Matthew 14:14-21 – New Year? Time to Put Words Into Action!

Posted: January 1, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 14:14-21
Jesus Feeds the 5,000 Men
Here we are on the first day of a new year! Can you believe it? It is now 2016. Last year, that ended last night, flew by as if it was on warp speed (yes, I am a Star Trek geek!). God brings together the intersection of a new year with this passage as I walk through the Gospel of Matthew. This passage gives us a time to reflect on what we do as people of the church with regard to our time, talents and resources. Many of us see the giving of our time, talents, and resources to the church as something we do as a leftover. We give our leftover $20 bills to the church if we happen to have one in our wallet when we go to church. We rationalize away that it my contributions do not matter. Others will pick up the slack. We go to our church because we like the music or we like what the church does for our kids or what it does in the community but yet we give only when we have an extra $20 in our pocket. Most times, we do not give at all. This passage takes us head on in our mentality of seeing our gifts to our local churches as something we do when we have extra rather than as an act of obedience to the commands of the Lord. What we end up with is a local church that cannot minister effectively to the world around it. What we end up with are churches that can barely meet payroll. What we end up with are churches that turn away people in need in the very place that whether to help or not is a question. Paying the light bill vs. helping a needy person in our midst should not be choices that our churches should have to make. We should be able to keep the lights on AND help the world around us. What does it say to the world when we must turn people away and send them to villages to make do on their own? What kind of church do we really want to be? A new year though is a time to make a change in our behavior. So, what does this have to do with Jesus feeding the 5,000? Let’s find out together. First, let’s read the passage, Matthew 14:14-21,

 

14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

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.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 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. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

 
When you look at this passage and study it piece by piece, you will see that the disciples saw the problem but decided that the problem was too big to solve. Second, you see that Jesus told them to do something about the problem. Third, you see the disciples saying that there was no way that they could use what they had to solve the problem. Finally, we see Jesus take the limited resources and multiply them. In the end, we shall see that when we submit our resources to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, he will bless us in ways that we could not have imagined.

The first thing that we see here is that the disciples wanted to write-off the problem altogether right from the get-go. Let us send them away to the villages to fend for themselves. The problem is too big for us to solve. Aren’t we like that? We think the problems of hunger, poverty, domestic violence, homelessness and so on are too big to solve. So, we decide to ignore the problem? As long as it does not affect me, it is really not a problem. As we drive to church in our nice cars and our nice clothes, sing a few hymns, have our kids taught a good lesson, go out to lunch, and back home to our mortgaged homes, we think all is right with the world. We think the problems of the world are theirs to solve. We insulate ourselves in our own little worlds of middle class luxury and ignore the real problems of the world. If it does not affect my job, my home, my cars, and my kids then I am not going to get all riled up about the real problems of the world. They can solve their problems. Those who live in poverty have put themselves there anyway, right? Send them to the village and let them solve their own problems. We are like the disciples here when we ignore our Christian duty to do more than go to church and that’s it. We are called to love our fellow man so that we can demonstrate the gospel to them. We are not to write off the problems of this world as unsolvable. We may think that the problem is too big for one person or one church to handle. We think that what we can do will not make a difference so we do not do anything. I am preaching to myself here as much as anyone else. We can get so insulated in our own little worlds and rationalize away our inaction that we begin to become numb and think someone else is solving or will solve the real problems of the world. The disciples here are the same way. Send them away and let them solve their own problems. Despite the fact that the disciples knew that 5,000 men plus equal amounts of women and children would overwhelm the village they were near. Since they could do nothing, let’s just ignore it and let the world try to solve its own problems. Where’s the gospel in that?

The second thing here is that you see Jesus does not let them off the hook. He said, “You give them something to eat!” In the opening verse of this passage, it says that Jesus had compassion for the crowd. Even though He was emotionally hurting from the news of John the Baptist’s sudden death, He still had compassion for the crowd. That compassion is not theoretical or conceptual. It was real. That’s why He issues the challenge to His disciples to give the people something to eat. He wants us to care beyond concept. He wants us to do more than go to church on Sunday, go to small group one night during the rest of the week, read our Bibles and read the latest great Christian authors, and that’s it. He wants us to care in reality. He challenges us to be more than armchair Christians. He challenges us to take action. We may want to sit around and complain about what the world is coming to but yet we are not willing to take action. We would rather post on Facebook about how the world is going to crap and how there are no morals in the world. But are we giving the world something different to look at? Are we really trying to make a difference? Are we trying to change the world? You feed them, Jesus said. He wants more than our conceptual allegiance to Him. He wants us to put the gospel in action. He wants us to identify what the problems are and do what we can to solve them in loving and compassionate ways that point people to Him through what we do. Jesus challenges us to do more than talk. He wants us to walk the walk too.

