Christ Supplies the Resources
Matthew Lesson #083
June 28, 2015
“Our Father, we’re so grateful we can be here this morning—that we can be refreshed through a study of Your Word. That it brings life to our souls as we come to understand reality as You have described it. We recognize that it is not simply on the basis of material feeding that we are nourished, but that we must also be nourished by Your Word. For ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that precedes from the mouth of God.’
Father, this time also we recognize that there are a number of folks who are not here this morning. Many are gone, some of the young people and some of the adults are gone to Camp Arete, and we pray for that camp. We pray for those who are participating, that they would be responsive to the message as it is given; and if there are any there that are not believers that they may have their eyes opened to understand the truth of the gospel, and that the gospel would be proclaimed clearly.
We also pray that as many of these young people come with many different problems, many different circumstances, that they may learn that the solution to life’s problems is always found in Your Word, and that we must come to understand what Your Word says, and that we must understand how to apply it in our lives—that God the Holy Spirit will refresh us and bring real joy and tranquility to our souls, no matter what our circumstances might be.
And we pray this is Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 14, and we will begin in a few minutes on verse 13.
This morning I need to address a particular pressing issue. One that has cataclysmic consequences for every Christian in this country.
This morning across the nation there are hundreds of thousands of pastors who are bringing the same basic message to their congregations, and that is that a major shift took place on Friday morning with the handing down of this decision regarding same-sex marriage.
A lot of people may not be fully aware of this. I know some of you are like me, and you’re news junkies, and you ride the waves of the Internet looking at, watching, and reading, and being well informed.
Some of you have been very busy the last two or three days enjoying summer vacation, living your lives, and you’ve heard some of these things, and you understand basically what the issues are, but you’ve been too busy enjoying your freedoms and enjoying the prosperity of this nation to really have taken the time to dwell on the long-term consequences that we are facing.
This is a message that none of us thought we would be delivering in this country and in our lifetimes. As of Friday, this shift that occurred has changed everything legally in this country. That which we thought we had—guaranteed freedom of the expression of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment—is now in profound jeopardy.
Let me warn you that this is not really the issue you’ll read about in many of the papers, many articles from those who are advocates of same-sex marriage. This is really not an issue related to love. It’s not an issue related to dignity.
It is ultimately an issue related to the free expression—and I’m borrowing that terminology from the First Amendment—that it’s related to the free expression of religion. It will not leave anyone in this country untouched or unscathed.
If you are a Christian, the very freedom of the expression of your Christianity is now in jeopardy in a way that has never been true in this country. Our Founding Fathers, going back to the pilgrims who came to Massachusetts, and those who settled in other colonies, came here in order to escape government dictates regarding religious belief.
That’s a principle sadly that is rarely taught in public school today. Many children across this country do not understand why the Founders came to this country, why those original colonists came. But they came to escape a government that dictated what they could believe and what they could apply, and how they could apply it.
This was violated on Friday morning by five activist judges.
You will hear, that as they have argued in their majority opinion, that this is about the dignity and equality that should be given to those who are homosexuals and who wish to marry someone of the same sex.
You will hear, as I read on Facebook numerous times this week, that this is all about love, and that love has conquered, and that love is victorious.
But if you carefully read the Constitution of the United States, you will not discover the words “dignity” and “love” anywhere in the constitution.
Neither will you find the word “marriage” mentioned anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. They are not there.
Therefore, legally this is not an issue that should have been brought before the court at all. But in arrogance, they took the position that they should rule for the purpose—on the part of five of them—to radically change the social structure of the U.S.
This is truly about, and a battle for, the free exercise of biblical Christianity. This is the focal point of the battle in the angelic conflict in this generation because the attempt now will be to force Christians to conform. Originally, it will in subtle ways. But eventually it will be in more overt ways to this illegal pronouncement to validate, to verify, to accept and approve same-sex marriage.
You will be forced in many areas of your life to accommodate, to compromise, and to become desensitized to the real issues here.
If you work for an employer who is a publicly traded company, if you work for the government, if you work for numerous other businesses, then there will be dictates handed down from your Human Resources Department that will ultimately come from the government as to how you should relate to those you work with and those you’re involved with that are involved in a same-sex marriage. This involves the free expression of your religion.
