Grace: Free, Sufficient, Transformative
Matthew Series #089
August 16, 2015
“Our Father, we recognize that You have revealed Yourself to us just as after creating Adam and Eve, You revealed Yourself to them. Each day You came to spend time with them in the garden to teach them, instruct them, guide and direct them until the fall came.
But even following their sin, You still revealed Yourself to them. You came to them. You gave indications of Your future plan of salvation. You taught them about sacrifice, and You laid out your principles that would undergird Your plan of salvation, predicting that the Seed of the woman would defeat the seed of the serpent.
That lays out the plan of salvation that is developed throughout the Old Testament, looking forward to the coming of the One who was identified as the Anointed One, the Messiah of Israel.
These prophecies were fulfilled when Jesus came and He revealed Himself to Israel as the Messiah. They rejected Him, and as a result of that rejection, Your plan for the kingdom at that point was postponed and a new entity came into being, the church.
Through the apostles You revealed new information that had not been revealed in the past, and this is in the New Testament documents, the New Testament Epistles. They instruct us on the spiritual life.
Father, we are grateful that we have this Word that has been revealed over 1,900 years, maybe longer, that has been preserved for us. And that we have such a great privilege to have this before us, sitting here in our laps at home, having it on our smart phones, iPads, and computers. We have more available than ever before, yet so often Christians are less knowledgeable of it, less concerned about it, and spend less time reading it.
Father, we recognize that nothing is more important than learning who You are and learning what You have revealed to us.
So Father, as we look at Your Word at this time, we pray that we might give it our full attention, that we might recognize that this is Your Word to each of us, that You have done so much to reveal this and preserve it for the purpose that we might come to understand it, learn it, know it, and internalize it, that it might shape and transform our lives.
We pray this is Christ’s name. Amen.”
Well, before we get started this morning I thought I would show you something that appeared on, I think I saw this on Facebook the other day, and a little bit of humor to begin things.
Anyone who’s ever been a pastor or a leader of a church certainly understands what this is really talking about. Here are 12 reasons why I, as a pastor, have decided to quit attending sporting events.
1. The coach never came to visit me.
2. Every time I went, they asked for money.
3. The people sitting in my row didn’t seem very friendly.
4. The seats were very hard (not so much here, but I’ve been there).
5. The referees made a decision I didn’t agree with.
6. I was sitting with hypocrites—they only came to see what others were wearing!
7. Some games went into overtime and I was late getting home.
8. The band played some songs I had never heard before.
9. The games are scheduled on my only day to sleep in and run errands. (I think that’s my favorite)
10. My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.
11. Since I read a book on sports, I feel that I know more than the coaches, anyway.
12. I don’t want to take my children because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best.
So most of you recognize those as the common reasons people give for not going to church. When we shift the context a little bit, it certainly shows how superficial they are.
Alright, let’s open our Bibles to Matthew 12, or better yet, make it Matthew 14. We’re going to do a little review because this morning we’re going to come to the end of this section within Matthew.
Things shift when we get into Matthew 16, and there’s more of an intensification of the opposition against our Lord during the last year of His ministry.
So I want to review a little bit what we’ve seen in this section, because what we saw was a shift in the attitude of the official leaders of the nation—the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees —as they rejected Christ.
That began in Chapter 11, but it comes to a head in Matthew 12 where we saw that Jesus was rejected by the spiritual leaders of Israel, and He was accused by them of performing miracles by the power of Beelzebub, which was a term of derision used for Satan.
So He cast a demon out of a man who was deaf and mute, and He is accused by the Pharisees of doing that in the power of Satan. So this brings this confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees to a final point.
It’s at that point that Jesus shifts His ministry. He’s no longer offering the kingdom to Israel. That was the focal point of the first part of His ministry. He came as the King to offer the kingdom to Israel. The message was “repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” but they rejected that. Officially, the leaders rejected that, even though there were numerous people who accepted Him, but the nation as a whole rejected Him.
At that point in Chapter 13 Jesus began to teach differently. He began to teach in private to the disciples, teach to only those who came to Him, as opposed to going into the public market place, and He began to teach His disciples about the intervening age—the age in which we now live—that He had come to offer the kingdom, the kingdom was rejected, and so it was going to be postponed.
So what would happen next? This is indicated by the kingdom parables in Matthew 13 describing the basic trends of this particular age and dispensation.
