TITLE: Count to Eight
SERMON IN A SENTENCE: The Feeding of the Five Thousand demonstrates that all things are, indeed, possible, when we include Jesus in the equation.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 14:13-21
MATTHEW 14. THE CONTEXT
Chapter 13 ended with the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth, where he was unable to "do many mighty works because of their unbelief" (13:54-48). That unpleasantness was followed by the story of the beheading of Jesus' kinsman and dear friend, John the Baptist (14:1-12). In 14:1-2, Herod heard reports of Jesus and concluded that he was John the Baptist raised from the dead.
While Herod didn't threaten to kill Jesus too, that possibility looms over these verses. 14:3-12 is a flashback, telling the story of Herod's birthday party––and Herodias' scheming––and the daughter's dance––and Herod's promise––and John's head on a platter. That is followed by the story of the feeding of the five thousand (14:13-21).
What a contrast between Herod's gruesome dinner party and the meal that Jesus provides for the five thousand! Herod's party is characterized by opulence––Jesus' meal by bread, the most basic of foods. Herod's party is characterized by hatred––Jesus' meal by compassion. The host at Herod's party is a petty tyrant whose concern is his own power and well-being. The host at Jesus' meal is a compassionate savior whose concern is the well-being of those who have come to see him. Herod's party ends in death––Jesus' meal sustains life. The contrast could not be more deliberate or complete.
MATTHEW 14:13-21. THE FEEDING OF THE FIVE THOUSAND
This is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels (see Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:1-14), a fact that speaks well of its importance to the early church. The Feeding of the Four Thousand is also recorded in Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-10. All six accounts "appear to be a variant form of the same tradition" (Johnson, 429).
These feedings are reminiscent of Elisha's feeding miracle in 2 Kings 4:42-44. In that story, Elisha had only twenty barley loaves to feed a hundred people. When he ordered his servant to distribute the bread, the servant protested, "What, should I set this before a hundred men?" Elisha reaffirmed the order, promising, "They will eat, and will have some left over." The servant distributed the bread; the people ate––and there was bread left over in accord with the promise. The linkage between the stories is made even tighter by the reference to barley loaves in John's account of this story (John 6:9). It is worth noting that both Elisha and Jesus involved others (Elisha's servant and Jesus' disciples) to implement their miracles.
These feedings are also reminiscent of the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16; Numbers 11). Like Moses, Jesus has crossed over the water to the wilderness (v. 13). Like Moses, he is surrounded by hungry people. "Matthew clearly intends to portray Jesus as parallel to Moses, yet surpassing him as the bringer of a new age" (Pfatteicher, 79-80). In John's Gospel, Jesus makes this connection even more explicit by referring to manna in his Bread from Heaven discourse following the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:31, 49).
• The Feeding of the Five Thousand is a compassion story. Jesus saw the crowd, had compassion on them, and healed those who were sick (v. 4).
• It is an abundance story in which God's providence solves a problem that seemed impossibly large.
• It is also a Eucharistic story. "This is its primary meaning in the Fourth Gospel, but it is evident in the Synoptics as well" (Craddock, 391).
MATTHEW 14:13-14. JESUS HAD COMPASSION ON THEM
13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat, to a deserted place apart. When the multitudes heard it, they followed him on foot from the cities.
14Jesus went out, and he saw a great multitude. He had compassion on them, and healed their sick.
"Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat, to a deserted place apart" (v. 13a). What Jesus heard was the news of John the Baptist's death. Matthew doesn't tell us where Jesus goes. It would require only a short trip by boat to reach the other side of the Jordan, which was controlled by Philip––not Herod. Nor does Matthew spell out the reason for Jesus' withdrawal.
• It could be fear. Herod thought that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead and said, "for this reason these powers are at work in him" (14:1-2). Herod might well conclude that it is necessary to kill Jesus too. The word "withdrawal" (Greek: anechoresen) occurs five times in previous chapters, each time in response to danger. The Magi withdrew by another road (2:12). Joseph withdrew to Egypt (2:14). Joseph withdrew to Galilee (2:22). Jesus withdrew when John was arrested (4:12) and when the Pharisees conspired to kill him (12:14) (Van Harn, 82-83). However, while Jesus has cause for fear, we don't see him acting fearfully elsewhere and there is no reason to believe that fear motivates him here.
• It could be timing. On another occasion, Jesus chose not to go to Jerusalem because "My time has not yet come" (John 7:5). Jesus came to die, but there is a time to die and it is not yet Jesus' time.
