Shortly after GRTS graduates Dave and Becky Conrads started Genesis Church in Coralville Iowa, the church bought the big white house. After renovations, it opened in 2010 (when it was 100 years old) as a center for church and community activities. Now Genesis is raising funds to build a barn that will enlarge the church’s capacity for corporate worship and outreach to its neighbors.
Doing Church during COVID-19 is obviously a challenge requiring great wisdom. Genesis church used Zoom for its meetings for several months. On August 16, the church began meeting outside on the lawn at the Big White House while maintaining appropriate COVID-19 guidelines. I’m thankful for the opportunity to reflect twice on Matthew 14 with this church. Jesus’ feeding the multitude and walking on water teaches us not only about his power but also about our responsibilities during these difficult days.
Feeding the Multitudes then and now
Genesis Church follows the Revised Common Lectionary and one of the texts for August 2 was the account of Jesus feeding the multitudes in Matthew 14:13-21. This is the only miracle of Jesus featured in all four Gospels (cf. Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15). Go here for a worship folder containing the liturgy, and the teaching notes I provided to the church. You can join the virtual gathering of the Genesis family by going here for a video of our teaching time and discussion.
There are a lot of “preachable” points one can draw from Jesus feeding the multitudes:
- Matthew tells the story of Jesus’ gracious banquet right after the story of Herod’s gory banquet (Matt 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9). Reading Matt 14:13-21 with 14:1-12 in mind shows the profound contrast between two kings and how they used their power (cf. Matt 2:1-12; 4:1-11; 12:15-21; 20:28; 21:1-5). Herod used his power to aggrandize himself. Jesus used his power to further God’s kingdom. How do we use our power and opportunities?
- Jesus’ compassion for the hungry masses contrasts with his disciples’ desire to get rid of them. After John’s martyrdom, Jesus needs to be alone with God (Matt 14:13), but he gives himself to the pressing needs of the crowd all day long before he is finally able to get away and pray (Matt 14:23). Do we wish that COVID and all its problems would just go away, or do we view COVID as an opportunity for us to show God’s love to hurting people?
- God is concerned for the hunger of humanity throughout the Bible, e.g. our first parents in the garden of Eden (Gen 1:29-30; 2:9, 16), the nation of Israel in the wilderness (Exod 16; Ps 78:17-32), and the early church (Acts 2:42, 46; 6:1-6; 11:27-30). COVID has led to unemployment, and unemployment to a lack of funds for daily necessities. Are we involved in helping destitute people during COVID?
- Jesus uses the inadequate resources of the disciples to feed the multitude rather than creating the loaves and fish from nothing. Having limited resources does not justify neglecting needy people. The fact that we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something. God can use our modest efforts in surprising ways.
- Helping people with their temporal needs shows them we are concerned about their eternal welfare. Meeting people’s physical needs in Jesus’ name establishes a relational basis for sharing the good news of God’s love in Christ with them.
- The language describing this miracle anticipates the language associated with the sacrament of the Lord’s Table, the Eucharist. Jesus takes the bread, prays, breaks it, and distributes it to his disciples. Compare Matthew 14:19 with 26:26:27 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Participating in the Lord’s Table shows us that the simple activity of eating together speaks powerfully to us about our relationship with God through Jesus.
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Join the virtual gathering of Genesis Church by going here for a video of our teaching time and discussion. Our reflection on Matthew 14 will continue with our next post on Peter’s walk on the water.
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Go here for a full length video lecture on John’s account of the feeding of the multitude and the “Bread of Life Discourse” (John 6).
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Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:1-3 NLT)
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They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:30-35 NLT)