You will come under a situation where, let’s say, you are a teacher, a principal, a counselor in a public school, and you’re meeting with the two mothers of one of your children. You will be required by law to refer to this spouse as a wife. That will, in your mind, violate your conscience. If you take a stand and do not do that, then you will be guilty of violating the law and can be brought up on charges and probably lose your job.
If you say, “Well, this really doesn’t matter, and I need my job,” then you are going to succumb to the pressure, and you will be utilizing vocabulary that validates and affirms the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. This will desensitize your conscience and ultimately torpedo your Christian life.
We live in an era now where Christians will be called upon to decide whether they are going to be a disciple of Jesus, or if they are going to just simply accept eternal life. The pressures may not come today or tomorrow or in the next few months, but eventually these pressures will come, and they will mount.
If you’re in the military, the pressures will be enormous. If you’re a chaplain in the military, the pressures will be enormous to either compromise and validate this ruling or leave your job, leave your profession. And just the ramifications of this are so vast and so enormous that none of us can really grasp the ground that has shifted out from under us.
One person who commented on this, commented on Justice Scalia’s descent, and I’m just going to quote from what he said,
“Justice Scalia also expressed sincere concern about how the court’s decision will impact the free exercise of religion [that’s a critical phrase!] the free exercise of religion on the part of those who differ with the decision on biblical grounds.”
He pointed out that the majority decision (and this was in Justice Kennedy’s decision), he said that according to what Kennedy wrote, that this would not impact the right of believers to continue to advocate [that was the word he used] or to teach their views of marriage.
But you see, the First Amendment as this writer goes on to say, guarantees the free exercise of religion, and that is a word the court—quoting Scalia—ominously did not use.
If you go to work, and you are forced to do things, to use vocabulary, that validates same-sex marriage, you are not allowed to freely exercise your religious beliefs. That’s going to be a problem.
We’re not alone. There are approximately 30–50 million, depending on your criteria, evangelicals in this country. There are numerous denominations, some with quite a bit of clout, that are taking a firm stand against this new ruling.
It remains to be seen what kind of impact this is actually going to have because, as we’ve all been aware, we have been sliding and slouching toward Gomorrah for a very long time. This is the inevitable consequence of decisions that were made in the early 60s.
That’s when everything changed. Two things of significance happened in the early 60s:
One is that prayer in public schools was declared to be unconstitutional, and that took God out of the classroom. Even though that wasn’t the intent, that was what many educators believed, that they could not talk about God or spiritual things in the classroom.
Some were very creative in the way that they did it. There are always creative ways to get around some of these things, and we must learn some of those creative ways by observing how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego responded to the dictates of Nebuchadnezzar.
One way teachers would do this is when Christmas would come along, and let’s say they were in a district that wouldn’t allow them to talk about Jesus at Christmas, then if somebody in the class asked, “Well, what’s Christmas all about?” Then the teacher could ask a Christian student that she knew of to say, “Well, why don’t you answer that question?” Then another student would be given the opportunity to give the gospel in class.
There are creative ways around many different obstacles that have been put before us, but we have been moving in this direction, as I said, for a very long time.
On Friday, I posted this comment on the Dean Bible Ministries Facebook page, “The right to redefine marriage presupposes a religious assumption.”
See, that’s the bottom line here, there is an assumption in the legal world that there is an area of neutrality, an area that is not religious. But if you make a statement that there is a God, if that is a religious statement, then its negation must also be a religious statement. If you say there is not a God, then you have made a religious statement.
What I am saying here is that undergirding this decision was a religious assumption that God has not created and/or ordained marriage.
The assumption of five judges who are not Bible-believing judges in anyway—it’s interesting to see, to look at, the religious makeup of the court right now, because we basically have a court of primarily secularists who do not understand anything about biblical truth—so they assume that it is government that endows us with rights.
That is in violation of the Constitution.
The Declaration of Independence recognizes that we (all men) have been created equal, and that it is our Creator Who has endowed us with these rights.
They have assumed the position of God by even getting involved in this discussion. They have assumed that God has not created and ordained marriage. They have made themselves equal to God, and they are imposing a law now that violates the establishment of the religion clause in the First Amendment.