• It could be grief at John's death. John was kin and more than kin. He had come to prepare the way for Jesus and, at Jesus' request, had baptized Jesus. He was a close friend, a trusted colleague, and a member of the family. Even though Jesus can put John's death in a larger context, hearing of John's death surely must grieve him. If he can feel compassion for the crowds (v. 4), he can also grieve the death of his friend. Herod's unfavorable mention of Jesus follows on the heels of Jesus' rejection at Nazareth (13:54-58)––one negative situation accentuating another. Jesus surely needs time alone––time to grieve––time to heal––time to prepare.
"When the multitudes heard it, they followed him on foot from the cities" (v. 13b). How frustrating to need time alone and to be denied it! Jesus has good reason to be angry with the crowd for interrupting his solitude. Instead, he has compassion on them and heals their sick (Greek: arrostous––wretched ones).
"Jesus went out, and he saw a great multitude. He had compassion on them, and healed their sick" (v. 14). Jesus' compassion trumps his need for solitude.
MATTHEW 14:15-17. WE ONLY HAVE FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISH
15When evening had come, his disciples came to him, saying, "This place is deserted, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food."
16But Jesus said to them, "They don't need to go away. You give them something to eat."
17They told him, "We only have here five loaves and two fish."
Just as Jesus felt compassion for the crowds in verse 4, the disciples also feel compassion in verse 5. They are surely hungry themselves, and can imagine the misery that awaits the crowd unless someone takes action.
Their approach to Jesus is unusual. They do not address Jesus as Lord, but explain the obvious, "This place is deserted, and the hour is already late" (v. 15b). They then issue an order, "Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food" (v. 15c). They assume that Jesus is so caught up in ministry that he has failed to notice the fading sunlight. They feel a responsibility to bring him back to reality––to prompt him to act sensibly.
The disciples are concerned for the crowds, but they are also concerned for Jesus. A crowd can quickly become a mob if not managed properly. Even if things don't go that far, the good will that Jesus has generated will dissipate if the crowd goes away hungry. The disciples are also concerned for themselves. In a crisis, Jesus will want them to do something––and they can't imagine what they can do.
"They don't need to go away. You give them something to eat" (v. 16). The word, "you," is emphatic in the Greek––"YOU give them something to eat." "Christ did not feed the multitude without the human instrument. The bread did not come as manna from the sky, but through the work and kindness of some human hand" (Buttrick, 431). The obedience of the disciples was important to this miracle just as our obedience is important to the kingdom today.
Christ takes that which we have to give, however modest, and makes it sufficient. When a widow pled with Elisha for help, Elisha asked, "What do you have in the house?" She replied that she had nothing except a pot of oil. Elisha told her to borrow pots from her neighbors, and to pour oil from her pot into the other pots. When she obeyed, her little bit of oil became sufficient to fill all the pots. Elisha then said, "Go, sell the oil, and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest" (2 Kings 4:7). Keener explains, "Although God created the universe from nothing, he normally takes the ordinary things of our lives and transforms them for his honor" (Keener, 254).
"YOU give them something to eat" continues to challenge Christians today. We live in a world full of hungry people and pray that Jesus might do something. He responds, "You give them something to eat." The church has often risen to the challenge, providing food, clothing, shelter, and medical care to people in the far corners of the world.
The disciples respond, "We only have here five loaves and two fish" (v. 17). The disciples emphasize not what they have, but what they haven't. They see not possibilities, but problems. Their assessment is right on the mark. The disciples have five loaves and two fish––seven items––enough, perhaps, for a small family––but the crowd spreads to the horizon. Not only have they assessed the food supply rightly, but they also have a point in their assessment of Jesus. He obviously needs someone to confront him––to bring him to his senses––to make him face reality. "Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food." Act now, before this situation turns ugly. Send them away. End the day on a positive note, Jesus! End it now!
"The disciples' doubt of Jesus' ability…brings (them) dangerously close to the sin of the wilderness generation (who asked) 'Can God spread a table in the wilderness?'" (Bruner, 531).
We are always tempted to believe, as the disciples did, that we have nothing to offer in the face of overwhelming need. Millions of people are hungry, and we have nothing to offer except a small box of canned goods. Millions of people are infected with the AIDS virus, and we have nothing to offer except a few dollars. Millions of people lose their homes and livelihood to war or natural disaster, and we have nothing to offer except prayers and a few blankets.
In such situations, we are prone either to despair or to defer to Big Government––the true Higher Power in the minds of many people today. The church is poor, but Congress has plenty. Perhaps we can fulfill our obligation by persuading politicians to do something.
