HYMN Break, Thou, the Bread of Life (Keswick)
1 Break thou the bread of life,
O Lord, to me,
as thou didst break the loaves
beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page
I seek thee Lord;
my spirit longs for thee,
O living Word!
2 Thou art the Bread of Life,
O Lord, to me,
thy holy word the truth
that saveth me;
give me to eat and live
with thee above;
teach me to love thy truth,
for thou art love.
3 O send thy Spirit Lord,
now unto me,
that he may touch my eyes,
and make me see;
show me the truth concealed
within thy word,
and in thy book revealed
I see the Lord.
4 Bless Thou the Bread of Life
to me, to me,
as thou didst bless the loaves
then shall all bondage cease,
all fetters fall;
and I shall find my peace,
my all in all.
Mary Artemesia Lathbury, (1841-1913)
READING – MATTHEW 14:13-21
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.
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.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 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. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
SERMON – Feeding of the 5000 (The Compassion of Jesus)
Everyone brought their pieces with them and shared them out. Willie Barclay used to speak in this way – the miracle was that Jesus got them to SHARE. But that is just nonsense – read it for yourselves and see – is Jesus (or is Matthew) trying to make a point about sharing? NO! The point is that this was a great miracle – possibly the greatest miracle ever to have occurred – the only one of the 35 recorded miracles to appear in all four of the Gospels. And this great miracle of mutliplying the bread and fishes was all founded on ONE THING – namely the LOVE OF CHRIST.
Our key verse is verse 14 ‘He had compassion on them’. That is the whole point of the feeding of the five thousand. Christ looked at the crowds – He knew full well what was in their hearts – they had just come to gawk at Him – they wanted to be part of the audience at this great free show – some of them were healed – and that was an added bonus. Even after they had been fed by Jesus, we don’t have any great understanding of what has just happened – Jesus said to them You are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Jesus looked upon this crowd of ignorant people – selfish people – greedy people – and His heart went out to them. He knew their sins better than anyone could have known them – YET HE HAD COMPASSION ON THEM!
Jesus, at the start of our story has heard about Herod’s nightmares, and He decides that the best policy is to clear out of Herod’s road. Jesus was obviously tired – but taking no care for Himself, when He sees this crowd – so needy – like sheep without a shepherd – without God and without hope in the world – His heart bleeds for them – He longs to help them. He helped the sick by healing them. He helped the hungry by feeding them.
He helped the disciples to depend utterly upon Him. He told them, verse 16 to feed the crowds. But how could they? They couldn’t – they realised they needed Jesus help (DO YOU?) – so they brought all that they had to Jesus (5 loaves and 2 fishes) – and Jesus blessed and multiplied. Jesus wants all of us to bring what we have and what we are to Him. He longs for us to bring our lives to Him that He might multiply our usefulness in the world. Just think what your life could be like if Jesus were to multiply YOUR talents.
Jesus said something very crucial in that same 16th verse – see? They do not need to go away!
Once people come to Jesus – they need go no further – their search has come to its final conclusion. Jesus turns away NONE that come to Him in faith. But notice something else – very important – again – showing us just how much Jesus loves His people – we read in verse 20 ALL were satisfied! And that is still true today. Indeed the hymn writer puts it so well Now NONE but Christ can satisfy – none other name for me. There’s life & love & lasting joy, Christ Jesus found in Thee. None come to Christ and grumble that He is mean or stingy – Christ gives liberally to all His people and ALL ARE SATISFIED.
Do you think it ridiculous that Jesus could have fed 5000 on that day? I think not – He has fed all the animals and birds and every human being from the dawn of creation also – I do not think it strange or fantastic that He should choose to feed those people on that day – Jesus, after all, is the Bread of Life. His greatest desire in life is to feed the souls of men, women and young people. His greatest desire is to feed YOUR SOUL – will you let Him show His great compassion on you – or will you go through life with a hungry soul to your dying day. Don’t you long to be satisfied in life (and in eternity) ? Surely you do – then come to the Bread of Life – he who comes to Jesus will never be hungry, and he who believes in Him will never be thirsty.
Hymn Come, all souls by sin afflicted
1 Come, all souls by sin afflicted,
bowed with fruitless sorrow down;
by the broken law convicted,
through the cross behold the crown!
Look to Jesus;
mercy flows through Him alone.
2 Sweet as home to pilgrims weary,
light to newly-opened eyes,
flowing springs in deserts dreary,
is the rest the cross supplies;
all who taste it
shall to rest immortal rise.
3 Blessèd are the eyes that see Him;
blest the ears that hear His voice;
blessèd are the souls that trust Him
and in Him alone rejoice;
then become their happy choice.
Joseph Swain (1761–1796)