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08.03.14 When we Are on Empty Matthew 14:13-21 Sermon Summary

by on August 4, 2014

We all have physical hunger, and we know how to satisfy it. But what do we do with our spiritual hunger?

Summary Points

  • Three instances of faith illustrating Psalm 145’s promise that God helps us when we are empty
  • The unexpected way God filled Jesus when he was spiritually empty
  • Being blessed as the poor in spirit, and how the kingdom can be ours as Jesus said
  • Questions for discussion and reflection

Throughout the history of God’s people, we have risen and fallen, we have been exuberant and we have been discouraged. Psalm 145:14 says, “The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.”

In Isaiah’s time, he portrayed Israel as woman who had divorce forced upon her because she was not able to have children. Isaiah’s message? God himself will betroth her. Paul saw the Israel of his time as unresponsive to a relationship with God through Jesus. Paul’s solution? God’s plan extends beyond our time.

And in Jesus experienced Israel as violently opposed to the message of God’s true kingdom. When he heard of John’s execution, he must have seen the writing on the wall. And Jesus’ solution? Feed people.

Jesus had the faith of Psalm 145, and he must have been especially fond of verse 15: “The eyes of all look to the LORD, and God gives them their food in due season.”

When we are physically hungry, we eat. But God knows physical satisfaction is not the end of our purpose. We are hungry for more than just the satisfaction of our physical needs. Jesus’ first temptation reminded us that we do not live by bread alone, but by God’s Word to us. This is why Isaiah also asks, “Why do you labor for bread that does not satisfy? Incline your ear, come and listen to me, that you may live.”

From Jesus’ perspective we who know our spiritual hunger are the “poor in spirit.” And to us “belongs the kingdom of heaven,” according to the Sermon on the Mount. And the one word pronouncement of Jesus on us in this condition is that we are “blessed.”

What does it mean to be blessed as the poor in spirit?

Matthew’s setting of the feeding of the five thousand gives us a picture. Jesus has just learned that his forerunner John has been murdered by King Herod. He attempts to retreat to a solitary place—out of grief, confusion, fear?—but the crowds find him. At the end of a day of healing and teaching, the disciples ask him to dismiss the crowd; everybody’s hungry by now.

Jesus tells them no one has to go anywhere to be fed; the disciples should feed the crowd. “But we have only five loaves and two fish!” they protest. Human logic dictates that a crowd of five thousand cannot be fed with five loaves and two fish.

Human logic also questions whether a pacifist like Jesus can make a difference in the violent world of Herod. Human logic believes Paul is wasting his time being patient with Israel. Human logic dismisses Isaiah’s hope as unrealistic.

Jesus says to the disciples, “Bring them here to me—the five loaves and two fish.” Jesus’s wisdom transcends human logic. Jesus knows that in God’s hands, five loaves and two fish can feed five thousand—even more, since Matthew tells us that number doesn’t include women and children. God can do more than we need with less than we think we need.

The conquered Jesus triumphs. Paul sees all Israel saved. She who had no future in Isaiah’s time has one in God’s time. Jesus feeds five thousand people plus.

Psalm 145:18-20 describes how we might avail ourselves of this God who can do so much with so little. It says, “The LORD watches over those who love him,” that, “God fulfills the desire of those who worship and saves those who pray,” and that “The LORD is near to all who call on him in truth.”

Jesus fulfills these criteria perfectly. Because he loves God, he loved the five thousand; Matthew tells us Jesus had “compassion” on them. Jesus also worships God and prays: looking to heaven and blessing the bread. And Jesus trusts God completely; even enough to turn the task back over to the disciples, whom he instructed to serve the people.

What we learn is that when we put things like five loaves and two fish, no matter what those small numbers represent in the face of much larger challenges in your life, into God’s hands, he blesses them and gives them back to us. Blessed, these become a blessing to others. Isaiah’s promise gives hope to the despairing. Paul’s patience gives peace to those anxious about others with different beliefs. Jesus’ serves the hungry to give us strength.

With this hope, peace, and strength, God sends us forth as his people—full again, even though we were empty. We discover in our emptiness that we are blessed to be a blessing.

Jesus calls us who are empty, in whatever way we are empty, to put our trust in him, to place everything into his hands. He will bless them, and give them back to us as a blessing, not only for us, but for others as well.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • What situations do you face that resemble Isaiah’s childless divorcee, or Paul’s unbelieving family members, or Jesus’ confrontations with powers? Do any of these stories give you a new perspective—new hope, peace, or strength?
  • As a disciple of Jesus, in what ways are you growing in the ways Psalm 145:18-20 describes those who experience God’s blessings? Do you love God, worship and pray, and trust God completely? What obstacles exist in your life that keep you from following Jesus’ example more closely?
  • What do you hold in your hands that only amount to five loaves and two fishes? What might God do with those meager resources if you turned them over his blessing and received them back to bless others?
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