08052020 – Matthew 14. 13-21
As you well know, I FREQUENTLY say that the CONTEXT is everything.
It is “THAT” important.
So, we begin with the CONTEXT of the First Century – Palestine.
The first thing of note is that in the World of the Roman Empire (during the first century of the common era) – there were SIGNIFICANT inequities when it came to ACCESSING food.
Perhaps a MAJORITY of people knew what food INSECURITY was and STRUGGLED daily. It was ALSO a SEASONAL thing…between PLANTINGS and crop-HARVESTING. It was quite literally, FEAST or FAMINE.
There was NEITHER adequate FOOD nor adequate NUTRITION.
People constantly HUNGERED and suffered from WANT.
Because it was “THE” Roman Empire – it functioned with a great hierarchical structure.
It was a pyramid design. From the top down.
That meant that a SMALL GROUP of ruling ELITES always enjoyed ABUNDANT VARIETY, as well as, a good QUALITY of food.
The best for the BEST.
Sometimes, but not always, this included the MILITARY ELITE, based on RANK and POST.
If you were assigned to backwater Palestine, you were definitely out of luck!
The armies saw to it that they ate before the peasantry, especially in occupied areas.
The vast majority of the people lived AT or AROUND or BELOW subsistence level.
They knew nothing about CALORIC or NUTRITIONAL intake. They were lucky that they had anything to eat.
So, the petition in the LORDS’ PRAYER that God will supply “daily bread” reflects the ACTUAL SITUATION on the streets.
One needed to pray for bread daily… a simple staple, because most went without.
And we, take so much for granted. Especially here.
And our wastefulness, really truly is a criminal. And people continue to be in WANT.
Food access reflected – the elite’s access to power – that controlled all the major resources.
“The lack of food” was ONE OF THE WAYS many people experienced the INJUSTICE of this “disparity of power.”
It is also ONE OF THE REASONS we see SO MANY SICK PEOPLE in the gospels.
“Diseases of deprivation” and inadequate nutrition and diseases of “contagion” due to inadequate immunity – were common.
All of which, brings us nicely to Matthew’s gospel and this wilderness picnic for 5,000 plus.
From the beginning…
Jesus takes control and hosts this outdoor picnic for a few of his friends. It is his gig!
He blesses the food and gives it to the disciples to distribute to the crowd.
The language of “taking,” “loaves,” “blessed,” “broke” “gave to disciples”, “ate,” and “all” is reminiscent of the language in the last supper scene…although the two should not be confused.
But do note…there is DIVINE BLESSING in each separate event.
Jesus enacts “God’s will” that hungry people be fed.
The Prophet Ezekiel condemned Israel’s leaders or “shepherds” for failing to feed the sheep/or God’s people.
And the Prophet Isaiah declared “God’s will” that people “share YOUR BREAD with the hungry,” and so, Jesus does just that.
A small little sit-down-event for some of his closest friends…
The DIVINE BLESSING here is summed up in the few words, “ALL ATE AND WERE FILLED.”
I wonder if anyone was thinking of the Psalmist of old, who wrote the words, “he satisfies the THIRSTY and the HUNGRY he fills with good things.”
God intervenes in this “wilderness area,” this “no man’s land” to multiply the limited resources so that there is abundant food, more than enough.
Not only is the crowd of five thousand men plus women and children FED, but there are leftovers, to boot, “twelve baskets full.”
Jesus DEMONSTRATED his lordship over these “food resources” just as he demonstrates his AUTHORITY over DISEASE, SIN, SABBATH, people’s LIVES, DEATH and the SEA.
Who is this guy, the crowds must ask?
Why this is Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee, the simple RABBI.