13th April 2023
Read (Matthew 15v32-39)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
If you've ever spent time in a Sunday school then you have almost certainly heard about Jesus feeding the five thousand. But did you know the Lord also fed the four thousand? Both Mark and Matthew tell us of two miraculous feasts provided by the Lord Jesus Christ. Some have argued that there was only one miracle told twice but this seems unlikely when we consider that the Lord Himself referred to both miracles as separate events (Mark 8v14-21).
Admittedly there are similarities between the two miracles. They both take place in the countryside, both involve bread and fish, both have the Lord giving thanks, both see the disciples serving the food and both end with the Lord getting onto a boat. But there are also numerous differences. One has five thousand men and the other four thousand, the miracles take place in different regions, it seems that they take place at different times of the year, there is a difference in the amount of food and there is a different amount of leftovers. Therefore it seems abundantly clear that the Lord fed huge crowds of people on two separate occasions.
So why did the same miracle happen twice? Do you remember the Canaanite woman? She understood that Christ had come primarily to the Jews and she was a mere dog hoping for a crumb from the masters' table. Some Christians have taken passages like this to mean that the church is a mere blip in God's plan of redemption. The thinking goes that the Lord's great concern is for the Jews with the mission to the Gentiles as an added extra. I once heard a preacher say that he was going to retire to Jerusalem to be among God's people (he didn't by the way) and I watched a documentary a few years ago that followed a group of American Christians to Israel where they worked for Jewish families and some even signed up to serve in the Israeli army. Why? Because the Jews are God's true people and Christians are something less.
Brothers and sisters, I hope this thinking has no place in your church or home. It is true that Christ came first to the Jews but this was not to place the Jewish people at a higher importance to anyone else. If anyone is saved it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Christians from a Jewish and Gentile background are united by their need of the blood of Christ. Equally I hope that there is no place among you for hatred of the Jews known as anti-semitism. Throughout history Jewish people have been persecuted and described as "Christ killers". May God forgive us! The crucifixion involved the actions of both Jews and Gentiles. Please remember that Christ died for the sins of His people. Who is to blame for the crucifixion? Sinners like you and me.
With that said we must understand that the second miraculous feeding is to a Gentile audience. Jesus took seven loaves and a few small fish, He gave thanks for the meal and the disciples fed the crowd (v34-36). There was no one left out and no one left hungry. Indeed there were seven full baskets of leftovers from a crowd that had four thousand men and many more women and children (v37-38).
If the feeding of the five thousand saw twelve baskets of leftovers symbolising the Jewish people of Israel then perhaps the seven (a number denoting perfection) baskets suggests the full number of God's people brought in by the Gospel? I might not press this too hard but nevertheless Jesus fed both Jew and Gentile alike. All were welcome, all were fed, all were satisfied.
Paul would later say that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3v28-29) These are often misused verses attached to various issues of the day but what they do speak to is the unity of the church of Jesus Christ.
How is the Jew or Gentile saved? By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. What about the slave or the free? By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. How is a man or woman saved? By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We have been united by our faith in Christ and regardless of our background, status or gender, if we belong to Jesus then we are spiritual descendants of Abraham and the fruit of the covenant of grace.
As Jesus left the Gentile crowd behind (v39) it still wasn't time for a wholesale mission to the Gentile world but that time was coming and has now come. The church is not tiered with those at the table and the dogs underneath. Instead all of us were once lost but now we have been found and washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Every single Christian from the greatest to the least, Jew and Gentile alike, will one day take their place at the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Q19 What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell? All mankind, by their fall, lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.