Then in Matthew 14 we see Jesus beginning to train the Twelve. This section here really focuses on Jesus’ training of His disciples in preparation for the future ministry they would have after His crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
In Matthew 14 we get a flashback at the beginning of the chapter. If you’re looking at chapter 14, I just want to remind you and walk you through this because it’s interesting how Matthew organizes material.
It starts with this flashback related to John the Baptist, and how Herod Antipas executes John the Baptist. This indicates that not only is the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus rejected by the religious leaders, but also rejected by the political leaders.
There is now both religious and political opposition that has come into play, and from this point on, at least through chapter 15, Jesus is going to be avoiding the territory in Galilee under the authority of Herod Antipas.
He is going to go elsewhere because He’s trying to avoid a head-on confrontation with the political leadership that might speed up their opposition to Him.
He’s on a time-table related to the fulfillment of prophecy, and the proper time will come for His arrest and His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. But now is not the time, so He avoids the territory of Herod Antipas to avoid a premature conflict with the political authority.
Then we look at Matthew 14:13, where we have the episode of Jesus feeding the 5,000. At the end of this section, which is where we are this morning at the end of Matthew 15, we have a second episode where Jesus is feeding the 4,000.
There are some, especially liberal theologians, who come along and say, “Well, this just shows how the writers were making some things up here, and they were just adding unnecessary things, and that doesn’t fit the context.”
But Matthew and Mark talk about both miracles, and while there are certain things that are similar, there are quite a number of things that are different.
What I want you to see is what Jesus is doing. And what He’s teaching the Jews through the feeding of the 5,000 is going to be duplicated at the end of chapter 15 to show that He’s providing and offering the same grace ministry, the same sufficiency of grace to the Gentiles.
So you have a different group. You have Jews here, and Gentiles with the feeding of the 4,000. In the feeding of the 5,000, we also see an emphasis on Jesus’ compassion.
He departs to be by Himself in verse 13, and the multitudes hear about it, and they pursue Him. In verse 14 it says, “He’s moved with compassion for them and healed the sick.”
This is a sub-theme in Matthew. Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34 emphasize compassion. This is an expression of the love of God.
In John 3:16 we’re told, “God loved the world in this way, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Jesus came to die for the lost. He came to die for those who are hostile to Him, those who are at enmity with Him, and that is the love of God for His creatures.
God in eternity past had a plan of salvation, because in His omniscience He knew that Adam would disobey Him and bring about the Fall of the human race into sin, and that there would need to be a solution to that sin problem.
As part of God’s love and His grace, He provided a plan of salvation that would not be dependent upon human beings, would not be dependent upon human effort or human works, but that God alone would provide the solution.
This would be done through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who would pay the penalty for our sins on the Cross so that by trusting in Him, we could have eternal life.
Now when we think about the gospel a little bit, let’s think and probe this a little more—God as the Creator.
What we see throughout these miracles is an emphasis on Jesus’ power, which demonstrates that He is the Creator. As the Creator, God designed man in a certain way.
God understands everything there is to know about man and his makeup, his capabilities, his failures, his weaknesses. There’s nothing about a human being that God doesn’t know. In His omniscience He covers everything. Nothing’s left out.
In eternity past, as part of His omniscience, He knows exactly what needs to be done in order to solve the sin problem in terms of its eternal dimensions. The penalty for sin is death, spiritual death, separation from God. Those who do not trust in God’s plan of salvation end up spending eternity in condemnation in the Lake of Fire.
God has provided a solution to that eternal problem through the death of Christ on the Cross. But beyond that, God has provided a solution to the problem of personal sin in our lives from the moment we’re saved on, and that also finds its foundation in the work of Christ on the Cross.
The grace of God is sufficient for every problem that we face in life. God designed everything in creation, so God understands how everything in the creation works. He understands bacteria, He understands viruses, He understands the chaos that would come into creation because of sin. He understands all of the nuances of everyone’s sin nature.
God is able to provide a solution because He’s omnipotent—a solution so that we can face and handle anything that comes into our life by trusting in Him. He has the ability to solve those problems. This is one thing that Jesus as the Messiah demonstrates through all these miracles—that He is omnipotent. He’s the Creator. He is the one who can solve these problems.
We talk about the fact that in this feeding of the 5,000, what moved people there was that they were sick. What we see in other passages is that this is defined as those who are demon possessed, those who are lame, those who are crippled, those who are blind, those who have leprosy. Jesus is able to cure all of these diseases.
