You can feed 5000 (or more)

This is the sermon that I delivered at York Salvation Army on Sunday 7 August, 2011. The Bible passage it is based on is Matthew 14:13-21.

Preaching seated

I apologise that I’m preaching seated down. I hope you can all see me. Just over a year ago, I was playing basketball in my E division Salvos comp team, the aptly named Team Victory, because we never win. I was making a drive in towards the left, and my knee collapsed from under me. At the time, it was suspected that it was just a dislocated patella, but after I reinjured my knee earlier this year while making a coffee, it became apparent that my Anterior Cruciate Ligament had actually been ruptured, with the only fix being Surgery. I had that almost two weeks ago, and as such, standing isn’t great, so I’m going to have to be seated for this sermon.

However, you’ll know that Jesus taught many sermons seated. These are mostly in the Gospel of Matthew, as this gospel was written for a Jewish audience, who understood that respected teachers taught while seated. So I thought I’d look at those to see if that was what God was wanting me to talk about today. But they didn’t grab my attention so much, however, the Feeding of the Five Thousand sparked something that I thought was where God was leading me today.

“You Feed Them”

The disciples come to Jesus saying, “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 responds by saying “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

This was something that really stood out to me. Jesus instructs his followers to perform the miracle of feeding all these people. However, the disciples can’t see past the physical need of food, when Jesus is actually telling the disciples that they are able to feed these people spiritually. However, they lack the faith at this time to see past the physical, to see what Jesus is talking about, and to see the possibilities.

Lack of Faith stories

The Feeding of the 5000 is the only story that appears in all four gospels, and in three of the gospels, they are accompanied by other stories where the disciples showed a lack of Faith.

In the feeding of the five thousand, the disciples didn’t have the faith that they were able to feed the people, even though Jesus knew that they were able.

Following this story in Matthew, Mark and John is the story of Jesus walking on the water, where Peter steps out from the boat, then lacks faith and begins to sink.

Finally, in John 6:30, the crowd says to Jesus “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?” This crowd is the very same crowd that was at the feeding of the five thousand – the same crowd that made Jesus withdraw himself from the crowds because (as John 6:15 puts it) “they were about to come and take him by force to make him king.” Yet they lacked the faith to trust him a day later, and asked him to perform another sign.

Has there been a time in your life where you’ve lacked faith? I’m sure at certain points there has been times where we’ve all questioned whether God exists, or whether God is able to help in this or that situation. These times aren’t to be shunned, you shouldn’t feel bad about them. Because I believe that they are healthy, as it is through questioning that we become stronger in our belief.

Likewise, in each of these occasions where the Disciples or the crowd showed a lack of faith, Jesus provided the food for them to restore that faith. Jesus provided Food for the five thousand, pulled Peter out of the water, and calmed the seas, and spiritually fed the crowd by saying he was the bread of life.

Feed them through Jesus

In the feeding of the five thousand, it was only through Jesus that the disciples were able to feed those that were there. The disciples brought what they had, five loaves and two fish – basic Galilean rations. Jesus blessed it, gave it to the disciples and they distributed it.

The important thing here is that the disciples brought what they had to Jesus, and once Jesus had blessed it, they were able to feed the crowds with what they had. Jesus enabled their small blessing to feed thousands.

What this means to us is that no matter how small our gift is, when we give it to Jesus, he is able to multiply it to give blessing to a multitude of people.

An example. I studied Music at university, and as part of that I developed skills in arranging. One afternoon this year, I got home from work, and sat down and worked on an arrangement of Rueben Morgan’s song, Let the Weak say I am strong, for our Songsters at Floreat. I was completed by dinner. It was very little work for me. However, I presented it to our Songster Leader, and he distributed parts for our Songsters and we rehearsed it. Last Sunday, we performed it, and while I wasn’t able to join in thanks to my knee, I was up the back recording it on my phone. That has been uploaded onto YouTube, where that small effort of mine has continued to bless people who I may never know or meet. When I give my gifts to Jesus – no matter how small they may be, Jesus is able to use them to allow me to give blessing to others.

Disciples able to feed others

A couple of months ago, we celebrated Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came down and empowered the believers. At this time, Peter, the apostle who ran away from Jesus when he was questioned during the crucifixion, the apostle who blurted out at the transfiguration not understanding what he was saying, the apostle who stepped out of the boat and lacked the faith and began to sink, delivered this incredible sermon.

Now, Peter was a fisherman, unschooled, unlearned, having not studied the Torah. Yet, in the sermon that is recorded in Acts 2, about 40% of the sermon is quotations from scripture. There’s a large passage from the prophet Joel, and two passages of David. This is quite an amazing feat for someone who is uneducated, yet through the Holy Spirit, Peter’s small amount was magnified, and there were 3,000 new converts that day.

I’ve been reading Bill Hybel’s book, Just Walk across the room, where he encourages us to walk across the room and make relationships with people. He suggests that when we’re open to the guidance of the holy spirit, we are then able to be aware of opportunities to talk about faith with friends, to be open to opportunities to invite them to church. When we offer up our everyday life, such a little, mundane, thing, and allow the holy spirit to bless it, then we open ourselves up to the possibility of feeding 5,000.

5000 (and women and children)

In conclusion, a short note about the last verse: “five thousand men, besides women and children.” This was the norm for how numbers were recorded. For example, in Exodus 12:37, it is recorded that six hundred thousand men, besides children journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. The reason Matthew included this is to show that there was no exclusion to who received the blessings of God. No group was to be excluded from the glory of God, and likewise no group should be excluded from your ministry.

So if you’re to take only one thing from today, let it be this: Take what you have, give it to Jesus to bless, allow the Holy spirit to magnify it, and let it bless anyone and everyone that you know.

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Author: Ben Clapton

I'm an Officer in The Salvation Army, currently appointed with my wife as Corps Officers at the Rochester Corps in country Victoria (20 minutes out of Echuca). I play violin and guitar, amongst many others, and love golf and running.

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