• One problem with that approach is practical. Governments are inherently inefficient, taking a dollar from our pockets and absorbing half or more for their own purposes. Their top-down programs seldom work as promised. In many cases, little aid reaches the little people.
• The other problem is theological. In whom do we really trust? Where do we believe power really lies?
MATTHEW 14:18-21. THEY ALL ATE, AND WERE FILLED
18He said, "Bring them here to me." 19He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass; and he took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitudes. 20They all ate, and were filled. They took up twelve baskets full of that which remained left over from the broken pieces. 21Those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
"Bring them here to me" (v. 18). In the disciples' hands, five loaves and two fish are not much, but there are other hands here––Jesus' hands. If Jesus can touch a leper and make him whole, perhaps he can make something of this meager food supply. The disciples have added five and two and gotten seven. They need to learn to count to eight. They need to include Jesus in their equation (Bruner, 528).
This is an important word for the church today. Most churches struggle just to keep the doors open and the bills paid. How can we expect to do anything meaningful to relieve world hunger––or AIDS––or any number of horrendous problems? We say, "We have only seven dollars." Jesus says, "Bring them here to me." We, too, need to learn to count to eight.
"He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass" (v. 19a). This is a bold move, because it raises expectations. Now the whole crowd will focus its attention on Jesus to see what he will do next.
"and he took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitudes" (v. 19b). Jesus takes action once the disciples bring him the five loaves and two fish. He does more than to share the crowd's pain––he feeds them. First, he orders them to sit on the grass. Then he looks to heaven and blesses and breaks the loaves. Then he gives the bread (but not the fish) to the disciples. To this point, there is no indication that any miracle has taken place.
When Jesus gives thanks for the bread and breaks it for distribution, he is doing what a Jewish man would typically do for the family at the beginning of a meal.
The disciples distribute the bread, and "They all ate, and were filled" (Greek: chortazo) (v. 20a). This is the first indication that anything special has happened. The verb chortazo suggests filling completely––to full satisfaction. Jesus used this word earlier to promise that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled (chortazo)––meaning fully satisfied.
This suggests a Godly blessing rather than some sort of natural process. It is a divine rather than a human enterprise.
"They took up twelve baskets full of that which remained left over from the broken pieces" (v. 20b). "The twelve baskets of leftover food, like the twelve disciples themselves, probably symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel, suggesting provisions for all of Israel" (Gardner, 228). In the manna miracle, people were not permitted to keep leftovers, but Jesus, greater than Moses, has the disciples gather twelve baskets of food after they have eaten their fill.
The abundance of the leftovers, especially as contrasted with the small quantity of food with which Jesus started, emphasizes the grand scope of the miracle.
There is no mention of wonderment on the part of the crowd. Perhaps they are unaware that a miracle has taken place. Nor is there any mention of wonderment on the part of the disciples––and they do know that Jesus has somehow multiplied the little bit of food that they brought him.
The Eucharistic character of the feast is evident in the verbs. Jesus took, blessed, broke and gave. "Strikingly, it is only the loaves (and not the fish) that are specifically given to the disciples for distribution (14:19). The orderly arrangement of the people, the prayer of invocation and the blessing, the liturgical act of breaking the bread, the immediate parallel to the death of John the Baptist––all are unmistakable clues that point to the celebration of the Lord's Supper" (Brueggemann, 433).
Boring (p. 324) traces the parallels between Matthew's account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and his account of the Lord's Supper in chapter 26. They are compelling:
14:15 "when evening had come"
26:20 "when evening had come"
14:19 "sit down" (Greek: anaklithenai)
26:20 "he was reclining" (Greek: anekeito from the same root as anaklithenai)
14:19 "he took the five loaves"
26:26 "took bread"
14:19 "he blessed"
26:26 "gave thanks"
14:19 "broke and gave the loaves to the disciples"
26:26 "broke it. He gave it to the disciples"
The Eucharistic motif continues even after the meal has been served. The disciples not only distribute the bread, but also collect the broken pieces following the meal. Some scholars treat this as stewardship of precious food, but it makes more sense as a respectful (if anticipatory) gesture of concern for the broken body of Jesus.
This story leaves us asking what really happened. Several interpretations have been proposed:
• This is a miracle of abundance. Jesus took a small amount of food and multiplied it many times over by Godly power.
