Truth Taught- Jesus shows us His compassionate heart as He creates bread for those who have come to hear Him Matthew 13
In Matthew’s Gospel he presents in chapter 13 many parables of our Lord. We saw our Lord’s amazing teaching through His word-pictures depicting the Kingdom of God. Now, in Chapter 14 our author takes us to see Jesus’ miracles. Our first stop is the Feeding of the 5000.
This event has many features and points to notice along the way.
The Feeding of the 5000 appears in all four Gospels. Apart from the Cross event only four other things are contained in all four Gospels: The beginning of Jesus’ ministry, The triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Peter’s denial, foretelling of Judas’ betrayal. So, the point is that all the Gospels contain this miracle so they thought it to be very important to include it.
If one is to get a full picture of this event all four Gospel accounts should be read. What one has, the others might leave out. For example, as one reads these different accounts there are details that give us a fuller picture. Here is a small detail that is somewhat important.
Mark’s Gospel is traditionally Peter’s account of the ministry of Jesus. As Peter relays the event to Mark a small piece is added that I’ve always thought has more meaning than it seems on the surface…
Mark’s account stresses the fact that where they were was a desolate place. But then he mentions something almost in passing that is significant.
Mark 6:38–42 (ESV)
38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied.
When Peter is recounting the event moved by the Holy Spirit, he remembers the grass. He uses the phrase the green grass. His mind travelled back to that wonderful day and the green grass stayed with him. What a contrast to the desolate place, literally the desert place is this field of green grass. This is where Jesus had them to all sit.
John’s account is followed by Jesus teaching that He is the Bread of Life; He is the Manna that comes down from Heaven. When He feeds the 5000 bread, He has to produce it miraculously like God did in the wilderness with the Israelites.
Notice, those who are hearing Jesus are not wandering in the desert but are seated on plush green grass receiving manna, as it were, from Jesus.
Jesus as the Creator will create food. You see, this miracle is not teaching that Jesus wants us to share our lunch nor is it teaching anything about the Lord’s Supper as some have taught. This is showing us Jesus in all His glory, compassion, and deity. So, we will look at the passage in the proper light, the context and purpose Matthew had in mind when he wrote it.
Matthew 14:13–21 (ESV)
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
1. Jesus Withdraws to a Desolate Place
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
Jesus withdrew to Bethsaida on the northeast shore of Galilee. Why did He withdraw to a more solitary place? What was it that Jesus heard that prompted this withdraw?
Many if not most teach it was because of what He heard concerning John the Baptist. They say things like Jesus needed some alone time as He was grieving etc. The problem with this is that they forget that the John the Baptist account is a flashback. In other words that event happened sometime in the past from the time Matthew wrote. Now he’s writing about a current issue. Jesus withdraws to another location because…
Matthew 14:1–2 (ESV)
14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.”
He withdraws to escape Herod. It’s not time for our Lord to die. He drifts away for a time or at least goes into another place to escape Herod.
2. The Disciples are Unable to Feed the Multitude in That Desolate Place
15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”
Isn’t it interesting how people try to tell Jesus what to do? These are His disciples, those who make up His inner circle. They have heard all the private teaching and still think they are going to inform Jesus as to the situation.
They say, this is a desolate place as if Jesus didn’t see or realize where they were.
They say, the day is now over as if Jesus didn’t know that the sun was going down.
They say, send the crowds away telling Jesus what He should do.
This was a situation where there was no human answer. The crowd is here in this barren place and it’s getting dark, so based on this information, Jesus You should send them away.
Do you have a situation in which you’ve analyzed the situation and have told Jesus what He should do?
Spurgeon says, human propositions are the weak point and that human conclusions are wretched affairs.
The disciples did come to Jesus that is the right thing to do but they came with human conclusions and offer them to Jesus as the answer to their dilemma.
A better way to come to the Lord with our needs and questions is to seek to come without any agenda but simply come with a mind open to God’s answers.
They were concerned with the need to eat, the day was long gone, and Jesus would have to stop for the day sooner or later. But there is something ironic in the disciples telling Jesus to send needy people away, when Jesus had been moved by compassion to help them. The disciples needed more of that compassion; they should have asked Jesus to do something, rather than tell him to send people away. Matthew does not tell us that Jesus was testing the disciples; he leaves it with the irony of the disciples offering advice to Jesus (who did not take their advice, of course; He does not send the people away).
