The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, 6 August 2017
A Sermon on Matthew 14:13-21 by Samuel Zumwalt
Matthew 14:13-21 © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
THANKFUL LIVING: HUNGERING FOR JESUS
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Are you hungry for Jesus? The crowds that followed Jesus into the wilderness were hungry for what Jesus could do for them. They were hungry for his healing touch. They were hungry for the relief He could bring to themselves and their loved ones. As the day grew long, they were just hungry, as their bodies reminded them they were human, and bodies cannot go on indefinitely without food. What are you hungry for? Are you hungry for Jesus? Think with me.
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.
“Now when Jesus heard this…” refers to John the Baptist having just been beheaded. At about the halfway point in Matthew’s gospel, we are reminded, as we were with Herod’s murder of the little boys at the outset in Bethlehem, that Jesus has not come to rule triumphantly in Jerusalem over an earthly kingdom. Jesus the King has come to be crucified in order to destroy the ugly reign of sin, death, and the devil. Jesus has come to save us, and we do need saving. Everyone in the world needs to be saved from sin, death, and the old enemy’s lies. Everyone!
If Jesus were only a man, if he were only a prophet as Islam teaches wrongly, the prospect of his impending death might well have been more than he could manage. His going away by boat to a lonely place might even seem to be a retreating from overwhelming forces and a desire to save himself. But the Lord is not turning back from the threat (here the root verb in Greek is “anachoreo”). He is not retiring from his work. He is not getting out of harm’s way. He is going away by Himself for uninterrupted communion with His Father and the Holy Spirit, the one God in Three Persons. Now the Lord Jesus is never alone. He is always an integral part of the one true God who is a Holy Community within Himself! So, then Jesus’ withdrawing is, as all retreats should be for us, a withdrawing with the Lord to refocus the direction of our lives.
At the very minimum, I would like you to mark your calendars for Saturday, October 28, and Saturday, February 24, for our Reformation and Lenten prayer retreats. These are half-days devoted to praying together and learning from guest teachers. But I would like to invite you to be open to going away for a prayer retreat. I will have more to say about that in a few weeks.
For the past eight years, I have been going on quarterly retreat where pastors can confess our sins, join in the corporate prayer of the Church across the ages, and have our minds stimulated by sound theological conversation. Going on retreat is indeed getting in the boat with Jesus and withdrawing with Him, His Father, and the Holy Spirit. That is balm for the heart, mind, body, and spirit before returning to the battle, not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities in our daily life and work…even in church! After more than 36 years since ordination, I wish I had experienced this much sooner. I had been saying no to a great gift!
14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and…had compassion…and healed their sick.
Of course, the crowds “found” Jesus as they always “find” pastors who understand the holy ministry as vocation and not as a career from which one retires. We have six retired pastors in our parish ranging in age from mid-60s to mid-80s. Every one of those men delights in reading the Word, serving the Blessed Sacrament, preaching and presiding according to his individual energy level or physical ability. There is not one “careerist” in the bunch. Thanks be to God! And we rejoice when all of our pastors serve together on festival Sundays at 11 a.m.
The Lord Jesus had compassion on the crowds. He healed their sick. As the day grew long, the disciples, like far too many pastors and laity alike, were very much slaves to chronos (clock time). As another aside, if you are worried much about clock time in worship, you are probably worshiping other gods. Don’t text, play games, or answer your phone during worship.
The Lord Jesus has already shown He operates in kairos (God’s time). He isn’t like the careerist who says, “I’m sorry I can’t show up at the ICU or do a funeral, because it’s my day off.” There will yet be time for a retreat. There will yet be time for a day off. But right now there is an immediate need. Compassion compels Christ to give the people what they need. Himself!
15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.”
So the disciples tell the Lord to dismiss the crowds so they can go get something to eat. Back when I was 34, on my first Sunday serving in Waco TX, several people said: “Remember, Pastor, BTBTL. Beat the Baptists to Luby’s (Cafeteria)!” Of course, the Eucharist was only offered every other Sunday at each service, because the Sacrament wouldn’t be as special if you had it every service, and, really if the truth be told, they might not beat the Baptists to Luby’s!
When the Lord Jesus tells His disciples not to send the folks away but to give the people something to eat, they, like most of us Lutherans, point to what they don’t have. It’s the scarcity mentality. Left to their own resources and their bondage to the tyranny of self, they only have five loaves and two fish. It’s funny in a sad way what we can always manage to give ourselves!
