Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Feeding of the Five Thousand

Matthew 14:13-21 (ESV)
Now when Jesus heard this, 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. [14] When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. [15] 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." [16] But Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." [17] They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish." [18] And he said, "Bring them here to me." [19] 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. [20] And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. [21] And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
When Jesus heard what? That John the Baptist was dead? Perhaps, but it seems that had taken place sometime before and everyone already knew about that scandal. More I think that Jesus heard Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected.
It is hard to say why Jesus withdraws to a desolate place. It might be that he wants to mourn the loss of John. Or he, as it seems was often the case, wanted to avoid crowds and notoriety. Jesus comes off as a very reluctant popular hero. He didn’t want to attract too much attention before the time was right, he knew what was going to happen. He was going for the cross. He didn’t want to be king.
But he can’t seem to avoid the crowds. Nor is it in him to let them go hungry. He feeds the five thousand plus women and children, with five loaves and two fish. It was a miracle. In the end there were twelve baskets left over, one for each of the tribes of Israel. The kingdom of God was upon them in a very different way than they expected or wanted.
We will see that in the way John tells the story. They were not content with what Jesus had to offer, they wanted more. They wanted his kingdom to be of a different nature, an earthly rule. They did not want this forgiveness and compassion bit. They miss the boat, literally. So do millenialists who keep hoping for a return of Christ to set up one of these earthly reigns. Christ won’t have it.

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