The 5 Loaves And 2 Fish

March 8, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Matthew 14:13-21

The Lord Showed Compassion

1. Just before the scripture passage for today it is written that John the Baptizer was atrociously killed by having his head chopped off. Then the news of it reached Jesus. The scripture says, "When Jesus heard this, he boarded a boat and departed from there, then he withdrew to a remote place," (verse thirteen). Feeling deep sorrow and pain, the Lord took solitude and separated from the people to pray. But, when the crowds got wind of the fact that the Lord had boarded a boat and left, they walked along the shore and pursued after Jesus, and arriving there before he did they waited [for him]. Then, the scripture says, "Jesus got up from the boat, and as he saw the great crowds he had deep compassion upon them, and he healed the sick from among them," (verse fourteen).

2. The look of compassion from the Lord -- this look is what permeates today's entire passage of scripture. The great crowd exceeded the number of five thousand persons, counting only the males. The Lord "saw" them and was moved with deep compassion, says the text. What in the world was reflected in the eyes of the Lord!? As it has "he healed the sick from among them," there were sick persons there. There were the families of the sick who had brought them there. Their suffering was not just the fact they were sick. They used to say that when you were sick, especially when you were sick [enough] to be considered "unclean," it was because you had sinned. Did the parents sin or did the sick person himself or herself sin? That's what they used to whisper. When it was a sickness that continued for a long time or an incurable illness, then they used to look at the household as cursed. They considered them hated and abandoned by God, and [the sick] even felt that way themselves.

3. Besides them, among those who had followed after Jesus, there were a lot of folks deemed as "sinners" by the religious and also folks forced out from the law abiding society of the Jews. They too were considered abominable in the sight of God, and they themselves lived thinking it all to be true about them. As far as God went, there was plenty of blessings for "the honor students" who observed the law; however, he wasn't expected to be concerned for people like them. He wasn't expected to deliver them. The kingdom of God had nothing to do with them. They no longer had any connection to God, and even if they did, they were, after all, only the target of [his] harsh judgment. That's what they used to think.

4. David once sang as follows, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall never lack for anything. Even when I go through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid of disaster. You are with me," (Psalm 23:1,4). No doubt when you know that you are loved by the Shepherd, you can make it and live no matter how sick or how hard it gets. When you know you are being led by such a shepherd, no matter how dark the place is you are now walking, you can live with the hope of moving to the light. Even if you are going through a valley of the shadow of death, you can go on living unafraid of disaster.

5. However, Jesus was looking at the people who had gotten to the point they could not make the claim any more that "The Lord is my shepherd." They were sheep who believed that they had been abandoned by the shepherd. Therefore, the following is written in The Gospel According To Mark. "Jesus got up from the boat, saw the great crowds, had deep compassion at their condition of being like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach various things," (Mark 6:34). As a result, he healed the sick who were among them. Of course he was probably not able to heal every sick person from among the crowd, which had swelled up to five thousand persons, the men only. But, "he healed the sick from among them." Why? He could make them truly live. He did it to reveal that God the true shepherd was present and had shown himself gracious and full of blessings for them. You guys haven't been abandoned! You guys haven't been hated! You are loved! The kingdom of God belongs to you, he said. The healings of the illnesses he did among them were signs to show that God cared for them with compassion and that they were called to the kingdom of God as well.

You [Disciples], Give [Them Something]!

6. During [the time] Jesus was spending with the crowds, it had become twilight already. The disciples came to Jesus and said, "This place is in the middle of nowhere, and the time is already up. Please have the crowds break up. That way, they will go buy food in the village for themselves," (verse fifteen). Their proposal made a lot of sense. But, the Lord said, "Don't let them go. You [disciples], give them something to eat!," (verse sixteen).

7. Let's see, now it's going to get tough. Up to now it was Jesus who had been face to face with the crowds. It was only Jesus who had turned a look of compassion [towards the crowds] and had truly grieved in [his] heart over [their] condition as sheep without one to shepherd them. It was only Jesus who had declared the kingdom of God to them, had healed the sick from among them, and had shown them that there was a shepherd for them and that God loved them. But, this time, [Jesus] pressured the disciples themselves to come face to face with the people, saying, "You, give them something to eat."

8. With that, they could not help but come face to face with their own poverty for the first time [and with more experiences of that nature to come]. Until that moment, they must have swelled out their chests triumphantly and declared, "I am a disciple of Jesus." Those twelve disciples probably thought things like, "We're the twelve, the chosen [of the chosen]. Among the disciples, we're the ones especially placed right by the Lord's side." But, in being made to come face to face with the crowds, [Jesus] arranged it so that they came face to face with their helpless, impotent reality, with what they had on their own. They could not help but cry out, "All we have here is but five loaves and two fish!," (verse seventeen).

