The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 6, 2023
What Is a Christian?
Someone Who Trusts God to Provide!
13When 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. 14When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15As 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.”
16Jesus 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. 19And 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. 20They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
School is going well. Your job is going great. Everyone in your family is happy and healthy. Your health is doing just fine. Your relationships with the people you love are strong and secure. Even your finances are improving to the point where you are feeling more and more confident. And your trust in God? Well, let’s just say that it is at an all-time high!
It’s easy to trust in God when the sun is shining brightly in your life, isn’t it! But what about the times when the dark clouds come rolling into your life like Karl the Fog? What about the times when school or work seem overwhelming? What about the times when illness or death strikes the people you love? What about the times when your finances begin to falter and you are no longer sure how you are going to keep up with your bills much less put some away for your retirement? Is it still just as easy to trust in God?
That is the scenario we want to address today as we look at this very familiar portion of Scripture. As we continue our sermon series What Is a Christian? let’s see how this portion of Scripture reminds us that a Christian is: Someone Who Trusts God to Provide!
Look at what Mathew tells us in the opening words of our text. He writes, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” When Jesus heard what had happened….” What had happened was the death of John the Baptist. John was Jesus’ cousin. John was someone Jesus had known ever since they were both little children. John was the Elijah that the Lord promised to send into this world to prepare God’s people for the arrival of Jesus, the long-awaited Promised Messiah. John was a faithful preacher of repentance— who got on the wrong side of King Herod when he called on Herod to repent of his sin of marrying his brother’s wife. John was described by Jesus as the greatest man who had ever been born. John was a man who had his head cut off on the whim of a dancing teenage girl and her conniving mother. John was the one who had his head delivered to this teenage girl on a platter— literally!
“When Jesus heard what had happened….” It’s difficult for us to comprehend the horror contained in those words. It’s not difficult for us to understand why Jesus “withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Jesus wanted to spend some quiet time alone with His disciples. He knew how important it would be for both Him and His disciples to have some time to rest. He knew how important it would be for Him to teach His disciples, to answer their questions, and to pray to the heavenly Father. Some of these men had been John’s disciples before they became Jesus’ disciples. They needed some time with Jesus. They needed Jesus to help them understand this terrible tragedy. They needed Jesus to provide them with the comfort and the strength that only Jesus could provide!
This is a very good example for us to follow, my friends. When tragedy enters into our life or into the life of someone we love we can easily feel overwhelmed— perhaps even lost. We’re not sure what to do. We’re not sure what’s going to happen next. We might even wonder if this tragedy means that God is not happy with us or if God even cares about us. That’s when we need to spend some quiet time with our God. We need to sit down and listen to Him as He speaks to us through His holy Word. We need to speak to Him through prayer. By spending some quiet time with our God we will experience the comfort and the strength that only He can provide!
Matthew then goes on in our text to reveal how a “large crowd” of people were trusting in Jesus to provide for their needs. He continues, “Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and he healed their sick.”
Did you notice the zeal of this “large crowd” of people? They knew that Jesus was the only One who could provide what they needed. So what did they do? They walked! They walked to this “solitary” place— trusting that Jesus would provide! Did everyone in this “large crowd” believe that Jesus is the long-awaited Promised Messiah? That we’re not told. But they did believe that Jesus had both the power and the will to help them— and they were not disappointed! As soon as Jesus saw this “large crowd” He “had compassion on them.” This is the word that can also be translated as, “His heart went out to them.” Jesus’ love and Jesus’ concern for these people did indeed lead Him to provide for them by “healing their sick.”
But there is more! Not only did Jesus provide for the “large crowd” by “healing their sick,” but Mark reveals to us that Jesus’ “heart went out to them” because “they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things” (Mark 6:34). Inspite of His own need for rest, inspite of recognizing the need of spending some quiet time with His disciples because of the tragic death of John the Baptist, Jesus knew that He had to provide for this crowd’s greatest need— the need to hear about the “kingdom of God”! (Luke 9:11)
There is an important lesson here for us. All too often we can find all kinds of reasons to not be in the company of our Savior. “I don’t have the time.” “I’m too tired.” “I’m too busy.” “I just went to church and took Communion— maybe a month or two ago!” While the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh never run out of reasons as to why we can’t spend some time with Jesus, we never have an excuse! As Christians we need to recognize that only Jesus has the ability to provide for our greatest needs— the needs of our soul! So make the time, my friends. Do whatever you have to do to make sure that you spend some time with the One who can and will provide for the needs of your soul! Do whatever you have to do to spend some time with Jesus both by gathering around His holy Word and His holy Supper here in His holy house and by reading and studying His holy Word in the privacy of your own home.
