Sermon on Matthew 14:31-21
Text: When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 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.
One of the greatest compliments that people give of husbands and fathers is that they are good providers for their families. They make sure that their family has everything that they need. Few things are harder on a man’s self-esteem than when he feels that he is not able to do this. This feeling may come from himself as he sees the bills piling up or it may come from others, who make him feel that he is not measuring up. This morning, as we study the account of Jesus’ feeding the five thousand, we are reminded that JESUS IS OUR GREAT PROVIDER. 1. In His Compassion, He Knows All Of Our Needs. 2. With His Almighty Power, He Provides For All Of Our Needs.
In the beginning of our text, we see that Jesus wanted to get away from the crowds for a while. There was growing opposition by King Herod. Moreover, the disciples had returned from an evangelism trip, and Jesus wanted to spend time with them, teaching privately. However, when the crowds heard that Jesus had left that area and crossed by boat to a solitary place, they followed on shore some eight miles, so that they could be with Jesus. As a matter of fact, the crowds got there before Jesus did and were waiting for him to disembark.
You might think that Jesus would be annoyed with the intrusion. He had gone off to a private place to be with his disciples and these people barged in on it. Yet, when Jesus saw the crowd, “he had compassion on them.” He moved when he saw the crowds. He saw their needs. In Mark’s account, it says that when Jesus looked at this group, he saw “sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34) They were wandering, looking for someone. So, instead of sending the crowds away, he had compassion on them. He saw their great needs.
Some of their needs were the sick that they took to see Jesus. They trusted that Jesus could help them and so they took their sick to this remote place to have Jesus heal them. Jesus did so. However, this was not the greatest need that Jesus saw in these people. We read in Mark’s account that Jesus “began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34) These people had an even greater need than Jesus’ healing their sick. They needed to be taught about the kingdom of God and how a person becomes right with God. These sheep would have been wandering forever, if Jesus, in his compassion, did not take care of their greatest need.
Jesus spent the day teaching the people. It got to be evening, and the disciples came to Jesus 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.” Here was another need of the people. They had been there all day. They probably did not bring food to eat with them. Even if they did, it was probably gone earlier in the day. They had a need and Jesus would soon take care of that need, though not in the way that the disciples expected.
How thankful we are that Jesus, in his compassion, is also aware of our needs. He knows everything about us and what we need for our lives. He knows when we are sick and hurting. He knows when we are fearful and concerned about our situations. He knows what we need for our everyday lives. Jesus cares deeply for us. He is not some sort of unfeeling God that occasionally looks down on his creation. He might help us, but then again, he might not. It is good for us to look at Jesus and remember that he cares for us. We see that many times in the Gospels. We see Jesus weep at the death of a dear friend. We hear it in the conversations he had with people. We see it as he took care of his mother, while he was dying on the cross. In his compassion, Jesus knows all of our needs. There is nothing that we are going through that Jesus is not aware of. In his compassion, he knows our needs.
When we have a good friend, they may be aware of what we are going through. They may be sympathetic. They say, “If there is anything I can do, please, let me know.” However, in spite of their desire to help, they are limited. There is only so much that they can do. How thankful we are that Jesus is not only aware of our needs. With his almighty power, he is able to provide for all of our needs.
After Jesus was encouraged to send the crowd away, Jesus told his disciples, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” It is kind of interesting that, in the Greek, Jesus emphasizes that the disciples were to get the people something to eat. ‘You, disciples, you give them something to eat.’ Jesus did this, so that they might turn to him for help. Unfortunately, they failed to do this. The answer they gave not only showed a lack of faith. It bordered on near despair: “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.” ‘It’s impossible. We can’t!’
Then, Jesus shows his almighty power to provide. “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. They all ate and were satisfied.” Jesus took what was there and thanked his heavenly Father for it. Then he took care of their needs. These people, who numbered 5,000 men plus women and children, not only ate, but were satisfied. They were full. Then, we read “the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” I can just imagine the disciples, picking up the pieces in their basket and watching it get full. Then they met together and saw that the other disciples’ baskets were full, as well. The magnitude of Jesus’ power was evident. Jesus, in his almighty power, took care of the needs of the people.
Jesus continues to meet all of our needs. He has already taken care of our greatest need, namely, how to be in a right relationship with God. We were outside of that relationship, because of our sins. We see evidence that we still have a sinful nature. We sin against God when we worry about things. This is telling God that we do not think that he has the ability to take care of us, even though he promised that he would. Even for the sin of worry, we deserve to spend our eternity apart from God. However, Jesus came to the earth and lived for us. He always trusted that his heavenly Father would supply everything he needed. He did this for you and for me. Then, to pay for all of our sins, including our sins of worrying, Jesus went to the cross. Now, when God looks at us, he sees us as being holy. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can be sure that our greatest need has been taken care of. In his compassion, he saw our great need. In his almighty power, he took care of our need.
Since he has done this, we can be sure that he will continue to meet all of our needs. He still uses his almighty power to take care of us. If he so desired, he could perform miracles to do so. Normally, however, he uses his almighty power in the normal processes of nature. He causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine. He causes the crops and the livestock to grow. He gives us the ability to work to earn a living to provide for ourselves and our families. Just because we may not see a miracle, such as the feeding of the five thousand, yet, we can be sure that Jesus is still just as active in meeting all of our needs.
In spite of this encouragement, aren’t we sometimes like the disciples? They had seen Jesus perform miracles before. They had seen him change water into wine and there was enough to take care of the wedding banquet for the week. However, when push came to shove, they despaired in their situation. They could only focus on how little they had and it would not be enough. Does that sound a little familiar? Do we, at times, do the same thing? We see what we have, and it doesn’t look like we can do it. Yes, we know that we have been taken care of in the past, but this time is different. Dear friend, remember that God loves you. He has promised to meet all of your needs and when God makes a promise, you know that you can count on it. When Jesus was talking about food and clothing in his Sermon on the Mount, he remarked “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:31) Since he knows that we have these needs, we know that he will provide for us. Because of this confidence, the apostle Paul could write as he does in Romans 8:35-39, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
As we go through life, we will face struggles and uncertainties. How thankful we are that God will meet all of our needs. When we feel anxious about our situations, may we heed Peter’s words in his first epistle, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” We can take it all to God, because as Peter says, he cares for us. He loves us. In his compassion, Jesus knows all of our needs. With his almighty power, he meets all of our needs. We say with confidence and we say with joy, Jesus is our great provider. Amen.
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