Summary: Proper 13 (A) Christ has redeemed the whole person – body, soul, and spirit. He provides food for the whole person. Therefore we trust that Christ loves us and has redeemed us completely – body and soul.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“Real Food for Real People”
Our Gospel for today is the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. He was in Galilee. Jesus had been in a boat. He had gone away to pray. When He came ashore, the crowd was there. He felt sorrow for them. And He healed those among them who were sick. It was the end of the day. The disciples said to Jesus, “Send these people away, that they can buy supper for themselves.” Jesus said, “They don’t need to go away. You feed them.” “But all we have is 5 small loaves and 2 fish.” Jesus said, “Give them to me.” He took the bread and the fish, and gave thanks to God. Then He brought the bread, and gave it to the disciples, to give to the people.
There was enough bread and fish to feed everybody, and there were 12 baskets leftover. And there were more than 5, 000 people there.
Now today, there are some people who claim this did not happen. They say that it is, of course, impossible to feed 5,000 people and more from 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish. They claim this was all made up by the apostles. It didn’t really happen, they say. But no, they are wrong. This is true, it is real. It was real food for real people.
Five thousand people: that’s a lot of people. I don’t know how many people were at the County Fair, but there were lots of people there. There were also a lot of fish sandwiches at the fair. Really good fish. There may have been more fish there than there were people! So, is that what this gospel is about – Jesus making fish sandwiches – bread and fish—for a crowd? If that’s all it were, it wouldn’t do any good for you or me, because we weren’t there. No, this gospel is about more than fish sandwiches.
So then, what is it about? Well, how does it start? “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” “This?” What is the “this” that Jesus heard? John the Baptist had been executed, beheaded, by King Herod. His disciples had been there. They had the funeral for John. In the verses before our text, it reads, “And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.”
So the disciples told Jesus about the death of John the Baptist, and Jesus went out in the boat, to be alone. Now, what about the people? Where did this big crowd of people come from? Matthew tells us, “But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.” So the people also heard of the death of John the Baptist, and they walked to follow after Jesus. Why are they following after Jesus?
The Bible doesn’t say exactly why. But it gives us some good clues. Remember how, when he was preaching and baptizing, the priests and Pharisees asked John if he were Elijah, or the Prophet, or the Christ? He told them no, and when he saw Jesus coming, said “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Yet the people did not understand.
And later, after this miracle, in chapter 16, when Jesus asks “Who do people say that I am,” Peter answered, “Some say you are John the Baptist,” meaning that some people thought Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life, or that He had somehow receive the spirit of John. This confirms to us how fixed the people were on John the Baptist as a leader, a prophet, and perhaps the Messiah.
So, it is not surprising then, on hearing about the death of John the Baptist, that the people would turn to Jesus. Whether or not they yet knew or were ready to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, we do not know. But we must also remember to see the scene from their perspective. You and I – We know that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord and Savior. But at that time He had not yet been crucified and risen again. Nor had the Holy Spirit been sent. So they are in a different time, a different situation, and see things from a different point of view. It would be natural for them to turn to Jesus, who they knew was another teacher, for an explanation about what had happened to John. So in light of this tragic news, they are following after Jesus's boat.
Jesus arrived at shore, and there they are. He has compassion on them. And he heals the sick among them. How long Jesus was with them, we do not know, but we know that it is getting on in the day, the day is drawing to a close, and the people need to eat.