Matthew 14: 13-21, The Shepherd Feeds His Sheep.
General Idea: The imagery here is of the Shepherd feeding His sheep! He does not have to; yet, He does. After discovering the dreadful news about John the Baptist, Jesus withdrew to a quiet place. The city was in turmoil about who would take up John's mantel, so, the followers of both John and Jesus kept coming, besieging Jesus. They were without food, direction, and perhaps even hope. Overwhelmed, the Disciples tried to send them away; however, Jesus intercedes with a welcome mat that says, come to me with what you have. With so little, He makes so much that there are baskets of food left over from just two fish and five loaves of bread. This would hardly be enough to feed one family, let alone five thousand families. But, this passage is not just about food and miracles, it is about trust, and how God multiplies our meager gifts into ministry and glory.
We, as a Church, forget the impossible; we leave out faith and trust; we horde what little we have; we fail to surrender to His Lordship or precepts. Regardless of this mindset of ours, Jesus stands at the door that we have closed in His face. He could just kick it down, but, He does not. He lets us live with what little we have when we could have so much more-5000 times as much! This passage is about letting go, giving to Him, and allowing His multiplication to be glorified!
1. When Jesus heard it. Jesus was on His way for a little vacation, to rest and recharge after His herald and cousin dies. Jesus allowed His rest to be interrupted.
a. Jesus is our High Priest who intercedes for us. We do not need to worry about His busy schedule or if we are interrupting, He is there for us; He is there for you (Heb 7:23-28)!
b. This passage demonstrates how much God loves and cares for us (Num. 27: 15 -17).
i. We can also demonstrate His care by showing hospitality and the proclaiming of His Word in truth.
ii. It has been said, people will not care what you say until they know you care (1 Cor. 5:8; 2 Cor. 4:2; Col. 1:3-8)!
c. Mark records, as evident in the Greek, that Jesus desperately needed rest (Mark 6:31).
d. Moved with compassion, He forsook His own needs! This is not just concern, as in sympathy. It is, rather, a deep, heartfelt awareness that leads to action (Nub. 27:15-17; Psalm 23:1; 53; 77:20; 78:52, 70-72; 80:1; Ezek. 34:11, 14-15), just as Jesus was moved by the blind men (Matt. 20:24), the leper (Mark 1:41), and the widow (Luke 7:13). Mark adds sheep without a Shepherd, meaning a reflection of abandonment by unfaithful leaders who chase their own whims, forsaking God and His people (Jer. 50:6).
e. Jesus sets the tone to His proclamation that He is the Bread of Life (John 6: 35). He is meaning that He is the One who gives life and provides. This is a bold claim to divinity, that Jesus is God.
2. Send the multitudes away. People normally bought food at small roadside venders that dotted the land. The disciples only considered the normal way to feed the group, and they did not have the means to do it themselves (Mark 6:36).
a. It would take over six months of wages to feed such a group. Food was the most expensive daily expenditure for living; housing was family owned, so the most expensive possession next was clothing. Most people had only two garments-one for summer, and one for winter. The phrase "will work for food" was a reality then.
b. On the grass. This indicates it was spring time.
c. Two fish and five loaves. Not much to work with, but, we have to remember-it is not what we can see we have; it is what He is able to do! Bread and fish were the two primary food staples of early Palestine. They did not eat much meat, as in goat or lamb, due to the expense and the greater need for the wool and milk. When an animal was slaughtered, it was for festival and/or worship.
d. The primary miracle about food in the Bible that foreshadows the work of our Lord is the feeding of the Israelites for 40 years with manna as they wandered in the desert (Ex. 16).
e. Elisha also performed a minor miracle concerning food (2 Kings 4:42-44).
f. The disciples must have known that Jesus was powerful enough to meet their needs, but, did not consider it in this situation. How much is this like our spiritual lives-that we do not consider Jesus when we need Him, and, especially when we do not think we need Him? They quickly switched to the normal way of their culture, unaffected by the One whom they had with them!