Further, there will now be a clash between the constitutional right to marry someone of the same sex and the constitutional right to express one’s deeply held religious convictions.
To believe that this is a sin (now as Christians, we don’t believe it’s a special kind of sin—it’s a sin just like lying, arrogance, bearing false witness, anger, bitterness, jealousy, fornication, adultery, etc.), but in such a clash, if the right to same-sex marriage trumps the right to express one’s religious convictions, then the First Amendment will be dead. Freedom will be dead. And the Constitution will have become in fact what many think is already true in deed, a dead, meaningless document.
As several Obama officials including the Solicitor General of the U.S. have stated, “This will be the end of tax-exempt status for most religious institutions.” Charities, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, churches, synagogues—all because they will not bow the knee to secularists. This is where we stand today.
Over the coming weeks, months, and years, we’ll come to understand the full consequences of this decision. Some of these things may not appear in the near future, but they will appear gradually in the coming months.
Unfortunately, I think that those who are in favor of same-sex marriage have been emboldened that this is now legal. Legal doesn’t make something moral, and it doesn’t make it right. God is still in control, and marriage is still between one man and one woman, but these things will come inevitably.
Now this is all I’m going to say about this this morning. I think many of you understand some of these basic issues, but we have to go back as our culture shifts, sometimes we have to go back and re-examine and re-think, and be re-educated on what the issues are.
Starting this Thursday, usually I do some sort of Independence Day special, but on this Thursday night I’m going to begin a short series, probably two or three lessons just helping us to think through what these issues are going to be and what our response should be.
Don’t worry, I haven’t changed my theology at all as you should already tell, but we need to think it through because there are too many Christians who think that homosexuality is an unforgivable sin, and the way they respond to it is the opposite of love and grace.
We need to think this thing through biblically in a very precise, very focused manner. We’re not engaged in hostility, we’re not doing this out of antagonism, we’re doing this simply because we believe something is true and something is right.
And it must always be expressed in terms of love, in terms of humility, and in terms of grace.
We need to learn exactly what the Bible says about homosexuality, and why it makes those claims. We need to learn what the Bible teaches about the extent and limitations of human authority.
There have been numerous calls for civil disobedience. This has not been explained. I made a comment on Thursday night, and I was asked for some clarification via one e-mail. This is something we’re going to have to think through again very precisely.
We need to learn how to respond legally as a church and make sure that as our legal documents, our constitution and by-laws are set up, we need to make sure we are as protected as we can be.
We need to learn how to respond personally to our colleagues at our place of employment, to friends, to family members, to those who are bosses, to those who work for us. We need to learn how we should respond when we are invited to the same-sex wedding of a close family member or friend.
We need to learn how not to compromise our belief in what the Bible says so that we do not have a negative spiritual impact. Above all, we need to learn how to respond personally in terms of loving even those with whom we disagree, how to engage in conversation without making it argumentative or becoming hostile, and that in every area we demonstrate the love of God and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, every single one of us is going to be faced and confronted with our own choice in terms of the degree to which we are going to follow Jesus and apply the Word. Are we really willing to be a disciple of Christ, a student of Christ, and a follower of Jesus no matter what the cost?
In Luke 14 Jesus says three distinct things about being a disciple:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”
This will have direct application for many believers who have sons, daughter, brothers, sisters, and even parents who are actively engaged in the homosexual lifestyle, and you will have to take a stand; Jesus or your family, the Word of God or the word of man. That will not be easy.
Jesus also said, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
What that means (the idiom of bearing your cross), is the fact that in the Roman Empire, when you were a criminal and you were convicted of certain activities that were treasonous to the empire, and you were going to be crucified, then you had to carry your cross to the place of execution. It was a sign of submission to the authority of the Roman Empire.
Carrying your cross is an idiom for submitting to the authority of God. Are you willing to submit to the authority of God? If not, Jesus says you cannot be My disciple.
In Luke 14:33 Jesus said, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
Then in Matthew 10:25 Jesus said, “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his Master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!”
We’re the ones who are now going to be called bigots. We’re the ones who are going to be called queers. We’re the ones who are going to be called many, many things—all because of this shift that has taken place.
They called Jesus a lot of things. Jesus never made a mistake in His life. He never treated a sinner any other way but in grace and humility. He always manifested love toward everyone that He met, but they crucified Him.