• The parallels with the feeding of Israel with manna in the wilderness are important. "Jewish tradition had come to believe that the Messiah would repeat this miracle of abundant provision of food on an even grander scale.... Again we see evidence that Jesus is creating a new Israel out of those who will follow him and foreshadowing the messianic banquet (as also in 22:1-13; 26:29). He must therefore be the Messiah" (Blomberg).
• Some scholars believe that the Eucharistic tone of the story suggests that this is a Eucharistic meal, involving only token portions of food. However, it is difficult to reconcile this with the comment that "all ate and were filled," which emphasizes the abundance of food.
• Some scholars note the involvement of the boy in John 6:9, and propose that his generous gesture inspired other members of the crowd to share food which they had brought––with the result that there was plenty for all. Those scholars think that the food was there all the time, and all that was required was a spark to ignite the needed generosity. That is an attractive idea in the sense that it affirms the power of sharing. However, there are several problems with that interpretation. First, the boy is mentioned in only one of the four Gospels. If his gesture were key to understanding this story, surely the Synoptics would include him in their accounts. Second, this interpretation seems motivated by discomfort the supernatural. If we explain away the supernatural in the Bible, we aren't left with much. Third, Matthew's account clearly emphasizes the great size of the crowd, the need for great quantities of food, and the great miracle that fills the need.
Hare says that the second and third interpretations "hardly do justice to the story in the Gospels, which intends to report a supernatural event" (Hare, 165). The real questions are: What do we think of miracles? What do we think of God? Do we believe that God intervenes in our world? If God does intervene, is there any reason to believe that Jesus did not provide massive quantities of food to feed this crowd? If God does not intervene, isn't the resurrection invalidated along with the miracles? If so, what is left as the core of our faith? Not much! Jesus has little patience with lukewarm faith (Revelation 3:16), so we should be careful not to emasculate his miracle stories.
"Those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children" (v. 21). Whatever happened, it was truly amazing! Early on, the story establishes that there is an impending crisis for which the disciples have no answer. As the story unfolds, wonderment grows. There are only five loaves and two fish, but "all ate and were filled." Amazing! We cannot imagine how they were filled––except by the grace of God. And then we learn that the disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers––more than they had when they started. Amazing! And then we learn that there were five thousand men, a truly great crowd. Amazing! And then we learn that there were women and children too. Amazing! Perhaps the title of this story should be the Feeding of the Ten Thousand––or even the Feeding of the Twenty Thousand. Amazing!
CHILDREN'S SERMON: It's a Miracle
By Lois Parker Edstrom
A miracle is an amazing event for which we have no logical explanation. It is beyond our understanding. We have learned much about our natural world, but there are many things we don't completely understand.
Have you ever seen or experienced a miracle? I think you have.
Salmon are hatched and swim down streams and rivers into the ocean. After swimming thousands of miles in the vast ocean they return to the exact river and stream where they were hatched. We don't understand exactly how salmon are able to do this.
The same can be said of migrating birds. We don't know exactly why, at a certain time, they decide to move to another location and are able to navigate back to a place they had been the previous season.
We know that when conditions are right - a suitable amount of sunshine and water, a seed begins to grow.
These are amazing events we don't completely understand - miracles.
There is a wonderful story in the Bible about a miracle that occurred while Jesus was healing the sick. Jesus was surrounded by a large group of people - more than 5000. It was late and they were gathered in the wilderness. His disciples suggested that he send the people back to the villages so they could get something to eat. Jesus said, "They don't need to go away. You give them something to eat" (14:16).
The disciples replied, "We only have here five loaves and two fish" (14:17).
Jesus said, "Bring them here to me" (14:18). He asked all the people to sit down, he blessed the food and then gave the five loaves back to the disciples; the disciples gave the bread to the people. All the people ate and were filled. When the disciples gathered up the broken pieces of bread, twelve baskets were filled with what remained. We don't understand how this happened. A miracle!
As you go about your day, think about the possibilities of miracles. You might be surprised by what you discover.
Things had not been going well. A few days ago, Jesus had been snubbed in his own hometown. Then the king, who had murdered John, turned his attention to Jesus. Jesus got into a boat and sailed to a deserted place where he could get away from it all––but the people found out where he was going and headed there on foot. They came by the hundreds––and then by the thousands. Everyone wanted to see Jesus––to hear him––to touch him––to ask him for something. It was quite an honor––unless you needed some time by yourself––time to think––time to pray––time to heal.
Jesus needed that kind of solitude, but it was not to be. Wherever he went, the crowds found him. On this day, the crowd was huge––five thousand men, Matthew says––plus women and children. Eight thousand––ten thousand––twenty thousand––we don't know how many––only that the crowd was huge.