He’s able to take that which is mortified flesh and to heal it and make those cells living and healthy again. He’s able to take the dead inoperative cells of the eye, whatever causes the blindness and the nerve damage, all of this, He’s able to regenerate that and make it whole again instantly.
He’s demonstrating this from the fact that He’s the Creator, His omnipotence, His ability to solve these things.
The principle is that if He can do that, He can solve any other problem. This is always what’s behind these miracles. If our Lord has the power, the ability to solve these problems, then He can solve any other problem. If He can solve the greatest problem we ever faced, which is sin, then He can solve any problem that we face in life.
We often hear people who come and they talk about, “Well, I have this problem, I have that problem. I have problems with anger. I have problems with sexual temptation. I have problems with same sex-sex temptation. I have all these things, that’s just the way God made me.”
No, that’s the way you were born under the condemnation of sin and the corruption of sin, but God has provided a perfect solution so that the God, Who is able to pay the penalty for sin, the God Who’s able to create everything in the universe, all of the systems in the universe, all of the macrocosmic systems to the microcosmic systems, that same God is able to solve whatever problem it is that you’re dealing with.
We don’t look elsewhere for solutions. Neither do we rationalize and justify our failures, but we must learn to radically look to the God of the Bible, the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them to provide these solutions.
That’s what these people are doing. They come out to Jesus. There are 5,000 men, so this is a crowd. There could have been anywhere from 20,000–30,000 people, we don’t know.
Jesus has compassion on them. They’re not all believers, but they are seeking some help for their problems. This is a miserable crowd filled with suffering people.
Well this again is mirrored in the feeding of the 4,000.
At this time we have the first miracle of feeding, which is the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus takes these five loaves and two fish, which are provided by one of the people that’s there, one of the kids, and He multiples them.
Now no one here or in the feeding of the 4,000 witnesses the miracle per se. Jesus is up front. His disciples are around Him. They have this one little basket. And it’s interesting that the word for basket here is a word that refers to the small food basket, a kosher basket that the Jews would carry.
It’s a different word than the basket word used in the feeding of the 4,000—we’ll get to that in a minute—but it’s a small basket.
He begins to just reach in, and as He’s doing this, He is creating more and more fish. He’s creating more and more bread, and He’s passing them out.
So this aspect of bread and eating and feeding and providing nourishment is a thread that runs through several of these episodes as we lead to the end of this section of the feeding of the 4,000.
We’re reminded that bread often represents God’s ability to spiritually nourish us.
For example in Deuteronomy 8:3 in reference to the manna, the physical feeding through this miraculous bread that appeared every morning when the Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years.
As they’re traveling, there’s no food. There’s not much water there, and God would miraculously provide for them. Every morning like the dew, God would provide this manna.
The word “manna” literally means “what is it,” and they weren’t sure what it was, but it tasted pretty good. But like anything else, it would get kind of boring if you had your favorite food three times a day every day for 40 years. You would probably get bored with it.
But it provided everything they needed, and it went on for 40 years until they got into the land.
When they got into the land, and they celebrated their first Passover, then that was the end of the manna. God had supplied for them to bring them into the land. So that feeding, physical feeding, is a picture of His spiritual feeding.
In Deuteronomy 8:3 we read, “So He humbled you”—this is Moses speaking to the Israelites—“so He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone”—the physical features are not sufficient. We have to be fed spiritually—“man does not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
This is quoted by our Lord during His temptation in the wilderness repeating that same principle that we don’t live by bread alone. Life does not exist in that which is physical and material, that which provides us physically with pleasure, but it must be nourished spiritually. And God is the one who provides that nourishment.
So we see in the feeding of the 5,000 this emphasis on the fact that God is the one who supplies our physical nourishment, and it is sufficient. There were baskets of food left over; twelve baskets of food left over we saw. The twelve baskets represent the tribes of Israel. It is a Jewish audience. It’s in the context of His ministry to the House of Israel and the House of Judah.
What we learn from this is that the Triune God, the Creator God is able to provide for us and sufficiently solve any problem. Sufficient means it’s more than enough. God can do it, for with God nothing is impossible.
It doesn’t matter what the sin is. We have mental attitude sins. Some people are prone to worry, to anxiety, to fear, but God is the solution. Some people are prone to depression, things of this nature. I think as we give into the sin nature, it then creates physical problems. Various chemicals are released in our brain, and it creates a cyclic problem.