Paul followed in His footsteps, and they crucified him. Peter followed in His footsteps, and they crucified him. Stephen followed in His footsteps, and they stoned him to death. Isn’t this a pleasant message?
All but one of the disciples lost their life because they took a stand for the truth. Taking a stand for the truth is not easy. It is often the decision that feels worse among the options, but it is the decision that we make because it is the right decision, and because the Lord is the One that strengthens us.
Jesus said, “You will have many tribulations, but fear not for I have overcome the world.” That’s the message of hope! It is we have victory in the Lord Jesus Christ no matter what happens.
Now as we look at our passage in Matthew 14, there are a few lessons here that we can apply to this situation that I’ve described. But first we need to understand what is happening here.
In Matthew 14:13–21 we have Matthew’s record of this most often recorded miracle of Jesus: the feeding of the 5,000. It emphasizes the grace of God, the compassion of Jesus, and it emphasizes the sufficiency of God’s power to meet any and all emergencies and exigencies that we face in life.
As we look in Matthew, just a reminder, in the first part of Matthew we see Jesus presented as the King, the Messiah, the Anointed One to Israel. The messenger who is His forerunner, who announces Him is John the Baptist. And John the Baptist has a message, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
When Jesus came on the scene and John the Baptist identified Him as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, those who understood Old Testament prophecy, those who understood the depiction of the Messiah from the Hebrew Scriptures, knew what he meant—that he was calling Jesus the Messiah.
Jesus proclaimed the same message, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The Kingdom of Heaven, that utopic kingdom, that Davidic kingdom that God promised to Israel where Israel would be at the center of all the nations, and all the world would come and worship at the House of God in Jerusalem, it is that Kingdom: a kingdom where there was health, where there was healing, where there was perfect justice for all.
That Kingdom was being offered to Israel, and they rejected it.
That rejection mounted month by month during the first part of Jesus’ ministry until it culminated in a decision that was made by the Pharisees that’s recorded in Matthew 12.
This occurred somewhere in Galilee. We don’t know exactly where it occurred. In the midst of this crowd that was there after Jesus has cast a demon out of this demon-possessed man, the Pharisees said, “Well, you are casting out demons in the power of Satan and the power of Beelzebub.”
They have rejected His claim to be Messiah. They have rejected His claim to be God. They have rejected the offer of the Kingdom, and as the representatives of the people, the leaders of the people, they have made an earth-shattering irreversible decision that will shape the destiny of Israel for the next 40 years.
They didn’t feel this consequence right away. Many of you see where I’m going with this. It’s the same kind of thing that happened on Friday. There was a decision that was made, the consequences of which are beyond our imagination, but things can’t be reversed. We won’t go back. It’s not going to happen.
There has been a trajectory for really not just the last 50 years, but for the last 100 years in progressive politics that have denied what the Bible says about the nature of man and the nature of salvation, and even the nature of the kingdom. For in liberal theology, which influenced progressive politics, the kingdom was an earthly kingdom and a kingdom that involved the perfection of man and the perfection of human institutions.
When the Pharisees made that decision and rejected Jesus, it set in motion that which would inevitably result in the destruction of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the reduction of the second temple to a pile of rubble. The children and grandchildren of those that were present with Jesus would suffer immeasurably during the Jewish revolt between AD 66 and AD 70. Some 40 years after this, they would reap in horror the consequences of this decision.
I have had many people comment to me and e-mail me over the last two days how they fear now for their children and their grandchildren because they will not grow up in a nation of law, in a nation of freedom as they grew up. This is going to be devastating.
The only way we can survive is in the Word. We have to realize that what we have experienced in this country for the last 200 years and before that in the colonies, the level of freedom and protection for the right to freely worship that we have experienced is a bubble in history. And that bubble has burst.
We can be thankful and praise God that we experienced that wonderful blessing, but now something new is on the rise, and we need to prepare ourselves. That means we have to spend ten times more time for some people in the Word and in prayer and in fortifying our souls for what will come than we ever did before.
We have to recognize that we have been given a mission. That mission isn’t a political mission. That mission is a spiritual mission, and it’s a mission related to making disciples. That’s why we’re here. We’re ambassadors of the heavenly court, and we are ambassadors of Christ to a sinful and fallen world. We are here to express to those who are in rebellion against God the love of God and the grace of God.
