Sermon: Matthew 14:13-21
Pentecost 11 - August 20, 2017 - Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
We’ve all come to know especially in the last few weeks the name of Kim Jungh Un. He’s the short, pudgy dictator of North Korea with the odd looking haircut styled to make him look taller. He and his family have been ruthless leaders of North Korea for decades.
Kim Jungh Un and his military have a habit of launching missles into the sky as a show of strength and might. The fear is that one day Kim Jungh Un will put a nuclear warhead on one of these missiles and aim it at the United States.
When I see the missiles that he launches I imagine that it must cost millions of dollars to build and launch each one. And I think how much better it would be if he took all that money and helped to feed the starving people of North Korea.
Kim Jungh Un has in reality enslaved his entire population. If a family has a son who serves in the military then the family is taken care of and can find employment. Those who don’t have a family member in the military are often farmed out as workers, really slaves, to other nations. No doubt they see very little of their pay. The word is that large portions of the population are starving.
Kim Jungh Un is someone who has absolutely no compassion on his people. Human beings are expendable property to him who can simply be discarded if they don’t serve to prop up his regime.
How thankful we can be that Jesus has endless compassion for us, for people, for the world. In Jesus there’s no self-serving motives, there’s no self-glorification. People are not simply expendable to him. He died to save them from their sins.
In this familiar account of the feeding of the 5000 we see Jesus’
This account of the feeding of the 5000 begins by saying, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” And what is it that had happened? It wasn’t good. It was horrible. King Herod had executed John the Baptist.
John the Baptist had preached to the people of Judea to prepare them for the coming of Jesus. John and Jesus were relatives. John was six months older than Jesus. They didn’t grow up with each other but must have been acquainted in their younger years. But far more important than that they were related is that Jesus recognized that John the Baptist was the greatest of prophets ever who had sounded the warning to repent and welcome the Savior.
Not long after Jesus began his ministry John confronted King Herod on his adulterous marriage. Herod threw John into prison and wanted to kill him. And one day his opportunity came. His sleazy step-daughter Salome danced for the king and then asked as a reward the head of John the Baptist on a platter. King Herod complied.
It’s no wonder that when Jesus heard about this he withdrew privately to a solitary place. Just imagine how Jesus must have felt. His heart had to be broken. He must have cried. He must have prayed for strength. He must have been raging with righteous anger. He must have been reminded what sin had done to this corrupt world. The weight of that sinful world was now on his shoulders.
We learn a lot about Jesus from this horrible incident. We learn a lot about Jesus from this whole account of the feeding of the 5000. We certainly see Jesus’ humanness. We might imagine that as the almighty Son of God he would simply rise above the emotional impact of John’s death. But how would you react to the tragic death of a family member or someone you love or a faithful child of God? Jesus was a real human being who felt in his own heart and mind and body the intense sorrow of John’s death.
And then we see another aspect of Jesus’ humanness that amazes us. Jesus wanted to be away by himself. But the crowds of people came looking for him. Jesus had already done a number of miracles in this area of Galilee. They wanted more. They came to find Jesus, and they found him.
Jesus’ boat landed and a large crowd of people was there to meet him. How would you have felt if you had been Jesus? You’re sad, mourning. You’re heartbroken, righteously angry. Probably tired, perhaps exhausted. And a crowd of thousands shows up for more miracles.
We’ve all had the experience. It’s been a long, hard day. Perhaps things have not gone well or haven’t been going well in a long time. You’re exhausted, in a bad mood, and come home to face more problems and stress. You just want to sit down and rest, but you can’t.
That’s the kind of situation that Jesus was in. But instead of telling the people to go away we read, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Jesus didn’t stop. He got up and started healing the sick people. And why? How could he do what practically none of us would ever do? Compassion. Jesus had compassion on them.
Compassion was a part of Jesus’ humanness too. He was a compassionate human being. He saw the sickness and physical, human needs of all these people and his heart went out to them. His intense emotions were with these people. He felt sorry for them. He had compassion on them.
Jesus worked that day among the people, and as evening approached Jesus’ disciples urged him to send the people away. They were in a kind of remote area. Many of these people perhaps had eaten nothing all day. They needed to walk home. They would need some energy. They would need to go to some of the local villages to buy some food.
It’s here that we see the compassion of Jesus again, but not just the compassion of a human being. We also see his compassion as the divine, almighty Son of God. He said to his disciples, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Put yourself in the place of the disciples. How would you have reacted to Jesus’ words that you give them something to eat?
Remember there’s a lot of people who came to see Jesus. There were about 5000 men as well as women and children. That’s a lot of people. You know what it’s like to feed your family. Or many of you know what it’s like to feed maybe fifty people for a graduation party. Some of you know what it’s like to plan for about a hundred or two hundred people for a wedding reception. We as a congregation know what it’s like to feed about eighty people for a potluck. But 5000 plus women and children!
The disciples were kind of dumbfounded. They looked in their bag of supplies and found five round loaves of bread and two fish. It must have been almost a little humorous to see the disciples holding up those loaves of bread and fish, enough to feed maybe ten people with thousands of hungry people standing before them.
It wasn’t a problem for Jesus, the Son of God. You know how the account goes. Jesus told the disciples to bring the bread and fish to him. He thanked God the Father for them and then he broke them and gave them to the disciples to give to the people. The bread of fish did not run out. Everyone had something to eat. And not only did the bread and fish not run out, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of broken pieces that were left over.
There’s a couple of lessons we learn from Jesus before we actually talk about the miracle of feeding the 5000. Do you thank God for your food? I hope that when families sit together at the table that they stop first to thank God for the food they’re about to receive. Sadly family dinners and evening meals are almost a thing of the past. Children fend for themselves often. They need to pause to thank God for what they’re eating. Even individuals who might eat alone want to thank God for the plate of food before them. Or don’t be afraid even in a restaurant to pause to thank God for what you’re about to eat.
Another thing we learn from this account. How much food do you waste? School cafeteria workers will tell you how much gets thrown away each day. The amount of food that homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, and grocery stores here in the United States throw away each day could feed an entire nation - a nation like North Korea or Venezuela or Somalia or any nation where the children rummage through the garbage dumps looking for food.
Today we wouldn’t bother with the remnants of food left on the ground at a picnic or gathering. Jesus had the disciples pick up those remnants. They found more than they started with. In a population of people who struggled to find food they probably found people who were glad to have those crumbled pieces.
I like to cook, but I can’t make more food than the ingredients I have. Jesus miraculously created more food and made five loaves of bread and two fish feed thousands. He did this because he had compassion on these people, and he did this because he could, because he is the almighty Son of God.
Jesus looks out on us today and every day, and has compassion on us too. His compassion every day provides us with food and all that we need to live and much more. But Jesus sees in us a far more pressing need. He sees our sin, and he has compassion on us. He knows that we could die in our sin and face God’s eternal judgment. He had so much compassion for us that he offered his innocent life on the cross to atone for all our sins. He offers that free forgiveness, without cost, each day, endlessly in his word.
John the Baptist preached, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Let repentance characterize your life, and you will always see Jesus’ amazing compassion. Amen.