Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand | Week 38

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Hey, we’re going to be in Matthew chapter 15. If you have a Bible, you can turn there. We’re going to look starting in verse 29. And as we dive into the account of Jesus feeding the 4000, I’d like to draw our attention to one line in this section. It’s found in verse 32 and it serves kind of as a theme for this text.


Here’s what it says. This is Matthew chapter 15, verse 32. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, I have compassion for these people. This line by Jesus marks out the major lesson taught in this section. This lesson is on the compassion of Jesus. Compassion: how you suffer with somebody or how you feel someone’s pain. And more than that, what we’re going to talk about in Jesus’s compassion is how he is moved to alleviate the causes of their pain. We will see this morning Jesus’s compassion at work and we will also see the way that his compassion motivates him to work in the world. Jesus’s compassion is why he redeems mankind. We are sinners. We deserve death. The Bible says that the contract for our life is that we are to be His image bearers. And yet we failed to do just that. The Bible says that we then accrue a wage that is death because of our sin. But our God is so compassionate that he would allow men to live even though they sin and they sin. And they sin and they sin. It’s his compassion that heals man. It’s his compassion that allows Him to comfort us. It’s why he extends his grace, his mercy and his kindness.


In this text, we’re going to see the profound compassion of our God. A God that, when he introduces himself to Moses, after Moses asks his name, God Almighty will say, I am the Lord, the Lord. And then he says the first quality that he has is his compassion. He’s compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. We see that compassion all over the Scriptures. We see it over and over again in God’s dealing with the Old Testament Israelites. We can read it again throughout the New Testament and certainly in this text. And as Jesus calls his disciples to Him, he says, hey, I want you to know I have compassion on these people. It’s in full display in this text. We will see a God who cares. In this text this morning, we will see a God who cares even for the small hurts of our lives, even for the daily needs of our lives. And hopefully you will be encouraged by that. And hopefully you’ll be inspired by that. And hopefully you’ll give God thanks for that. But there is something else at play in this text as Jesus draws his disciples to Him.


So here’s a quick summary and then we’ll dive into the text. This is a summary of what we’re going to read today. Jesus displays his compassion for strangers while also setting the example of the heart he intends his disciples to imitate. This would be my title. It’s very long, so I would imagine that they’re not going to use this, they’re going to use something else.


But there it is. That’s the title of the lesson. What’s underneath this amazing example of compassion is Jesus answering this one question, how should we participate in God’s work of compassion on earth? The text is rich with history and with miracle. But what’s relevant for us today is Jesus’s clear projection of his heart on the heart of his disciples and his expectation of how we are to engage in a world that is suffering.


If Christ is compassionate, then what role are we to play in God’s work on earth? That’s what we’re going to learn today. But before we do any of that, we’re going to look a little bit closer at the text and certainly at the context of the text. Are you guys with me? Amen.


All right, first let me give you the setting. For a year and a half we have been at least in Galilee. This is a map of Israel in the lifetime of Jesus. We have been among the Jewish people. We have been predominantly in this area up here. We have been in this area over here in the northwestern side of the Sea of Galilee.


Jesus has been amongst his people, his Jewish people. He’s been doing signs, wonders. He’s been teaching on the Kingdom of God. But after about a year and a half, it’s become clear that there is some mounting resistance and some mounting rejection towards Jesus’s message. The one who rules this area is a guy by the name of Herod Antipas. We hear about him in chapter 14 as he beheads John the Baptist. That’s what’s coming for Jesus. At least that the crowds say. Jesus is very, very, very popular and Herod Antipas is a petty king, I should say. And so he wants to destroy anybody who has any kind of allegiance built up, like in his camp. And so Jesus decides, I’m going to get away. It’s not just Herod Antipas, but it’s also the religious leaders. It’s the scribe, it’s the Pharisees who Jesus has unmasked. We talked about that last week. He unmasked them as empty traditionalists, only concerned about their ceremonial shell of their religion.