This is a great picture here in this particular episode. Let me go through it.
In Matthew 14:13 we have this sort of a flashback in verses 3–12 as to what has happened to John the Baptist under Herod Antipas who is the ruler of Galilee.
If we look at this map, Galilee is over here on the left. Up in the north, here you have the Jordan River flowing down, right here into the Sea of Galilee. Over here to the northeast, this is the territory of Herod Philip. It is not the territory of Herod Antipas.
Many times in the gospel, Jesus goes back and forth. He seeks seclusion, and He heads over to the eastern side of the Jordan because there He’s not under the authority or any threat from Herod Antipas who, like his father, ran a little bit towards the fear of persecution and paranoia, and so he was afraid Jesus would try to do something to him.
What happens here is Jesus had been in Capernaum, and He gets on a boat, and He goes over to this side near Bethsaida. And somewhere in this area is where Jesus is going to feed the 5,000.
If you notice on this particular map, which is one reason I chose it, the location where they have a church today, the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, is on the western side. But that doesn’t fit the narrative of Scripture. He goes across to the other side and then at night He will come back, and that’s when the episode of walking on the water will occur.
So we read, “When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by a boat to a deserted place by Himself.”
Just as a note here—if this is important for our Lord to get away by Himself to spend time in prayer and focus on the Word and focus on His relationship with the Lord, how much more is it important for each of us to have time on a daily basis to get rid of all the distractions, to turn off the electronic devices, to just focus on reading the Word—unless, of course, you’re reading the Word on your iPhone or iPad—to read and to reflect and to think about the Word of God and to be in prayer? This is central to our time and our own personal spiritual growth.
Jesus gets in this boat, and He was probably accompanied on the boat by His disciples because these boats were not able to be operated by only one person. So He takes this journey.
We’ve been told already in Matthew that He has gotten in a boat a couple of times. A third occasion, He taught from the boat, and He is going to take two further journeys in Matthew by a boat. Often it is because He’s going over to the other side to the territory of Herod Philip.
He goes to this deserted place. In Luke 5:16 we’re told, “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” This was something He regularly did, and that’s the application. This is something that we too should regularly do.
The multitudes followed Him. They heard that He was leaving. They could see where that boat was headed, and they took off on foot. It’s not that far to go from Capernaum across to the area near Bethsaida, and so they followed Him there.
Remember this is a large multitude. We’re going to be told down in verse 21 that the number who ate were about 5,000 males. That’s not counting women and children. So the crowd estimate is somewhere between 15, 000 and 20,000. They have followed Him.
Not all of them would have been believers. Not all of them would have even thought they were disciples. Many of them would have been classified by the Pharisees and the religious leaders as sinners and probably classified by God as sinners as well. They were not all believers, but they were interested. They were curious. They wanted to hear what Jesus had to say. So they followed Him.
In verse 14 He says, “And He was moved with compassion for them, and He healed the sick.”
This is an important comment to note—that He is moved with compassion. Compassion in the Greek is the word SPLANCHNON which literally means “the bowels,” and what this emphasizes is it’s an application of His love and His mercy toward all, not to some. He’s not displaying His grace to them in healing only those who are believers or only those who are obedience to the law. He is healing all who were sick, all who come to Him.
That’s the point of the gospel. The gospel has no conditions upon it. The gospel doesn’t say, “If you quit your homosexuality, if you quit your adultery, if you quit lying, if you quit your gossip, if you quit your slander, if you quit having all your anger issues—that’s how they talk about it today. If you quit all that today, then you can come to Jesus.”
We have to recognize that when we look at homosexuality and same-sex marriage, that this is not a unique sin. It is a sin among many sins, and all sins separate us from God. We’re separated initially because we’re born spiritually dead. And because we’re born spiritually dead, and we’re corrupted by a sin nature, we sin in many different areas. Some of us sin in areas where we have lust for money and material things. Others of us sin in other areas of sexual lust, but those who are homosexual have a particular area of weakness in their sin nature driven by a different lust pattern. Categorically it’s not any different from other sin.
