Feeding Five Thousand
a sermon based on Matthew 14:13-21
by Rev. Frank Schaefer
The first thing we may note about this familiar story is that the miracle of
the feeding does not happen without human cooperation. The disciples come to
Jesus after the crowd spent three days with Jesus in the wilderness and say
something like: listen teacher, we might risk a law suit if someone might drop
dead from going without food. We need to send them home.
And Jesus says: “no, no, that's alright, you give um something to eat!” I can
see Peter now, turning to the other disciples: "O.k. has he..um..taken a
head-count lately?" There are 5,000 men not even counting the women and
children." But Jesus tells them to take what they have--5 loaves of bread and
two fish--and after blessing and breaking it, tells the disciples to give it to
Notice, no miracle has happened yet. Nothing has happened yet. Jesus didn't
multiply the food in front of them. The bread didn't just--boom--turn into giant
loaves, in honey-I-blew-up-the-kid fashion. I can see Peter again: "o for
Heaven’s sakes, this is embarrassing. So, the first 15 people get a piece of
food, and 4,985 will have to look on as those 15 gobble up the food. Now Jesus
has really done it!" But they pass it on, and those who break of a piece of
bread and fish pass the basket on to the next person, and so on.
And strangely, the food never runs out. I believe that in the story of the
feeding of 5,000 is hidden a spiritual treasure for us to discover and to
benefit from. You and I, all of us here symbolize the 5,000. And we are called
to do something, to share something to make this spiritual principle work.
What does it mean for us to participate in the miracle of the feeding?
Whatever it looks like, it certainly doesn't mean that the only person doing
something in the church are the ordained clergy.
I don't know whether this story is true or not, but I once heard about a
who was very rigid about keeping an appointment at 10 AM each morning. If he
was in a meeting, he would excuse himself, get in his car and drive off. This
appeared very suspicious to the congregation and they decided to investigate.
No, the secretary didn't know what he was up to. His wife didn't know. His best
friend didn't know. So, the elders decided to stake him out. They followed him
out of town to where he parked his car and entered a woods. When they caught up
to him, he was standing by a train track as the train was passing by. He was
shouting and cheering at the top of his lungs. He was pumping his fists into the
air. Then the train passed and the elders came up to him and said -- "What on
earth are you doing here?" And he answered, "I can't help it. I just get so
excited when I see something is moving and I'm not the one pushing it!"
The point of the Feeding of the 5,000 is that we are all called to share in
the work of God that will usher in a revival of grandest magnitudes. And it also
takes more than a few committed people in any congregation. If we rely on the
same few people to pray and to go forward to minister, we will see the few
faithful ones burn out in a hurry!
Everybody is called to share their talents and resources just as we have
received them from God. It takes the whole congregation--the whole body of
Christ. The feeding of 5,000, just like any revival, is no instant miracle, it's
no ready-made miracle. But to me, it's the greatest miracle of all.
All of us are invited to share in it as we are able to. Paul tells us in the
Epistle to the Corinthians that all of us have been given a spiritual gift. Some
of us may have received the gift of prophecy, or the ability to discern the
voice of the Holy Spirit, to call sin sin, and to call people to repentance,
others may have received the gift of encouragement, still others the gift of
Sometimes, this gift lies dormant in us. Sometimes we need to discover that
gift; and sometimes we may need to rediscover it. But it is there in every one
of us. And once we start using these gifts of the Holy Spirit here at church,
and start sharing them, we will be surprised. We’ll find that after all have
been fe, after we had seconds and thirds, we will discover "there are still
leftovers." Plenty for all to be fed: our family members, our friends, our
colleagues at work, our people at home and our entire neighborhood. The miracle
of the Feeding can happen among us again, if we’d only start to share what God
has given us. Amen.