Monday, July 28, 2008

Bread to Share Matthew 14:13-21

What do you get when you when Jesus meets a young boy in a crowd with five loaves and two fish? A meal to feed 5,000.

The context of this miracle gives us even more reason for awe and wonder. Things weren't going well for Jesus. He'd been rejected in his hometown (Matthew 13:53-58) His cousin and forerunner John the Baptist was beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12). There are plenty of times in the church when we would be wise to remember that Jesus strength was revealed most often when things were going from bad to worse.

Jesus had gone away from the crowds looking for a quiet place, some speculate that Jesus had good reasons to look for a quiet place. McGarvey and Pendleton's THE STANDARD BIBLE COMMENTARY argues,

"[He'd] Heard about John's death. The excitement caused by this event, and the efforts to use Jesus as a leader in revolt, (see Mark 6:29), constituted another reason why Jesus should withdraw from the multitude.
Jesus was looking for quiet; but the crowds came looking for him. Everyone in the crowd had their own reason to come looking for him. Some came believing Jesus would heal, some came wondering what he would teach, some came hoping they could meet him and hear him, some came just because their parents said they should come. Some came seeking revolution and Jesus taught the crowd who'd gathered out in that deserted place for some time. There's no mention in Matthew about what he taught, just that he taught for some time that day.

As the day passed the disciples started worrying about food for the crowd. Jesus replied to their worries, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." (Matthew 14:16 NIV) They were flummoxed naming what little they had. We can say the same things in our daily ministry. We don't have enough money, time, people, knowledge, experience, patience, will, or strength. Jesus replied to the disciples doubts instructing them to go ahead and pass out the food to everyone. Craig S. Keener observed,
God is not intimidated by the magnitude of our problem. The disciples saw the size of the need and the littleness of the human resources available; Jesus saw the size of the need and the greatness of God's resources available. Often God calls us to do tasks for him that are technically impossible-barring a miracle. IVP NT Commentary Series Matthews

Jesus miracle didn't start with human faith. It started with the power of God. Jesus' power alone was enough to feed thousands from the young boys food. That power alone is what keeps the church going and keeps ministry happening even in times of great need and want. The miracle happened not because of human will; but because of God's will that transformed the deserted place into place of feasting.

A warning to preachers: It's tempting to turn this story into a moral tale telling everyone to go and do likewise; but that underestimates the power of God displayed by Jesus. He didn't tell everyone to empty out their bags for their secret snacks; instead he told his friends to keep on passing out the food until everyone was full.

ADDENDUM (July 29, 2008)
Lectionary Singer caught me red handed mixing up miracle stories from one Gospel to the next. I can assure all of you that it will happen again. And here I was trying to keep them all straight for once.

Matthew's story uniquely puts emphasis not on the boy but on the disciples having the food. Now in my third reading this week I think the focus is more on Jesus than anybody else in this story. Jesus told them plainly to bring the food here. He blessed it, he broke it here, and he told them to go ahead and pass it out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Parables of the Kingdom Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

In Matthew 13 Jesus revealed glimpses of God's Kingdom in the poetry of metaphors. 2000 years later Jesus' words still start faithful imaginations running, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed..." "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast..."

Matthew 13 is really two different sets of parables. The first set of parables were spoken to a great crowd who came to visit him by the shores of Galilee. The crowd was so great he went out a little way off shore in a boat to speak to them all. Jesus friends ask him why he spoke in parables and he pointed all of them to Isaiah 6:8-9 about stubborn minds who heard but didn't listen. Then he just went on teaching parables. The second part of Matthew 13 were Jesus' explanations for his disciples of the earlier parables and still more parables.

The Revised Common Lectionary has broken up this one chapter into chunks mixing Jesus teachings up and spreading them out over three weeks time. It's tough, out of context to be sure if Jesus is talking to the crowd or the disciples.

Different people came to Jesus with different questions. Some came wondering, "Are you for real?" others came asking, "What are you up to in my life?" Jesus draws believers into the Kingdom of God through parables. Scoffers will listen but not be satisfied. Believers will be drawn into God's infinitely creative imagination. Scoffers will be frustrated because they aren't hearing the mysteries explained away, but believers will rejoice to catch a glimpse of the wonderful mysterious reality of God.

Jesus told his listeners what the kingdom of God is like in his own terms. The crowds glimpsed the kingdom through his word. He didn't tell us the physical dimensions of God's kingdom; he told us it can start small like a mustard seeds. He didn't tell us the reach of God's kingdom he compared it to yeast's ability to transform flour and water from paste into bread.

After leaving the crowd he told the disciples that the kingdom of God was like a treasure, a pearl of great value, and a net that would bring in all the world for sorting.

For 2000 years believers have pondered these stories. We've examined facet after facet of the God's kingdom. We look at these stories with wonder and fear as we glimpse our place in Jesus' kingdom.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

on vacation July 6 to July 20

Dear readers,
There will be no lectionary postings for the next 2 weeks.
We're on vacation!
it comes just when we need it. We might post some from the road on