We know that in terms of its impact on society and culture, that it is different, perhaps has a greater impact and a more destructive impact that other sins. But nevertheless, as far as God is concerned, it another sin, nothing special about it.
When we are having ministry talking, building relationships with those who are homosexual, we shouldn’t make an issue out of their sin. We shouldn’t ever make an issue out of anybody’s sin, because if they’re not a believer, the only issue is whether or not they’ve believed that Jesus Christ died on the Cross their sins.
We’re not in a position to be in judgment. Jesus said in John 3 “I did not come to judge but to save.” It is not our role to judge. That is the role of God the Holy Spirit, and those who are involved in sin. As they read the Word, God the Holy Spirit will bring that to their attention.
Some years ago I knew a man—I won’t mention anything more about him because some of you here know him. He was originally a member of this congregation—who began to be interested in the Bible simply because his mother said, “You need to read your Bible.”
One day he was in the office of another man who is a member of this congregation, and this other man noticed that he had his Bible in his briefcase. And he said, “What’s that doing in there?”
He said, “Well, my mother wants me to read it, so I’m reading it.”
This man said, “Well, do you understand it?”
He said, “No, not really.”
He said, “Well, let me give you a couple of books, and maybe that will help you understand it.”
So he gave him a couple of books, a couple of pamphlets, and then the next year this guy came back around, and he was asked, “Well, are you still reading your Bible?”
“Yeah, and I read those pamphlets, and now I’m going to that church where the pastor wrote those booklets.”
He said, “I have a question. I’m involved in some questionable businesses, at least morally, so what should I do?”
I love the answer that was given—He said, “Just keep reading, keep studying, read your Bible. God will make it clear to you.”
He did not judge him. He did not say, “You need to straighten this thing out!” He said, “You just focus on the Word, and God will make it clear to you, and you will grow through it as every believer needs to.” It’s an understanding of grace that is often missed today.
So Jesus deals with them in grace and compassion. We’re told when it was evening, His disciples came to Him.
Jesus has been healing and teaching all day long. We know from the other gospels that parallel that, for example, Luke says that during this time He taught them. Matthew focuses, and John as well, on His healing those who are sick. And Mark comments that He looked upon the multitudes as sheep without a shepherd.
As Jesus ministers to them, it goes on all day until it’s getting toward evening. That means they have gone through lunch, they’ve gone through the dinner hour, and now there are 5,000 people, and there’s no McDonalds, there’s no Burger King, there’s no Taco Cabana anywhere around in order to get them something to eat very quickly.
This could be a crisis. If you’ve ever been in a situation, and I have, where you had a group of people that you’re responsible for or that you’re with, and you get into a situation where there’s a water crisis or a food crisis, you know that this is significant.
First time I went on a trip over to the biblical lands over to Greece, when we were leaving and coming back, it was one of the hottest days Greece had had that summer. It was in the early part of July. The temperature was well over 100 degrees, and there was a massive power outage at the airport. You couldn’t buy water. The water faucets were off. People were stuck with whatever they had, and a lot of people in the group who were traveling were beginning to get short on water.
We finally were able to get on our plane, and when we left, and one of the members in our group started to have severe symptoms of dehydration. They were just told by the flight attendants to sit down.
I commented at that point to the flight attendant. I said, “You’ve got about 30 people here who haven’t had access to water in about five hours, and the temperature’s been over 100°. If you don’t start getting all these people water, forget your protocols, get them water now or you’re going to have a massive problem on your hands.” They responded appropriately and started getting water to a lot people instead of food.
This can be a serious problem, so here you have a situation where they don’t have food, and it’s getting late, and so Jesus says to His disciples, rather His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place. The hour is already late. Send the multitudes away that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.” And Jesus said, “They don’t need to go away. YOU give them something to eat!” That’s the first command.
Now we have to understand what’s going on here. Jesus is training His disciples. He’s telling them, “You feed them!” Now here is a situation. Jesus is going to perform this particular miracle, but nobody is going to observe the miracle, not like the other miracles. Jesus is going to multiply the loaves and the fishes, but nobody’s going to see Him do that. What He’s going to do is provide that which nourishes life, and it is the disciples’ responsibility to distribute that to the people.