The third thing we see here is that we see the disciples saying that they do not have the resources to solve the problem. That is where we are today, too. We say we do not have the resources to give to our local church. We are the richest nation in the world and each one of us, whether we believe it or not, has a standard of living that 97% of the world would kill for, but yet we do not have the resources. All we can come up with to solve the problems of the world is a few loaves and a few fishes. Some of us won’t even offer up anything because our bread and fish are obligated elsewhere. We talk about helping the community but we have so financed ourselves into financial binds that we have no loaves and fishes to give. We think it is more important to have a bigger house than our neighbor. We think it is more important to have the newest car. We think we must have the American Dream rather than serve God with our resources. We give the extra $20 in our wallet on Sunday and think we have done enough. Or we think that we should do more but never change. We are the same way with our time. In churches, there are about 20% of the people that actually do the serving in the church and participate in real ministry. The rest of us will participate when we can fit it into our schedules. Just think of the ministry that the church could do if we lived on less and did not have to chase the American Dream. What if we decided that we are going to pay off our debts instead of using our extra cash to splurge on meaningless things? What if we then began to tithe to the Lord because we really believe that it is an act of worship and obedience rather than just something extra we do. Just think of the loaves and fishes that we would have then for ministry. Just think if we placed priority on serving our fellow man through the ministries of our church instead of having our church beg for volunteers. What if we placed priority on seeing our churches meet real needs in our community, nation and world? What an amazing church that would be? If the average per capita income of a predominately white middle class church was $50,000 per family and if your church had 300 families in it and each family tithed 10% of their income, that church would have a budget of $1.5 Million per year to do ministry. However, your typical 300 family church operates on a budget of less than half that amount each year. We give our leftover loaves and fishes of time, talents, and resources. We are not setting aside the first loaves and first fishes to serve the Lord with our obedience in time, talents, and resources.

The final thing that we see is that Jesus multiplies the loaves and fishes when they are given. Real ministry is done. People are really helped. Jesus will bless our efforts to minister to the world around us. He will take our obedience and use it to do ministry that matters. When we are obedient and give to the Lord, He will make it matter. Even if our 10% is very small, He will make it matter. He will make it count. What if we in loving obedience to the Lord quit running the materialistic rat race and gave generously to the ministries of our church, how the Lord would bless that. How many more people we could help if were obedient with our time, talents, and resources? How many opportunities could we create to impact the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ? How many people in real need could we touch? How much further we could invest in developing relationships with people who need to hear the gospel. We wonder why the world is not hearing the gospel? We are not putting our money and our time where our mouth is? We would rather complain about where the world is headed rather than invest in making change through extending the reach of our churches. If we really invested our time and our money in the ministries of ou churches, more people would hear about Jesus Christ. More people would hear the truth of the gospel. More people would be touched by agape love (love with expectation of payback). More governments would be changed from the inside out by people who have the Holy Spirit acting in their hearts. God will bless our commitment to change the world. God will bless our investments in the ministries of our churches. No matter how small the contributions of time, talents, and resources, the Lord will bless. He blesses obedience to Him.

Let us commit this year to reprioritizing our lives such that we can live lives of gospel action. Let us rearrange our lives such that we can live off of 90% or less of what we make and obediently give our excess to the Lord. Let us rearrange our lives such that we place a priority on serving in the ministries of our churches. Let us rearrange our lives such that we see the world beyond our living rooms and make intentional choices to develop relationships with those who have not heard the gospel. Let us make commitments to not just talk about what’s wrong with the world and write it off but rather engage the world at the root of the problems and help solve them. Alone we can do nothing. Together we can do great things. With Christ, we can change the world! Let that be our resolution. Let that be the change we seek in 2016!

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