“Five Loaves | Two Fish”

Matthew 14:13-21

August 2, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 14:13-21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted 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 for them and cured their sick.

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”

And he said, “Bring them here to me.”

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.


Context is everything.

Context tells us why Jesus withdrew;

Why Jesus sought to find a deserted place by himself.

When context is revealed

Deeper truths are exposed.

Insight to God’s Word, will, and ways is provided.

The rest is up to us.

At the conclusion of the prior (13th) chapter of Matthew

We heard Jesus was rejected by his own hometown,

By his own neighbors, friends, and family.

Their offense at him

Cut Jesus deep.

“Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house,” Jesus observed. (13:57)

Untangling the double negative,

Jesus is saying there is no honor from home or family.

Honor only comes to prophets doing the Lord’s work

Who leave the dysfunction of family offense and criticism,

Who dare to follow where the Lord is leading

To people and places beyond the known,

To places beyond the horizon.

Their offense at him

Cut Jesus deep.

The Gospel of Matthew reports

“He did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.” (13:58)

Get out of the nest,

The safety and security of the nest.

Get away from the doubt, criticism, and complaints

From blood relatives, neighbors, family friends, and fellow members of the synagogue.

They will tap you dry of all the power God has given you,

Just as they did to Jesus.

It was time to move on.

“Jesus withdrew to a deserted place by himself.” (14:13)

Being cut by his own,

Being hurt and abandoned by those who are expected to be closest and most supportive of him,

Speaks of Christ’s humanity,

Speaks of Christ’s intimate knowledge and understanding

Of our shared humanity, our families, and our tangled webs.

If families could only be perfect.

They aren’t.

There is no such thing as a perfect family.

A deserted place was needed for Jesus to sort it all out.

Create a vacuum and allow God to fill the void.

God’s voice is easier to be heard in the silence and solitude of a deserted place

Then in the context of conflict, criticism, and disbelief.

Where is your quiet place?

That place deserted,

Where you can be by yourself,

Where you can allow yourself to be emptied of the world’s troubles,

Where you can allow yourself to be filled by the Spirit and revived by the Spirit’s power?

Context is everything.

Familiar conflict and hometown doubt sapped his strength.

But, it isn’t the only thing that drives Jesus into the wilderness.

The Tetrarch, Herod Antipas,

Like an ancient ancestor of modern-day ISIS,

Beheaded John the Baptist.

Word of his murder spread at the speed of viral social media.

News sent Jesus fleeing

(probably for his life)

To the other side of the Sea of Galilee,

Beyond the limited rule of Herod.

Talk about a dysfunctional family.

Herod had it in spades.

Herod the Great,

Famed at the time of Jesus’ birth,

Had five wives.

Each wife had one or more children.

There were a lot of step-sons and step-daughters,

Half-brothers and half-sisters.

“Game of Thrones” scale

Adultery and perversion were the norm,

Not the exception,

In Herod’s family line.

Herod Antipas, Herod Philip, and Aristobulus

Were 3 of 9 half-brothers of their father, Herod the Great.

Three half-brothers drink deeply from the well of debauchery.

Aristobulus had a daughter, named Herodias.

His half-brother, Herod Philip, takes his daughter, Herodias, for his wife.

Yikes! Sick!

Herod Philip takes a dive into a shallow gene pool.

They have a daughter, named Salome.

Herod Philip and Herodias divorce.

Herod Antipas marries Herodias, his step-brother’s ex-wife,

Making Salome his teen-aged step-daughter.

Yikes! Disgusting!

Cultural offenses are just as terrible today

As they were 2,000 years ago in Herod’s family.

Herod Antipas was infatuated by Salome.

Salome had her step-father, Herod Antipas, wrapped around her little finger

In a sexually perverted, Jeffrey Epstein sort of way.

Yikes! It makes me sick!

Here is the seat of power,

The palace of the Tetrarch of Galilee.

Money is no object.

Food is abundant.

Sex and lust were a Covid like forest fire raging out of control.

Attendees were drawn to power, perversion, and corruption like moths to a light.

When lust is mixed with alcohol, bad things happen.

The result was the beheading of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, who had been held in prison.

“When Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” (14:13)

Context is everything.

Jesus rejected by his hometown and family,

Left powerless by their unbelief.

Jesus, hearing news of the beheading of his cousin, John the Baptist,

Sent by God to prepare his Messianic way,

Murdered in a drunken, glutton, orgy …

Yeah, Jesus needed to get a way to a safe, deserted place for some alone time.

He needed some time to grieve.

If only … alone time was meant to be.

Jesus may not have had the hearts and minds of

His family, hometown, or Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee,

But he does have the hearts and minds of the people.

The people draw out the compassion of Jesus.

The crowds who followed him from town to town

Restored his power to cure the sick.

The people make it possible

To miraculously change scarcity into abundance,

To teach by word and deed about the characteristic of God.

Context reveals the breadth and depth of Christ’s compassion.

Rejection and grief bring out Christ’s compassion.

Whether it be the rejection and grief of his own hometown and the death of John the Baptist, or,

The rejection and grief of his own Passion and death,

The grace of Jesus Christ plays out for the crowds overlooking the lake

Just as his grace played out on the cross and at the empty tomb

For the redemption and salvation of the world.

