top of page

Matthew 14:13-21

Preaching on this well-worn text may not be what gets us preachers excited. There are no tough translational issues to work out and very few clever linguistic hoops to jump through. Wesley’s only note on this passage is in v. 15—to remind us that it was after the usual meal-time. Thanks, John. I’m glad we started a movement based on your insight (eye-roll emoji).

And yet this is the only miracle that shows up in all four gospels. Even the Lord’s Supper doesn’t get that kind of treatment. The story is brief and dense. Jesus runs from the masses who seek him out anyway and he has compassion on them. But contrary to pop-psychology/theology, Jesus is not trying to escape exertion (sorry, introverts). He is trying to move into a wilderness place (eremon topon, ἔρημον τόπον). He is acting as a new Moses, who crosses the waters into the wilderness with the crowds and, by God’s intervention, meets their physical need with a miracle. He seems, like Moses, reticent to take on the role. But once he is there and the people are there and his disciples (who would make wonderful executive pastors, wouldn’t they?) are there, Jesus is just doing a basic thing. Serving bread and fish. He takes a boy’s lunch and, like manna and quail from dust and dew, makes a satisfying meal for everyone from two fish and five loaves.

We could spend time on the wondrous image of overflowing baskets and we could talk about the overflowing grace of God. We could preach the faith of that little boy to offer his lunch, although I frankly don’t understand why it took faith. He walked all that way here to hear Jesus teach. Why wouldn’t he offer his food to him when he was asked? We could even spend our final point reminding the church that Matthew did not forget the culturally more vulnerable women and children.