August 30, 2020 Sermon Transcript
Updated: Aug 31
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Matthew 14:13-21 ~ Sunday, August 30, 2020
Are you satisfied? That’s what the customer service department of a well-run business wants to know. The repair shop wants to know: are you satisfied with the work done on your car? The retailer wants you to rate: How satisfied are you with your purchasing experience? The hospital sends to a survey to find out: Are you satisfied with the care you received?
But “Are you satisfied” is not just a question others ask us, it’s also a question we as ourselves. Am I satisfied with my job? Am I satisfied with my home? Am I satisfied with my marriage? Am I satisfied with myself, my appearance, my abilities, with what I’ve done with my life? How often do you answer “No” or at least, “Not completely.”
Dissatisfaction started early in our world, when Adam and Eve began to think there had to be more to life than the perfection of Paradise. Since the Fall into sin, there’s been a lot to be dissatisfied about in our world. Weeds grow, bones break, bodies wear down and wear out. But the Fall brought with it another problem, namely, that we often look in the wrong places to find satisfaction. God’s Word teaches us and experience reminds us that true, lasting satisfaction can’t be bought. Real and lasting satisfaction is elusive. But it’s not impossible to attain. Satisfaction begins and finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. That is what Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 impresses upon our hearts.
Whenever we look at one of Jesus’ miracles we can find something special about Jesus that we can apply to our lives. Each of Jesus’ miracles reveals Jesus’ feelings for us in a special way. Each of Jesus’ miracles has a special way of strengthening our faith. Jesus’ miracle of feeding 5000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish is no exception. What I’d like to do with you today is take a deeper dive look at this miracle and discover 1) how this miracle reveals something special about how Jesus feels about us; and 2) how Jesus uses this miracle to strengthen our trust in him.
In answer to the first question: this miracle reveals the compassion Jesus feels for us when he sees our needs.
To fully appreciate how true that is you need to understand some background to the start of this story. Matthew begins by reporting: “When Jesus heard the news.” What news? The news that John the Baptizer was dead. John was a great prophet, the one who had been assigned the task of preparing the people to see and know that Jesus is the promised Messiah. John didn’t die in his sleep. He died in prison, beheaded at the request of Herod’s niece, beheaded for being faithful to the mission God had given him.
This was sad news. Jesus wanted to be alone in his thoughts with those closest to him. He wanted to pray to his Father in heaven. But instead we learn: “The crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed, he saw a large crowd.” Try to relate to what Jesus is feeling and facing. You’re planning a quiet night. You have a good book or movie to watch, your favorite snack. But the phone rings. And the message is the heartbreaking news. In that moment, what do you need? Time to process? Reflect? Grieve? Gather yourself?
That’s the kind of moment Jesus is in right here. The last thing Jesus was seeking in this moment was to be in the public eye, to be “on stage” in front of a large crowd. But when the crowd finds him, Matthew says, “Jesus had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Jesus didn’t view this crowd as an imposition. His reaction was one of pure compassion.
I don’t know how long Jesus was at this—hours, very likely—but the day wore on and it was time to think about dinner. But there was no food around. Seeing this the disciples decide to intervene and tell Jesus how things are going to go down from here. They said to him, “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.” Maybe one of the disciples was already taking position to get everyone’s attention and he had the announcement all worked out in his head, “OK, everybody, the Lord is done healing for today. Time to leave. Have a good trip home. If you need dinner, try stopping by a bakery in the village up the road. If you hurry you might get there in time.” The disciples’ reaction reveals three things: 1) They’re focused on their limitations rather than the limitless nature of their Savior. 2) They want to remove themselves from the problem rather than help be part of the solution. But most of all their response demonstrates that 3) they were completely missing the opportunity to exercise their faith in Jesus by placing this problem in the hands of their Savior. When facing problems, how often don’t we respond in those same sort of ways?
We are self-oriented people interacting with other self-focused people. Just think about how that plays out in our lives. Someone says something or does something that we don’t like. We even interpret the words and actions as a personal affront. We put up a wall of hostility between that person and us, assessing the words, the actions of that person as a personal attack. The last thing you want to do to that person is have compassion on them or take time for them and understand where they’re coming from. No, you want to keep your distance! In fact, whatever you hear them saying or see them doing, you react with deep suspicion, assessing their motives as arrogant and self-serving, something that is done to harm you. This sort of thing happens so often in human relationships, yes, even among the people of God.
I mention this because it really does magnify how truly amazing Jesus really is! Here he is in the midst of a difficult moment, and he wants some down time, but this press of people is pressing in on him, not to comfort and console him, but to get something from him… and his heart goes out to these people. So what if it is their fault that they didn’t plan. So what if their motive in following him wasn’t 100% pure---they just wanted another miracle. But Jesus doesn’t turn away from them. He’s moved to do miracles among them, healing their sick and driving out demons, because those miracles prove that he is the Son of God. These miracles authenticate his message that he is the One and Only way for people to know God and his heart for them.