This section highlights Jesus’ compassion. He has determined to help the people. He is healing them and teaching them. Beloved Jesus is not going to send them away. What a wonderful truth. If you come to Jesus by faith He will not send you away. Instead He will meet you where you are and have mercy and show you compassion.
What did Jesus tell His disciples? You give them something to eat.
Things just got worse. Can you see the disciples having a huddle and saying, Jesus is doing it again? It’s a trick question, I don’t understand, maybe He didn’t hear us?
Not that it makes any real difference the number recorded is 5000 men. After you add in all the women and all the children, some estimate approach 15,000 people in all. The bottom line here is the disciples cannot in any way feed these people. They don’t have enough money to march everyone down to the towns to hit the drive thru. They have no food, except 5 loaves of bread and two fish. Do you see what Jesus is doing? He will show kindness to the crowd and He will feed them. The disciples throw their hands up in the air and are completely helpless.
Beloved this is what ministry looks like when we try to do it in our own power. When we don’t pray and ask God to empower us. When we make attempts on our own it’s like trying to feed 15,000 people with a few loaves and two fish.
Have you ever attempted to serve others or engage in some sort of ministry in your own strength? For us, prayer is the key. Seek the Lord. Tell Him, I cannot do this, I only have two fish and five loaves and there is a multitude to feed.
3. Jesus Creates Bread to Feed the Multitude in That Desolate Place
18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
As we read this account in Matthew with what we learned from John’s account we see that what Jesus was doing was feeding the multitude in the wilderness with bread from God. New Testament manna with Jesus as Creator.
The key here for the interpretation is Jesus’ instruction for the disciples to give the people something to eat, and then His miraculous provision of food to give to them. The Jewish believers would have immediately seen the significance of this—God was giving them food to eat through this miracle! And they would have made the connection to the Manna in the wilderness where God had compassion on the people and fed them for forty years. And Deuteronomy 8 explains that He did this in order that they might know that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. So from the event itself, and from the background of it, the spiritual meaning was evident. The Jews would have picked up on this right away.
This is the Prophet like Moses who gives bread from heaven.
Jesus has the disciples to hand everything to Him. It’s not accident that Jesus desires all the food that they have. They held nothing back but all that they had was given over in order that Jesus could bless it. Don’t hold back something but give everything to Jesus. Make Him Lord of your finances, family, home and even your life. Are you holding back something from God? Is there an area of your life that you do not trust God with it? We do it all the time don’t we? I want to encourage you to hand whatever it is to God and trust Him with it and watch what happens.
In these days we need to be reminding that God is in control of this world. No virus, no army, no Taliban terrorist, no bomb is outside of God’s sovereignty.
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
10 fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Jeremiah 29:11–13 (ESV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Matthew 6:25–26 (ESV)
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
So, Jesus has the multitude to sit down. Now I’ve mentioned the green grass from Peter’s memory and Matthew mentions it too. Why would they mention the grass? All through this section as you compare all the Gospels there is a consensus that this area was a desolate place…a desert. Could it be that Jesus also spread out a carpet of green lush grass for the banquet?
20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
It seems as if each disciple had a basket and went around gathering up leftovers and their baskets were full!
Spurgeon comments, Jesus had prepared both carpet and seats for His guests, by making grass to grow in His open-air banquet-hall. At the bidding of their great Host all the crowds sat down on the green grass.
Jesus would not act without praying to His Father for a blessing.
He looked up to heaven and said a blessing.
The disciples become waiters passing out the food God provided.
So much food that 12 baskets were left over. These baskets according to the original language were huge baskets.
No one was neglected. The rich and the poor were fed by Christ. All the men, all the women, and all the children were fed by Christ. No one went hungry everyone satisfied.
Notice that there was more after than when they started. What a difference God’s blessing makes! Beloved obey God seek His blessing. He is compassionate.
What a banquet our Lord spread before the people.
All were satisfied…
Trust Jesus with everything
Don’t try to serve Him in your own power
Never forget Jesus is the Creator who is kind and compassionate
This world is an evil place but Jesus is with us and He will never leave us
19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass,
Psalm 23:title–6 (ESV)
23 A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary
A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles
A Gospel of Matthew by France
Matthew by Craig Bloomberg
Matthew by Doriani
Matthew by Charles Price
Matthew by Leon Morris