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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Miraculous Multiplication
Text:Matthew 14:13-21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2013
Added:2023-05-23
Updated:2023-05-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Within Thy Temple, Lord  
How Blest Is He Whose Trespass
Break Thou the Bread of Life
Crown Him with Many Crowns

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


02/17/2013
“Miraculous Multiplication”
Matthew 14:13-21
 
All four gospel accounts record this miracle of Jesus. Many miracles are recorded in some of the gospel accounts, but this miracle, along with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, are the only two events recorded by all four gospel writers. 
 
Obviously, this miracle made quite an impression on the disciples. It did so for a number of reasons, including that it revealed the deity of Jesus in a truly remarkable way. Here were five thousand men, and in addition verse 20 tells us, there were also women and children. Some commentators figure that the women and children outnumbered the men. They estimate the total number to be well over ten thousand people. We simply don’t know the number, but whether it is feeding five thousand or ten thousand, we recognize that it is a miracle that could never be duplicated by some charlatan or false teacher.
 
We read about people in the New Testament like Simon the Sorcerer. He had the ability to do some magic that he passed off as miracles. In some ways he was like the Egyptian magicians. When Moses and Aaron first performed miracles, Pharaoh had his magicians perform the same miracles. That in itself has always fascinated me, but this is a miracle that no one else could duplicate.
 
The people were in a remote region. There was no food nearby. From John 6:9 we are told that the only one who had any food was a boy who had five small barley loaves and two small fish. Notice the adjective “small” which describes both the loaves and the fish.
 
Our English Bibles don’t convey the real picture of what the boy had. They were round, flat pieces of bread, about the size of a small, skimpy pancake. They weren’t loaves as we think of them; they weren’t large 1 pound or 24 ounce loaves of bread. And the fish were not trophy fish. They were small, perhaps sufficient to feed the boy, but not nearly enough to satisfy the appetites of five thousand men, and thousands of women and children as well.
 
Yet Jesus took those 5 small pieces of bread and two small fish, and verses 19 and 20 tell us, “…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.”
 
That’s a miracle that no magician or charlatan can pretend to duplicate. The so-called faith healers today would never dare feed their congregations with five pieces of bread and two small fish! 
 
While all the miracles Jesus did must have amazed the disciples, this miracle appears to have been imprinted on their minds in a special way, as the Holy Spirit inspired all four gospel writers to record it. The feeding of this great multitude clearly and powerfully reveals the deity of Jesus Christ, that He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As Jesus would say in John 14:11, Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”       
 
Fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy
 
Secondly, this miracle reveals how Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Christ. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, Luke describes how Jesus joined some disciples as they walked to the town of Emmaus. He writes: ...Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”  (Luke 24:27)
 
Is it possible that Jesus explained to them the significance of manna in the Old Testament as it relates to Him who is the Bread of Life? After all, the people of Israel were sustained through their journey in the desert by manna from heaven. Without that manna they could not live. Take away the manna – and take away the springs of water God provided – and the Israelites would die.
 
By the same token, what is the source of our life? What sustains us through the course of our pilgrimage here on earth?  It is Christ and the power of His Word that we have as the Holy Spirit imprints the Scriptures on our hearts and in our minds.
 
Do you remember how when Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan, He rebuffed the devil’s temptation to turn stones into bread by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3? He said: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4).
 
In John chapter 6 Jesus takes that thought even further as He proclaims that He is the Bread of Life. John, in that sixth chapter, describes in the opening verses how Jesus fed this multitude of people with five loaves and two fish. The people were amazed. Some began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:14) 
 
And then later, in John 6:30, they ask: “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (30, 31)
 
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6: 32, 33)
 
At that point Jesus is showing how bread is essential for life. He is teaching that just as manna was essential for the lives of the Israelites in the desert, so He is essential for life – true spiritual, eternal life. He is the bread of God…who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
 
Jesus is indeed the Bread of Life. If we are to be saved from our sin and possess eternal life in heaven, He must be in us and we must be in Him. Just as manna enabled the Israelites to have life in the desert, so too, Jesus gives life to all who feed on Him, who believe in Him with saving faith. This feeding of a great multitude is another example of how Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Christ.
 
Strength to do God’s Will
 
A third truth that springs from the feeding of this great multitude is that it teaches us that in Christ, we can do all things that God wills for us to do.
 
