The Feeding of the 5000

By Rev. Dr. Brent Russett – Asbury Free Methodist

August 14th, 2022

Matthew 14:13-21

            This morning we are going to look at this miracle of Jesus where he takes five loaves and two fish and feeds about 10,000 people. I hope that as we look at it, you will see a little more about who Jesus is. I am hoping that it will help you to see who God wants you to be.

            As you know, the first 4 books of the New Testament tell about the life of Jesus from different perspectives. This miracle is the only miracle that is recorded in all four of those gospels. That should give you some indication of how important this story is to our understanding of Jesus and who he is, and what he came to teach.

Now you need to remember that Jesus never did a miracle just for the sake of doing a miracle. Yes, the miracle was needed for the time. In this case, the people were hungry, and he fed them. But Jesus always had multiple purposes in what he did. There was always a message inside the miracle.

            I believe the message inside this miracle is important for us today. This story communicates a lot about the heart of Jesus. It also tells us who we are to be. This is a story about identity – Jesus’ and ours.

            But before we get into our story about the feeding of the 5000, I want to take you to the story right before this one. Matthew puts these stories back-to-back on purpose.

Matthew 14:1–12 (NIV)

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

            Here in Matthew 14, you have the story of two meals told back to back.

What a contrast between Herod’s dinner party and the meal that Jesus provides for the five thousand! Herod’s party is characterized by opulence –– Jesus’ meal by bread and fish, the most basic of foods. Herod’s party is characterized by hatred –– Jesus’ meal by compassion. Herod’s party ends in death –– Jesus’ meal sustains life. The contrast could not be more deliberate or complete.”

            We can see from the story of the loaves and the bread that Jesus is powerful. But he is very different from the powerful kings of his time. Come with me to

Matthew 14:13–14 (NIV)

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

            When Jesus heard what had happened when he heard that John the Baptist had been executed when he heard that his cousin had been beheaded, he withdrew by boat to a solitary place. He was hurting. He was grieving.

            If this were some of you, you would phrase it this way, he needed some Jesus time. He needed time to grieve. He needed time to be alone. He needed time to himself. He needed to recharge.

            Now I want to remind you that Jesus was the most emotionally healthy person to ever walk this planet. He had it all together. He wasn’t emotionally dysfunctional. He wasn’t emotionally stunted. He was completely whole.

            He also obviously had his spiritual life together. He was the best spiritually and emotionally integrated person to ever live in this world.

            But when he hit a tragedy. He looked for a quiet spot. A spot to rejuvenate and renew. People, there are ebbs and flows in life. There are times in life when it is appropriate to take some time off – some time away. But some of us are not wise enough to disengage when we get hit with tough things. We put our heads down and try to barrel through them. Let me suggest that if Jesus, being the most emotionally healthy and spiritually healthy person to walk the planet, needed some time away after some really bad news – you might need to do the same.


            But you know, sometimes life doesn’t give us a whole lot of space. Jesus went to a solitary place and found out that it wasn’t that solitary. The crowds had followed him there. And Jesus’ response to the crowd was this. “He had compassion on them.” When Jesus sees the people in need, he has compassion on them. That is his nature. When he looks at you, he looks at you with love and compassion.

            There are those of us, who, when we are hurting, are so egocentric, so demand our me time, that we forget to have compassion. We do the opposite of putting our head down and barrel through – we can only see ourselves. That is not the sign of a healthy person either. Jesus is a model of what it means to be healthy.

            Some of us need to hear this today. I find in our culture, we are prone to one of two extremes. We either don’t take time to deal with our emotions and the stuff that life brings our way. Or we become so centred on ourselves that life seems to be all about us and our emotions, and we don’t have time for anyone else. There is a happy medium in there someplace. Be like Jesus.


            Well, Jesus spent the day teaching and healing. That is where we pick up the story.

Matthew 14:15–16 (NIV)

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

            There are times when Jesus can be challenging. The disciples were demonstrating good hearts here. They saw the need. The people had been out in this solitary place all day. There were no Burger Kings nearby. People were not out hawking kosher hotdogs. There was no Tim Hortons. There was nothing but rocks and dirt and hungry people.

            The disciples saw the need, and they came up with a very pragmatic solution. Jesus, send the people away, so they can get something to eat. But here is where Jesus can be annoying. “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

            We are told at the end of this passage that there were 5000 men plus women and children. So, the 12 disciples were looking over this sea of humanity, maybe 10000 people, and Jesus is saying – you give them something to eat.

            We will have a BBQ after church. We can feed a hundred people – but 10,000 – that is outside our wheelhouse. Talk about feeling under-resourced.

            Here are the disciples. They hadn’t made a trip to Loblaws, they didn’t have a propane stove, there were only 12 of them and 10000 people to feed, and Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.”

            Jesus wasn’t giving the disciples a hard task, or a difficult task; he was giving them an impossible task.

            Difficult tasks we can handle. Covid has shown us that. For the last couple of years, we have been faced with challenges and worked through them. We have a good board and good leaders, and God has been faithful.

            That is how you handle difficult challenges. We pray, and that is a good thing to do. We work together to come up with a solution. We have some really smart and helpful people in this church. You have hired me and with good planning and prayer, we can meet the challenges. I believe that God calls us to bring our best to the table to meet those challenges. When those challenges are met, we celebrate what God has done.  


