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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Feeding on the Bread of Life
Text:Matthew 15:29-39 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Great Is Thy Faithfulness
In Doubt and Temptation
Wonderful Words of Life     
With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring

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

“Feeding on the Bread of Life”
Matthew 15:29-39
In this passage, we find Jesus again ministering to the Gentiles, but now in a different area than where He was in the previous passage (last week). In verses 21-28, we read how He was in the region of Tyre and Sidon, which are both located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Verse 29 tells how Jesus left that area and went to the Sea of Galilee. Mark is more specific than Mathew, at this point. In the parallel account, in Mark 7:31, Mark tells us Jesus was on the east side of the lake in the region of Decapolis.
He is ministering among Gentiles, and as we read about His ministry among the Gentiles we are reminded of how people – and this certainly includes ourselves – put our emphasis on physical healing even though we all know, I’m sure, that spiritual healing and spiritual strengthening is far more important than physical healing and physical strength.
Verse 30 describes how the people brought to Jesus their loved ones who were lame, blind, crippled, and mute. And the text says they brought many others, meaning they brought anyone who had an ailment of any kind to Jesus to be healed.
That is also what we do today. Most churches have prayer chains, and what is the focus of most prayer requests? They usually deal with physical issues. Someone is having surgery, someone else is diagnosed with cancer, still another was involved in an accident and needs the healing hand of God. We also see that same emphasis in the prayer requests that we receive on Sunday evenings. Most of those requests focus on prayer for healing and for physical strength.
And there is nothing wrong with that. We need a safe and secure place for our soul or spirit to dwell, and our physical bodies are the places where our soul, or spirit dwells. Naturally, we desire healthy strong bodies; they are the tent, in the analogy of 2 Corinthians 5:1, for our souls during our pilgrimage on earth. And when our tent wears out, then our soul goes to be with the Lord and the tent of our body is buried in the ground until the Lord returns. 
So there is nothing wrong in praying for health and healing, for vitality and strength. However, if that is all we pray for, then our prayers for health and healing are indeed wrong. As Jesus taught in the Lord’s prayer, our focus is to be on the name of our Lord, the fulfillment of His kingdom, and seeking to do His will on earth as it is done in heaven.
And as God works His will on earth, He often allows sicknesses - the “thorns” in the analogy of 2 Corinthians 12 - to remain in our flesh. He doesn’t heal the sickness or remove the thorn because by not removing it He teaches us to trust His grace to endure whatever ailment or thorn is imbedded in our lives. As the Lord said to Paul, when Paul’s thorn was not removed, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) And that is why our prayers must always focus with adoration and praise on God's spiritual blessings more than our physical needs.
A second truth we see in this passage is the immense compassion of Jesus. We see it in the way He healed all those who came to Him. Verse 30 tells how they just laid those who need healing at the feet of Jesus. They didn’t even have to speak!
We also hear the compassion of Jesus in verse 32 as He called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
In these words we are reminded that the Lord has compassion for us in every regard. He shed His blood for the redemption of our souls. But in addition to that supreme sacrifice, He also meets our daily needs. We can pray that petition of the Lord’s prayer with confidence, “Give us this day our daily bread,” for just as the Lord cares for our spiritual nourishment, so also He cares for our physical nourishment.
We also see, in verse 37, that those who come to Him in saving faith will never leave hungry or disappointed. Verse 37 describes how “They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.”
When the Lord provides for His people, He provides abundantly. He might not provide abundantly in the sense of giving us a great supply of material blessings at one time. In this case, there were seven basketfuls left over, but that is not always the case. Often, He supplies our daily needs on a day-to-day basis, just as He did for Israel in the desert. He gave enough manna for each day so that the people would trust Him to provide their daily bread. Their trust would be in the Lord and not in the supply that He gives. And the same is true for us. Even when we live paycheck to paycheck, day by day, we have great assurance that the Lord will provide for us each day, because He is always faithful.
The Israelites looked at their daily manna and wished it was more. Some of them went against the Lord’s command and tried to save manna for the next day, even when the next day wasn’t the Sabbath Day. They wanted a reserve; they didn’t trust that God would provide day by day and they were chastised severely. Yet over the course of their lives in the desert, how abundantly God provided for them! The amount of daily manna, multiplied over the years of their pilgrimage was an enormous amount of manna, which was supplanted with quail, and with water from the Rock. 
God always provides abundantly, even when there aren’t seven basketfuls left over, as in this case. Instead, often He provides day by day so that we trust not in the resources that are stored up, but in the faithfulness of our God who always provides for His people. Like the widow who cared for Elijah, we can have confidence that God will provide abundantly for us, as we trust that the oil and flour – the provisions of our lives – will be provided by Him who not only redeemed us with His precious blood, but also provides our daily bread and other material needs.
Scripture Cannot be Broken
In this passage we are also reminded that the Scriptures are inerrant, that is, they are without error. In the words of Psalm 12:6, The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.” Or in the words of Jesus, in John 10:35, “Scripture cannot be broken.” That means that the Bible, all sixty-six books, are a cohesive whole, as each book is inspired by God and fits together into one organic whole Bible.
