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06.20.10 What Happens in Jesus Hands, Matthew 14:14-21 Sermon Summary

by on June 21, 2010

Summary Points

  • Our own pain can keep us from following Christ; being open to God’s leading can help us heal
  • Christ calls us to two decision points: join the ministry; see abundance

It is illuminating to consider the context of this remarkable passage in Matthew. Jesus had just been informed of the martyrdom of his friend and relative John the Baptist. He has gone away to be alone, obviously to mourn. I wonder if he was also questioning his vocation. Surely he realized that truth-telling could well lead him down the same path to a violent death at the hands of the powerful. Perhaps he wanted to be alone to strengthen his resolve.

It is in this context of mourning and questioning that Jesus sees the multitude. Matthew tells us he has compassion on the multitude, and spends the day healing their sick. Normally when we are in pain and confusion our attention shifts inward. We become preoccupied with alleviating our discomfort. It’s a natural regression to a childish state. But not so with Jesus. He looks past his own pain and confusion, he sees the multitude and their needs, and he heals them. A book I’m reading offers this equation: “vision = need + conscience”. Jesus saw the multitude and heals them because he had vision; he saw their needs, and he was in tune with God’s concern for others.

Jesus first disciples, meanwhile, had come to the end of their patience. They, too, may have been mourning John’s death; at least they would have been concerned for their friend Jesus. At the end of this long day of healing, they are ready to quit. They also see the multitudes, and that they are now hungry at the end of the day, and the disciples want the multitudes to leave and take care of themselves.

It is here that Jesus brings his disciples to a pair of decision points—one having to do with action, another having to do with attitude. In action, Jesus invites the disciples to participate in the ministry. He tells them the multitudes do not need to go away to be fed; the disciples are to feed them. In attitude, Jesus challenges the disciples to abandon a perspective that only sees scarcity (five loaves and two fish), and instead adopt a perspective that sees abundance (a multitude needing to be fed in the presence of Christ and his disciples).

The lesson here is that in Jesus’ hands, scarcity becomes abundance. Jesus invites the people to sit down. He then takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the disciples. They then give it to the multitudes who eat and are satisfied. The allusion to the Lord’s Supper is so obvious it cannot be denied. In Jesus’ hands, scarce resources become means of revelation and grace.

Today as then, Jesus brings all his disciples to the same decision points. Will we join the ministry? Will we see abundance? Or will we faithlessly lament the presence of a needy multitude with too few resources to minister to them?

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