Summary: God not only provides abundantly for God's people, God also takes our small gifts and makes them adequate to the task.
Matthew 14:13-33 “Abundance”
Jesus feeding the five thousand and Jesus walking on water are probably two of the best known miracle stories. I remember being taught them in the early years of my Sunday school career. The morals of these stories are still the same that they were so many years ago. In the feeding of the five thousand Jesus demonstrates that God is a God of abundance. When Peter steps out of the boat and begins to sink because he allowed the wind and the waves to distract him, we learn that we should keep our eyes on Jesus. Still, there is so much more that we can learn from these two miracle stories.
Jesus’ actions are very interesting in Matthew’s recording of this story. In verse nineteen, Jesus looks up into heaven, blesses, breaks and gives the bread to the disciples. These words are straight out of the early church’s communion liturgy. They are the same words that Paul uses, when he is discussion the celebration of communion, in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:23ff).
How odd that Matthew would use these words from the communion liturgy to describe what Jesus did before the crowd of people. We can only assume that it was intentional and we can seek to understand what Matthew was trying to communicate to those early Christians. In this story of abundance, I believe that Matthew was telling the people of the early church that God provides as abundantly in the spiritual realm and God does in the physical. This is an important lesson to learn.
One of the privileges that I have as a pastor is to celebrate communion with people. For me one of the most emotional and significant times is when I celebrate communion with a person who is near death. One evening I received a phone call from a family whose patriarch was near death. The ninety-two year old man had requested that I give him communion. The room was crowded when I arrived with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. It was difficult for the man to speak. The family shared, we prayed and we celebrated communion. After receiving the bread and the wine, a look of peace spread over the man’s face. Assured of God’s forgiveness and presence he was able to take his next step of faith.
God’s abundant provisions for us in the bread and the wine enable us to step boldly in faith as we face the challenges of the days ahead.
MUCH FROM A LITTLE
It is interesting to watch the disciples as the story unfolds. First they want to send the crowd away in order to fend for themselves. Jesus tells the disciples that they should care for the people. The disciples respond in verse 18, “We have nothing, but two fish and five loaves of bread.” The emphasis is on “we have nothing.
Isn’t that often our response? It certainly was Moses’, Isaiah’s, Jeremiah’s and David’s responses when God called them. I know it was my response when I sensed the Spirit calling me into the ministry. All of the pastors whom I know thought the same way. We didn’t have anything to offer. We couldn’t do the task that was placed before us. Many people when asked to serve in a specific ministry respond this way.
Look what happens, though. The disciples give Jesus what little they have and Jesus gives the loaves and fish to the people. Everyone is fed. Jesus is able to take what we have and make it enough—even more than enough.
We keep thinking that God is a stingy God—a God of scarcity. This is usually because our list of wants is way longer than our needs. When we change our perspective, stop focusing on our needs and offer prayers of thanks for what we do have, God suddenly appears to be a God of abundance.
God has provided for each and every one of us. We are here and we are clothed, fed and will return to homes that shelter us.
We struggle with this truth, though. We take a tentative step of faith because we wonder if God will help us and use our talents. We hesitate to increase our giving because we aren’t sure if God will continue to provide for our needs. We content ourselves with a fairly full life rather than an abundant life because we keep trying to compromise with what the Spirit is leading us to do.
After experiencing Jesus’ abundant provision, the disciples find themselves on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a great storm. Jesus comes to them walking on the water. The disciples see him and in verse twenty-six Matthew records that they are terrified. Peter asks Jesus to have him walk on water. Jesus beckons him and Peter obeys. He walks on the water, but then notices the waves, takes his eyes off Jesus and starts to sink.