What comes first, the sin or the chemical changes in the body? I believe what comes first is the sin, so ultimately, if you’re going to solve these problems, it has to have a spiritual solution.
It doesn’t matter what the problem is, whether it’s a mental attitude sin, whether it is an overt sin. All of these things have their solution ultimately in understanding the grace of God and the sufficiency of God’s grace. That’s what Jesus teaches in the feeding miracles.
As we went on from there, we saw that following, that Jesus went off to be by Himself, walking back from this area of Bethsaida. He goes off to be alone and in prayer.
And the disciples leave in their boat, their fishing vessel, to head back across to Capernaum. They get caught in a massive storm, so that they can’t make any headway, and for three or four hours they’re fighting the waves, they’re fighting the wind, and they’re not getting anywhere, and then what happens?
Great story, everybody knows it. Jesus comes walking to them in the wee hours of the morning on the water. What’s the lesson? Once again we see that He is sufficient to overcome the problems of life. Whatever the storms of life may be, Jesus Christ is superior to those problems.
He is superior to nature and to creation. He can walk on the water, and He can still the storm. And He teaches that to Peter.
As Peter comes out to walk on the water, Peter then gets his eyes on the details of the storms of life, begins to sink, and the Lord chastises him, calls him to look to Him, and as long as Peter’s looking to Him, then he is able to walk above the storm, above the problems, above the tempest.
So we learn this principle again that by dependency upon Jesus, we can walk above the circumstances of life.
Then we saw in Matthew 14:34 again, we get a summary there where the people begin to come to Him for healing in the area of Ginosar. And then in chapter 15 He’s confronted by the Pharisees. This is recorded in Matthew 15:1–20.
The Pharisees challenge Him, and what’s the issue? “Your disciples aren’t washing their hands before they eat.” The issue again goes back to eating.
The feeding of the 5,000 has to do with spiritual nourishment, and here they’re challenging the way in which the disciples are eating. They’re not following their traditions.
That one issue here is that though they are emphasizing their own tradition of hand washing, we saw that that wasn’t part of the Scripture, that wasn’t part of Torah. That was just something they manufactured as part of their tradition. So they were setting their own tradition, their own ideas over the authority of God’s Word.
In essence what they were doing was minimizing the significance of God’s bread of life by elevating their own views over it. The result was sin. That was making an idol of their own traditions.
Again what they were doing is failing to trust in the sufficiency of God’s Word. They were adding their own traditions.
Today we add to the Word of God from science, sociology, psychology. We add from various human philosophical systems and self-help techniques and motivational techniques. We’re not radically dependent upon the Word of God and the Word of God alone.
So as we move on from there we see that after that confrontation, Jesus left the area, and He headed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. There He showed the extension of God’s grace to the Gentiles, specifically a woman referred to by Matthew as a Canaanite woman, referring to the ancient enemies of Israel.
She is a descendent of the Canaanites. She’s identified by Mark as a Syrophoenician woman, a Gentile, and Jesus is going to provide healing for her.
What we saw was that as she approached Him, continuing to cry out that He would solve her problem, He ignored her. But His apparent callousness was not because He didn’t care, but because He understood what His mission was number one.
And number two, He wanted her to continue to plead with Him, so that she would develop and express the understanding of the Word of God that she already had.
Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers because He wants us to get more focused on His Word and to drive us back into thinking through what the Word of God says to apply it to our particular problem.
So she addresses Him as the Son of David, which indicates that she is a believer. She recognizes He is the Messiah. She has accepted that, and she’s pleading with Him to deliver her daughter who’s demon possessed.
Her daughter would be unsaved because she’s demon possessed. We don’t know how old she was. She might have been quite young, but she is being tormented by a demon.
She recognizes though that the gospel of God’s grace was for Gentiles. This was clearly indicated by Jesus when He talked to the woman at the well indicating that salvation is from the Jews. It was a priority to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile. And the Canaanite woman recognized that. That shows a tremendous insight on her part.
Now when she approaches Jesus she recognizes that what the pattern is, what the priority is, and she doesn’t plead with Jesus to make an exception.
She says, accepting the fact that as a Gentile, she’s referred to as a dog, she says, “Even the little dogs, the pets in the house, feed off the children’s crumbs from the table. You have come to give this bounteous feast of grace to the Jews, but even we Gentiles should have access to some of the crumbs.”
“Not wanting the Lord to violate His priorities, His primary mission, but we just want to get the extras. We want the leftovers, that is what we need.”
