August 20, 2017

Pastor Mark F. Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 55:1-5

Epistle Lesson; Romans 8:35-39

Sermon Text; Matthew 14:13-21

The text we will look at today is taken from Matthew, chapter 14, verses 13 through 21. It reads as follows, in our dear, Savior's name.

When Jesus heard this, He withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place to be alone. When the crowds heard this, they followed Him on foot from the towns. When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw a large crowd. He had compassion on them and healed their sick. When evening came, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place and the hour is already late. Send the crowds away, so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

But Jesus said to them “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

They told Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.”

“Bring them here to me,” He replied. Then He instructed the people to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish. After looking up to heaven, He blessed them. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples.

The disciples gave the food to the people. They all ate and were filled. They picked up twelve basketfuls of what was left over from the broken pieces.

Those who ate were about five thousand men, not even counting women and children.

These are your words. Heavenly Father, lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


I am going to share some statistics with you. I am not doing this to complain about being a pastor, but I want you to realize Jesus was a pastor – par excelance. Sometimes, I think we don't really go into the depth of what it sometimes feels like to be a pastor. So, here are some statistics about being a pastor.

       70% of pastors constantly fight depression.

       70% of pastors say they have a lower self-image now, than when they first entered the ministry.

       70% of pastors don't have someone they consider a close friend.

       40% of pastors report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

       50% of pastors feel so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could, but they have no other way of making a living.

So, it is tough being a pastor. And, I had one of those days, a number of years ago. It was a tough day at work. My 'tank was empty'. I was just emotionally, spiritually drained. I was 'empty'. I was driving home, and as I approached home, (this was a number of years ago, and this was not any of your cars), there was a car parked in our driveway at our house. It was a car of somebody who had a lot of needs. I looked at the car, and I thought, “I am running on empty. I don't think I can do it.” I stopped my car, backed up, and drove away. I just couldn't do it.

The reason I say this is because it is so important to understand context, whenever you look at a scripture passage. I want you to consider the context of what was happening in Jesus' life in this account we just read of The Feeding of the Five Thousand. The last three weeks we have been reading, and discussing seven parables Jesus told. They were fantastic teaching parables. And, He was a fantastic pastor!

The Bible tells us that after He told those parables, He went to His own hometown, which was Nazareth. The Bible tells us that when He went to Nazareth, He was among His family, friends, and people who used to work with Him, and know Him. Do you know what happened, when He was at Nazareth, His own hometown? The people rejected Him.

Now, Jesus was a human being, too, just like we are. I don't know if we always stop to pause, and think, “What did that feel like for Jesus to be amongst the people who were closest to Him, and here He is preaching, and teaching them, being their pastor, and they reject Him?”

So, that happened, and then immediately on the heels of that, something else happened. Let me put this one in perspective, too. I didn't happen to be here this day, but in January of this year, the phone rang, here at Holy Cross. I believe it was in the morning. It was a phone call for Erin Mensching, who was then our director of our Early Learning Center. She went to the phone, and heard something she never expected to hear. She was told her brother, her dear brother, Tim, was killed in a tragic car accident. It was a kick to the stomach like you would not believe. She couldn't stay here. She had to go home.

Jesus had just heard that John the Baptist had been killed. This was a brutal, slaughter of a dear friend of His - the “Preparer of the Way of Jesus”. He was a cousin of His. Jesus said, “Among those born of women, there is no one greater than John the Baptist.” He had just heard John the Baptist had been beheaded. Can you imagine? He is rejected by His own hometown. What a kick to the stomach. Then, He hears John the Baptist had just been brutally murdered.

And then, we pick up with today's scripture reading. It says,

“When Jesus heard this,

He withdrew from there in a boat

to a deserted place

to be alone.”

He just had to get away. It was like He was running 'on emotional empty'. He needed to go, find a place to pray, and meditate on God's Word.

In the meantime, all of these needy people found out Jesus was headed across the Sea of Galilee. Just imagine this troupe of needy people, five thousand men, (let alone women and children. So, we are talking 15,000 or 20,000 people), on their way. They had all kinds of needs. They needed all kinds of physical healing, or having their sins forgiven, or some kind of counseling.

Imagine. I pulled up to my driveway, and saw one needy person's car, so I turned around, because I was 'on empty'.

Jesus 'pulls up', and there are about 20,000 needy people. He had gone to get away by Himself, alone.