By contrast, liberal “scholars” teach that the Scriptures have errors. They may admit that the Scriptures “contain the Word of God,” but what they mean by that is the Bible also contains myth, legend, and outright errors. And it is their job as biblical scholars to separate the truths in the Bible from the many errors that are in it.
Those type of so-called “scholars” have a heyday – they love – this passage because they say it proves that Matthew wasn’t really an eyewitness of what went on but only followed stories that he heard. He wrote by “oral tradition” and he got confused by what he heard. Was it 5,000 that Jesus fed, or was it 4,000? Was it on a mountainside or by the Sea of Galilee?  Were the people on grass or on dry ground?  Were there seven loaves and a few fish or were there five loaves and two fish? Were there seven basketfuls left over or twelve?  In their view Matthew was terribly confused. “This is another example of why you cannot trust the Scriptures,” they say. But what Jesus said to the Sadducees in Matthew 22:29 would also apply to these false teachers.  Jesus said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
The feeding of five thousand men recorded in Matthew 14:13-21, was clearly done on a separate occasion than the feeding of four thousand men here in Matthew 15. Jesus Himself pointed that out in Matthew 16:9-10 when He asked, “Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?”
No matter what part of the Bible we read, we can be assured of its reliability. We can be assured that it is the inspired Word of God which the Holy Spirit uses to apply the truths of God to our hearts and lives. In that way it fits the description of Psalm 12:6, The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.” 
It also fits the description of many other passages that describe the incalculable value of the Word of God. For instance, in Psalm 19, after describing many aspects of God’s Word such as His law, statutes, precepts, commands and ordinances,” David exclaims, They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them is great reward.” (Psalm 19:10-11)
When my children were little, they were sitting around the dinner table one evening, and two of them got into one of those silly discussions children can have. They were talking about what they would like to inherit when Karen and I pass on to glory. One wanted their mother’s wedding dress, another wanted the television set. I think various pieces of furniture came up, and one of them – the one who on a few occasions had said so seriously, “I really do want the Lord to return soon, but I hope He waits until I’m 16 so that I can get my driver’s license” – that’s the daughter who wanted to inherit that old blue hippie van we used to drive.
But then a third daughter, who had been listening to her two sisters go on and on, suddenly joined the conversation. Her eyes got as big as saucers and she had one of those facial expressions that imprint themselves permanently on a parent’s mind. She pointed at me, and this Bible was in front of me, for we had just closed in our devotions, and she said, “When Dad dies, I want his Bible!”
This Bible is a very special Bible. Maybe you noticed it is not the usual Bible I bring into the pulpit. I don’t carry it with me anymore because the pages are disintegrating. My mother gave me this Bible when I began seminary and I poured over this Bible for more than 30 years. I keep it on my desk because it is still the Bible that I can find passages in. It is the Bible that contains the Scripture verses, written here on the front page, that have served as my guide in ministry:
1 Corinthians 1:17 - …Preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
1 Peter 4:11 - If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
Colossians 3:23 - Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.
1 Timothy 4:12, 16 - Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. … Watch your life and doctrine closely.
1 Samuel 12:23 - As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.
It also has one non-biblical quote, the best uninspired wisdom that any would-be minister could have. Richard Baxter, an English Puritan pastor from the seventeenth century wrote: “Preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”
But what makes this Bible so valuable isn’t its sentimental value. It isn’t just because it was used for decades for family devotions and personal study. It isn’t because it has the addresses of every place we lived, which brings back an instantaneous mental picture of where we lived, the ages of our children, and even what type of dog we had at the time.
What makes this Bible valuable is not the sentimental value or the family historical record. What makes it valuable is that this book is the inspired Word of Almighty God. In this book, the Creator of the universe reveals Himself and exposes our sin. He points us to Christ, the only Redeemer, and then applies His Word, by the Holy Spirit’s power to the lives of His people.
When my young daughter joined the conversation of her sisters and said, “When Dad dies, I want his Bible!” she chose the most valuable possession that any of us have. The value of your house, or your car, your big screen TV or your computer – something we didn’t even own back then – whatever you and I have by way of material possessions pales in comparison to the value of the inspired Word of God, the Holy Bible.
Feeding on the Bread of Life
And that leads to our first application: We are to prayerfully feed on Christ, who is the Bread of Life, through the faithful study of His Word.
The people by the Sea of Galilee were fed by the Lord. They ate the bread and the fish which Jesus multiplied as He gave thanks for them and broke and gave the bread and fish to His disciples to distribute to the people. That was an awesome display of His power! What a privilege for those people to be fed by the very loaves and fish that Jesus prayed over, broke, and distributed!
But we have an even greater privilege, and also responsibility. We are to feed on Christ, who is the Bread of Life, and so be sustained spiritually as the Holy Spirit works through the Word He inspired. Consider Psalm 34:8, Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Or 1 Peter 2:2-3, Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Most of us will go home and eat lunch. Most of us began this day with breakfast, and if you are like me, you have made a mental note of what options are available for supper tonight. We regularly and thoughtfully feed our bodies. But do we regularly and thoughtfully feed our souls with the Word of God which reveals Him who is the Bread of Life?  