So anyway, they want him dead. Pretty much everybody wants him dead. And so the Bible tells us in verse 21 that he departs from this area up here in Capernaum and he heads to Tyree and Sidon. So Jesus leaves the Jewish area and heads towards a Gentile area. This would be Jesus leaving kind of modern-day Palestine and ending up in Lebanon to the north. Jesus is kind of seeking a new harvest, so he’s going to gather a group of Gentiles to preach to. It’s important you understand that he’s moving from the Jewish audience to the Gentile audience. Gentile meaning non Jew. We saw the very first one of those miracles, or his first interaction in verse 28 as he experiences an authentic faith of the Canaanite woman. By the way, last week, just outstanding. Chris just crushed it. If you didn’t listen to that message, go online. Watch it after this one, if you’re online. Anyway, in that text we see this contrast between the shallowness of the Jews, the rejection and the resistance of the Jews, the bitter hatred of the Jews, and this genuine hunger and humility of the Gentile woman. What he could not find amongst his own, he found amongst foreigners.


Now, this is important because this is the pivot point, right? We’re moving away from the Jewish audience into the Gentile audience. And so the Bible tells us that basically he moves from this area to up here, then over here, and then he makes his way back towards the Sea of Galilee. We get that in verse 29.


“Jesus left there,” that’s Tyree and Sidon, “Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on the mountainside and sat down.”


As I said, it’s modern day Lebanon. It says that he left there. Again. I’m going to show the map one more time just so we can understand where he’s going. We went from Tyree and Sidon, and then we went down over here, all the way over here, all the way over here. And Jesus is somewhere in this area called the Decapolis. That’s where Jesus is. This is a long travel. In fact, it’s so long that the Bible tells us that when Jesus does his first miracle of feeding the 5000s, there was grass on the ground. And now he says he had them sit on the floor. So what’s the difference? Why is there no grass? Well, because summer, summer has come and the grass is all gone. So it’s been a while. But anyway, he’s on, as I mentioned, kind of harron range all the way down to the east side of the Sea of Galilee in a place called the Decapolis, a non Jewish area. All of this is important because the crowd he is gathering is not his home crowd. It’s a different type of crowd.


Verse 30, “Great crowds came to him.” Obviously the word has gotten out that the healer, the healer of the Jews has arrived in their city and they are bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, many others, and they lay them at his feet. He comes unannounced, but his reputation as one who could heal anything produces a crowd. The crowd has such momentum that it swells to the tens of thousands. Again, at the end of the text it’s going to say there are 4,000 men besides women and children. So we’re talking 15,000 people, and they come with tremendous needs. They cannot walk, possibly carried on mats or carted around by family and friends being rolled in by their loved ones. They cannot see. They are outcasts on the margins of society. They are disabled. The Bible here uses the word cripple. That’s the same word as when they talk about gouge out your eye. It’s missing a limb. That’s what it means. They’re in a state of deformity. They are mute and deaf, unable to express themselves and maybe even hear the voice of their loved ones. The Bible adds, in addition to all these other ailments, they have many other things going on. Many others came. And so you can imagine every other ailment known to man.


All of these people are brought to Jesus. They travel for miles and miles and find Jesus in the middle of the wilderness. It adds that they laid Him or laid them at his feet. Can you imagine the scene for a second? Every person with any type of illness, thousands of people in the crowd, and they are bringing their loved ones to the feet of Jesus. Can you imagine the pile of humanity that’s before Christ as he’s looking out at people’s sick brother and mutilated sister and disabled aunt and deaf mom and blind children, and they’re bringing them to Jesus, just putting them at his feet. The scene must be chaotic, absolutely chaotic. And the next line is just so profound. What does Jesus do with this mass of humanity?


He healed them.


It almost passes by unnoticed. He healed them. They put them at his feet and he healed them. People with no arm are walking away with an arm. People who have lost their sight are walking away with 2020 vision. People who have never spoken are now speaking. People who are unable to walk are now jumping. This is going on en mass. What a blessing Jesus must have been for these people.


Oh, imagine he was here for just a moment. What a blessing would he be for you. Whatever it is, whatever your Ailment is, you’re like, I just have a migraine every once in a while. He’s like, gone. Sometimes I feel a little anxious and crowds gone. Whatever Jesus is, just healing everyone. What a blessing. He makes them all better. Everything that was wrong in their life is undone by the kindness of the Savior.


