Matthew 14:13-21 

There Is Plenty For Everyone

August 6 2017

In some neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, Argentina, you might pass a small café and see a refrigerator sitting up against the store wall. Over the fridge tjere might be a sign saying “Take freely, only what you need.” Seriously. People can walk up to that fridge, open the door, take what they need and walk away.These “solidarity fridges,” or “social fridges,” are a way of showing to the poor and needy that there are, in fact, people who care about them, stand in solidarity with them with them and want to help them. These sidewalk fridges remove to a great extent the need for the poor and homeless to beg for food. It’s not like a soup kitchen where the homeless have to line up, hold out their plates and a worker fills their bowls with soup or food. No, in this model, the homeless or poor can get food themselves, take what they need and leave the rest. The food itself is put into the fridges by café and restaurant owners and sometimes by concerned citizens. By putting food in curbside fridges, cafés are redistributing food that otherwise would’ve been thrown in the trash and wasted, while, at the same time, helping to feed people in need. Luis Pondal, who owns a restaurant in Tucumán, Argentina, explains: “I was sick of seeing how food got thrown away and then shortly afterward, people were foraging for it.  Why not give it to them with some dignity?” The movement has spread to Córdoba and other cities in Argentina, and now, it has jumped to other countries as well — countries like Saudi Arabia, Spain and even India.

Of course, you can’t just leave anything in these fridges. The rules are pretty strict: no meat or eggs and packaged or canned goods cannot be past their use-by date. Moreover, anything prepared at home must include a label about when it was made. And — no raw fish! Bread is okay. But no fish.

In our scripture passage for today, Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus accepted fish and bread, five little barley loaves and two little fish, yet this little faith-filled donation fed thousands! Jesus has been teaching people in the countryside. A crowd gathered and the afternoon slipped by. It was one of those magical days when we lose all track of time.
But what could Jesus say to enthrall these people who scarcely had an afternoon to spare? These were common folk who had a hard life. They toiled in the fields of this arid land under a blistering sun, eking out an existence as they worked the soil. Children labored alongside their parents — if not in the fields, then in the carpentry shop or over the hot fires of a blacksmith’s forge perhaps. Life was hard and the peasants died young. And all the while, they worked in the shadow of their Roman oppressors. Yet, even so, here they were, out in the countryside, listening to this man Jesus. They were huge fans of Jesus. When Jesus cast off from shore to escape the crowds in order to grieve over the death of John, they trooped around the lake on foot to find him — no easy task considering the size of Galilee. They succeeded. They found the man who, according Matthew, said, “Come unto me, all you who labor and I will give you rest.”

We don’t know what Jesus said to these people who had followed him to a “deserted place.” But we do know that both the crowds and Jesus were linked by one common desire: They both needed consolation and encouragement. Jeushad just lost his cousin, John (vv. 1-12). “His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus” (v. 12). When Jesus heard it, he ran for a boat and paddled off for a “deserted place,” perhaps hoping to be alone (v. 13). The crowds, however, saw in Jesus someone who could make their lives better. So, instead of being irritated when the crowds arrived “on foot” to His “deserted place,” Jesus saw them and had compassion and He spent the afternoon healing the sick. It’s possible that He also taught them, feeding their souls. The gospel of Luke suggests that this is precisely what happened. Not surprisingly, He talked about the nature of the rule, or kingdom, of God and the people of God’s commonwealth (Luke 9:11).

Grieving over the loss of his childhood friend and buddy, his colleague in ministry and close family member as well, Jesus still had compassion and spent an entire afternoon working the “great crowd,” curing their sick. Perhaps working with the people who needed deliverance and encouragement, fed Jesus’ soul and strengthened Him for the work that was ahead of him.,

Although this story, which is found in all four gospels, is usually called “The Feeding of the 5,000,” the feeding was just part of the story, and it happened only at the end of the day, and the and the number could be closer to 10,000 than 5,000. The primary focus of Jesus’ afternoon work, as we’ve said, was not feeding the body, but curing the body. And when Jesus did this, He also touched something deeper, something in the soul that realigned them with God. He cured their sick, and He didn’t ask them to sign a doctrinal statement, didn’t ask them to make a pledge,  and  didn’t ask them to go to synagogue next Sabbath.

When the sun was sinking, the disciples realized that the people would be getting hungry, so they suggested that Jesus send the crowds away in order to get into town before nightfall and get something to eat, ut Jesus said “No, let them stay.”

This was Jesus’ approach: You don’t send people away; you ask them to stay. And then you find out what they need, and then you meet the need. Jesus said , “You feed them.” But the disciples said, “We have nothing — except five loaves and two fish.” So Jesus said:  “Bring them here to me.”

Jesus seems to be saying: “Bring them here to me.” This is all Jesus can ask. “Bring what you got. And I will do the rest.” But what would we bring to Jesus, were he to ask?

Something else was about to happen. Jesus asked the disciples to organize the crowd into groups of 50 (Luke 9:14). And as John t, ells us in his version of the story “then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated” (John 6:11). Then John tells us that the net day Jesus said:  “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry” (John 6:35).

This is a scene which only comes into focus after we see Jesus lifted up on the cross, after we watch as He distributes the bread to his disciples in the upper room and says, “Take, eat, this is my body given for you.” It was a lesson that perhaps He hoped the crowds would understand when he distributed the five loaves and two fish. He hoped that they would catch a glimpse of the divine and that they might believe in Him.

But Jesus was no fool. He knew what was going on. When He saw these same people the next day, He knew why they had once again followed Him. He said, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me … because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:26-27).

Jesus’ Eucharistic distribution of the loaves was supposed to remind them of Moses who had fed the Israelites with manna in the wilderness (John 6:32). They were supposed to see a greater-than-Moses now among them, and they were supposed to believe in “him who he [God] had sent.”

And herein lies the tragedy of some experiences we have with Jesus: We don’t see Jesus! We don’t recognize who he is and what he’s done.  In this encounter alone, we learn a ton about Jesus: He experienced sorrow (the death of John); He needed down-time and understood the importance of rest; He had a strategy in his dealings with crowds; He had clear priorities; He was not driven by the expectations of others; He always made time for individuals;; and He had a trusted inner circle of colleagues to help him with the work.
These are some of the things we see in this moment, as Jesus gives Himself to the crowd, teaches his disciples by way of example, and,  putting aside his personal needs, has compassion and gives himself to the people.

We, as followers of Christ, have an opportunity to be the bread of life to people, and to show in our words of actions to love of Go to all people.   We need to do this now more than ever. The need is great.  There are a great number of people who need to see an experience God’s love as we reach out to them in actions of love and  compassion, ,just as Jesus did.

We can act as the solidarity fridges in Buenos Ares in our neighborhoods. We can be a place where people are fed, both body and soul. As we support ministries like CUOC an so many other outreach ministries through our donations of food and money and hands on volunteering, we are showing others the love of God, and as we do this, Go blsses us with more an more to share.  

Share what God has given you.  Let Jesus use what God has given you, and you will find that there is plenty for everyone.  Amen