We can only imagine how shocked the disciples must have been when Jesus told them to feed this large crowd of hungry people. They had said to Jesus, in verse 15, “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.”   
 
Jesus replied to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” The word “You” is emphatic; it is as though there is a double emphasis on “you,” as though Jesus is saying, “You – you, feed these people.” 
 
The disciples were at a loss. Both Mark and John tell how the disciples said, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them?” (Mark 6:37) But Jesus is teaching them that what is impossible for man is possible with God (Matt. 19:26), and that by God’s strength they are to feed others – not just physical bread, but the Bread of Life – the gospel revealing Jesus Christ.
 
Through this feeding of a great multitude Jesus was impressing on His disciples – and impresses upon us – that when we abide in Him we are able to do God’s will, not in our strength, but in His. It is the same principle as Jesus described in John 15:4-5 when He said: Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
 
That was true for the disciples in carrying out the commands of Jesus, “You – you feed them.”  They could never do it on their own. But if they remained in Christ, if they followed His command, they could feed the multitude and have twelve baskets left over. It wasn’t because of their strength or their resources; it was because of the work of Christ within them.
 
But that wasn’t just the case for the disciples, it is the case for God’s people in every era of time and in every situation of life. The Apostle Paul, facing challenges that were far beyond his ability to meet, wrote from prison and encouraged the Philippian Church. He wrote, I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
 
In his second letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle gave an example of how it is God who gives his people the strength they need to do His will. He wrote: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead...”  (2 Cor. 1:8, 9)
 
The same is true for you and for me. Many times the Lord puts us in situations “far beyond our ability to endure.” He allows those situations so that we rely on Him and not on ourselves. And when we rely on God, and not on ourselves, He will supply what we need. That was true for the Apostle Paul. It was true for the disciples distributing the bread and the fish to thousands of people. It has been true for all of God’s people in every era of time.
 
Whatever challenges or hardships come our way, we can face them and overcome them as we trust in God’s will for our lives. But we do God’s will in overcoming the challenges, not on our strength, but the strength of the Lord who dwells within us, for He has promised, (through His servant, Moses), “As your days, so shall your strength be.” (Deut. 33:25)
 
Never Too Busy to Care for Us
 
A number of further applications spring from this passage, including that Jesus is never too busy to care for us.
 
In verse 13 we read how Jesus was looking for some quiet time. The gruesome news of John the Baptist’s decapitation was on His mind. (Matt. 14:1-12) The disciples had also recently returned from their missionary journey. Jesus had been teaching, healing, and ministering to people in a chaotic, antagonistic, and oppressive atmosphere. He desired to get away and have some solace, just as many of you anticipate the weekend after an especially hectic week, or just as you anticipate vacation and a time to unwind. 
 
That is what Jesus was looking forward to. Verse 13 describes how When Jesus heard what had happened,” (the beheading of John the Baptist) he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” But in the second part of the verse we are told that people from all the nearby towns gathered to see Him. He was going across the lake in a boat, and the people walked around the north side of the lake to meet Him on the other side.
 
In a way, it would be like me going to the Ligonier Conference later this week and then going to R.C. Sproul’s church next Sunday and all of you show up and say, “Pastor, I know you and Karen are looking for some quiet time. You are planning that cruise with RC, you are on vacation, but preach another sermon! We want to hear about Jesus walking on water, here in the last part of Matthew 14.”
      
Now I know you wouldn’t do that! But if I was Jesus, able to do amazing miracles and teach as no one else had ever taught before, I imagine most of you would be in that crowd. And even though Jesus had gone to the other side of the lake for some much needed solitude, what did He do when all these people showed up? Verse 14 records how When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
 
The compassion of Jesus to the large crowd teaches us that Jesus is never too busy to care for us. He didn’t chase the great multitude away. He didn’t say, “Listen I’m on vacation. I need some quiet time. Leave Me alone, let Me just enjoy some time with My disciples. It’s been very stressful with the death of My cousin, John the Baptist.”  Not at all. The word translated “compassion” in verse 14 could properly be rendered, “His heart went out to them.”
 
And that wasn’t just a first century phenomenon. Today in the glory of heaven, as the Lord Jesus reigns and rules, He is never too busy to care for you or for me. He is never too busy to hear our prayers. And His heart goes out to each one of His people, just as it did for the people by the lake. He has compassion for us; He knows the trials, heartaches, and pain of living in a fallen, sinful world.  
 