As Paul told Timothy so long ago, “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Just as we feed, care for, and exercise our bodies, so we need to feed, care for, and exercise our souls. And that spiritual feeding comes through faithful, systematic reading and study of God’s Word, the proper use of the sacraments described in the Word, and prayer for the Holy Spirit’s illumination so that we understand God’s Word and have Him apply it to our lives by the Spirit’s power.
This book is the most valuable possession any of us have. But its value is only realized as it is faithfully read, studied, memorized, and meditated on so that it is a part of us, always pointing us to our Savior.
Living Up to What We Have Obtained
A second application is that we are not wallow in our doubts, but we are to live up to what we have already attained.
Jesus said to His disciples, there in verse 32, that He had compassion for the people because they were hungry. He didn’t want to send them away famished. They had been with Him for three days and were weak from a lack of food; Jesus pointed out to the disciples that they could collapse. How did His disciples respond? In verse 33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
Their statement springs from wavering minds dulled by unbelief. They had been with Jesus when He fed the five thousand men, along with women and children, as recorded in the previous chapter. You would think the disciples would say to the Lord, “Feeding this great multitude is no problem for You! You fed five thousand before with two fish and five small loaves of bread. Now we have four thousand men and we have seven loaves and a few fish. That is no problem for You, Lord. Just ask the blessing and break the bread, and we will distribute it just like we did before!”
But that’s not at all the way they react. It is a sober reminder of how quickly you and I forget the power of our God. It is a painful reminder of how quickly we doubt His ability to provide, and how quickly we become anxious even when we have seen His power and faithfulness again and again in our lives.
There is a verse in Philippians 3 – actually many verses there – which always convict me. But verse 16 has jumped off the page on many occasions. The Apostle has described how we are to run the race, how we are to press on toward the goal, and how we are to live wholeheartedly for the Lord with trust and faith in Him in every area of our lives. And then, in Philippians 3:16 he writes: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
The disciples here, unfortunately, did not live up to what they had already attained. But in each one of our lives, how often have we found the same to be true? The goal should always be put before us to live up to what we have already attained, trusting our faithful God to supply whatever we need for spiritual growth and physical nourishment because our faithful God “will meet all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)
If we truly know Him who is the Bread of Life, we will feed on Him spiritually by being in His Word; we will strive to live up to what we have attained, and then, a third response: We are to bring Him our praise.
Did you notice the last part of verse 31?  These Gentiles from the Decapolis have brought all their sick to Jesus. He has healed them, turning none away and it says: They praised the God of Israel.”
Some of them, perhaps many of them, praised with their lips and not with their hearts and lives. We know that many in these great multitudes were following Jesus, not because they had saving faith, but because they were curious, or they needed something from Him. They came to Him to see His miracles, to receive healing, food, and other material needs. Or, in the case of many of the Jews, they followed Him because they wanted Him to be their King, the one who would free them from Roman rule.
But for those who believe in Jesus with a true saving faith, for those who feed on His Word and strive earnestly to live up to what they have already attained, there must also be the expression of praise, not just on the lips, but from the heart; not just a sentimental feeling of praise but an entire life lived as a living sacrifice of praise, in view of God’s mercy to us. As Romans 12:1 puts it: “I urge you, brothers (and sisters), in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Or, as 1 Peter 2:9 notes: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
That is indeed the purpose for our lives. Ephesians 1:4-6: He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
The first question of the Westminster Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man”, that is, what is our goal, our purpose in life? Its answer is in full harmony with Scripture: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
May that be the chief purpose of your life and mine! By God’s redeeming grace may you and I feed on His Word, live up to what we have already attained, and live to the praise of the glorious grace of Jesus Christ who is the Bread of Life, our Redeemer, Provider, Sustainer, and Lord! Amen.
sermon outline:
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for
these people; they have already been with me three days and have
nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may
collapse on the way.” – Matthew 15:32
                             “Feeding on the Bread of Life”
                                          Matthew 15:29-39
I. This passage reminds us:
    1) We usually place our emphasis on physical healing (30-31) but
         spiritual healing and exercise are far more important (1 Tim. 4:8) 
    2) The compassion of Jesus is great (32); those who come to Him in
         saving faith will never leave hungry or disappointed (37)
    3) The Scriptures are inerrant (Psalm 12:6; John 10:35).  Liberal
        “scholars” teach that Matthew wrote from oral tradition and mixed
         up the number of people Jesus fed, as well as other details. The
         feeding of 5,000 (14:13-21) and the feeding of 4,000 were clearly
         two separate meals, as Jesus Himself teaches (Matthew 16:9-10).
II. Applications:
     1) We are to prayerfully feed on Christ through the study of His
          Word and proper use of the sacraments (Psa. 34:8; 1 Pet. 2:2-3)
     2) We are not wallow in our doubts (33) but are to live up to what
          we have already attained (Philippians 3:16)
     3) We are to praise the God of Israel” (31e), not only with our lips
          but with our lives (Rom. 12:1; Eph. 1:4-6, 11,12; 1 Peter 2:9)



* 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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