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In yesterday’s article we visited a banquet held in honor of Herod, complete with drunkenness, seduction, and murder (Matthew 14.1-12). Today’s article features a banquet that Jesus provided for 5000 people.
Matthew wrote, “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.
“When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’
“Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’
They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’
“And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 13.13-21).
Living Within The Story
Today let’s place ourselves within the story and view it from three different vantage points: Jesus, the disciples and the crowd.
When Jesus heard about the murder of John the Baptist by Herod, he left Capernaum and traveled over the border to the region that was ruled by Herod’s brother, Philip. Jesus avoided a confrontation with Herod, because he knew the time for a confrontation with the Roman government was not to take place until the final conflict in Jerusalem.
Anyone who has worked through grief knows how important it is to have a private time to deal with emotions. Jesus seemed to be doing this, as he traveled to a private place in the wilderness.
When Jesus arrived to his private place, it wasn’t private. A large crowd of people had already assembled. Jesus knew that the crowd were there, because they were desperate for him to transform their lives through his mighty power.
Jesus allowed his agenda to be interrupted because his compassion for people was greater than the plans he had made for the day. He change the course of his plans and healed the people who came to him.
This part of the story reminds me of a time when I was writing a sermon on love. My office window at the church overlooked the sidewalk to the church’s entrance. I looked up and noticed someone coming to see me and was irritated that my sermon preparation was about to be interrupted. The Spirit quietly reminded me that the person needed a genuine expression of love and not just a sermon on Sunday about love.
How did the crowd know where Jesus was going? How did so many people assemble so quickly? What kind of desperation compelled the people to make a trip without even planning on what they would eat?
We can only guess at an answer to some of the questions. One thing is evident. Jesus offered people hope for a better life, and they were eager to meet him and experience his transforming power.
The small villages around the Sea of Galilee must have been like ghost towns, as the people streamed to the place where Jesus went for solitude.
I sometimes wonder in my prayer time how many millions of people come to Jesus on a daily basis. He hears prayers from around the world in multitudes of languages covering all sorts of needs. Praise God! Jesus has the ability to hear every prayer and has the love to make every person feel like they are his best friend.
The Banquet in the Wilderness
Herod’s birthday dinner included his political cronies and other invited guests. Jesus’ banquet was with 5000 new friends. Herod was the guest of honor at his dinner party. Jesus was the host, who provided the food for his guests.
It must have been interesting to follow Jesus, but probably exasperating at times. The disciples had just sailed a distance on the Sea of Galilee and walked several miles from the shore to a wilderness place. They didn’t have to go to the gym each day for a workout. They got plenty of exercise just trying to keep up with Jesus.
Jesus did the healing, but they certainly helped with the crowd. More than likely, they visited with all of the people, as they waited their turn to meet Jesus. They may have even engaged in a little crowd control. Their remarks to Jesus about sending the people to get food make me think that they were subtly telling him, “It’s quitting time, Boss.”
Instead of being “quitting time,” Jesus told them to feed the crowd. Their was a time, when Jesus told them to heal the sick, cast out demons and even raise the dead (Matthew 10.1-15). Yet, their response to feeding the crowd was less than excited, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish” (verse 17).
Have you ever felt tired, overwhelmed, and even hopeless? The disciples had those sort of days, too. They gave what they had to Jesus and he multiplied their little into a surplus. He will do that for you, too.
Note, it was still not “quitting time” for the disciples. They were the waiters for a banquet of 5000 people. What a day!
After healing the multitudes, Jesus hosted a banquet in honor of those to whom he ministered.
We should not miss the fact that when Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread to satisfy his intense hunger after fasting, Jesus refused (Matthew 4.3-4). Now, he multiplies fish and bread in an all-you-can-eat banquet for the sake of those whom he loved. There was so much food that they had leftovers.
Verse 19 is a picture of what the church calls Communion or the Lord’s Supper. Jesus “looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.” Just as Jesus fed the crowd, Jesus’ broken body and shed blood has been saving the multitudes for generations.
I worked for a man who hosted a barbecue for the St. Francis Hospital in Cape Girardeau. I helped a chef prepare and serve the food. He cooked baked beans and grilled steaks over coals of hickory wood. The nuns from the hospital brought their famous homemade bread. When everyone had been served, the chef brought me two steaks and a loaf of bread that he had set aside for me. It was a dinner that I remember to this day.
My steak dinner can’t compare to having fish and bread that Jesus made. Don’t you know that the banquet he provided was the talk of all of Galilee once the people returned to their homes?
When Communion or the Lord’s Supper is served, we get only a morsel. At Maywood Baptist Church, what we eat and drink fits in a thimble sized plastic cup. There is coming a time when we will sit at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19.9) for a real feast with Jesus.
The ticket to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is the same cost as the banquet Jesus served in the wilderness – FREE. However, it was not free for Jesus. His death, burial and resurrection was the price he paid to give everlasting life and joy to us. Praise Jesus!
Over the past two days, we have meditated on two quite different banquets. One banquet was in honor of the ruler, complete with an entourage of self-sufficient nobles. The other banquet was comprised of people who were there, because they were desperate for what Jesus had to give.
One banquet lavishly praised the ruler. The other banquet was prepared and served by the King of all kings.
One banquet ended in the death of a great prophet. The other banquet pointed to life, eternal life, for a host so large that it can’t be counted.
It is important that we don’t miss a key question: “Whose side are you on?” Do we value the kind of banquet that serves the self-important and self-sufficient? Do we come to Jesus with our needs on a daily basis and ask how we can best live in a relationship with him?
Dear Jesus, we can’t praise you enough for the magnificent character that is yours. You picture for us that grandest way to live that is possible. Please help us to follow you in every way.