This is where I love, I love what happens next, because it shows the heart of our Savior. It shows Jesus is never, ever, ever, ever annoyed with anyone who is in need, no matter what. The Bible says Jesus saw the crowds. Now, remember the emotional state He was in. But, He saw the crowds, and He didn't 'back the car up, and go someplace else'. It says He saw the crowds, and

“He had compassion on them”.

Now, I want to talk about the word 'compassion'. (I think I talked about this maybe ten years ago, once in a sermon.) This word is such a unique word, when it describes Jesus' 'compassion' in The New Testament. It is an onomatopoetic word. 'Onomatopoetic' means 'it sounds like what it is describing'. So for example, the word 'buzz' is an onomatopoetic word. It is the noise a bee makes when he is flying by you. “Buzzzz.”

Or the word 'rustle', is onomatopoetic. That is what it sounds like, when you are walking through the leaves. “Rustle.”

The word 'splat'. That is onomatopoetic. That is what it sounds like, when you throw something down on the table. “Splat.”

So, the word for 'compassion' is 'splanknizomai'. It sounds a lot like our word 'splat'. Here is the context. It’s really a word referring to our internal organs. In the Bible, when animals were sacrificed (this is going to get a little graphic) their internal organs were removed, and placed on the altar. “Splat.” 'Splanknizomai'.

This is the first time that word is used to describe someone's emotions in The New Testament . It says Jesus looked out over the crowds, and 'splanknizomai'. It is like this visceral feeling He had, when He saw people in need. He could feel it in His gut. He had 'compassion' on them.

It is a word sometimes we describe for 'mercy'. Throughout scripture, The Bible keeps describing Jesus' feelings towards those in need with that visceral, gut feeling for those who are in need. He even used it, when He told the parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus said that when the father saw his son coming, he had 'splanknizomai' on his son, 'mercy', this gut felt, emotional, gut wrenching feeling of, “There are people in need, and I need to take care of them.”

Jesus has that emotion toward you. He knows your needs. He knows them.

       -He knows how much money is in your wallet. He knows you might be hurting, financially. He knows how much your mortgage payment is. He knows how much your car payments are. He knows if you are struggling with those. He has 'splanknizomai'. He has a heart felt 'compassion'. When there are people in need, He has 'splanknizomai'.

       -He knows how much medicine is in your cabinet. He knows if you have enough money to buy medicine for the next couple of weeks.

       -He knows, if you don't have any friends.

       -He knows, if things are going bad at home.

       -He knows, if you have burdens of sins, piling on top of you.

He has 'splanknizomai'.

The mercy of God, we see it here, as Jesus looks out over the crowds, and has 'compassion' on them.

Secondly, a beautiful part of this event in scripture, is that not only do we see this tireless mercy of Jesus, but then we see the miraculous generosity of Jesus.

So, seeing all of these people, (5,000 men, plus women and children), they are hungry, and don't have anything to eat, and it is getting toward evening, the disciples come to Jesus, and say, “Send them away. Tell them to go to the surrounding cities, because maybe they can get some food there.”

Jesus, in His mercy, says to the disciples,

“They don't need to go away.”

And then He said,

“You give them something to eat.”

He was teaching the disciples to take inventory. So, the disciples took inventory, and do you know all they could came up with? Five loaves of bread, and two small fish. That's all they had.

So, He is teaching them to take inventory. They take inventory, and then they come to Jesus. They say, “All we have is five loaves of bread, and two small fish. How far will that go among 20,000 people?”

Jesus teaches us to take inventory too. You look at what is in the bank, or in your wallet, or the friends you have, or don't have, or the jobs you are trying to find, but it seems like nobody is trying to hire you. But, here is one thing that is really, really so critical. The one thing Jesus wanted to teach His disciples was there was something they forgot, when they took inventory. They had five loaves of bread. They had two small fish. But, here is the thing they forgot. Jesus said,

“Bring them here to me,”.

So, they took what they had, those five loaves, and those two fish, and The Bible says Jesus took them in His hands, and blessed them. See, they forgot. It is not just five loaves, and two small fish we have. We have five loaves of bread, and two small fish in the hands of Jesus. That is totally different. Totally different! Jesus took those loaves, and He multiplied them. He fed the people, abundantly.

I don't know what your needs are, but Jesus does. If I gave you the choice, “I will either give you a million dollars to take care of all of your needs, or I will give you one dollar in the hands of Jesus, to take care of all of your needs”, which would you pick? The whole point of this scripture passage is,

“I would rather have one dollar in the hands of Jesus,

than a million dollars, without Jesus.”

Jesus is compassionate. The Bible says,

“If God spared not His own Son...”

