Summary: In a desolate place spiritually and in the midst of a time of oppressive persecution, Jesus fed the 5000 and taught his disciples that God will sustain us, will feed us and multiply our resources as we feed others the bread of life.
Matthew 14__13-21 PICKING UP BROKEN PIECES
TRINITY 11 Proper 13A
Then Ezra the priest said to the people, “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst.”
Psalm 78:(1-14), 15-21, (22-23), 24-26 CP (434), 435
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now when Jesus heard that Herod had put John the Baptist to death, 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. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 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.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 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. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.”
Matthew 14:13-21 Because we read the Bible in little sections, we often miss the artistry and the over all plan of the Gospels. Today’s reading follows immediately on the execution of John the Baptist by Herod.
You will recall in the first chapters of Matthew, that Joseph and Mary fled from Judea taking their child with them because Herod the Great was killing Jewish children because there was a rumor that the King of the Jews had been born in a place called House of Bread, Bethlehem. Judea was a dangerous place for Jews who awaited a Jewish King.
Herod the Great was a butcher who ruled Judea as a puppet of Rome by means of terror for several decades. He died shortly after Jesus was born, and was responsible for the “slaughter of the innocents” that was the occasion for the flight of Mary and Joseph to Egypt. A successor, Archelaus was ruling at the time Joseph and Mary heard of the death of Herod. They started to return home to Judea, but fearing Archelaus, made their way to Nazareth in Galilee.
Years later, another evil Herod put John the Baptist to death because he had raised a following and was announcing that indeed a righteous Kingdom was near. Matthew has told us of the beheading of John the Baptist – killed because he denounced Herod Antipas’ marriage to his brother Philip’s wife when Philip was still alive.
Hearing of the death of his cousin, and knowing that he too would now be a target for persecution, Jesus withdrew to a solitary place. Jesus, hearing of the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod Antipas has good reason to go to a solitary place to pray and contemplate what is next.