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JESUS FEEDS THE FOUR THOUSAND

Matthew 15:29-15:39
Key Verse: 15:32

Jesus’ feeding of 5000 was recorded in all four Gospels. But his feeding of 4000 was recorded only in Matthew and Mark. It seems to be the repetition of the same event. But when we carefully observe this passage, many things are compared with the first one, and this event of feeding 4000 leads us deeper into the heart of Jesus. Especially, Jesus revealed his glory as the compassionate Messiah through his healing ministry as well as feeding the four thousand.

Look at verse 29. “Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down.” The word “There” refers to the region of Tyre and Sidon where Jesus healed the demon-possessed daughter of the Canaanite woman. Now he left there and went along the Sea of Galilee southward. Then he went on a mountain side and sat down.

Look at verse 30. “Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.”

One important thing we must notice is that the crowd gathered were mostly Gentile. We usually think that Jesus’ ministry was focused on the Jews. But it seems that Jesus’ heart was moving toward Gentiles after healing the daughter of the Canaanite woman. By the time, Jesus came back to the Sea of Galilee, a great crowd of people – mostly Gentiles – gathered around Jesus. They numbered 4,000 men, but possibly 15,000, including women and children.

These great crowds came with many sick people. Among them were the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others. When we think about the situation of each people, they were disadvantaged people due to their chronic sickness. They had limited job opportunities due to their sickness. As normal beings, it is not easy for us to understand their situation. Each group of people lived in the different life situations. The lame were disabled in foot or leg. They had difficulty in walking. They could not do any sports which use foot or leg. The blind were unable to see. All they see is total darkness. The crippled were unable to use their bodies and were confined in their wheelchairs. The mute had serious communication problem due to their inability to speak. Many others” includes spiritual sickness such as demon-possession.

To them, life seems unfair. They lived a fatalistic life due to their sickness. They might cut themselves from outside world and live in their isolated world. Someone said everyone has his or her own world and looks at the outside world from their view of life. In fact, there are 6 billion different worlds and life stories. Obviously, these people’s view of the world might be very dark and crooked and distorted due to their particular sickness. Nobody understood the inner sufferings and sorrow of these people. But Jesus had compassion on them. Jesus understood each one very personally and healed them one by one in a very personal way.

For example, in Mark 7, some people brought to Jesus a deaf and mute man. While there were so many people to heal, Jesus took time to heal him. He took him aside, away from the crowd, put his fingers into his ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. In this way he healed them one by one for three days.

The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. They shouted, “Praise God!” whenever each one was relieved from their sickness by the grace of Jesus. The mute was speaking, sharing his life-testimony with many tears. The crippled was made well, and the lame was walking. They sang a duet, “You raise me up!” the blind saw the beautiful world with his 4.0 vision, and praised God endlessly. In this way they praised the God of Israel.

Here we learn that Jesus is the Healer of all men. He welcomes and heals and restores anyone who come to him with faith. When we come to Jesus, we must believe that Jesus can heal my sickness both physically and spiritually and restore my life as a beautiful man and women of God. When we experience the healing grace of Jesus in our life, we can truly realize his love for us, and we can love him with all our hearts. We can praise God from our hearts throughout our life. May God help us to experience Jesus’ healing grace in us and in those whom we pray, through Summer Bible conference.

Look at verse 32. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

When these people tasted the grace of Jesus, they felt that they were in heaven. They wanted to hang around Jesus as long as they could. They even forgot their hunger. So three days had passed since they were with Jesus. All the food they brought with them was gone, and finally they had nothing to eat. When we see these crowds of people from human point of view, they were shameless people who only concerns for their own needs. Jesus might be very tired after spending three days to heal all the sick people. But they did not care about Jesus and his disciples’ situation. Their demand seems ever increasing day by day. After healing their sickness, Jesus could send them away so that they might take care of their hungry stomach. But Jesus did not want to send them away. It is because if he sends them away hungry, they might collapse on the way. So far Jesus had taken care of their physical and spiritual problems by healing their sickness. Now he wanted to take care of their practical needs as well –their hungry stomach. Jesus’ compassionate heart is indeed amazing, and it is boundless and unconditional.

Let’s read verses 32 again. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Here Jesus shared what is in his heart with his disciples. It is because Jesus wanted his disciples to learn the compassion of Jesus and have the same compassion Jesus had for the crowd.

The definition of the word, “Compassion” from Dictionary.com is like this – “A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate (lessen) the suffering.” It is feeling the suffering of others with determination to help them to come out of it. It is the love of God who so loved the world and gave his one and only Son to save sinners. Because of this love of God we are saved from our sins and became children of God.

As God’s children saved by the grace of Jesus, what we have to learn first and foremost is the compassion of Jesus. If we do not have the compassion of Jesus, we cannot say that we are children of God. Husband must have compassion on his wife. When a husband loves his wife with compassionate heart, his wife becomes happy and becomes good mother to her children. When parents have compassion on their children, their children grow happily. When a shepherd have compassion in his sheep, his sheep grows happily as well. May God help us to learn the compassion of Jesus in serving UofT students as Bible teachers and shepherds.

What was the disciples’ response? Look at verse 33. His disciples answered. “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” It seems that they were protesting against Jesus’ boundless compassionate heart. It seems that they are saying, “It is too much, Sir.” They also seemed to forget their experience of Jesus’ feeding 5,000. But Jesus challenged them again. “How many loaves do you have?”

Here we can see the growth of the disciples. In the first event of feeding 5000, the disciples were impatient and indifferent to the crowd. They suggested Jesus to sent crowd away so that they could take care of their own hungry stomach. They could not endure even one day. But in this second event, they seemed to grow a lot. They were quiet for three days. But Jesus challenged them again because they must learn the compassion of Jesus as his disciples and as future gospel workers who would take care of God’s flock.

What was their response? Look at verse 34. “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.” They only had seven loaves and a few small fish. These were all they had. But they gave to Jesus all they had. To Jesus, how much we have is not important. What matters to him is whether we give them all to Jesus.

Look at verses 35-38. “He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand, besides women and children.”

When the disciples brought all they had to Jesus, a miracle happened in Jesus’ hands. Jesus blessed their 7 loaves and a few small fish abundantly, and fed 4000 men in that place. They were all satisfied, and seven basketfuls of broken pieces were left over. What we bring to Jesus may be very small. But when we give to it to Jesus with faith, Jesus blesses us and uses us to feed many hungry souls abundantly until they are fully satisfied. We can attempt great work of God even though what we have is small. This is the privilege of God’s people because our God is Almighty God.

May God help us to learn the compassion of Jesus so that we can grow as a compassionate shepherd for God’s flock. May God help us to bring our 7 loaves and a few small fish with faith that Jesus would use them to feed his flock in UofT campus.

(James Lee)

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