, are you still talking about food? What is wrong with you guys, forget the fact that I just turned 7 biscuits into 20,000 biscuits, don’t you see that I’m trying to teach you something bigger than your bellies for once.’ The kingdom of heaven is here and the regular rules of religion and society aren’t going to cut it anymore. If you want to be satisfied you have to live as citizens of the kingdom, totally dependent on Jesus for everything. The Pharisees (religion) will teach you it’s about rules and sacrifice and ceremony and measuring up and knowing the answers and gaining the praise of others and looking righteous on the outside and being moral and nice and good. Herod (culture) will teach that it’s about education and style and money and things and fame and success and power and control and winning and being right and being independent.
The Pharisees represent religion and Herod represents the world, and they are both empty and void of any real life. They’ll both leave you hungry and unsatisfied. And when they start to creep in they affect everything, they start to grow and expand and take over. Instead of going back to Jesus when we’re hungry we look to religion to fill the gaps. Maybe if we go to church more I’ll feel closer to God, maybe if I read my bible more I feel closer to God, maybe if I sacrifice more… maybe if I give more… maybe if I serve more…maybe if I try to follow the rules more…maybe if I try to be more like… I’ll be satisfied, I’ll be happy, I’ll be alive. Maybe if I get a better job… maybe if get a better house… maybe if I live in a better neighborhood… maybe some new clothes… maybe if I read this book… once we’re settled in I’m sure it’ll smooth out… maybe I’m supposed to be with someone else… then I’ll feel loved, I’ll be successful, I’ll be alive.
Jesus says the same thing to us as he says to the disciples, “Don’t you understand anything yet?” He is where we find what satisfies us, he is where we find what sustains us and gives us more than we need to go on the journey home. He promised us his Holy Spirit, He is completely satisfactory for everything. We’ll never find what we’re looking for from the Pharisees, what they offer is empty of real life. We’ll never find what we’re looking for from Herod, what he offers is empty and leads to death. But the Spirit gives us life. We live by the spirit.
2 Peter 3-4 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
Only Jesus has what you need, whether you’re waiting around in a desert or with no food or sitting high on the hog. He will give you what you need to satisfy you.