What’s the result? Verse 31, “The people were amazed,” of course, “when they saw this, when they saw the mute speaking, the cripple made well the lame walking and the blind seeing.” The multitudes are marveling struck by absolute awe at the scene before them. Why? Because what type of human explanation do you have for the person who can heal every Ailment? There’s nothing in their mind that would have allowed this to happen. This is not possible. This is beyond imagination. This is kind of incredible. A pile of humanity dumped at the feet of this man getting up and walking away whole. They marveled.


The Bible adds, they are marveling. And they praised the God of Israel. Why does it say that? Well, because the God of Israel wasn’t their God. He’s doing this amongst strangers, Gentiles. So they’re like, well, the God over there must be the real deal. When they saw the work of Jesus, they knew again that God was in their presence. So that’s the scene. It’s amazing. And by the way, this goes on for three full days. The crowd never leaves. All day long, the Lord heals and teaches. And at night, they don’t go anywhere. They lay down on the ground and they go to sleep. You know why? Because you don’t leave when God is in your midst. And when Jesus awakes the next morning, the whole crowd is still there. In fact, probably people send somebody over there to go get their other neighbor. Oh, no, no. This guy is the real deal. Come, come, come, come, come, come. And you could just see the swell. This happens the second day and the second night and the third day and the third night, and it does not end. And that brings us to verse 32, where we started.


“Jesus called his disciples to him.” So now he says, hey, hey, hey. You see all this? Come, come, come, come close. I have a lesson for you. As such a great trainer would have, right? He does this miracle, but he also has a lesson for the disciples. You are here. You watched me. Maybe they helped organize the healing lines. I don’t know. Hey, what does it say about them? “I have compassion for these people.” He’s telling them what motivates him. You want to know why I did what I did? It’s because I have compassion. Do you see all this? This is me showing these people compassion. I have compassion on all of them. The Jews I have compassion on. The Gentiles I have compassion on. The stranger, the foreigner, the alien I have compassion on. I’m doing this because I love them and I feel for them, and my heart breaks for them, and I love people. Then he adds this. “They have already been with me for three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on their way.”


What is Jesus doing here? Well, Jesus again, is the master trainer. First he points out why he does what he does, right? That makes all the difference. If someone who is leading you is going to tell you what to do, you want to know why he’s telling you what to do. Then he explains, like, I have compassion, not just for their healing, but also for their everyday needs. I want you to think about this for a second. Jesus cares for the suffering of the blind, but he also cares about the annoyance of your hunger. I care about your soul, but I also care about your family, right?


This is like Jesus explained to us something so important that he cares about the big stuff and the little stuff, your salvation and your career. He has compassion for people’s spiritual needs that are eternal and their consequences. He has compassion for their lifelong needs, their physical needs that are lifelong in their impact. And he has compassion on their personal daily food. That’s deep insight into the heart of God, isn’t it?


The tenderness of God extends even to our daily needs. How did you sleep last night? Jesus cares about that. He cares about all that. Jesus is turning these men turning to these men and saying, do you know why I do this? I have compassion on them. And that compassion extends way beyond what you might think a grand healer would have compassion over. And then he pulls these guys into the compassion by telling them, what are we going to do now? We’re going to feed these people. Here’s the deal, Peter, John, Nathaniel. You didn’t help me with the healing of the disabled, right? But you’re going to help me with this one. You ready? You’re going to be with me on this part. And really, he didn’t need the disciples to help them, but he’s bringing them into his heart. He’s kind of telling him, look at me, I have compassion. I have compassion. I have compassion. And now we’re going to feed these people and you are going to be part of the solution. You ready?


And this is where I think this lesson takes a really relevant turn. See, I believe that Jesus looks out at all of us and he’s trying to guide us the same way he guided the disciples, asking us to look around and take notice in the needs of our people and then be a part of God’s story of compassion. This in many ways, is the task of the Church. This little line, Jesus pulling the disciple and asking them to be a part of this miracle is why I think the Church is supposed to be a group of people who look on the world and are moved with compassion because of it. We should look out, you and I, all of us should look out at the divisiveness of politics and we should have compassion. We should look at people who felt like their hope was dashed this past week and they have no more hope. We should look at them and go, I have compassion on you. We should look at the oversaturated mind of the social media addicted and have compassion on them. We should look at the overstimulated or the tired and abused, the overworked, the neglected, those who are imprisoned, those who are oppressed, and look at the brokenness, right? We should watch the news and hear the stories of our society. And as we do, any of us who are disciples should have in our heart a longing to make the world better. This is Jesus heart of compassion. He’s asking you to imitate his heart. He looks out on crowds and goes, I have compassion on the world.


