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YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT

Matthew 13:53-14:21
Key Verse: 14:16

for blessing our EBC more abundantly than we expected. It is true that he is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” (Eph 3:29). Thank God for granting us his words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46) and “he is not here; he has risen” (Mt 28:6). May we keep these words in our hearts and have victories in life with faith in God’s love and the power of Christ’s resurrection. Now we return to Jesus’ beautiful earthly messianic ministry. Today’s passage covers Jesus’ visiting his home town only to be rejected, Herod’s hallucination of the beheaded John the Baptist having risen from the dead, and Jesus’ feeding the five thousand. May we probe into the heart of Jesus more and do what he wants us to do.

First, Jesus’ hometown people’s rejection (13:53-58). Look at 13:53. “When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there.” In chapter 13 we studied the parable of sower, the parable of the weeds, the parables of the mustard seed and of yeast, the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, and the parable of the net. These parables were all about the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus had finished these series of parables, he moved on from there. It must have been like a very graceful Bible conference with Jesus. People probably did not want to move. But Jesus moved on from there. Look at verse 54. “Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue…” How beautiful it is that Jesus visited his hometown, where he had grown up. Surely, Jesus wanted to bless them with rich heavenly blessings out of love for them. Jesus began teaching them in their synagogues with the wonderful words of life. How did they respond? They were amazed. But what was their further response? They were suddenly changed. They stopped listening and began to raise questions. Their questions were not about what Jesus taught. They got out of the topic and raised questions about Jesus’ wisdom and miraculous powers, saying, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” This question was not bad. It is good to raise this kind of question to know the source of wisdom and power. They, however, saw Jesus with human eyes only, saying, “…this man.” They saw Jesus as one of them, the people in Nazareth. In their human thoughts there was no way for them to find the answer to the question about Jesus’ wisdom and miraculous power. Then they talked about Jesus’ human background through a series of questions: “Isn’t this carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?” The answers to these questions were obviously all, “Yes.” So what? In their human thoughts, they were continuously baffling, asking, “Where then did this man get all these things?” When they were full of human thoughts, there was no room in their minds for Jesus’ word to get in, although undoubtedly Jesus was the best teacher who had ever lived. Finally they took offense at him. They not only rejected Jesus’ words but Jesus himself as well. It was like rejecting their own parents. Jesus must have been very hurt by their offensive response despite his love for them.

Look at verse 57b. “But Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honour.’” This is a heart-breaking proverb, but Jesus had to say it to his hometown people. This is the exact expression of God’s pained heart toward the Israelites, his chosen people. The LORD God regarded them as his firstborn son, pouring out his love on them. But they went to other gods, forsaking the LORD, who brought them out of the land of slavery. When they went far away, God called them again and again, “Return to me.” Finally God had to turn to the Gentiles, among whom the loving true God was recognized and honoured. Jesus expressed his pained heart in this proverb to his hometown people who were blocked to see God’s immeasurable blessing to them through Jesus because of their sole human view and knowledge and thoughts about him.

Verse 58 says, “And Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” In this case their lack of faith was their lack of godly view of Jesus. In that environment Jesus could not do many miraculous works. Here we learn the importance of spiritual environment for Jesus to work. When Jesus is recognized and honoured, his miraculous work can be done. We learned this more through our EBC. When we recognized him as the Lord and struggled to rely on him in prayer, he really blessed our EBC. May we make a better and better spiritual environment for Jesus’ miraculous work, particularly as we prepare for SBC. Our souls will rejoice and be happy when we see our Lord Jesus’ miraculous work more and more through our faith.

