The lesser feeding. The feeding of the 5000 done w/ 5 loaves two fish. Each loaf feeds 1000. Here, 4000 w/ seven loaves. Each loaf only feeds 571. No less miraculous, because still impossible. If Matthew and Mark didn’t record both, would have critical scholars claiming that two versions of same thing. Obviously one wrong. Can’t be both 4000 and 5000. Can’t have both seven fish and five fish. Shows that they don’t really know what the details were. Made them up – not miraculous. That method doesn’t work. All four record 5000. Matthew and Mark include 4,000. Not surprising about Matthew – longest Gospel. Strange thing is Mark is shortest of Gospels – not much space. Uses a bunch of it on repeat miracle. Similarities are striking. Both include:
Great crowd. Jesus has compassion. Asks disciples. Disciples don’t see way. He asks how much food. Sit on ground. Gives thanks, breaks, Gave to disciples to give to people. were satisfied. Gathered leftovers. Dismisses crowd. Gets into boat.
Both in context of opposition – 5000 Death of JB. Here, immediately followed by demand for sign. Less than two chapters apart.
And after second feeding – rebukes disciples. They think he’s upset because they only have one loaf – they forgot to pack more bread. Asks how many baskets left over in each case. And asks, “Do you not yet understand?” Not, how many were fed. But how much leftover.
Feeding is a given. “They ate and were satisfied.” No question about feeding. Only about how much leftover.
Much has been made of the twelve baskets leftover in the feeding of the 5000. It could be, that Jesus doesn’t want to litter, or he’s worried about giving human food to the wildlife. Maybe he’s planning French toast the next morning. John says that Jesus gathers it “so that nothing is lost.” Very thrifty. But it’s not about the bread. At the end of the chapter Jesus says that when they only have one loaf. Do you not yet understand? He asks.
The twelve disciples mirror the twelve sons of Jacob. And the twelve baskets bring the feeding of the 5,000 into that churchly realm – where God feeds, and nothing of his is lost. The gathering together, as we say in the explanation of the third article, “The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” The gathering of the church is the work of God.
We aren’t here because we are a bunch of people who have similar tastes in worship music and liturgical aesthetics, or even because we share political and religious philosophies. We aren’t here for any human reason. We are here because God himself has called us by the Gospel, and gathered us as His Holy Church.
Which is a fine thought connected to the feeding of the 5,000. But what about the 4,000. We don’t have twelve baskets. We have seven. What’s the significance of that number? And it is significant – Jesus asks the disciples about it later. He’s not just saying, ” We’ve got free food star-trek style, so stop worrying about loaves.”
Seven is the number of creation. On the Seventh day, God rested from all he had made. The word for rest is Sabbath. Remember the Sabbath day – the resting day – to keep it holy. Because that’s the day that God declared creation finished. Soon, soon, soon, Jesus will recreate. And it’s not merely coincidence that he dies on a Friday and spends Saturday in the tomb. Friday is the sixth day – the day God created man. Saturday is the Sabbath day, the day of rest at the creation. The day of Jesus rest in the tomb.
There is sometimes talk about the God of the Old Testament, and the God of the New. There are even heresies that taught they were two different gods. Even in other religions, the God of creation is different than the god we worship now. But there is no difference for us. Jesus is the only begotten son of the Father. Of the same substance. And the creation that was made in Genesis, is the same creation redeemed by Jesus on the cross. There is no difference. Jesus is the word, who brought light to the darkness. He is the one who redeems. Same God.
We celebrated Trinity Sunday Seven weeks ago. Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the Undivided Unity. That’s not just a doctrine for doctrine’s sake. There is no such thing. We have the Holy Trinity so that we can have salvation. We have Father, Son and Spirit so that the same God who creates the world and all that is in it – nothing is out of his grasp – is the same God who comes down and becomes one of us – not for his own amusement, but to die for you, to redeem the whole creation to be sure – but to forgive you your sins specifically. And He is the same God who brings you’re the promise, through the preaching of the Word, who breaks through your stony heart so that you would believe and receive the gift.
All of which is to say, “What were you worried about?” Is there anything beyond the grasp of God? Is there anything he can not touch, can not control? You are worried about a loaf of bread? Or whatever it is that seems so significant? Do you not yet understand who Jesus is?
Of course, in a week like this one, the question arises – if he is so all fired powerful and present, where was he in Chattanooga? Was he out taking a walk? Or thinking really hard? Did he take a nap? Why are five of our nation’s finest dead at the hands of a deranged servant of Satan – again?
But now we go back to what was just said – Jesus came to redeem and recreate this world of sin. This world of Sin. Because God gave his law to us, and we did not follow that law. We would be god’s ourselves. And that is the way of death. That’s why he came – to suffer and die in our place, because we are dying. It’s only a matter of time. And Jesus suffered and died because that’s the sort of loving God we have. Not that God isn’t in control. But one who has undergone the suffering and death of this world so that we would not have to wallow in this vale of tears for eternity. So that we would be redeemed, and have the promise of salvation.
Jesus died because someone had to. And it was the only way to keep you from eternal death. So he did it. He came and he suffered and died the most unjust, undeserved death, so that you would have life.
The problem of suffering is a problem of our own making. It was Jesus who came into the world to solve it.
And we can complain, but he didn’t take it away. No he didn’t. He redeemed the suffering. Snakes in wilderness – didn’t take snakes away. Still bite.
Redeemed them from snakes. Took away sting and death.
So also Jesus. Redeems from death. Gives eternal salvation to all who believe.