And here’s the question before we get into the meat of the text, I want to ask you, do you have compassion? Do you hurt? Do you hurt for people who lose their jobs, who are going through health concerns? Or are you satisfied that it’s not happening to you? Do you call people who are sick, pray for those who are in need? Or is your mind fixated on self so much so that there is no room for you to love anyone else? As long as it’s not happening to my family, I don’t really care. When Jesus saw the people, he felt the plight and he was moved to felt their plight and was moved to do something about it. And I worry sometimes that because we can be so self interested that we can be content with the suffering of others as long as it’s not happening to us.


Jesus looks out in the crowd, says, these people haven’t eaten for three days. I want to feed them. What do you think, brothers? Here’s another way to ask the same question. Do you care? Do you care? Do you care for families who are struggling with mental illness? Do you care? Do you care for people who are dealing with crisis? Do you care? Do you care for your coworkers or for your classmates? Do you care for the homeless men or women on the streets? Do you care for the single moms in this church or outside this church who are struggling to make it financially? Do you care for the immigrants afraid that they’re going to be deported? Do you care for the women who are walking into abortion clinics who think this is the only option they have? Do you care for the brother or sister in this church who is struggling with sexual addiction? Do you care for the people who have lost loved ones? Do you care? Do you care? Do you care? Do you care?


I think this is the point. Jesus is trying to challenge these brothers and sisters. These brothers. He’s asking them a simple question. I have compassion on them. Look at all of them. Do you care about them? The heart of Jesus is to care for the most minuscule needs that people have. I would say the heart of Americans is to care only for themselves. Do you have the heart of Jesus or the heart of our country? Hey, I care about these people. That’s what Jesus is saying. Do you care?


And like so many of us, the disciples respond. Man, this is such a telling response. The disciples answered, where can we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd. Here’s my modern take on this conversation. Jesus, do you care? The Disciples yes, but there is nothing I can do. Have you ever felt that before? That’s what I see in this text and that’s what I feel like all of us deal with. There is no way we could possibly feed all these people. Jesus we are in the wilderness. I don’t even have a way to think about how to care for these people. I care about them certainly, but I don’t think I could have any real impact. And Jesus replies “how many loaves do you have? Jesus asked. Seven, they replied. And a few fish.” Again my modern take on this conversation. Jesus do you care? The Disciples yes, but there’s nothing I can do. Jesus can you give what you have?


And then here’s the miracle. “He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves of fish sorry, the seven loaves and the fish and when he had given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples.” I love that he gave thanks that he gives it to the disciples. Hey disciples, you are going to do it. And they in turn to the people. It’s their miracle, right? Somehow it’s their miracle. Even though they didn’t do anything. I just imagine Jesus looking out on them as Peter is going through the crowd. It was a basket full of food and people are grabbing it and Jesus look at him like this. Your son or daughter does something you’re like, great job. That’s what I see in Jesus. Man, what an amazing God we worship. “They all ate,” the Bible says “and were satisfied.” That means they were full. Jesus, when he gives, he always filled all the way up right? “After disciples picked up seven basketballs of broken pieces that were left over, the number of those who ate was 4000 men besides women and children.” This is just thrilling. Jesus breaks the bread, fills up baskets, the brothers bring the baskets through the crowd and they just keep delivering baskets and they keep coming back and the baskets continue to be filled up. So much so that at the end of after everybody’s eating all 20, 15, 10,000 people have eaten, there are seven large tubs of food.


What’s the lesson? What’s the lesson? What’s the relevant lesson for you and me? Jesus took what they had and turned it into a miracle that blessed the lives of those around them.