Second, Jesus’ reply to his disciples, “You give them something to eat” (14:1-21). In verses 1-12, the author wrote about Herod the tetrarch. When the name of Jesus was powerfully proclaimed and spread through his disciples’ evangelistic work, Herod was haunted by his hallucination that John the Baptist whom he had beheaded had risen from the dead. When he had John’s head cut in the prison according to the situation, he thought that he was the king and everything would be okay. Yet, John’s head was gone and his body was buried, but what Herod did, did not go away. It remained in his heart and rose and tormented him. The passing of the time could not erase what he did wrong before God. We can see what kind of person Herod was. Of course, he was immoral. He had no ears to hear what was right and true. He wanted to be pleased by people and please people. He treated people as he wanted and also feared people. This kind of life lifestyle led him to commit such an irrevocable crime in a moment and he had to pay the cost.

It is noticeable, however, that Matthew assigned 12 verses to describe Herod, while the next 10 verses, about Jesus’ feeding the five thousand. Keeping this in mind, let’s move on to the next event. Look at verse 13. “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place…” According to the flow of the passage, what Jesus heard seemed to be what Herod did to John the Baptist and John’s disciples’ burying his body. However, as we studied before, what Matthew wrote in the previous part was Herod’s remembering what he did in the past, probably several months before, at the powerful evangelistic work of Jesus’ disciples. The disciples reported to Jesus all that had happened in excitement. Jesus heard all the work of God through his disciples and must have remembered the past horrible event of Herod’s beheading John the Baptist. Then he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. He wanted to have a quiet time with his disciples, probably to talk about the future gospel work according to God’s will. However, his retreat plan was hindered by the crowd. Verse 13b says, “Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.” Then how does the story go?

Look at verse 14. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and he healed their sick.” Jesus was rejected by his hometown people, although he had come to them, and was disappointed at them. Now a large crowd followed him on foot from the towns. They were desperate to come to Jesus with their problems and receive his mercy. In Mark’s gospel they ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of Jesus and his disciples. In a sense, they were demanding and bothersome people. But there was a welcoming atmosphere for Jesus among the crowds. When Jesus saw them, he had compassion on them.

It is the second time Matthew wrote about Jesus’ having compassion on the crowd. In Matthew 9:35-36, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” At that time people suffered a lot under the rule of Herod, a selfish and irresponsible ruler. They also suffered hunger. However, all human beings suffer most under the power of sin and Satan. People seem to be fine outwardly, but each one has a unique life problem, which is beyond human level. The fundamental human problem is a spiritual problem because of sin and Satan. We could see this through the life-testimonies of our Bible students at our EBC. Only when they meet the good shepherd Jesus can their life problems be solved. Jesus’ compassion is not just feeling sorry for the people. His compassion is from knowing their fundamental problems and their suffering under the power of sin and evil spirits and their eternal destiny without the good shepherd and Saviour Jesus. In the passage Jesus had compassion on the crowd and healed their sick. Through his healing Jesus wanted each of them to know him.

Then what happened next? Look at verse 15. “As evening approached, 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 themselves some food.” Here Jesus’ disciples suddenly appeared. They seemed to obstruct Jesus’ compassionate work he was doing. However, they could have their own sense problem to see the situation and proposed a solution for the crowd. It was almost evening and the place was a remote site. So the hungry crowd had to be sent to the villages so that they could buy themselves some food and eat. This was the very reasonable suggestion and the best one they could think of. In a sense the disciples were concerned about the hungry crowd as much as they could.

But what did Jesus say to them? Did Jesus say, “Your idea is good. Let’s do it.” No. Look at verse 16. “Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” This was really an completely unexpected and thunderous command. No one can give such a command, but Jesus. To all people, in that situation the crowd needed to go away. Otherwise they would starve and die of hunger. People should know what they or others need. A necessity is a necessity. To meet what human beings need is significant. But the ways Jesus meets human need is different from the usually way people do. According to the human way, the rich or the powerful should meet the need. Those who have high positions or great learning should do for the needy. But Jesus said, “They do not need to go away. You give them some to eat.” To Jesus, the disciples were the very ones who would meet the need of the crowd. Since the disciples were there, the crowd did not need to go away.