This is training them for their future ministry. Jesus will give them the manna, the spiritual food from Heaven, and it is the responsibility of the disciples to take that to the people. By application, that extends all the way down to us. Jesus is the One who provides the nourishment, and it is our responsibility to take that to the people.
Now in terms of this particular miracle, this has a biblical context. There was a tradition going back to the Old Testament, back to Moses, that the Messiah would follow in the footsteps of Moses and provide bread for the people. In the wilderness, after Israel had left Egypt and was in the wilderness, God is the One who provided bread from Heaven. Every morning they would wake up, and they would see a re-supply of manna.
God provides that which we need, and the important point for the disciples to realize here is when they came to Jesus saying You’ve got to feed these people, we don’t have anything—is that Jesus allowed them to reach a point where they realized they were insufficient to meet the need of the people. There was nothing they could do. They had to rely completely and totally on Jesus.
Jesus is the One that said that He would never leave us or forsake us, and that He was the One who would give us the ability to do all things. As Paul says in Philippians 4, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
So He’s training the disciples to realize, first of all, that in ministry and in our Christian life, we have to recognize we can do nothing. When we face many problems in life, there is not one thing we can do about it, but God is the One who supplies the resources, and God is the One who takes care of us.
When He commands them to give them something to eat, they say, “We don’t have anything! We have here only five loaves and two fish.”
Commentators differ about the size of these loaves, but I think basically they were about the size, each loaf was about the size of some pita bread; and the fish, if this is what they referred to today as St. Peter’s fish, which is basically tilapia that comes out of the Sea of Galilee, it would be dried. You know about the size that tilapia reaches. It’s not very big, not much bigger that my hand, and that’s not a whole lot of food.
One of the disciples said, “I’ve got 200 denarii.” 200 denarii is about the wages of common labor would earn in eight months. At that time, they would earn about one denarius a day. So this isn’t a tremendous amount if you’re going to feed 15,000 or 20,000 people. Basically they are saying, “We’ve got nothing.”
The first commandment was, “Give them something to eat.” Then the second commandment regarding the fish and the loaves was to bring them here to Me. Then He gives the third commandment in verse 19 to the multitudes—to sit down on the grass.
That conforms to what John says. John says it’s Passover time. This was the last Passover, one year before the crucifixion. And it’s springtime, so there’s plenty of grass. They sat down. He took the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to Heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples.
So He is going to bless them. This would have been a standard Jewish blessing before the beginning of a meal, “Blessed are Thou our Lord our God, the King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth,” And He would have said that and then broken the bread, and He would have passed it out to the 20,000.
The focus here is on Jesus training The Twelve. This is what we have to remember. Jesus is training The Twelve. It’s a training for us that we are insufficient. When we face many obstacles in life, especially the one we’re facing now, we are insufficient. Only God can provide the answer. God provides either the resources to change the law, or whether God does not and we go through persecution and tribulation, God will provide the resources.
This is what He taught Paul in 2 Corinthians, that “My grace is sufficient for you,” 2 Corinthians 12:9. My grace is sufficient for you, and God’s grace will always be sufficient for us.
So in summary as I wrap up, I want to give you six quick principles to remember that apply to our current situation:
- First of all, this is a mixed multitude. Some are believers. Some are not. Some are hostile to Him. Some are not. But Jesus never focused on their sin. Their sin, whatever it might be, wasn’t the issue. The issue was God’s love for sinners. For God so loved the world that’s hostile to Him. In Romans, Paul says “God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners”—hostile to Him. The issue isn’t homosexuality. The issue is the love of God, what God has done.
- Love should define the Christian life. But we have to define love. Love in the eyes of the world today is to approve and accept and validate other people’s behavior. If we don’t accept, approve, and validate their behavior, then we’re considered intolerant and unloving. They have a false definition of love.
Every parent knows this. If you’re a parent, and you love your children, and you validate and approve everything that they do, what are you going to raise? A bunch of spoiled, rebellious brats. That is not love. Love may accept the person, but does not approve of certain actions and sins that take place.
So we need to recognize that this is one of the errors today—a misunderstanding of tolerance, and a misunderstanding of love.
- Our job is not to judge the sinner, but to provide the gospel and truth. In many cases, that’s going to have traction because of the way we live, the way we talk, the way we act around people who are not believers. If we come across as being arrogant, judgmental, angry, then that is going to hinder our own ability to express the gospel.
