Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21
Epistle: Romans 9:1-5 (6-13)
Lesson: Isaiah 55:1-5
Psalm: Psalm 136:1-9 (23-26)
CLB Commentary – Rev. David Rinden
The text before us today must have an important message for us since it is included in all four Gospels: Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13. Together they give a complete picture of this miracle.
There are some differences. The Matthew account alone mentions women and children among those who ate. And it seems that the men, women, and children ate together, a taboo among Jews for that day. No doubt this emphasizes that the Gospel of Jesus is for all. And the Kingdom of God is for all. There is no male or female. Nor are children exempted from the Kingdom of God. All are to sit down at the table in the Kingdom of God and partake of what Christ offers.
The preacher may be tempted to preach this miracle as one in which Jesus takes care of our personal needs. It is much more. A footnote in the NLT Study Bible succinctly states: “Jesus’ actions consistently fulfilled OT promises regarding the Kingdom and the Messiah (11:5-6; 12:28) Here Jesus evoked the memory of God’s provision of manna for the Israelites (Exodus 16; see John 6:32), demonstrating that he is the promised end-time prophet (see Deuteronomy 18:15-16).”
This text shows Jesus preparing the world for what is to come. He is the Messiah who gives “manna” in the desert. He is the Bread of Life. (See Jesus’ teaching on the Bread of Life found in the same chapter after the account of “Jesus’ feeding the five thousand,” John 6:22-59.)
Richard Schultz, in Lectionary Preaching Resources, edited by Francis Rossow and Gerhard Aho, (Concordia Publishing House, 1986) writes on this text: “This is a miracle text, but Matthew does not call it a miracle. He uses the term terata only for the wonders of false prophets, as in Matt. 24:24. Jesus’ miracles are simply ‘deeds of Jesus.’ The stress is not on the miraculous nature of the deeds but on the person of the doer. In His deeds Jesus reveals His Person and character. He acts like the Messiah that he claimed to be (e.g. Is. 55). The miracles reveal Christ’s will, motives, and mission. The deeds are significant because they show us what kind of Savior we have. This approach tells us our purpose in a sermon on this text. We want people to appreciate what kind of Lord they have and to trust in Him to minister to their needs of body and soul.”
This text also proclaims to us that God cares. When Jesus saw the large crowds he had compassion on them. One way to translate this word used in the Greek text might be “he was filled with
tenderness.” Or “his heart went out to them.” He looks at us as “sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34) and he yearns for us. This is how Jesus looks at our congregations. We need help. We need the divine Shepherd to redeem and lead us.
So what does this shepherd do? He calls us to a meal, which to the people of that day was an invitation to fellowship. “The common meal was more significant for the man of the ancient East generally, and for the Jew particularly, than it is for us; it established fellowship, and to violate this bond was the grossest kind of infidelity (cf. Jn 13:18; Ps 41:9).” (Concordia Self-Study Commentary, Concordia Publishing House, 1971, p.30).
This invitation and subsequent miracle demonstrates Jesus’ compassion. Further, he shows us the importance of the work of his disciples in his mission. He used what they had, although it wasn’t much, but it was enough to show God’s power. Can you imagine the joy and amazement of the disciples as they went from one group to another group distributing the gifts of God? They wouldn’t be taking the credit for this exercise (see Mark 6:7-13, 30). What they had to offer was all of and by God’s grace.
So this is how we will enter the pulpit on August 3. We will not bring much, but like the small boy’s lunch, it will be enough as we point people to Jesus, the Bread of Life.