Apparently, in commanding his disciples, “They do not need to go way. You give them something to eat,” Jesus wanted to feed the hungry crowd through his disciples at that time. But Jesus had a deeper reason in giving this command to his disciples. Jesus knew how poor the disciples were. They were lowly and needy just like one of the crowds in that situation. But Jesus had a high view of and great expectations from his disciples. On the one hand Jesus saw what it was like during the time of Herod’s ruling. In that time, a righteous man, John the Baptist, was beheaded. On the other hand he saw the suffering crowd on whom he had compassion. In that situation Jesus wanted to raise his disciples as those who can truly meet the need of the people, not only material but also spiritual. In that hopeless time Jesus had faith in the disciples and had hope in them. Jesus wanted them to be responsible shepherds for the people of the time.

How did the disciples respond to this thunderous command? Look at verse 17. “‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.” They were still on their own level and what they said was quite understandable to us. What they had was only five loves and two fish, which were not enough even to feed themselves. The disciples knew that what they had was so little.

Then what did Jesus say to them? Look verse 18. “‘Bring them here to me,’ he said.” I believe that this is one of the best verses in the Bible. Jesus’ feeding the five thousand is written in the four gospels and how Jesus fed them was clearly written in all four gospels. But these words of Jesus, “Bring them here to me” are specifically written in Matthew’s gospel. Mathew had a keen observation of this miracle of how Jesus could feed the crowd. When the fives loaves of bread and two fish were in the disciples’ hand, they were not enough even to feed one. But when they would be in Jesus’ hand, they were to be totally different. Whether something is in our hand or in Jesus’ hand makes a total difference. My time or money or knowledge or ability in my hand is always too little even to satisfy my own need. But when it is brought to Jesus and put in Jesus’ hand, the difference will be immeasurable. This is a secret of faith.

The difference is written in the following verses, in 19-22. “And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” And only Matthew wrote that the number of those who ate was about five thousand men besides women and children, probably more than ten thousand people altogether. He emphasized the abundant blessing of the five loaves and the two fish which the disciples had and brought and put in Jesus’ hand.

When I think of the 50 years of UBF history, so many works were done and it is not easy to summarize. But I can newly understand that the last 50 years of UBF history is the history of bringing five loaves and two fish to Jesus. In 1950s, Mother Sarah Barry came to Korea, a hermit country at that time. She herself did not where Korea was. But God led her to come to this remote country. Then in God’s providence Dr. Samuel Lee and Mother Barry met and began campus ministry. At that time Korean people were very fatalistic because of the unstable political situation and poor economic condition like poor countries in Africa and Middle East nowadays. They thought that only rich countries like USA and Canada had to send missionaries and serve God’s world mission. At that time Koreans’ traveling abroad was unthinkable. But when our ancestors brought their five loaves and two fish to Jesus, Jesus did an amazing work thus far, sending missionaries to more than 87 countries. To me it was the history of putting the five loaves and the two fish in Jesus’ hand. Also, when I think of the next 50 years of UBF, many things can be suggested and developed. But as for me, one thing is very clear. We should not lose but continually learn the faith of bringing the five loaves and the fish to Jesus, although we should pray a lot and know how to better serve millenniums in this postmodern era.

More personally, we can wonder, “How can I be a responsible shepherd for the young people in this generation?” and furthermore, how can we raise responsible spiritual leaders among campus students for this generation? It looks impossible. The mission sounds good but is impossible to our human understanding. But we newly learn the secret. It is to transfer what we have in our hands to the hands of Jesus. Through our New Year’s conference and EBC, God taught us this secret of faith. We have the prayer topic of establishing 12 shepherds’ families from among U of T students in 10 years. It is none other than to do the work of faith in response to Jesus’ command, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” We really want to see Jesus’ miraculous work. We don’t want to be like Jesus’ hometown people. We want to be the people who can see Jesus’ miracles through faith. May God help each of us to personally accept Jesus’ command, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat,” and learn the faith of bringing each one’s five loaves and two fish to Jesus.

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