We would expect Jesus to be annoyed. He was looking for solitude, but ended up with a crowd. At some point he surely wanted to say, "Leave me alone! For God's sake, go away!" That must have occurred to Jesus, but only for a moment. When he saw how needy they were, he had compassion on them. Matthew tells us that he cured their sick. The Greek word that Matthew uses for "sick" is arrostous. It means "wretched ones. When Jesus saw truly wretched people––people who desperately needed his healing touch––he was filled with compassion. He turned his attention to those who needed him.
Jesus got so caught up in ministry that he failed to see that it was getting dark. His disciples noticed, however, and they came to talk to him. "Jesus, it's time to let these people go home," they said. "Time to let them find something to eat! It's getting late, Jesus, and people are hungry. Send them home."
Note the tone of their voice. Most of the time, the disciples addressed Jesus as Lord. They treated him with respect. They deferred to him. But not here! Here they talked to him as if he were an absent-minded professor in need of a dose of reality. "It's getting late. The people are hungry." The disciples even tell Jesus what to do. "Send the people home so they can get something to eat."
But Jesus said, "They don't need to go away. You give them something to eat" (v. 16). The disciples looked at each other. "What are you talking about Jesus? There must be ten thousand people here. We don't have any food! We have nothing––nothing at all––except five dinner rolls and a couple of fish!"
Jesus said, "Bring them here to me" (v. 18). Then he ordered the crowd to sit down, and he lifted up his eyes to heaven––and he blessed the bread and broke it––and then he had the disciples distribute the bread––and everyone ate and everyone was filled. Thousands of them! They ate and were filled! And then the disciples collected the leftovers, which filled twelve baskets. There was more at the end than there was at the beginning. And Matthew says, "Those who ate were about five thousand men" (v. 21). Amazing! Then he tells us that there were women and children present too. Even more amazing! Matthew wasn't trying to say that the women and children were unimportant. He was adding them at the end so that we might know that the crowd was twice as large as we had thought. We call this the Feeding of the Five Thousand, but it was probably the Feeding of the Ten Thousand.
The disciples must have been amazed. Matthew doesn't say that they were amazed, but they must have been. I don't think that the crowd realized what had happened. They certainly didn't express any amazement. But the disciples knew exactly what was going on. They knew that the crowd was huge––and hungry––and that nobody had any food––except for five small loaves and two fish. However you counted, the situation was desperate. Five loaves and two fish add up to seven bits of food––enough, perhaps, for a small family––certainly not enough for this great crowd. The disciples knew that they were on the verge of a crisis. "Send them home," they urged.
But Jesus said, "They don't need to go away. You give them something to eat" The disciples, who had tried to get Jesus to face reality, tried one more time. "We can't feed them, Jesus. We have no food––nothing––nothing at all except five small loaves and two fish." And Jesus responded, "Bring them here to me." The disciples brought the loaves and fish to Jesus, and he blessed the bread––and broke it––and sent the disciples among the crowd to feed them––and everyone ate––and they were all filled. Amazing! The disciples must have been amazed!
You see, the disciples had assessed the situation correctly. The crowd was huge. It was late. They had only five small loaves and two fish. Five plus two equals seven. Seven bits of food wouldn't feed the front row of this great crowd. "Send them home, Jesus," they urged.
But there was something wrong with the disciples' math. They added five plus two and got seven––and concluded that there was no hope. One scholar (Dale Bruner) says, "They should have counted to eight." He means that the disciples had forgotten the one most important reality––and that was Jesus. They had gotten their arithmetic right and their math wrong. They had added correctly and concluded wrongly. Five plus two add up to seven. In that, they were correct. But their equation was wrong, because they forgot to include Jesus. If you are involved in the God's work and fail to include Jesus, you always get the wrong answer. Always!
Most of us like to think of ourselves as realistic people. We like to think that we face facts. We know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. We can get the numbers and tally the columns. BUT––and this is very important––BUT, if we are involved in a faith enterprise––and all of life, after all, is a faith enterprise––if we are involved in a faith enterprise, we had better not forget the single most important part of the equation––and that is Jesus! Because Jesus transforms everything he touches! Everything!
That means that, when we walk with Jesus, everything becomes possible. It doesn't matter if our bank account is empty. It doesn't matter if we reach in our pocket and find only lint. It doesn't matter that we are not especially smart––or talented––or beautiful––or charming. If Jesus is with us, the sky is the limit! That is the message of this story.