That brings us to what many might consider to be the “heart and core” of this text. Look at verses 15-18. Jesus’ disciples recognized that the day was almost over. Jesus’ disciples recognize that in this “solitary place” there was nowhere for this “large crowd” to buy food. What they did not recognize was that the One who had changed water into wine, the One who had just healed everyone who came to Him trusting in His power and in His willingness to provide for them, this same Jesus certainly had the both the ability and the compassion to feed this “large crowd”! So what did they do? Instead of trusting Jesus to provide, in their weakness the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” What the disciples did not expect was to hear Jesus say to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Try to picture the look on the faces of the disciples when they heard Jesus say this to them! Recognizing their own inability to provide food for such a large crowd of people, the disciples responded with words of despair, “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.” Then Jesus speaks those powerful simple words, “Bring them here to me.”
What we see here, my friends, is a reflection of ourselves. All too often we find ourselves face-to-face with a situation in our own lives that completely overwhelms us. All too often our solution is limited to trusting our own narrow abilities to provide what we need. All too often we fail to listen to Jesus as He says to us, “Bring them here to me.” Our faith in Jesus as our Savior coupled together with our knowledge of God’s holy Word assures us that no matter what our problem might be, we can take it to Jesus— trusting that He can and will provide!
We see a beautiful example of that truth in the closing verses of our text. Matthew writes, “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. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”
Amazing! Astounding! The majesty of this miracle is conveyed to us with very simple but very powerful words! After commanding the people to sit down on the grass, Jesus says grace (another good example for us to follow!) and enlisted His disciples to serve as waiters who would serve this meal graciously provided by the Lord! The greatness of this miracle is seen in two ways. First, Matthews tells us that “all ate and were satisfied.” No one had to begin their journey home on an empty stomach! Secondly, we’re told that after everyone had eaten there was more food left over than what they started with! Imagine what was going through the hearts and the minds of Jesus’ disciples! The same men who lamented, “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” had the privilege of filling twelve baskets with the leftovers! They now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that even when we have very little we can trust Jesus to provide for our needs!
Now there are those who use this portion of Scripture to teach what is known as the Prosperity Gospel. You bring to Jesus— or more specifically, you bring to the church— your “five loaves of bread and two fish” and Jesus will give back to you far more than you could ever imagine! The more you give— to the church— the more you will get in return.
Is that why the Holy Spirit had this miracle recorded on the pages of Scripture? Does God teach us that if you want to “prosper,” if you want your life to overflow with blessings from God then you have to do something— you have to “plant a seed offering” and watch in amazement as God causes that little “seed” to grow into a bountiful harvest? No, my friends. The Prosperity Gospel caters to the selfishness and the greed of our materialistic old sinful nature while neglecting than the even greater spiritual needs of our soul.
The feeding of the five thousand is recorded for us to give to us a real-life relevant example of what Jesus Himself taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Even if we feel “down and out,” even if we are not sure how we are going to pay our bills— as Christians we trust! We trust our God to fulfill His promise to provide us with what we need! Does this mean that we can give into the temptation to jump off the highest point of the temple (See Matthew 4:1ff), that we can max out our credit cards so that we can get all the things we want— trusting that God will provide the resources necessary to pay off those debts? Of course not! What it does mean is that we need to follow our Savior’s example when He said to Satan, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7). What it does mean is that even in our most difficult times we can lift up our eyes to the cross (Pointing to the cross) and trust— trust that the Lord has already provided for our greatest needs, our spiritual needs, so also the Lord will provide for all of our physical needs!
So what does the Holy Spirit want us to take home with us today? In other words, what does this miracle teach us? This miracle teaches us that we have a powerful Savior who can and will provide for all of our needs. It teaches us to remember Paul’s encouragement to the Romans, “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?” (Romans 8:31-32) It teaches us that just as Jesus first provided for this “large crowd” by providing for the needs of their souls, we also need to remember Jesus’ words to us, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). It teaches us to stay close to Him (Pointing to the cross) through regular reading and studying of His holy Word so that as our faith grows stronger and stronger we will find it easier and easier to trust in Him to provide!
To God be the glory!