1 Corinthians 16:13, 14 states it perfectly, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.”
We’re going to have to stand fast in the faith and be brave and be strong in the coming months and years, and all that we need to do needs to be done in love.
- We have to recognize that Jesus did all of the above. And He was still crucified. If we do everything we’re supposed to do, that doesn’t guarantee a change, but it does guarantee that we have done the right thing. We can’t guarantee results, we can only guarantee that we are obedient, and we need to focus on that.
- We have to focus on God’s mission for each of us, which does not promise comfort, but does recognize the reality of tribulation. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”
That’s a verse I think each one of us needs to memorize for the coming months and years.
- Our mission includes several dimensions. First of all our mission includes growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ in 2 Peter 3:18.
Many people find themselves too busy to be in Bible class on Tuesday and Thursday night, or too busy to watch the live stream. That’s not going to be an acceptable reality anymore for any Christian. This is really a dividing line. This is going to separate those who are just going along for a nice ride from those who are really disciples.
This is what happened at the end of this episode, and why I read those verses at the end of John 6 when we’re told by John that after this event many of Jesus’ disciples left Him. What He was saying was just too hard.
“I just can’t do it! I can’t have this kind of problem in my family. I can’t lose my job! What would I do? I can’t face the kind of opposition and rejection that I’ll get from my friends and family. I just can’t do this.”
The problem is that they left Jesus. That’s what they said. “I can’t do it.”
Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Why don’t you guys leave?”
And Peter said, “Where else would we go?”
You have the words of eternal life. We have to keep that priority focused as things may get tough, but there’s only one option, and that’s the eternal option.
Second, we’re to take the Bread of Life to those who are spiritually dead. We need to be involved in evangelism, both by deed and by word.
Third, and this is very important in light of all of this: we are not to be conformed to the world.
Romans 12:2, another verse we all should have memorized. “Do not be conformed to this world.” That’s a mandate. Do not be pressured by the cosmic system to conform and to validate their errors. And trust me, every one of us in this room is going to be pressured by government policy, by policy at the place where you work to conform in your vocabulary. You’re going to have family members that are homosexual that are involved in same-sex marriage that will be offended if you do not use the appropriate term to refer to the person that they are involved with.
If you call them wives and husbands, you are being conformed to the world, and that will break down your conscience. It will desensitize you to error, and this will cause great harm to your spiritual life and your walk with the Lord.
Some of us may lose friends, some of us may lose family members, some of us may lose our job, some of us may lose our freedom and our lives, but this is not new for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the call to discipleship. And from this time forward, life is not the same for us as it was before.
Everything changed on Friday morning, but we have a God Who is still on the Throne, Who’s still in control, Who knew all of this was going to happen, and He gave us everything we’re going to need in order to survive and to sustain us through this and have joy and happiness and peace in our lives—because that’s not dependent on anything the government does. We have an eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to reflect upon this miracle of our Lord that demonstrated that He was Who He claimed to be, the Messiah, Who could give bread from Heaven as He multiplied the loaves and the fishes.
Father, we recognize that today we live in a time that will present us with great challenges—challenges that most of us never thought we’d have; that we’re going to face opposition. We’re going to face rejection. We’re going to face ridicule in ways and dimensions that we have not expected, but we know that our hope, our security, our stability is based upon You and Your Word, and that we are to walk in love by means of God the Holy Spirit.
We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we’re to demonstrate Your love to all no matter what. That doesn’t mean that we accept or approve of what they do, but we can love them and reject the sin because that is exactly what our Lord did.
Father, we pray that if there’s anyone who’s listening today, that is uncertain of their eternal salvation or unsure of their eternal destiny, that they would take this opportunity to make that both sure and certain. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin. Sin isn’t the issue. Whatever you’ve done, that’s not the issue. The issue is whether or not you’ve trusted in God’s solution, accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, trusted in Him, believed that He died for your sins. At the instant we trust in Him, we have eternal life.
Father, we pray for each one of us as believers, that as we go through our lives, now more than ever, we need to manifest the character of Christ—the love, the joy, the peace, that God the Holy Spirit produces in our lives, demonstrating to all the love that You have for all mankind that was manifest at the Cross.
And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”