Now that doesn't mean, "Believe and grow rich!" There are some preachers who will tell you that Jesus wants you to be rich––that he wants you to live in a mansion––that he wants you to drive a Mercedes––that he wants you to wear a Rolex. But that is not consistent with the Christ of the cross––the man who had no place to lay his head. It isn't what this story––the Feeding of the Five Thousand––means. Look carefully, and you will see that Jesus did not serve fillet of sole. There is no mention of a lovely Chardonnay. No green beans almandine. No dessert flambé. Jesus fed them bread, the most basic of foods. But all ate, and all were filled. They felt good. They were satisfied. They were happy. They were not hungry anymore. That was quite a feat for someone who started with five small loaves and two fish! Quite a feat indeed!
The promise of this story is that, if we will truly sit at Jesus' feet, Jesus will provide what we need––even if the numbers don't add up. In fact, we can say that, if the numbers don't add up, it is because we have forgotten to put Jesus in the equation. We have added five plus two to get seven––when we needed to add five plus two––PLUS JESUS––to get eight.
The stories of impossible possibilities among those who love Jesus are legion. I cannot tell you all of them, but I would like to tell you one.
Don Davis is a retired Presbyterian pastor who lives near San Diego. As a young man, Don seemed not to have many prospects. One of seven children born to a steel-worker and his wife, he was raised during the Great Depression in an area of southern Ohio known for poverty even in good times––and the Great Depression was bad times––terrible times.
Don's parents took the kids to church every Sunday. As Don saw the preacher standing in the pulpit, something stirred in him––a call to ministry. Jesus planted the idea in his heart that he should be a minister. Don had a vague idea that ministers had to go to college, but that was all he knew about ministers––except that he was going to be one someday.
What Don didn't know was that it couldn't be done. He didn't understand that there was no money for college. He didn't realize that it was an impossible dream. He just knew that God had called him and that, somehow, he was going to be a minister.
When Don started high school, shortly before the outbreak of World War II, he had to choose between a vocational track and a college-prep track. He chose the college-prep track, because he knew that he was going to study for the ministry. When his father heard about it, he was furious. "Get those big ideas out of your head," he said. "You're not a rich kid! You have to realize what kind of family you are from!"
It wasn't that Don's father was a mean man––or even that he wasn't a man of faith. He was just doing what good fathers have always done––trying to help his son to get his feet planted solidly on the ground––trying to put him in touch with reality––trying to steer him away from certain failure. "Get in the vocational track," he advised. "You have to get a job once you graduate from high school." Good advice! Sensible! Reasonable! Or so it seemed. Five plus two adds up to seven––always. There were seven kids in Don's family––seven mouths to feed. However Don's father figured it, he came up with the number seven––and that meant that Don should forget college.
But Don stayed in the college-prep track. He wasn't trying to defy his father, but he knew that he was going to be a minister. He knew he was going to go to college. He didn't know how he was going to work it out––he just knew that somehow, with God's help, he would do it. Somehow he understood that five plus two PLUS JESUS is an entirely different proposition. With Jesus in the equation, anything was possible!
Then during his last year of high school, Don's math teacher, Wade Carpenter, asked Don to stay after class one day. He told Don that the Navy had a program––the V-12 program––in which they sent qualified young men to college. That was news to Don. He had never heard of the V-12 program. Mr. Carpenter urged Don to apply, and even drove Don to the town where the Navy gave exams. Don took the test, passed, and spent the next three years studying engineering at the University of South Carolina.
After graduation, Don was commissioned as a Navy ensign, and spent the next year on the aircraft carrier Shangri-la. When he completed his active-duty obligation, he got out and went to seminary. He was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor in 1951, and has been in ministry ever since. With Jesus, the impossible became possible––the dream became a reality!
A couple of nice postscripts:
Don's father was able to make the trip to South Carolina to attend Don's graduation and commissioning in 1946. Don walked across the stage in Navy uniform and received his diploma from a university trustee. Then Admiral Nimitz presented him with his commission-- Admiral Nimitz himself––the same Admiral Nimitz who had just won the naval war in the Pacific! Can you imagine how astonished Don's father must have been! How glad he must have been that Don had not taken his advice!
And then, a few years later, Don was driving down Highway 30 in Oregon––half a continent away from the place where he had gone to high school. As he passed a truck stop, he glanced over and saw a man who looked like Wade Carpenter. He stopped, and sure enough, it was his old teacher. They spent a couple of hours talking about all the things that had happened since the day that Carpenter had driven Don to the Navy exam––and Don finally had a chance to say thanks!