You see, Jesus has a whole different way of looking at people. As the sinless Son of God looking at sinful people he can’t ignore their needs. The Feeding of the 5000 is just one of many indicators that Jesus Christ cares deeply for his people, that he cares deeply for us. He came to this earth because he wanted to satisfy our needs, not only our physical needs, but deeper still: our spiritual needs.
When Mark recorded this miracle he noted that Jesus looked on the crowd as sheep without a shepherd. John tells us that Jesus spoke to them about the kingdom of God. Jesus’ compassion moved him to come these people and to us and lead us to know God as our Father, to bring us into his kingdom, where we enjoy forgiveness for our trespasses and deliverance from the Evil One. Even the scourge and nails and cross could not squelch Jesus’ feelings of compassion. Without the spiritual blessings that come from faith in Jesus, real satisfaction isn’t possible. Bread and fish satisfy for only a few hours, but Jesus the Bread of Life, satisfies our souls for a lifetime and beyond.
It really presses the question: What do you really need to feel satisfied? A bigger savings account? A better marriage? Job security? A slimmer figure? A boyfriend? Girlfriend? Any friend? Friend, you already have the best friend you can ever have—Jesus. The beginning of living in satisfaction is to trust that Jesus perfectly knows your needs and has promised to respond to your needs with unfailing compassion. You can choose to live your life in perpetual dissatisfaction never content with what we have or we can listen and trust when Jesus says about fretting over material things, even the necessities of life, “…the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” God knows our needs. More than that, his heart goes out to us in our needs.
Instead of going with the disciples’ suggestion to dismiss the crowd Jesus said to his disciples, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” That immediately started the disciples sputtering. “We don’t have any food. Just this one boy with some bread and fish. You couldn’t even begin to divide it up in small enough portions. Buying food would take 8 months’ wages.”
The disciples were still learning that nothing is impossible with God. Jesus said, “Bring them here to me.” You know the rest of the story. An hour later a crowd of 5,000 satisfied men, women and children were lounging on the hillside while the 12 waiters were finding enough carryout boxes for the leftovers. The disciples just saw how God can powerfully do amazing things.
In today’s Prayer of the Day we prayed, “O God, you reveal your power chiefly in showing mercy and kindness.” How true! God’s raw, almighty power, all by itself ought to cause us to shudder. This is the God, after all, whom we’ve offended time and again with our unbelief and sin. Yet when we survey God’s actions, we see so often how he uses his power to show us mercy and kindness. His power gave us a perfect world at creation. His power still gives us food to eat even when we forget to say our table prayers or thank him afterwards. God’s power was hidden at the birth of Jesus---God hidden in human baby. But even there God’s power was revealed—Jesus sharing our humanity was a miracle in itself. Jesus’ death gave birth to the end of spiritual death. Jesus descent into hell chained Satan like a puppy dog. Jesus’ resurrection powerfully turned physical death into the doorway to eternal life.
We too find ourselves in situations that are like Jesus saying to his disciples: “You give them something to eat.” Maybe Jesus places a challenging situation before us, one we’re not up to. He calls us to bear a cross for our confession of his name or permit some unwelcome change into our lives. Right now our ministry is carrying $5.3 million in capital indebtedness. At the moment, we can only afford to pay interest, so that load isn’t getting any lighter. How do you respond? How often don’t we react by trying to conquer the challenge on our own or despairing of ever meeting that challenge altogether? The account of the Feeding of the 5000 reassures us that in Jesus’ hands and through Jesus’ strength we will find exactly what we need.
This miracle reminds us to “cast all our anxiety on him for he cares for you.” This miracle verifies what St. Paul so triumphantly says, “If God is for us who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all---how will he not also, along with him graciously give us all things.”
Matthew doesn’t mention it but this crowd didn’t remain satisfied for long. After they ate their miracle meal, they decided that a man like Jesus would be handy to have as king, who could miraculously give them things and it wouldn’t cost anyone, anything. They tried to make Jesus king by force. But that’s not what Jesus wanted because that’s not what he came to earth to be or do. Their wrong-headed attitude drives him away. You have heard again of this miracle. When you leave from this time in the Word and Satan comes tempting you, will you fall for his dissatisfaction trap? “You’re not happy. To be happy you need…[you fill in the blank]. True lasting satisfaction never will come from something fried or baked, driven or cashed, achieved or completed, enhanced or removed. True lasting satisfaction can never consist of atoms and electrons---something from our physical world. Lasting satisfaction comes only and comes always from Jesus who paid the never-ending punishment of hell that you and I deserve. Yes, real satisfaction comes only from Jesus who has a place prepared for you in heaven. True satisfaction comes only from Jesus who promises to give you everything else you need for life here on this earth while you wait for your heavenly welcome. There is no greater satisfaction than the kind you find in the arms of your Savior! Amen