He is indeed that Great High Priest who cares so deeply for us. As Hebrews 4:15-16 puts it: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
       
When, by God's grace, we approach our Heavenly Father in the name of His Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He will have the same compassion on us as He had on the people so long ago. Jesus is never too busy to care for you and for me.
 
The Need for Compassion
 
A second application is that we are to emulate His compassion for others and we are not to follow the negative example of the disciples. In verse 15 we read, 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.’”
 
Almost all the commentaries point out that the disciples were often driving people away. When parents brought their children to see Jesus, Matthew 19:13 tells us that the disciples rebuked them. Likewise, when a Canaanite woman repeatedly asked Jesus to drive a demon out of her daughter, His disciples came to Him and urged Him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” (Matt. 15:23) And here again, seeing the crowds, the disciples say: Send the crowds away…”
 
By contrast, Jesus, even though He was tired, seeking some solitude, in need of rest as a truly human person of flesh and blood, reached out to these people with compassion. And most of them were not believers. It has been pointed out that most of them wanted to use the power of Jesus simply for temporal blessings of health, for themselves or loved ones. Others were curiosity seekers who wanted to see the spectacular, to see the miracles that Jesus would perform. Yet Jesus reached out to them with compassion.
 
William Hendriksen, in his New Testament Commentary on Matthew, notes:It must not escape us that by doing this under such circumstances He was also setting an example for the disciples (10:8), and in a sense for the entire church throughout the ages.”  (Pg. 593)
 
We live in a hostile, sinful world where true Christianity is ridiculed and mocked, just as it was in the first century. We grow weary in living out our faith in such a world, and our tendency is to follow the example of the disciples. It’s easy to become a community of believers that is a separate island from the world. It is tempting to say, “Leave us alone. We’re exhausted and you unbelievers are just looking to the church for your personal gain, or out of curiosity, or looking for another reason to mock us.”
 
There is, admittedly, a time not to throw our pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6), but may we never forget how Jesus, although weary and tired, reached out with a heart of compassion to this large crowd of mostly unsaved people. He did indeed set an example, not only for the disciples, but also for us.
    
Consequently, we are to praise Him for providing above what we can ask or imagine. In verse 20 we read, They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” In other words, Jesus provided above and beyond what the disciples and the people could have ever imagined.
 
The same is true for God’s people in every era of time. The same is true for you and for me. Christ, the eternal God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, continues to feed and provide for His people. As Ephesians 3:20-21 puts it: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
 
The Lord may not always bless His people with an abundance of material blessings, but He will always provide our daily bread, the necessities of this life. And He provides that spiritual bread, for He is that manna from heaven who gives us spiritual life and sustains and strengthens us in our pilgrimage toward the heavenly Canaan.
 
As Jesus fed this great multitude, He was not only feeding them with the five loaves and two fish, He was showcasing the true Bread of Life – the good news of the gospel that all who come to Christ in humble repentance and saving faith possess eternal life and cannot be snatched from His hand. 
 
By His provision of food, Jesus teaches the truth that by saving faith He is in us, and we are in Him. May you and I be among those who come hungering and thirsting after Him who is both the Bread of Life and the Living Water. Amen.
 
 
sermon outline:
 
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. - Matthew 14:19
 
                                             “Miraculous Multiplication”
                                                      Matthew 14:13-21
 
I.  Each gospel contains an account of Jesus feeding this great multitude. This miracle:
     1) Reveals the deity of Jesus (18-20; John 14:11)
 
 
 
 
     2) Shows how Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Christ (18-20; Exodus 16:35;
          Deuteronomy 8:3; John 6:58)
 
 
 
 
     3) Teaches us that in Christ we can do all things that God wills for us to do (16; John 15:4-5;
          Philippians 4:13)
 
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) Jesus is never too busy to care for us (13-14; Hebrews 4:15-16)
 
 
 
 
     2) We are to emulate His compassion for others (14) and not follow the negative example
          of the disciples (15) 
 
 
 
 
     3) We are to praise Him for providing above what we can ask or imagine (20; Ephesians
          3:20-21; Philippians 4:19)
 
 
 
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Ted Gray

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