Main Street Community Church

A meal with Jesus: Feeding the 5,000

This talk was given by Paul Wintle on .

The total length of the recording is .

Before the talk, Luke 9:12–17 was read.

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A transcript is available lower down the page.


During the past few weeks, we’ve been thinking about Jesus and how many times he has been invited to people’s homes for a meal, particularly in Luke’s Gospel. We find that Jesus, a number of times, is invited to a meal, but this time, as we have explored this morning, this time is different. This time it’s out doors and Jesus welcomes the people.

It seems that Jesus and his friends had planned a day off by themselves in the hills, perhaps to debrief following the time that Jesus’ friends had been off by themselves, talking and sharing about Jesus.

Perhaps the disciples had a little bit of food with them and then once a crowd of interested people who had heard that Jesus was there, they followed him, maybe because of the good work that the disciples had done during their mission.

Whatever, this lonely place that the disciples and Jesus had gone to was now filled with thousands of people. Five thousand people is about half the number of people who live here in Frodsham and it seems that nobody had decided to pack a lunch.

After a day of listening to what wonderful things Jesus had to say, people started to get hungry. Jesus; friends were also probably pretty ratty and maybe told Jesus to send that whole group of people away to find their own food. After all, there’s only two small fish and some bread rolls. That certainly won’t feed the crowd.

Jesus had other ideas. He turns the problems over to the disciples and he says, “You give them something to eat.” They had just come back from a time of mission, they had gone to the highways and the byways and they had spoken to a number of people who wanted and were happy to listen.

I can’t find it, I’ve washed it and I’ve dried it, I haven’t ironed it but somewhere at home, I think it maybe even at Jeff and Sue’s house, I don’t know. There’s a tea towel and I got it from crusaders in my first Nefyn camp. There’s a cartoon picture of Jesus and the disciples and it’s got the words, “You give them something to eat.’

I talk about Nefyn because in four weeks time, I will be cooking in a field in Wales. I think there will be about 50 people there, three times a day, three meals a day for eight days. That’s 1,200 meals but that is with ovens and fridges, electric whisks and other things.

Imagine the shock and the surprise when Jesus turns to his friends and explains, “Well, I’ve been doing all the work today. I’ve been doing the preaching and the teaching. You’ve just come back from a successful time of preaching and healing people as well. Now it’s your turn to do the miracles. Go on then.”

Now if were one of the disciples, I’m not too sure where I would start. In fact I’m delighted that when I am cooking in a Welsh field at Nefyn that I’ll be the sous-chef. I’ll be the one peeling the potatoes, chopping the cheese, undoing the tins.

It’s not my problem if the gas doesn’t work that’s Mike’s problem. He’ll be the one supervising and ensuring that there is enough for everyone. I’m just the understudy. I have no desire to be the one in charge of 1,200 meals. Thank you very much. If I had to feed 5,000 for just one meal, I think I might need a little bit more notice, please, because I really wouldn’t know where to start.

It’s interesting, I think that there seems to be a pattern with Jesus’ interaction with food. He sees it as a necessity of course but also as something to involve God with. We have learned that the son of man, Jesus, came eating and drinking. This was the method by which he came proclaiming the kingdom of God.

In this miracle, Jesus takes what there is, the five loaves and the two fish, and he blesses it, he breaks it and he gives it. He takes, he blesses, he breaks and he gives. It’s what he does at the last supper as well.

Again when he shares a meal with the disciples after his resurrection at Emmaus. In fact, it’s because of this habit of taking, blessing, breaking, and giving that actually gives the game away to the disciples at that last occasion.

Here, in a deserted place, with only a tiny portion of food available, Jesus takes the food; he prays, he breaks it up and he gives it to those around him. That’s the way of miraculously providing food for everyone.

It is not for those who deserve it. It’s not only for those who are sitting close by to him. It’s not only for those who have decided that Jesus is the Messiah. That comes in the next story in Luke Chapter nine but as theologians call it, this is the Messianic banquet. Everyone is welcome.

Many other times in Luke we have Jesus reclining at the table at other people’s home but on this occasion Jesus welcomes 5,000 people. He provides enough, he provides in fact more than enough. Somehow, Jesus makes the rolls and the fish stretch so much more than anyone can ask or imagine and yet somehow there were 12 basketfuls of leftovers.

Those people in the crowd, who had been Jews, had filled themselves of this Messianic banquet. Maybe there’s a back story to this as well. Perhaps the people who would have known the Old Testament scriptures would have been reminded of two accounts involving two famous people in the Old Testament.

First, they might have remembered how their ancestors were starving in the desert having escaped exile in Egypt from the terrible Pharaoh, but they were hungry and they were weak.