That's the kind of thing that happens when we put Jesus front-and-center in our lives.
I don't know what kind of plan that God has for you. I don't know what kind of vision that God has set before you––or what kind of burden that God has placed on your heart. You might be concerned about world hunger––or you might just be concerned for Joe and Suzy down the block. God might have called you to go to seminary––or just to witness for Christ where you are now. God might have called you to be a missionary to Africa––or just to be the best father or mother that you can be. Whatever the call, it is likely to stretch you. You will be tempted to say, "Get someone else, Lord! I can't do it! I have nothing––nothing but five small loaves and two fish."
But Jesus says, "Bring them here to me." If you will do so, you will find that it matters not how little you have. It matters only that you bring it to Jesus. If Christ calls you to teach Sunday school, he will help you to change a child's life. If Christ calls you to help the homeless, he will provide homes. If Christ calls you to be a Christian witness, he will give you people who are ready to hear the word. If Christ calls you to feed the hungry, stand back! You will find that five plus two PLUS JESUS makes everything possible!
FOR MORE SERMONS ON THIS TEXT, GO TO:
In the right-hand column, click on "Matthew"––then click on "Matthew 14 Sermons"
OR GO TO OUR "ALL RESOURCES" PAGE FOR MATTHEW 14:13-21:
It will not do for any one of us to make up his mind
that he cannot be any good and noble thing,
until first he has asked himself
whether it is as impossible in God's sight as in his.
* * * * * * * * * *
There are three ways that prepare us for life's trials. ONE is the Spartan way that says, "I have strength within me to do it, I am the captain of my soul. With the courage and will that is mine, I will be master when the struggle comes." ANOTHER way is the spirit of Socrates, who affirmed that we have minds, reason and judgment to evaluate and help us cope with the enigmas and struggles of life. The CHRISTIAN way is the third approach. It doesn't exclude the other two, but it adds, "You don't begin with yourself, your will or your reason. You begin with God, who is the beginning and the end."
Lowell R. Ditzen
* * * * * * * * * *
Some years ago, Houston newspapers ran a series of stories about dogs attacking children. Some of the stories were tragic, but one came out all right. It involved a boy who was known as D. J.
A reporter heard that a dog had gone after D. J., and asked D. J. how he managed to come away unscathed. D. J. thought for a moment, and then he said, "Right when that dog came toward me, God spoke to me."
"Oh, really," said the reporter. "What did God say?"
He said, "Run, D. J., run!"
* * * * * * * * * *
Soapy Williams, the late Governor of Michigan, used to tell this story about his son. The boy was trying to carry a heavy stone, but was having problems. His father saw that the boy was having difficulty, and asked, "Son, are you using all your resources?"
"Yes, I am," the boy cried.
"No," the father said, "you're not. You haven't asked me to help you."
* * * * * * * * * *
Some things have to be believed
to be seen.
* * * * * * * * * *
Baptist Hymnal (BH)
Chalice Hymnal (CH)
Collegeville Hymnal (CO)
Common Praise (CP)
Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW)
Gather Comprehensive (GC)
Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW)
Lutheran Service Book (LSB)
Lutheran Worship (LW)
Presbyterian Hymnal (PH)
The Faith We Sing (TFWS)
The Hymnal 1982 (TH)
The New Century Hymnal (TNCH)
United Methodist Hymnal (UMH)
Voices United (VU)
With One Voice (WOV)
Wonder Love and Praise (WLP)
Worship & Rejoice (WR)
Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain (CH #215; CO #279; CP #215; ELW #363; GC #441; JS #304; LBW #132; LSB #487; LW #141; PH #114-115; TH #199-200; TNCH #230; UMH #315; VU #165)
Also known as Come You Faithful, Raise the Strain
Let Us with a Gladsome Mind (CP #398; LBW #521; LSB #390; LW #42; PH #244; TH #389; TNCH #16; VU #234)
Also known as Let us with a Gladsome Voice
Also known as Let us with a Joyful Mind
O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (BH #206, 216; CH #5; CP #306; ELW #886; LBW #559; PH #466; TH #493; TNCH #42; UMH #57; VU #326; WR #96)
Bread of Life, Hope of the World (GC #821; JS #535)
Bread of the World (CH #387; CO #375; CP #54; JS #484; PH #502; TH #301; TNCH #346; UMH #624; VU #461; WR #693)
Break Thou the Bread of Life (BH #263; CH #321; ELW #515; LBW #235; PH #329; TNCH #321; UMH #599; VU #501; WR #665)
Come Away with Me (TFWS #2202)
Eat This Bread (CH #414; GC #838; UMH #628; VU #471; WOV #604)
Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive (CP #614; ELW #605; GC #879; JS #243; LBW #307; LSB #843; PH #347; TH #674; UMH #390; VU #364; WR #382)
Give to the Winds Thy Fears (PH #286; TNCH #404; UMH #129; VU #636)
Also known as "Give to the Winds Your Fears"
Let Us Break Bread Together (BH #366; CH #425; ELW #470; JS #748; LBW #212; PH #513; TH #325; TNCH #330; UMH #618; VU #480; WR #699)