Isn’t that the way the kingdom works? Look God, I don’t have a lot, I don’t have a lot of time, I don’t have a lot of money, I don’t have anything really to help. I’m not really all that talented. And God replies to us, but what do you have and are you willing to give it? Could you pray for someone? Could you give a little bit? Could you give an hour? Could you give a month of your time? Could you give a week of your time? Do you have anything? Do you have any talents? Do you have some abilities? Do you have some cash stowed it away? Do you have some skills with communicating? Can you pray for someone? Do you have knees where you can get on them and pray for someone? Maybe you don’t have a lot, but you have something.


And I love Jesus replies to us to see you use it. See, there is a broken world and we must lay those needs at the feet of Jesus and we can’t possibly do what it takes to heal the world. We couldn’t possibly fix it all, but we can give what we have to Jesus and Jesus can turn that small sacrifice into a massive miracle. That’s how the economy that’s how the economy of miracles work. In today’s day and age, this is how it works. You notice, notice. Take a second to stop looking here or to stop looking here and pick your head up for just a second and look around. Look around, notice the needs of people around you and then just don’t notice them, but care about them. Go, you know, is there anything I can do to help that person? Well, there’s something. I got something. Give whatever you have and then you watch what Jesus does with what you have. I think a lot about this economy in inviting people to church. When you invite someone to this service, you are thinking to yourself, hey, God has blessed my life so much that somebody else could really use this. So you decide to look up, to care enough and to give what you have. And what do you give when you invite someone to church, what do you give? What do you have, rather? You have a little bit of courage. Requires a little courage. Maybe you have a little bit of love, you have a little bit of time. You get one of those little cards outside and you invite them to church. And what Jesus does is he uses that invitation and he sets in motion something that ultimately changes their eternal destiny and the destiny of their families. Brothers and sisters, stop saying you don’t have enough. You have plenty. You have plenty. You have a mouth that can communicate. You have a heart that beats. You have a mind that thinks. You have money in your bank account. You have a courage enough to give an invitation. You have something. You can serve somebody. You can pray for someone, you can volunteer. But I’m really, really, really busy. You’re not that busy. Do something for someone else. Care about someone else. That’s the heart of Jesus that he’s trying to give to all of us. Even the smallest contributions in the kingdom of God. God takes molds, shapes and makes into a miracle. Think about that invitation. I invited that person to church. They walked into the building. They learned about Jesus. All of a sudden they broke their addictions. All of a sudden they restored their marriages. All of a sudden they led their kids in the way that the Lord asked them to and their destiny is forever changed. What did you do? You basically in the economy and all that. You did nothing. You gave a little bit of what you had and God made a miracle happen. All of us can at least do that.


You can help be a part of someone’s eternity. Serve somebody. We have hope month coming up. If you can’t volunteer for this, there’s a problem in our hearts, right? If you say, oh, I’m too busy to volunteer, there’s a problem in you. If you’re a disciple and you’re unwilling to volunteer to help serve someone who is going through difficult times, there is a problem in your heart. I mean that seriously. You need to go like a cardiologist. All of us can at least do that. It’s thrilling. Imagine the disciples filling those basketballs. What were they thinking? Who’s the God I worship, man, who is this? This God is incredible. And Jesus is like, you’re doing great, fellas. And they’re like, I did nothing at all.


I want to share a story with you. I started a community group this past year. I had been not very involved in helping people find Jesus in the way that I really felt like I should have during the pandemic. It was just really challenging. You know, this. Like, who was I going to talk to? Like, people were watching me on zoom. So after the pandemic, kind of when it was winding down, I said to myself, I’m going to get a lot more involved. We’re going to start a community group. And we started one at my house. I think the disciples of the group, I think, was Lil, amazing Sandy, Josh, Van, Cassandra and I. Maybe there’s another person or two, I can’t remember. But that was our little crew. It was an all star crew, I should say. And what did I have? I had a little time. I had a house. I had an opportunity. I could open my home. I could feed people. I don’t have, like, a lot of skills, but I can do that. We had no idea what was going to happen. Stephen and Michelle started coming to our church and so we invited them to our community group and their relationship was not where they wanted it to be. Anyway, long story short is they started studying the Bible and over time they figured out what they wanted to do with their faith. They were baptized in our pool and I had the honor of leading their wedding ceremony.