When Moses prayed, God provided something called manna, literally light food, that appeared in the morning, every morning in the desert. None could be saved overnight for it would go mouldy but every single day, there would be new manna. You can read for yourself in Exodus Chapter 16.

Perhaps the people listening to Jesus might have thought, “Is this the guy that the Old Testament promised would come true? He’s rescuing us with food. He’s coming eating and drinking but we weren’t expecting that from a Messiah.”

There might have been other people in the crowd who were reminded of a catalogue of food-related miracles in the life of Elisha in 2 Kings Chapter four.

In the first part there’s the miracle of the Widow’s Oil. She had a little tiny bit of probably olive oil left but that wasn’t going to pay the debts that she had been left by her husband’s passing away and there was every chance that her two sons would be taken away as slaves instead of payment of the debt.

Elisha tells the lady to collect as many empty jars as she could from her neighbours and to pour the oil into all the jars and somehow the oil just kept on running. When the woman had filled every last borrowed jar to the brim, the oil then stopped and she was able to sell the oil, pay the debts, and safeguard her sons from going into slavery.

Talking of slavery, when Jo was praying earlier on about the international day for promoting the cessation of slavery. Did you know that there are 180 million people who are in slavery across this world today? That’s the mos there’s ever been, 180 million.

As we continue to read 2 Kings chapter four, we get some flour in a pot that makes the disgusting stew edible first for the gathered profits after which there is a similar yet smaller Old Testament version of the feeding of the 5,000 the feeding of the 100. Who knew about that one?

A man brought 20 loaves baked from the first ripe corn to Elisha the Prophet. Elisha, this amazing prophet of God, says, “Well, how’s that going to feed a hundred people?” Somehow there is enough. Once again, we see that God is the God of abundance. Out of faith, there is enough.

Here we have Jesus inviting his disciples to do what he’s been doing. He asks his friends to get involved with the stuff that he does and yet they still have to rely on him to do the miracles.

The same could be said for us today as friends of Jesus with our work, with our lives, with our everyday stuff such as eating. Jesus invites us to partner with him.

John Chapter 15 and verse five reminds us that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. At this Messianic banquet, Jesus offers his friends hope. Hope that with his help, they can do what he has been doing. At this Messianic banquet. Jesus welcomes everybody. At this Messianic banquet, Jesus is the host. At this Messianic banquet, there are tons left over.

At the feeding of the 5,000, the disciples want to send the people away, but Jesus makes it possible for them to stay. The feeding of the 5,000 perhaps is a foretaste of what is to come. It’s not only for 5,000 people because 5,000 isn’t all of God’s people, but it’s for everybody.

In the middle of the wilderness, just as in Moses’ time, there seems to be plenty. In the midst of the potential for embarrassment, where there’s not enough, as in the situation where Elisha found himself, God provides. In other words, there is hope.

These miracles give us hope for another way for being. Another way of doing things. Jesus’ way of doing things was the coming Kingdom of God where everyone is invited and everyone is welcome. In the same way as we gather, whether it’s around the communion table, whether it’s at Sunday sandwiches, whether we sit and chat with someone over coffee.

In many ways, we are the needy people, but yet as we share our food or our coffee or our time, Jesus is at the centre. With Jesus living in us and through us, recognizing that Jesus is the provider, we can get to glimpse God’s coming world right here and right now.

And so as and when we take food, let’s do what Jesus does. Let us take, let us bless, let us break and let us give.

Isaiah Chapter 25 verses six to eight says this about a meal that God sets. “On this mountain, the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – hurrah! – the best meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain, he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations. He will swallow up death forever. The sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears of all faces. He will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.”

Amazing promise of God. In both the New Testament and the Old we have this fulfilment for all people. It’s a truly Messianic banquet where all can come and eat and have sins forgiven and have guilt removed. This really is a restoration table when we have communion here.

This really is an everlasting feast, not because of anything that we have done, but because of God’s undying love for each one of us. Food, therefore, is a foretaste of everlasting hope.

Our responsibility is to invite people to the table. One way of doing it, as we have said, is to invite people perhaps for a meal to eat together, to enjoy company and fellowship, and that’s one of the reasons why instead of doing Bible studies on a Tuesday afternoon, let’s do tea at two together on a Tuesday, all those t’s, because company and fellowship is what Jesus promoted amongst other things.

Just as Jesus invited 5,000 people to his meal, in the impossible wilderness, where there was just a morsel of food, so he welcomes us, just as we are. He invites us to sit with him even if we don’t feel worthy. That’s not the issue here.

Our worthiness or our unworthiness makes no difference at the Messianic banquet. No matter how you feel about yourself or your faith right now, you are welcome at this table.

Your status is not what you think it is at this banquet, Child of God. You’re at the top table. You have every right to come to the top table because Jesus says so. Take your place, enjoy the food, and believe there is hope around this table.

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