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (BH #208; CH #517; CO #454; CP #485-486; ELW #631; GC #622; JS #391; LBW #315; LSB #700; LW #286; PH #376; TH #657; TNCH #43; UMH #384; VU #333; WR #358)
O Food to Pilgrims Given (TH #308-309; UMH #631)
Take Our Bread (CH #413; UMH #640)
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind (BH #267; CH#594; CP #455; LBW #506; PH #345; TH #652, 653; TNCH #502; UMH #358; WR #470)
Also known as Dear God, Compassionate and Kind
In the Breaking of the Bread (GC #841; JS #533)
Also known as Cuando Partimos el Pan del Senor
HYMN STORY: Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) grew up on a farm in Massachusetts. While he did not have the advantage of a higher education, a teacher in the district school that he attended as a boy introduced him to poetry. He became particularly fond of the poetry of Robert Burns.
Whittier was a lifelong Quaker whose faith shaped his life and much of his writing. He didn't intend to write hymns for two reasons: First, he didn't feel competent musically. Second, in his Quaker tradition, hymns were not sung in worship. Nevertheless, several of his poems were set to music by other people. Many modern hymnals include one or two of his hymns, but "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" is the only one that has had nearly universal acceptance.
The verses of this hymn come toward the end of a longer poem entitled, "The Brewing of Soma." Soma was an intoxicating drink used in Hindu worship to induce religious frenzy. Whittier, who was appalled at the frenzied revivalism of his day, asks God to "Forgive our feverish ways." He honors quiet qualities of religious devotion –– "purer lives" –– "deeper reverence" –– and "simple trust" –– qualities that he learned from his Quaker faith.
Whittier's faith led him to become a strong advocate of the abolition of slavery. William Lloyd Garrison, the famous abolitionist, was the first person to publish his poems, and the two men became lifelong friends. Whittier was one of the founders of the Republican Party –– Lincoln's party –– devoted to the abolition of slavery. He lived long enough to see the slaves freed in the United States.
FOR MORE HYMN STORIES, GO TO:
Click on a letter of the alphabet to see hymns that begin with that letter.
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
Barclay, William, The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1957)
Blomberg, Craig L., New American Commentary: Matthew, Vol. 22 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992)
Boring, M. Eugene, The New Interpreter's Bible, Vol. VIII (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995)
Brueggemann, Walter; Cousar, Charles B.; Gaventa, Beverly R.; and Newsome, James D., Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV –– Year A (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995)
Bruner, Frederick Dale, Matthew: Volume 2, The Churchbook, Matthew 13-28 (Dallas: Word, 1990)
Craddock, Fred B.; Hayes, John H.; Holladay, Carl R.; Tucker, Gene M., Preaching Through the Christian Year, A (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1992)
France, R.T., The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007)
Gardner, Richard B., Believers Church Bible Commentary: Matthew (Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 1990)
Hagner, Donald A., Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 14-28, Vol. 33b (Dallas: Word, 1995)
Hare, Douglas R. A., Interpretation: Matthew (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993)
Hauerwas, Stanley, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Matthew (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006)
Johnson, Sherman E. and Buttrick, George A., The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 7 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1951)
Keener, Craig S., The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Matthew, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997)
Long, Thomas G., Westminster Bible Companion: Matthew (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997)
Martin, Clarice J., Proclamation 6: Pentecost 1, Series A (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995)
Morris, Leon, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1992)
Pfatteicher, Philip H., Lectionary Bible Studies: The Year of Matthew, Pentecost 1, Study Book (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1978)
Senior, Donald, Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Matthew (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998)
Soards, Marion; Dozeman, Thomas; McCabe, Kendall, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993)
Turner, David L., Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008)
Van Harn, Roger in Van Harn, Roger (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday's Text. The Third Readings: The Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001)
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Copyright 2017, Richard Niell Donovan