So she shows her understanding of that. Furthermore, as she moves through that, she first of all addresses Him formally as the Son of David, as the Messiah.
And then she moves to a much more personal plea in Matthew 15:25 where “she came and worshiped Him, and says, ‘Lord help me!’ ”
She’s desperate at that point, and it’s at that point that the Lord recognizes what she has asked for, and He solves that particular problem for her.
Now in terms of the geographical movement, what we’ve seen is that Jesus fed the 5,000 down here by Bethsaida. Then the disciples went across the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, and it was there that Jesus walked on the water.
They landed just south of Capernaum at a place called Ginosar today. That is where He has the confrontation with the Pharisees from Jerusalem, and then He left that territory.
He just spent a minimal amount of time there in Herod Antipas’ territory. Remember, He’s trying to avoid that. He heads out of the Jewish territory to this area of Tyre and Sidon, which is outside of Israel, Gentile territory, and it is there that He has this meeting with the Syrophoenician woman.
Now what happens next is that He is going to head south. In verse 29 we read, “Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there.”
So after He has delivered her daughter from the demon possession, then He leaves, and He went round about. He didn’t come down through the territory of Galilee where He would be under the authority of Herod Antipas, but He circled around to the north, probably skirted the area we call today Syria and headed down through the territory of Phillip the Tetrarch and headed south to the area to the east of the Sea of Galilee, which is known as the Golan Heights.
It’s a highly elevated area—I’ve got a picture of it in a minute that we will look at. It’s a mountainous, rugged territory, and it was Gentile territory. We learn from the parallel passage in Mark that He headed to the area of the Decapolis.
The term “Decapolis” is a Greek term. DECA meaning ten, POLIS meaning city. It’s the area of ten cities, only one of which was in the territory of Israel, and that is the city of Bet Shean.
The others were all in Gentile territory. So He is still ministering to the Gentiles. That’s not as clear to us as it would have been to a Jewish reader in the first century.
He is coming to them to continue this outreach and this ministry to the Gentiles.
In verse 29, He skirts or goes around the Sea of Galilee, goes up on a mountain, it’s very mountainous there, and sits down.
Slides 10 and 11
Then as I’ve said, Mark 7:31 indicates that He’s in the region of the Decapolis, so that would be in this area where the green circle is on this southeast side of the Sea of Galilee.
This is what it looks like from the west side of Galilee from the area roughly not far from Ginosar looking across due east. You see how high the opposite side is. This is the Golan Heights—why it’s called the Golan Heights.
Now just for a little modern history, this area was captured by Israel in 1967, and it became part of Israel, and it’s still considered “disputed territory.”
It should not be. Every now and then people want the Jews to give it up, but you can see the tactical, strategic advantage that Syria had when they controlled the Golan Heights.
They put their armor up here. They put their batteries of artillery up here. And they would just randomly lob shells across the Sea of Galilee into Tiberias and into all of the Israeli towns on the west side of the Sea of Galilee. That’s not a good thing strategically.
So this gives you a little insight as to why the Golan Heights is so important, and why Israel should never ever give it up. Once they do, then they will be dealing with a lot more modern weaponry than was there in the ’50s and ’60s. Their citizens would definitely be in harm’s way.
So Jesus comes to this area. This is all Gentile territory on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. He goes up into a mountain somewhere on this side for some time alone again. But the multitudes find out who He is.
Now these multitudes are composed of Gentiles. These are not Jews. So we’re going to get a duplication of His ministry to the Jews in the feeding of the 5,000 in this feeding of the 4,000. This shows that His grace extended to the Gentiles in the same way that it has been extended to the Jews.
There’s a couple of other reasons why we know that this is a Gentile audience. We know that it’s Gentile territory, but also at the end of this description after He has healed them, in verse 31 it says that they “glorified the God of Israel.”
Now He wouldn’t use that phrase, and that phrase isn’t used when it speaks to Jews. But speaking of Gentiles, they would not normally be worshiping the God of Israel. They would be worshiping their pagan Gods.
So now they are worshiping the God of Israel because it is through the God of Israel that the Messiah has come and provided healing for them. Furthermore, when we read about the basket full of broken pieces of leftovers down in Matthew 15:37, it’s seven baskets.
Now when it was the 5,000, there were 12 baskets, so obviously that’s a different detail. The twelve baskets are significant because 12 relates to the 12 tribes of Israel, but here it’s just seven baskets.