How does this apply to our lives today?

Consider the dark valleys you travel:

Family dysfunction.

Temptation and indiscretion.

Excess, gluttony, and greed.

Mourning, suffering, pain, and loss.

You’ve seen it.

I’ve seen it.

Life has some pretty deep, dark valleys,

Filled with shadows, snares, and death.

There is no greater compassion

Then Jesus dying for you.

No greater love than God helping you through

Suffering, pain, and loss.

The compassion of Jesus Christ

Reveals the deep love God has for the world.

The compassion we show to the world

Reveals the deep love we have for God and one another.

Compassion compels Jesus to act.

His compassion intersects with the world’s greatest need:

Sickness is healed,

Hungry bellies are filled, with plenty left over.

Ask yourself this:

How is it possible to be like Jesus,

To make myself a vessel of God’s compassion

To meet the needs of the world?

Weeds and chaff don’t do a thing.

They are worthy of fire.

Grains of the harvest are compelled with compassion to act,

To do the work of the Lord.

Context reveals the power of Jesus to cure the sick and return them to health.

Jesus cures many people of their illness, injury, or disease.


Miracles bring in the crowds

Like carnival barkers,

Like event organizers with an unlimited budget,

Like a winning team and an undefeated season.

Miracles pack the stadium and draws the crowds.

Gather the crowds.


Jesus gathers the crowds

To teach …

To call …

To transform the world into God’s kingdom.

Jesus gathers the crowds

Not only by the healing of one or two selected individuals,

But to demonstrate for all the world to see

God’s amazing grace and unlimited love.

The miracle of giving sight to the blind

Saves an individual from isolation and exclusion,

At the same time,

The miracle serves as a powerful message that

Christ brings light into a world filled with darkness.

The miracles of Jesus

Give testimony to God’s amazing grace and unlimited love.

The emotional, compassionate response of Jesus to the needy crowd,

Results in the miraculous actions of a loving and all-powerful God.

How does this apply to our lives today?

It is natural to attempt to explain miracles away,

Especially in our, enlightened (so we think), scientific age.

Avoid the urge.

Accept the miracles of Jesus at face value.

Believe by faith; and leave the apparent conflict with science up to God.

At the end of the day, I suspect

There is no conflict between faith and science,

Given the fact we have a common Creator.

Recognize the seen and unseen miracles of today,

Of healing, restoration, of cure,

Not as random acts of luck,

Or the predictable reaction of science,

But of God’s presence and active participation in your life and mine.

The accident I just avoided

Can be attributed to good quality, high tech, steel belted tires and

God’s merciful, loving, miracle to spare my life

And the life of the other driver.

My recovery from the plague, HIV, or covid-19

Can be attributed to good, peer reviewed science and

God’s mercy, love, and plan for me to live another day.

Make every miracle an opportunity to witness to

The amazing grace and unlimited love of God.

Context reveals the depravity of this world and the abundance of God’s kingdom.

Contrast the abundance and waste of Herod’s gluttonous, adulterous party

With the party Jesus throws out of compassion

For the crowd out in the wilderness.

Jesus starts with nearly nothing:

Five loaves. Three fish.

That’s all.

That’s it.

Gathered from five thousand people, plus women and children.

The God of Creation,

Fully human in the being of Jesus,

Takes nothing and turns it into something.

Jesus takes scarcity and miraculously turns it into abundance.

This is God’s way.

How does this apply to our lives today?

The way disciples of Jesus think and talk about money

Reveals much about our trust and faith in the Lord’s abundance.

All my life,

As a child and preacher’s kid, and

Throughout my 35 years of pastoral ministry

I’ve heard moaning and groaning, grumbling and complaining,

About insecurity and scarcity:

“We don’t have enough …

Money, volunteers, youth, or children.”

“We can’t ask people to do more, increase their pledges, to tithe, to grow the financial capacity of the church.”

Beloved friends, the stewardship capacity of every parish

Is deeply related to this Gospel passage

Of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.

We see 5 loaves, 2 fish, and a hungry crowd.

We think we live in scarcity.

The tendency is to hoard and save for a rainy day.

The tendency is to cut expenses to the bone and complain when income takes a similar dive.

Jesus proves us otherwise.

5,000 fed, full, and satisfied members of the crowd,

Along with women and children

Testifies to the abundant environment and nature of God.

Gather the leftovers friends.

After everyone is fed, we can still return 12 baskets of food to Jesus.

The church thrives when we come to accept the abundance of God. 

It is easy to proclaim “Our God is an abundant God”

But it is hard to trust that it is true.

Rejection and grief

Led Jesus to a very dark valley filled with shadows and death.

Rejection and grief

Led Jesus to a very deserted place.

Sickness and a desire to be cured brought crowds of desperate people to him.

Compassion compelled Jesus to act.

Jesus healed the sick,

Every last one of them.

Hunger and scarcity grew with the late afternoon sun.

Compassion compelled Jesus to act.

Jesus turned just five loaves and two fish

Into a banquet of abundance,

Feeding every last one of them,

Complete with twelve baskets left over.

God uses compassion to compel us to act, too.

Where is your compassion leading you?

What are you going to do about it?

Trust in God’s miracles.

Trust that God provides with abundance.


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