God loved you so much that He didn't even spare His own Son. He gave His own Son to die for your sins. He purchased you at the highest price, for your greatest need, the most vast price He could ever pay.

“If God spared not His own Son,

but freely gave Him up for us all,

how shall He not also

along with Him

freely give us all things?”

Jesus isn't just concerned about your spiritual needs. He took care of them at the greatest price. The point is, if He did that, He is going to take care of your other needs. So, take inventory of what you have. It is all from the Lord's hands. And then remember,

it is in the Lord's hands.

That is why we highly, highly encourage, for example, before and after meal prayers, because it is acknowledging. Think about this. Let's say the common Table Prayer. How does the Common Table Prayer go?

“Come Lord Jesus.

Be our guest.

And let these gifts to us be blessed.


We are saying, “Jesus these gifts are in your hands. Bless us. Bless us with what you have put on the table.”

Then we say,

“Oh give thanks unto the Lord,

for He is good,

(for His what?)

for His mercy endures forever.”

That reminds us that this is all from the hands of a merciful, merciful God who loves us dearly, for Christ's sake.

When I was a kid, (you know, unfortunately this is not in our hymnbook), there was a hymn verse that when we sang it, it was always very comforting to me. It is from a hymn called, “Oh Blessed Home where Man and Wife”. Here is the verse that always struck me.

“If their home be dark and drear,

the cupboard empty,

hunger near,

all hope within them dying.

Let them despair not in distress.

Lo, Christ is there,

The bread to bless,

The fragments multiplying.”

That is so comforting. It is so comforting to know Jesus is in our homes, and He will multiply the fragments.

The last thing I want to talk about today is this. When you look at scripture, it is really amazing the tapestry scripture weaves, and how scripture all ties together. There are some interesting words used in this account of The Feeding of the Five Thousand, which should really get you to look back at The Old Testament, and then look to what is happening on the altar today. Here are the words that tie it all together. It says Jesus went to a deserted place, or the wilderness. As soon as you hear that, where does it take you in The Old Testament? It takes you to the Children of Israel roaming in the wilderness, and they were without food. The Children of Israel were in the desert without food. How did they eat? In The Old Testament, they were miraculously supplied, day after day with manna. But, it was just enough for the day. That was through Moses. Now, the people who were at the seashore with Jesus there, should have recognized what was going on. “We are in the wilderness. This is Israel's wilderness. We are hungry. There is a miraculous supply of food. It is even more than Moses gave to the people. There is more than enough left over. There are twelve basketful gathered up.” When Moses fed the people, it was a picture.

God is with us.

He is supplying it. Jesus feeding the people was to show them on no uncertain terms, “Someone greater than Moses is here. God, Himself, in the flesh.”
Then, there is a constellation of words used here. It ties us right to The Lord's Supper. Listen to what it says. Jesus had the people recline. (In our text it says, “Then He instructed the people to sit down on the grass.” But, technically, it says, He had them recline.)

That takes you to The Last Supper, when the Bible tells us Jesus, and His disciples were reclining at the table.

Then, it says at The Feeding of the Five Thousand that Jesus took the bread in His hands.

What did He do at The Last Supper? It says He took the bread.

When it was The Feeding of the Five Thousand, it says,

“He blessed them.”

What did He do at the Last Supper?

He blessed it.

It says “He broke the loaves”, when He fed the five thousand.

At The Last Supper, “He broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, 'Take and eat'.”

Immediately after Jesus fed the five thousand, do you know what happened? He went across to the other side of the lake. In fact, that is the night He walked on water.

And the crowds, the next day, were looking for Jesus. They realized, “He is not here.” Then, they realized He went to the other side of the lake. They all ran. So, here is this crowd looking for Jesus. They wanted to take Him, and make Him king by force. They thought, “This guy can feed us all of the time.”

Jesus said, “You are looking for bread that perishes.” You know, Jesus could feed them physical bread, but we eat bread, and we die. But, Jesus said,

“I am here to give you bread that will live forever.”

They asked, “What is that bread?”

Jesus said,

“Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood,

you can't inherit eternal life.”

You see how Jesus takes that great miracle, and then He connects it to what happens here, today as we are about to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We are in the wilderness of this life. Jesus has a feast prepared for us, a miraculous feast, that takes care of our deepest needs. He gives us His very body and blood to strengthen us, and to assure us that our sins are forgiven.

And so, before we partake of this feast,

“Come Lord Jesus,

be our guest.

Let these gifts to us be blessed.

O give thanks to the LORD,

for He is good.

His mercy endures forever.