Sermon from Matthew 14:13-21
In the Gospel of Matthew, we see that the disciples are receiving a series of lessons from The School of Jesus, learning what it means to be missionaries of his gospel and instruments in the hands of God to do his work in this world. They must first understand the power of God and the nature of his kingdom.
Lesson #1: Disciples of Jesus must have the Lord’s vision and the Lord’s heart for the Lord’s people.
This is in direct contrast to the self-focused and self-centered mindset of the secular leadership of the time, who used and abused others for their own gain and amusement. Alternatively, Jesus, the true and rightful king, gathers his people to himself and has compassion on them. The heart of the Messiah is for his people. He sees their needs, he is moved by compassion, and he heals them.
Several years ago, Willow Creek Church did a study called Reveal, looking at transformation in the people of God. They found the although God’s people were very busy, they for the most part were not being transformed. However, for the small subset of people who were living transformed lives, they discovered that those are the ones who had intentionally made Jesus the very center of their lives.
Lesson #2: Disciples of Jesus must have a vision for the power of Jesus and his presence among them.
In Matthew 14:15, the disciples encouraged Jesus to stop teaching and send the people away so they could go buy food for themselves. This was not an uncaring thing to think. They knew the people were hungry, and they had the right vision and heart toward the people. However, they lacked a vision for the power of Jesus. They had the King of the Universe in their very midst, but they did not see his power.
We often struggle with this same thing. We look at the world through secular eyes, which means that we have no spiritual basis for the way we look at things. We don’t consider God being in the midst of the circumstances we see around us. We leave no room for the power and the presence of God to work.
In this situation, the disciples rightly saw a problem, but they came up with a secular solution. Jesus would use this opportunity to teach the disciples to think beyond the secular, and this leads to the next lesson.
Lesson #3: If your vision is limited by your own power and resources, you will never see the power and presence of God.
Jesus’ solution of feeding this multitude wasn’t on their radar screen, because they were focusing on only what they could do in their own power. The way they phrased, “We have only five loaves here and two fish,” proves that they were not taking into consideration the unlimited resources of the Almighty.
The people of God have never had a resource shortage, but we always struggle with having a faith shortage. This is something that I personally have had to be taught by God over and over. An example:
When I was pastoring in Florida, our church hired an amazing professional organist, but we only had a little electronic keyboard for him to play on. So one of our faithful parishioners decided to begin her own campaign to raise funds for an organ, and she began the fund by donating $100 herself. When she gave that to me, I was so skeptical that I almost didn’t accept her gift. A mere $100 was so tiny compared to how much an organ would cost! However, she was so insistent that I took it. A few weeks later, I got an email that said, “Free organ. All you have to do is pay for the transportation.” We rented a truck with that $100, and we went to pick up a $100,000 instrument for free. Now this gifted musician that God sent to us was able to fully use his gift.
Isn’t this such a good example of this idea? Our vision is so limited by our own capabilities.
Consider Sarah, who laughed when she heard the prophecy that she would bear a son in her old age. The angel said to her, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). No, it wasn’t.
Consider King Saul, who believed it impossible that God could use the young boy David to bring down the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17). It wasn’t.
Consider the prophet Jeremiah, who initially resisted God’s call to be his prophet because of his youthfulness. He believed he was too young to carry God’s word to the people (Jeremiah 1:6-8). He wasn’t.
Consider the prophet Elijah, who had worked zealously for God but became discouraged, believing that he was the only person left in Israel who wasn’t worshipping idols (1 Kings 19:9-18). He wasn’t.
Consider Mary, who believed that it was impossible for her to bear God’s Son because she was a virgin (Luke 1:26-38). It wasn’t.
All humans have a tendency to limit God with age, experience, unlikely odds, impossibilities – all our own limited understanding of circumstances.
Jesus would teach the disciples that their calling must take into account the power of his presence. We bring to the Lord what meager abilities and resources we have, but he adds to it his own glorious limitless power. By faith, we allow him to use us as his instruments and martial the incredible resources of his kingdom.
As the Apostle Paul said:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.2 Corinthians 4:7
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.2 Corinthians 12:9
The mighty power of God overcomes any limitation that we may have. Has the Lord God put a call on your life that you feel is impossible? Whatever it is, God must bring you to the place where you come to the end of yourself and allow God to multiply your limitations into overflowing abundance.