But also the Greek word for “basket” is a different word than the word used in Matthew 14.
The word there is used of the small baskets that were kosher baskets that the Jews used, whereas the basket that is referred to here is a large basket that was used by the Gentiles.
So this would also indicate that He’s speaking to a Gentile audience.
The fact that they came to Him bringing the lame, the blind, the mute, the maimed and many others, and they laid them down—the Greek there almost indicates that they threw them down.
Now they wouldn’t be that cavalier, but they’re in a hurry. The level of excitement that’s going on in this episode is they’re bringing all these people who are ill, fatally ill. Some of them are crippled, they can’t walk. Some are blind, some have leprosy. All of these different kinds of people are being brought to Jesus, and He’s healing them one after another.
The word spreads, and more people come. This goes on for three days, and the level of activity is so intense. The level of excitement over what is happening and the transformation that’s taking place in these people physically, is so enormous that it’s going on around the clock 24/7 for three days.
They don’t even want to stop and eat because they’ve never seen anything like it whatsoever. And so they glorify God, and they recognize that this is the evidence of the Messiah.
In Isaiah 29:18–19, talking about the Messiah, Isaiah said, “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. The humble also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”
Isaiah 35:5 says, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.”
So this was what was expected of the Messiah—that He would give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, He would heal leprosy, He would raise the dead. These were the unique signs of the Messiah.
Well, as the third day ends and it’s approaching dusk, Jesus calls His disciples to Himself in verse 32 and says, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. But I don’t want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
So we see this emphasis on the compassion of the Lord again, that this is, as I pointed out earlier, a significant theme in the ministry—that God cares about His creatures.
Now not all of these were saved, so this references the common grace of God. The term “common grace” is a theological term that relates to God’s goodness to mankind whether they are saved or not. God sends the rain upon the righteous and the unrighteous alike.
So this references His care and concern as the Creator for His creatures. Jesus shows compassion upon them which, as I referenced earlier, is seen in five different passages in Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34.
But His disciples haven’t quite gotten the picture yet, even though it was probably no more than two or three weeks earlier that they fed the 5,000. They may have even been thinking, “Well, that was a Jewish audience, they deserved to be fed by the Messiah, but what are we going to do with these pagan Gentiles?”
They haven’t gotten the point that Jesus can solve their problem, which is not unusual because most Christians don’t recognize that Jesus can solve their problems either, and they look in all kinds of places to find a solution rather than recognizing that ultimately the solution is spiritual, and they have to radically trust in God through His Word and through the Holy Spirit to solve their problems.
So the disciples say, “Where are we going to get enough bread to fill all these people?” Notice there their emphasis isn’t just we’re going to give them a little bit to eat, but we’re going to fill them up!
That’s important to understand in juxtaposition to the fact that when it’s over with, there are these seven huge baskets left over. More than the twelve small baskets with the Jews, there are seven large baskets that are going to be filled up.
So Jesus says, “How much do you have?” And they said, “Well, we have seven loaves and a few little fish.”
So basically this is like pita bread. This isn’t a big loaf of bread like you buy from Sunbeam or Oroweat or Mrs. Baird’s or something like that. This is just like seven pieces of pita bread, not a lot.
And we have a few little fish, and the idea here is these are very small fish, maybe even fragments of fish. So it’s not quite enough for probably even one person, maybe two or three. Jesus commands them to sit down on the ground.
In the previous situation, He had them lie down—well that was early in the spring, and in this area the land would have been covered with grass, comfortable to lie down on.
But now it’s a little later, it’s probably the early part of the summer. It’s hot. The grass is withered under the heat of the sun, and so you need to sit on the ground. You’re not going to lay out. It won’t be quite as comfortable.
We’re told that He took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, sanctified the food, broke them, and gave them to His disciples. Again, it’s a private miracle. Nobody’s seeing it happen.
He’s up there, the disciples are around Him, and He just continues to reach into this basket and pull out more fish and more bread, and supplies them with what they need. And they begin to pass it out to the multitudes.
Then we’re told in verse 37, “They all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets.”
Now two things to note here. They’re filled. That means God’s grace is not going to give you barely enough—God’s grace is going to give you all you need to solve your problem.
He may not give you all you want, but He’s going to give you all you need. He’s not going to be chintzy with distributing His power for you to solve the problems in your life.
We’re told that they were filled, and there was excess, seven large baskets. Now this is the Greek word I mentioned earlier, SPURIS, which describes these baskets.
