SECTION 7: THE WITHDRAWL OF THE KING
THE MIRACLES IN A GENTILE REGION
THE LITTLE IS MUCH LESSON REPEATED
Scripture To Consider:
“And Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them those who were lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”
“Then Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, ‘I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.’ Then His disciples said, ‘Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?’ Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ And they said, ‘Seven, and a few little fish.'”
“And Jesus commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground, and He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left. Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And Jesus sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.” Matthew 15.29-39
Something To Consider:
Even in the regions of Tyre and Sidon, outside the border of His native land, Jesus was unable to escape from the crowds. He was there asked to perform a cure for a believing woman and the fame of His miracle attracted the multitudes, so He journeyed with His disciples further to the east and the south. He then went to the farther shore of the Sea of Galilee. Yet, there again, He was soon surrounded by great multitudes, having with them the lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others.
Jesus had not come for the purpose of performing miracles. He was seeking a place of retirement and an opportunity of teaching His disciples, but His compassion never fails. He healed them insomuch that the multitude marveled when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing.
It was a region, of which the inhabitants were largely Gentiles. It was a fitting sequel to the miracle performed just previously in the region of Tyre and Sidon at the request of the Canaanite woman. It was also a sample of the wider work which the true King was to perform among all nations. It is significant that as Jesus healed these multitudes, they glorified the God of Israel.
It is this recorded fact of a ministry among Gentiles which forms the distinguishing feature of the great miracle which Jesus performed. As He beholds the multitudes hungry and without food surely to faint or worse, that He miraculously supplied them a meal by multiplying for their need seven loaves of bread and a few little fish.
There are those who imagine that this is but another account of the feeding of the five thousand. It is true that many of the features are the same, but we know this to be untrue due to the information Jesus provides in Matthew 16.9-10 where He verifies both the feeding of five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand men besides women and children. In both cases Jesus reveals His patient compassion.
Jesus has been seeking a place of solitude with His disciples, but when the crowds gathered around Him, He sacrificed His own plan and comfort. As He resumed His work of teaching He ministered to the bodies, as well as the souls of those who thronged Him. We should notice also the unbelief of the disciples. When Jesus suggested the need for food, they seem to have utterly forgotten the former miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.
Some commentators insist that such doubt is incredible and this portion of the story, at least, must have been borrowed by Matthew from another narrative. But, if the truth be known, many of us are too conscious of similar unbelief and forgetfulness in ourselves, in spite of repeated miracles of God’s grace, to wonder long at the blindness of the disciples. For some of us it is all too easy to associate ourselves with others who at times had or have lapses in their faith.
Something Else To Consider:
In both miracles of the feeding of the thousands we note the abundant supply for the hungry multitudes both spiritually and physically were met by Jesus. But in John’s gospel chapter 6, we find the supreme importance we should attach to these miracles, namely, that Jesus Himself declared, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” And in verse 35 of John chapter 6 Jesus proclaimed, “I am the bread of life. He [or she] who comes to me shall never hunger, and he [or she] who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
It is in relation to this symbolic teaching that the two similar miracles contain their slightly differing suggestions. The five thousand who were miraculously fed were probably for the most part Jewish. And yet, among the four thousand and more who were also miraculously fed were most likely made up of many Gentiles.
Could it be possible that this latter miracle may be a divine attempt by Jesus and our heavenly Father to boldly illustrate the prophetic theme that although Jesus is to be rejected by His own people, that He will give His life for the world and in doing so Jesus becomes the bread of life for all nations? This indeed gives us something else to consider!
Something More To Consider:
Human nature could easily cause us to foolishly point a finger of shame and disappointment in the direction of Jesus’ early disciples. For them to have been physically involved in the divine provision of food supplied by Jesus to the five thousand plus earlier, and now because they either forgot or refused to remember, may, if we are not careful, create conflict in our minds and hearts.
To have been among the disciples bringing the original five loaves and two small fish to Jesus on behalf of a young boy should have inspired such anticipation as to what was to follow. And for His disciples to have been firsthand witnesses of Jesus breaking the loaves and fish and hearing Jesus praying to His Father for a miracle of multiplication, must have created much excitement and established great hope and faith in Christ.
And yet, to be actively involved in the actual distribution process of blessing five thousand plus individuals with a much-needed picnic lunch, could only be matched by the collection of so much residual food for a future feast. What kind of story could the small lad had told as he arrived at home hopefully with what might equal a shopping cart full of bread and fish fragments?
Better yet, what kind of story do we have to tell concerning the abundant undeserved grace and mercy of God in Jesus that we too have participated in and been involved in on a daily basis? And yet, how many among us have also forgot and or refused to remember the overwhelming goodness of God on our journey to and with Jesus? Let today be a glorious day of remembrance!
A Few Final Words:
Therefore, in reality, who are these little is much lessons repeated for? For whom are these similarly repeated miracles of healing in a Gentile region recorded by Matthew for? So, as to repeat another lesson already addressed, let us be reminded by the apostle Paul as he in turn reminded young Timothy in 2 Timothy 3.16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man [woman and young person] of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped [or properly furnished] for every good work.”
As in the case of the early disciples, who eventually turned the world right side up, we too as true born-again end time believers in Jesus Christ, we too need reminding and repeated spiritual lessons of a lifetime in our lives. In all honesty, how often has the Holy Spirit been forced to repeat a spiritual lesson, pop quiz, or faith exam in our own lives?
If you are anything like me, many times the Lord has had to exceed two times. And until Jesus returns, or we meet Him in eternity by way of the grave and beyond, our earthly classroom faith producing lessons promoted by the Holy Spirit, will never cease to be of great value and much tremendous importance.
The apostle Paul, also declared in Romans 10.17, as mentioned in other earlier lessons, “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” In other words, we will never outgrow our individual need for our faith to be awakened, increased, enlarged, or multiplied as was the bread and fish in the hands of Jesus, our great and exceeding reward, provider, and Redeemer.
Therefore, let us never fail the test of our faith by not being willing to give God all the glory for what He does in and through us and yet, in Jesus’ name.
Our Father in heaven, thank You for the recorded miracles of the feeding of the five thousand plus and the feeding of the four thousand plus men, women, and young people. And thank You Father for Your providing all we have need of for us and our loved ones on a constant and continual basis. Remind us Lord to be grateful and to always be willing to give You all of the glory that is due You, the Holy Spirit, and Your Son, Jesus. In Him Always, Amen!