You and I both have probably heard dozens of sermons on this story in our lifetime. It’s the only miracle story in all four gospels; it must be important. On the other hand, we are so familiar that we can hardly read it without interpreting as we go.
Matthew doesn’t spiritualize the miracle at all. He simply tells the story and leaves it to us to think about the significance. At the base of it, Jesus fed ten thousand people or more from a small amount of food that maybe would have barely been enough for him and his close disciples.
The story begins when Jesus is told about the death of John. He withdraws to a wilderness, either because he senses danger or because he wants to mourn in relative privacy. Privacy is impossible at this stage of his career—the crowd followed him.
- Jesus showed compassion. His compassion never fails.
- His compassion took two forms, healing and feeding.
- There is an echo of Elisha feeding a large group from a small amount of food, but this is even bigger.
- There is a foreshadowing of the Last Supper; he took, he blessed, he broke, he gave.
- He involved his disciples in the miracle. We also are to be involved in his work.
- He can start with little and use it.
- His provisions are enough, even more than enough, but not wildly more. He takes care of his people, but not extravagantly.
- He shows himself to be Emmanuel, God with us.
- He shows himself to be in control.
I think we are to take from this story a better notion of who Jesus is. As his disciples began to see him more clearly, so should we.