This chapter of Matthew’s Gospel invites us to compare two banquets: Herod’s decadent feast of excess, arrogance, scheming, and murder in a royal palace and, in this passage, Jesus’ impromptu feast of healing, compassion, community, and miraculous plenty under the open sky.
Matthew’s first readers likely also would have heard in this passage an echo of the story in Second Kings 4:42-44, in which the prophet Elisha, in a time of famine, orders that a gift brought to him of twenty barley loaves be set before a hundred hungry men. When his servant asks (reasonably enough) how twenty small loaves could meet so great a need, Elisha says again, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left’” (v. 43, rsv). And so it happens. The faithful providence of God does not fail.
Jesus’ feeding of the much greater number with a much smaller offering reveals the same promise: The abundance of God’s mercy writ large. But perhaps most of all we are invited to hear in this story of the feeding of the five thousand a foreshadowing of the Last Supper. On the last night of his earthly life, Jesus once again takes and blesses and breaks a loaf of ordinary bread and gives it to his disciples. This is a sacred meal we remember every time we share Holy Communion, itself a foretaste of the greatest gift, Jesus’ world-changing self-offering on the cross.
God sustains us in many ways, all the time. Scripture and our own experience are full of examples of God’s faithful providence—unfailingly incarnational, sacramental, and astoundingly abundant.
Faithful and generous God of all, thank you for all the quiet miracles in our lives, all the ways you feed and heal and love us. We thank you above all for the gift of your Son, our Savior, who is the bread of life. Amen.
Jacob is attacked one night by an unknown assailant and wrestles with him until morning. We discover that the assailant comes from God, so Jacob is given a new name, Israel. The psalmist is feeling unjustly accused and cries out to God. He is confident that he would be vindicated if all the facts were known. In Romans, Paul deals with difficult theological issues. He states that he would sacrifice his own soul if his fellow Israelites would accept Christ. Jesus teaches a crowd that is growing hungry, and his disciples are trying to figure out how to feed them. They see only what they lack, while Jesus asks them what they have. This story is a lesson about offering God what we have and trusting God to multiply it.
Read Genesis 32:22-31. When have you been forced to wrestle with yourself or your self-identity? How did this struggle reveal a blessing?
Read Psalm 17:1-7, 15. When have you felt the need to serve as your own advocate before God? How has this experience affirmed your trust in God?
Read Romans 9:1-5. When have you experienced Paul’s anguish that others do not accept what you have come to know in your faith, whether by conversion, denominational change, education, or encounter with God? How do you continue to be in relationship with such family or friends?
Read Matthew 14:13-21. When have you witnessed small acts of sharing that have led to great abundance?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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