It’s used in Acts 9:25 to describe the basket that the Apostle Paul was put in to lower him down off of the wall of Damascus.
There had been an attempt to stone him, and he’s got to escape, and they put him in a basket. Now that’s a pretty good sized basket for a human being to fit in.
That’s a little different than the small kosher baskets that the Jews had in the feeding of the 5,000. So this is quite a bit, and there’s seven left over.
Now whenever we look at the Scriptures, and we look at this aspect of the feeding of people, it takes us back, as I pointed out from Deuteronomy 8 earlier, that this pictures God’s grace to provide nourishment for us.
It always has in the background the Old Testament episode of God providing food for the Israelites as they’re going through the wilderness.
This is also described in Psalm 107:4–9. Let me read through that. “They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; They found no city to dwell in.”
It’s pointing out that they had a major problem. They didn’t have a permanent place to live. They didn’t have a permanent source of food or water, and they are out in a pretty barren area. There’s hardly any vegetation at all.
Some of us have traveled through Israel and been down to the Negev, and it’s about as bleak and barren a place as you can image. Just nothing there except dirt.
They can’t find anything to sustain themselves, and they are hungry and thirsty. Psalm 107:5 says, “Their soul fainted in them.”
That is often the situation with believers as they face problems in life. They come to the end of the rope. They don’t find anything to do. They are hopeless, and they feel helpless, but we have to learn to depend upon God.
Psalm 107:6, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble. And He delivered them out of their distresses.”
All of the problems that they had, God was the solution to those problems.
Psalm 107:7, “He led them forth by the right way that they might go to a city for a dwelling place.”Speaking of Him taking them, leading them eventually to the land.
Then the Psalmist says, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”
God is the solution. God is the One who richly fills us. But what we have to do is to learn to depend upon Him, to really trust the fact that as the Creator God, Who is the One who created everything, and the One who intimately knows the inter-workings of every problem, every situation—understands our sinfulness, and our self-absorption and arrogance more than we can ever imagine—is the God who designed everything. So He can solve those problems.
There’s no situation you’re facing, no struggle, no difficulty, that God doesn’t have the solution to. He is the ultimate solution, and so we need to trust in Him. This is what Jesus is teaching.
Just to wrap up that story, at the conclusion of that third day, He sent away the multitudes, got into the boat, and He went to Magdala.
There’s a textual problem here. There was a different term in many manuscripts. We don’t know where that’s located. There’s a different location given in Mark. That’s the only place that term is used.
So there is an assumption by many that Magdala, which is where Mary Magdalene was from, is a likely location, but we’re not really certain of where that was. That was back across on the west side of the Sea of Galilee.
But what we have to remember is a great promise. One to remember is Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your needs”—not some of them, not most of them, not the easy ones, but—“all your needs through His riches in glory.”
He has an infinite bank account. He is omnipotent. There’s nothing, no problem that’s too big for God’s grace or God’s power. So He can supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
“Father, we’re thankful that we have the freedom and the opportunity to study Your Word, and to be reminded of Your magnificent grace, that Your grace is sufficient for everything. You solved the greatest problem we’ll ever face, the sin problem. We’re born into this world spiritually dead, helpless, hopeless, lost, having a façade of life, but no real life. Only through the Lord Jesus Christ do we have life.
Father, we pray that if there’s anyone here that’s unsure of their salvation, uncertain of their eternal destiny and maybe confused about whether they even have real life, may this be their opportunity to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior.
Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He is life, life itself, and He said, “I came not like the thief to steal and destroy, but to give life and to give it abundantly.”
The way to access that salvation and life is through trust in Him, believing He is who He said He was, the Messiah of Israel, the promised, prophesied Savior who would pay the sin penalty. And by trusting in Him we can have eternal life. Life is in Jesus Christ alone.
The instant we trust in Him, we have that eternal life. We become a new creature in Christ. We have new identity in Him. And, Your desire is to mature us, to strengthen us, to feed us, to nourish us that we might be able to glorify You through all that we do.
Father we pray that You’d challenge us with that, that we are to be a vessel of glorification for You, just as these who were fed among the 4,000 plus their families, that they were fed fully and they glorified the God of Israel. May we be reminded that that is why we are here, to focus upon You and to let Your grace be manifested in every area of our life.
We pray that you would challenge us with what we’ve learned this morning, in Christ’s name. Amen.”