            But that would be the equivalent in our story as if Jesus said to the disciples, can you walk 10 miles to the nearest village and bring back enough food for one hundred people. That would be challenging for the 12 disciples, but it would be doable.

            But that is not what he asked. He said you feed 10,000 people

            Why do you think he asks them to do the impossible? He wants them to know that what is impossible for them is possible through him. He wants you to know that too. What is impossible for you is possible through him.

            You need to know that when someone has hurt you deeply, and you need to forgive them. What is impossible for you is possible through him.

            You need to know that when you are fighting an addiction that has got the better of you, over and over again. You try to stop, but you can’t. What is impossible for you is possible through him.

            But isn’t that what the Christian life is all about? It was impossible for us to be good enough, or holy enough, or keep all the commandments well enough for us to be connected to God. Our best efforts to get to God always fall short. It is impossible for us to get to God. But what is impossible for us is possible through him.

            Instead of making us be good enough to get to him, God came to us in the person of his son Jesus. He says I want a relationship with you, but to have that, we must deal with all the garbage between us. The Bible calls that garbage sin. God says, I know it is impossible to deal with your own sin, but if you will give Jesus your sin, he will give you his goodness, his righteousness. What is impossible for you is possible through Jesus.

            God then lets us know that if we do that, he is going to give us the Holy Spirit to live inside us. He gives us the power to do what is impossible to do in our own strength.

            Being a follower of Jesus is impossible unless God makes it possible. Having a personal relationship with God is impossible unless God makes it possible. But the good news is that he is willing to make it possible for anyone who asks. If you have never asked Jesus to deal with the garbage in your life and asked him to give you the strength to follow him and would encourage you to talk to him and do that.

The disciples say,

Matthew 14:17 (NIV)

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

            I find this response interesting. If I had five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd of people, I wouldn’t have thought it worth mentioning. It is almost nothing.

            You will notice what Jesus didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Well, you should have thought ahead and brought more.” He didn’t say, “Well, if you had 20 loaves of bread and 10 fish, I would have something to work with.”

            Jesus takes the situation for what it is. That is his way. He takes you for who you are right now. That is his way. He doesn’t say, if you were a better person, or if you deal with this problem or that problem in your life, then you can come to me. He takes you right where you are right now.

            Some of you have a tendency to beat yourself up for choices you made in the past. If only I hadn’t done this or had done this, then I would be so much further ahead. But Jesus takes you right where you are at.

            Then he says to his disciples

Matthew 14:18 (NIV)

18 “Bring them here to me,”

            Jesus doesn’t ask us to give more than we have. He just asks us to give what we have. He asks us to come to him.

Matthew 14:19–20 (NIV)

19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

            Jesus took the 5 loaves and 2 fish from the disciples. He takes what you give him, and he blesses it and gives back more. The crowd was satisfied, and each of the disciples ended up with a full basket.


            This miracle is a great reminder for our church as well. I like what the Believers commentary says about it. “The miracle is a spiritual lesson for disciples of every generation. The hungry multitude is always present. There is always a little band of disciples with seemingly pitiful resources. And always there is the compassionate Saviour. When disciples are willing to give Him their little all, He multiplies it to feed thousands.”

            I know I need to be reminded of the truth behind this miracle often. There are so many Sundays where I say, Lord what I have to preach seems so little in the face of so much need. I know that some of you are struggling with health stuff, others with relational stuff and others with doubt and fear and anxiety. But I say to Jesus, “I give what I have to you, take it and bless it, and use it to feed your people.” And often, he does. I am often amazed how God takes what I say to speak into so many different situations.

There are some of you parents who think you don’t have much to give to your kids. You are very tired. You are dealing with some of your own stuff or the stuff that life has thrown at you. Maybe it is time to say to God, what I have to give is so little, when they seem to need so much, but I give what I have to you. Will you speak into their emotional needs and intellectual needs, and spiritual needs? He is able to do that when you give him what you have.

There are some of you who wonder if you have what it takes to do a ministry you are involved in. I am thankful for the VBS workers this week. They were teaching the kids, and they were practicing it themselves, “God can make you strong.

I grew up hearing the phrase, “Little is much if God is in it.” And that is true. Wherever you feel under-resourced, wherever you feel inadequate. Wherever you feel like you don’t have much to offer – give what you do have to Jesus. He has a way of blessing things.

            We started off by saying, this story was about identity. What Jesus did was impossible. You don’t feed 10000 people with a few loaves and a few fish. But Jesus is the God of the impossible. He rules over nature. What is impossible for you is possible with Jesus.

            This is a story about compassion. Jesus saw the crowds, and he had compassion on them. There are some of you who are in places where you need to know that Jesus sees you and his heart goes out to you. It is his nature; it is his identity.

            There are some of you here today who need to know that Jesus loves you. He is full of compassion. There are some of you here today who need to know that you don’t have to be better than you are to come to God. Just bring yourself as you are, and he will accept you just as you are. He takes who you are and does the amazing. There are some of you who are feeling under-resourced. My question is, will you take steps towards Jesus? He wants to meet you where you are, to show you who he is so that you can become what you made to be in him.