Summary: Why are called to give of our time, resources and talents to God?
This morning we start a sermon series of questions all beginning with the word ‘Why.’ Over the next number of weeks we are going to look at why we do certain things as a Christians. This morning we are going to look at giving. Right at the start of this sermon I want to assure you that this is not another sermon on giving money to the building fund. In fact this sermon has nothing at all to do with the building fund or the finances of the parish. So you can rest easy on that score this morning. Secondly, this morning you will have an opportunity at the end of this service and over the next couple of weeks to practically apply the teaching of this morning to your giving at HT.
Matthew 14.13-21 The Feeding of the 5000
Of all the miracles worked by Christ in the NT this is one of the most well known. It is the only miracle which is recorded in all four of the gospels, and that alone should make us sit up and take notice. Each of the gospel accounts help paint the whole picture for us. But as we always do let us set this passage in Matthew in its context. At the beginning of chapter 14 we learn that Herod has had John the Baptist arrested and in order not to lose face amongst his guests has had him beheaded at the request of Herodias’ daughter. If you look at verse 12 you will see that the disciples of John come to bring the news of his death to Christ. Remember this is Jesus’ cousin, as well as the one who prepared the way for the coming of Christ’s ministry, and launched that ministry by publicly baptising Jesus in the river Jordan.
Verse 13 When Christ hears of the death of John he withdraws from the people and seeks out a solitary place – or as the KJV describes it ‘desert place.’ Christ retired to this solitary place not only for his own sake but also for the sake of his disciples. They had just returned from their first mission and they needed time to refresh not just their bodies but also their souls. Their period of quietness is short lived. As we read at the end of verse 13 the people followed Christ on foot around the lake and actually arrive at the landing point before him, verse 14. Matthew tells us that upon seeing the crowd before him Christ has compassion on them. He had sought solitude but it is denied him by the crowd pursuing his presence. Yet he has compassion for them. On one occasion the reason for this compassion is explained by Christ – that they are like sheep without a shepherd. His concern is not for his own needs, but for the needs of these people before him. Matthew also puts a little footnote in that Christ healed their sick. This would explain why in verse 15 he writes of evening approaching. When Christ had compassion on these people it was not simply a feeling but a feeling motivated into action. And that action was not short lived but an all day thing. Christ had withdrew to spend time away from the crowd, the short row across the lake was all the time he had to himself before the needs of the people crowded in on him again. Yet he once again gives freely of his time to them.
Contrast that now with the words of the disciples – read verse 15b. They realise that the people now need food but they have no means of meeting that need. Christ has spent the day meeting physical needs, in the form of healing, and the disciples would have witnessed those miracles. Yet here they are demonstrating their lack of understanding and faith. Send them away to buy their own food. They were more willing to exercise their discretion than their zeal in thinking Christ could feed this many people. What limited vision and understanding the disciples have. They had witnessed the miracle of water into wine at Cana of Galilee and yet here they are failing to have faith in Christ and his ability to meet the daily needs of those who come to him. They have just spent the day witnessing healing after healing and they still fail to understand that Christ is able and sufficient for all their needs. You see, despite what is before their very eyes, they have forgotten the blessings of the past, even the blessings of healing in the past day.
Verse 16 what a challenge Christ lays before his disciples. In John’s account (John 6) we read that Phillip began to assess the financial requirement to feed such a crowd and concludes that even a year’s wages would not be sufficient to purchase the necessary food. Also in John’s account we read that Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, brings forward a little boy who has five loaves and two small fish (like sardines probably, but not in a tin), verse 17.