Obviously, His disciples didn’t know Who Jesus is. They knew the words of the psalm: “The eyes of all wait upon Thee, and Thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand and satisfiest the desire of every living thing” (145). But they didn’t know the LORD!
19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
So Jesus took the bread, blessed, broke it, and gave to the disciples to distribute to the people who came hungering for more than they knew. Dear ones, Jesus wasn’t just enough for 5000 men. Jesus wasn’t just enough for the women and children with the men. Jesus was enough for everyone. There were 12 baskets of fragments left over. They came into the wilderness of their lives not knowing they were hungering for Jesus. Yes, they knew Jesus could do something about their sickness. So what about you? What are you hungry for? Are you hungry for Jesus?
Whether you are an adult or a youth, a pastor or lay person, you know you are hungry, but do you know Who you are hungry for? A lot of people get what amounts to a sugar high for the latest, coolest whatever, but it doesn’t satisfy, and they end up knowing they need real food. Today you are here with the real Jesus, truly God and truly Man, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. At the right time (kairos), He was given into death for you and your salvation. And when you the baptized lift your powerless empty hands to receive His true Body and His most precious Blood, you will be satisfied! He is still more than enough for everyone in the world! And, yes, everyone still needs to be baptized into His saving death, because no one else and nothing else delivers from sin, death, and the power of the old evil foe!
The beauty of getting away with the one true God who is a community within Himself — Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit – is to get away from the distractions of daily life: the countless interruptions and seductions of technology; the countless demands of ordinary tasks and worries; the over-attending to thoughts, feelings, and, yes, cravings for something else. If the Lord Jesus needed to refocus to continue to do His Father’s will, don’t we need to refocus also?
Today’s sermon is not a commercial for the world hunger appeal or a rant against lousy politicians. It’s still about Jesus and what He has done for us and our salvation! So, why then, do we Christians also need to feed the physically hungry? Because the Lord Jesus, Who gives us His true Body and most precious Blood, teaches His Father wants everyone to have a full belly!
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
Bulletin Insert (see below)
Thankful Living: Hungering for Jesus
“Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 618).
Matthew 14:13 “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place…”
St. John Chrysostom (late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople): “By why did he not withdraw before they brought the news to him? Didn’t Jesus know the fact of John’s death even before they reported it to him? He did not want to make his identity known at this point…For it was not by his appearance only but by his actions that Jesus would have his identity confirmed. He knew the devil’s craft and that he would leave nothing undone to destroy Christ’s revelation (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Matthew 14-28, 6-7).
Matthew 14:16 “But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’”
St. John Chrysostom (Great preacher and Doctor of the Church): “Note carefully the Teacher’s skill. Observe with what discretion he draws them toward believing. Observe how deliberately this unfolds. For he did not simply say, ‘I will feed them.’ The deeper significance of that would have not been easily understood. So what does he say? ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat’…at this point their regard for him was essentially as to a man” (7).
Matthew 14:19 “…he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and …to the crowds”
St. John Chrysostom: “In this miracle Jesus was teaching them humility, temperance, charity, to be of like mind toward one another and to share all things in common. He did so in his choice of location, by providing nothing more than loaves and fishes, by setting the same food before all and having them share it in common and by affording no one more than another” (8).
Matthew 14:19 “And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.”
St. Hilary of Poitiers (4th century Bishop of Poitiers; Doctor of the Church): “The loaves were given to the apostles, for through them the gifts of divine grace were to be administered. The crowds were then fed…and they were satisfied. The leftover fragments…after the people had their fill, amounted to twelve baskets. Thus, by the word of God coming from the teaching of the law and the prophets, the multitude was satisfied; and an abundance of divine power, reserved for the Gentiles from the ministry of the eternal food, was left over for the twelve apostles” (8-9).
- In the wilderness of my life, in my powerlessness and fear or anxiety, do I hunger for Jesus who alone can provide what He sees and knows I need?
Table of Duties (from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism)
Certain passages of scripture for various holy orders and positions, admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Peter 3:7
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:19
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22
They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 1 Peter 3:5-6
1. Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.
- Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
- Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend why God expects married Christians to submit to each other. The love expected of husbands is to die to selfishness and a domineering attitude. The love expected of wives is to die to selfishness and a critical, disrespectful attitude.
- Every husband and wife together (and sometimes separately) reach those wilderness times when they feel so powerless to handle everything that is presently overwhelming them. Looking to their own resources (material or spiritual), they cannot see their way forward. Today our Lord teaches us to “look up” to see that He is really present with us in the Host and Cup. He is more than enough. And so we pray, “My Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” (Matthew 8:8).
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”