There they are. It was amazing. This is a little tiny investment. What did I do? I didn’t do anything. I started a community group in my house. I decided that I would be open to meeting with these guys on a Wednesday night or something like that to hang out. And then I got some new friends, a new little sister and Michelle, a new family, a new extended family. And I thought, this is just amazing. I got a chance to help someone’s eternal destiny.


Anyway, and then I met Adrian and Sylvia. Adrian and Sylvia were coming to church. We invited them to group. I eventually met with Adrian. We had some pizza together. We opened up the Bible. They were baptized into Christ. This is them, Adrian and Sylvie. My daughter with them, found a new best friend and their little daughter Leila. And they just had a baby that we got a chance to celebrate and pray over and just to think about. But, man, I mean, again, this little tiny group. And here are now four new great friends of mine that I didn’t know a year and a half ago.


But it’s not just them. I think there’s some other pictures here. This is who’s this? Who do we have? Let’s see.That’s Macy. This is Lil. This Vanay and Sandy. There are three of our girls that are in our community group. Macy came to our community group. She was studying the Bible. She was baptized in our pool. How cool is that? We had Rafa, who came out, and Rafa and Reyna. And right before my eyes, I saw Rafa become a man of God and became a lifelong brother. We got a chance to help Reyna on her journey. We saw Alia and Chandler get baptized in our group. Young, fired up people that Josh and Vanay met. James, I think, was baptized up here, but started coming to a small group. Sandy and Lil studied with Macy, and so did Vanay, and she’s a part of our crew. Other people, we’ve been honored to be a part of their journey. We have Andrea and Biadade and so many others.


And who would have thought that a calendar year could have produced so many amazing things by a little tiny sacrifice? What did I sacrifice? Basically nothing. I have to clean up after these people. All the dishes, right? Chandler, that’s Chandler. I have to do random like I did nothing, and Jesus comes in and adds eight or nine new brothers and sisters in our little group. That’s the miracle of Jesus. We’re not special. We just gave what we had, and God made a miracle of it. Now our group is too big, and we need to split.


This is how it works. This is how it works. This is how it works. You notice the problem. What could you do? You care enough to do something about it. You give what you have. You don’t have to be a miracle worker. Just give what you have. And then you watch as God takes that little bit and turns it into something amazing. Let’s learn to use what God has given and then be empowered by the Holy Spirit to impact the lives of the people around us.


Here’s my encouragement for you. Notice the world’s problems. Stop looking at yourself and take a look around. Spend 5 seconds looking around, you’re going to see there’s a lot of problems. Care enough to do something about it. Give what you have. Don’t settle for a life where you say I don’t have enough time, don’t do that. I don’t have enough, I’m not talented enough. You have plenty. Give what you have and then watch as God transforms that little gift into something miraculous.


Let’s pray as we take communion. Holy Father, we know that this is the way you work. I’m reminded of Elijah in the cave standing there and you didn’t come in the earthquake and you don’t come in the fire and you don’t come in the big storm, but instead you came in the gentle whisper. And I’m reminded of the birth of Jesus where you don’t come in pomp and circumstance, where you don’t come as a king born in a throne room, instead you come as a baby born basically to a single mother in a feeding trough in Bethlehem.


Lord, this is the way you work. You take small beginnings and you make extraordinary things. This is the way you work, you take small sacrifices and you turn them into the satisfaction of a whole world. Lord, I just want to learn to use what I’ve been given. I want to learn to be a man that’s willing to give up my little bit of time that I have, my little bit of energy, my little bit of money, those slots in my calendar to make an impact in the world that you’ve given me.


Lord, I just thank you for the example of Jesus who did that every day. I thank you for the example of Jesus as he pulled those disciples in and asked them to have compassion on the crowd that day. Thank you Lord for using what they had and making something awesome. Lord, I just pray today that as we take communion here, as we take the piece of bread that represents your body broken and the juice that represents your blood poured out, that we will remember the sacrifice you made so that a world would be one. In the grand scheme of things, one life being sacrificed for all lives seems like a small sacrifice, but again in your hand and in your economy, that one life can allow the propitiation of sin for all people.


Lord, and I just want to say thank you for that. Lord, thank you for giving up your life so that we can have life ourselves. We love you Lord, we thank you for this time in Christ’s name. Amen.