3. They do not need to go away. Jesus challenges the disciples to care and then become the care equippers, ministers of His provision.
a. Teachers rarely fed their students; the students and their families were responsible for their food, housing, and care. In addition, the students were to feed and pay their teachers, as well as give them honor. Again, Jesus turns the tables. Jesus is the Host and the Provider!
b. Jesus' statement here is revolutionary and points to Himself as the Caregiver!
c. We have. Elisha's distributing of the good food is a reflection of what Jesus did (2 Kings 4:42-44).
d. He blessed. It was customary for the leader or host to offer grace. This was an acknowledgment of gratitude for the meal. We are always to be grateful for what we have even though we may not see it. We cannot compare ourselves to worldly standards on what we should have, but, rather, His standard on how we can be.
e. This is definitely a major miracle. However, some liberal commentators who take a dim view of the supernatural say Jesus was a master observer; noticing the people had food, they say he compelled them to share. This is a very weak argument with no textual support (John 6:14-15).
f. Baskets probably referred to large wicker baskets used by the Romans to ferry supplies. Food was never wasted except with the lavish rich.
g. Christ is looking for hands that can pass His basket, clean hearts, and a will focused on His.
h. John records that the people tried to make Jesus king (John 6:14-15).
i. Five thousand. Only men were counted. Along with them were wives, children, and extended family and workers. Perhaps there could have been more than twenty thousand people there-about one-fourth-plus of the area population!
j. This is the only miracle, besides the Resurrection, that is found in all four Gospels (Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13).
This passage has a powerful lesson for us on faith and surrender. All too often, we in the church are much better at sending people away, stemming from our own misdirection. We forget that Christ is the One who calls us to Him. He says, bring what you have to me, while we focus on, what can you do for me? It is about how we can serve and glorify or Lord. Out of our poverty He seems to use us the most, because, we are emptied from our pride and trivialities and are able to focus upon Him. We are to give Him all we have so He can meet our needs. When we do this, Jesus will multiply our efforts and we will be able to be used so much more effectively, giving the glory back to Him. Allow Him to do the miracle; then, you distribute it! Remember, Jesus begins where we are and uses what we have. Then, we can grow more and He can use us more! So, let us give what we have, along with our faith, talent, time, and treasures, so He can make more with it!
1. If you were in charge of feeding a large crowed of 5000-plus, what, and how would you serve?
2. Why do you think Jesus withdrew (Luke 5:16; also: Matt. 12:15; 14:13; 15:31; Mark 3:7)?
3. What did Jesus do when He was besieged? What would you do? What can you learn from His example?
4. Most churches forget the impossible, leaving out faith and trust. What are the things some churches-perhaps yours-horde? What do they need to do?
5. What do you think of Jesus' reaction to John the Baptist's death? How do you handle such news?
6. Read Hebrews 7:23-28. What would it mean to you not to worry? What do you worry about? What can you do about it? What can Jesus do about it? Remember, His schedule is not busy; we cannot interrupt Him; He is there for us; He is there for you! How does this make you feel?
7. How does this passage demonstrate how much God loves and cares for us? What are some other passages that testify to this?
8. It has been said, people will not care what you say until they know how much you care. What does this mean to you; how can you be better at modeling care?
9. Why do you suppose that the disciples only considered the "normal" way to feed the group? (Keep in mind the other miracles prior to this!)
10. Most Christians only look at what they can do. But, in Christ, it is not what we see we have, it is what He is able to do! Are you limited by your vision and thinking?
11. Why do you suppose the disciples, who must have known that Jesus was powerful enough to meet their needs, did not consider Him in this situation?
12. How many times do you fail to consider Jesus when you need Him, especially when you do not think you need Him?
13. Have you considered how important to God your gratitude is for the meals you have?
14. Why should we not compare ourselves to worldly standards on what we think we should have in life?
15. How is Jesus the Host, Caregiver, and the Provider for you?
16. What would be some of the causes and motivations for some liberal commentators to take a dim view of the supernatural?
17. Why is Christ looking for hands that can pass His basket, clean hearts, and a will focused on His? Will you be His hands?
18. Why is it that out of our poverty, Christ seems to use us the most? What is poverty? What would it mean for you?
19. We are to give Him all we have so He can meet our needs. What must take place in your heart and mind to make this a reality?
20. How, where, and when can you allow Him to do the miracle, then, you distribute it! What miracle do you need? What stops you from distributing it?
© 2003, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org