9. As long as the church is only thinking inwardly, it will hardly ever think about how poor it is, and not much will be a problem. But the minute that we become aware that we're in this world where we've lost sight of the true shepherd and we exist in its miserable reality, then right away we'll have to confront our poverty. The minute we begin to become aware that we are sent by the Lord to the people around us, then right away we'll have to confront our poverty. While we're thinking other people's stuff isn't worth worrying about, our own poverty won't be an issue. But, when we can't help being concerned over someone, when we're made that way by Jesus, we have to see it, that we only have five loaves and two fish on hand.

10. However, the scripture passage I read to you today is showing us one important fact. It is that Jesus stands with the disciples when they are puzzled over the five loaves and two fish on hand. Right from the start Jesus knew [all about it]. He knew that they had almost nothing available. So, the Lord said to the disciples, "Bring it here!," (verse eighteen). "Here." -- To where? Of course, it was to Jesus who was with [them].

11. Then, taking "the five loaves and two fish," the Lord looked up to heaven and recited a prayer of praise, then tearing the bread, he handed it back to the disciples again. The disciples received nothing but the bread from the Lord's hand and gave it to the crowds. And according to what the scripture relates, "Everyone ate and was full. Then when they gathered the scraps of bread leftover, it filled twelve baskets full." They rejoiced after eating and getting full.

12. What in the world! Did they really have such [food leftover]!? How could such a thing even happen? It wouldn't be odd if anyone is thinking that way. As a matter of fact, we don't clearly know how it happened. But, in this narrative, only one thing is made clear. Presuming that the crowds were satisfied, the fact is clear that it didn't derive from the disciples. It did not derive through what the disciples had originally, but according to what was derived from Christ, the crowds were satisfied and tasted the joy of the kingdom of God. The disciples only transported [it to them].

Carrying Christ

13. So, "The Lord looked up to heaven and recited a prayer of praise, then tearing the bread, he handed it to the disciples." The text says that. As we go forward in reading this gospel, we will again encounter these words. It will be the scene of the last supper which we [can] see in chapter twenty-six. "When the group was having a meal, Jesus took the bread, recited a prayer of praise, broke it, then while giving it to the disciples he said, 'Take and eat! This is my body.' Again, he took the cup, recited a prayer of thanksgiving, handed it to them and said, 'Everyone, drink from this cup! This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is being shed on behalf of many, so that their sins may be forgiven.'," (Matthew 26:26-28). In this way then, Jesus, who had broken the bread and had handed it out on the grass of Galilee, would break the bread and pass it out again, saying, "This is my body."

14. Jesus broke the bread saying, "This is my body." According to that statement, not only bread, but the Lord had intended to tear himself and hand himself over. And it did turn out just as he said it would. On the next day, the Lord died after being crucified. His flesh was torn by the nails that were pounded into him, his precious blood was shed from the side that was stabbed by a spear. That shed blood [of his], as the Lord stated, was the blood that had been shed for many, so that their sins might be forgiven. Jesus died on the cross in order to atone for our sins. What for? So that we could respond to the invitation to the kingdom of God as forgiven people. So that we could state once again that "The Lord is my shepherd." And so that we will never again say, that "I have been forsaken" or anything else like it.

15. The miracle of the bread, which today's scripture passage relates, is none other than a sign that points to what is fulfilled on Christ's cross afterwards. Soon [after he predicted it], Christ did tear himself, did shed his blood, and did hand his life over to the people. Upon receiving that Christ and being restored to a relationship with God, people will first come to be filled and satisfied in the true sense. Just as the twelve baskets became filled upon gathering the leftovers, so will the people come to be filled and satisfied. -- The miracle of the bread was a sign that showed that. Therefore, the church has been passing on this narrative with great care. It has been passing on this narrative along with the communion bread and wine.

16. As I mentioned earlier, the figure of the puzzled disciples in a daze carrying the two fish and the five loaves is also the figure of the church. The figure of the disciples standing stock still in their scraps of poverty must be the figure of the Christian today. Yet, that's well and good. It is much better than being conceited thinking that with what we have we can save persons, that we can make others live by our own power. It is precisely at the moment when we are knocked down by our own poverty and powerlessness that what we should truly be carrying becomes visible [to us]. It is not the meager and poor stuff that we had on hand at the start. After we receive it from Christ, we transport it. That is the duty of the church. The church must carry and hand over Christ himself, which Christ himself has torn and handed over, and the blood from the atonement, which Christ has shed. -- Because what this world, which has lost God the true shepherd, needs is the atonement blood spilt from the Christ. Because [what this world needs] is the atonement of sin and the new life that come from the Christ.