Jesus feeding of the crowds according to Matthew. INTRODUCTION: This Sunday we continue with the Gospel of St. Matthew in chapter 14.
We listen to Matthew’s account of the multiplication of the loaves.
HOMILY: The miracle of feeding the five thousand is one of the few miracles that is found in all four Gospels. In fact in Mark and Matthew
there are two separate feeding miracles. Matthew: 14: 13-21/Mark 6:34-44 AND
Matthew 15:32-38/Mark 8:1-9.
Matthew, writing after Mark clearly shows dependency
on Mark, but there are interesting additions
and omissions.Some preliminary remarks, echoes of past scriptures: This account of the feeding would have triggered in Matthew’shearers a number of other biblical stories. Our text says that whenJesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, “he withdrew to a desertedplace by himself.” When the disciples speak to him they say, “this is adeserted place.” In Exodus chapter 16 Moses was involved in feeding thepeople with manna in the desert. In the second book of Kings the great prophet Elisha multiplied foodfor the hungry. He fed 100 men. So this passage looks back to the past.Matthew is drawing out of his storeroom both the new and the old. Some specifics on additions and omissions: Matthew in telling this story stays close to the story as found inMark but he does have some significant changes. OMITS: In Mark’s accountthe disciples seem to rebuke Jesus for his suggesting that they feed thepeople: “Do you want us to go and spend two hundred silver coins onbread in order to feed them?” (Mark 6:37) (Mark is hard on the disciples consistently) Matthew drops this “inappropriate” reference
to the purse and money.
ADDITION: In Matthew
Jesus says, “There is no need for them to disperse. Give them something
to eat yourselves.” (Matthew isn’t as hard on the disciples as Mark.)
This change heightens the sovereign control of
Jesus. He knows what he will do. He involves the disciples. The
disciples reply, “All we have here are five loaves and two fish.” This
reply fits precisely into Matthew’s theology of discipleship. Without
Jesus, what they have is insufficient. Jesus ignores their objection and
issues another order involving the disciples.
ADDITION: “Bring them here.” The main act is performed by
But then Jesus involves the disciples again,
“…gave the loaves to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the people.”
We cannot hear the words used of Jesus action (taking, looking up,
breaking) (blessed and gave) without thinking of the Eucharist. In fact
one of our Eucharistic prayers transfers the action of “looking up” into
the institution account. If we compare Matthew’s institution of the
Eucharist account we find many similar words. (26:26) Unlike Mk,
Matthew stresses the Eucharistic reference still further by (OMISSION)
omitting any action of Jesus as regards the fish. Matthew keeps the
reference to the collection of the fragments which also has Eucharistic
overtones. But he drops the reference to the fish when he talks about
the collection of fragments left over.
Matthew makes his final ADDITION at the end of the story when he
increases the size of the miracle by adding to the five thousand, “not
counting women and children.”
Matthew’s account not only looks back to the past with Moses and
Elisha, but also looks to the future, he anticipates the Eucharist. The
Eucharist in turn anticipates the final banquet in the kingdom (Mt.
26:29) Hopes for the Messianic kingdom were painted as a lavish feast
with limitless food and drink (e.g. Is 25:6) In the story we hear that
“all those present ate their fill.” Matthew increases the number of
those fed by saying that the five thousand did not count women and
children. We also hear of abundance, “The fragments
which remained, when gathered up, filled twelve baskets.”
Lessons for us:
l) Some people are having “home Eucharists” during the
pandemic; others are having “Zoom gatherings.” What am I learning
from this pandemic and the Eucharist?
2) What are the omissions and additions saying to you?
3) Does the expression “not counting women and children”
name a present reality? What can we do about it?
4) We are called to be involved in the ministry ofJesus.
5) When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist we are
reminded of Jesus great ability to nourish us. Ours is a God of
generosity and abundance.
6) When we celebrate the Eucharist we also look
toward the future time, heaven, which is often times described in the
Scriptures as a wonderful banquet of abundance and best of everything.
7) We are called to bring what we have to Jesus and
to allow him to direct us in the use of these things. What do I have?
8) If we rely upon Jesus and his power, we will have
what we need to minister to others. Without Jesus what we have is insufficient.
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