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Sunday 8 February 2015 – Feeding of the Five Thousand

Reading Matthew 14: 13 ― 21

Sermon by Bill Davey ― Elder at B.B.P

Overview of the message today:

We will:

  •  highlight a key principle from the teaching of Jesus;
  •  review the background to this creative miracle ― where and when it  occurred;
  •  seek to learn from this miracle [Feeding the 5,000];
  •  recognise the links between this miracle and the Jewish history [Exodus];
  •  identify some links with other New Testament themes.

A Principle from the teaching of Jesus:

In Matt. 5: 17 ― Jesus taught: “I did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets  but to fulfill them.”  (NIV)

This week The Narrative Lectionary highlights one of the best known miracles of Jesus ― our Messiah ― when He feeds 5,000 people near Lake Galilee.

When Pastor Robin invited me to present this material he tasked me to give real thought to the writings and work of retired Bishop N. T. Wright, renowned New Testament theologian, something which I have done:

Tom Wright recommended that when we read the Gospels we always consider: “….. the activities of Jesus should always be viewed as the climax of the story of God and His dealings with His People Israel [the Jewish people].”(N. T. Wright)

The story so far ….. (Background)

John the Baptist, the cousin of our Lord was executed by king Herod in the fortress prison of Machareus on East side of the river Jordan, after the king was tricked into making a promise to his step-daughter, Salome.

Jesus was grieving and needed time to be alone for prayer.

Timing and the setting to this miracle.

 In the early weeks of April, A.D. 29, the twelve disciples returned to Capernaum; where Jesus was waiting for them. They were in need of a holiday break, after a month of strenuous ministry.

They would take Peter’s boat, and cross to the Eastern shore of the lake, as they had done before.

However the enthusiastic crowd would not let them escape as easily as that. As their boat was headed towards the north-east; the crowd could keep it in sight, and walk along the shore. It was only two miles to the Jordan, from the north end of the lake; another three miles across the plain of Bataiha.

The people gathered in the foot-hills on the Eastern shore. By boat it would be about four miles, direct from Capernaum. Once again, the twelve missed their holiday break.

This is probably the largest crowd ever addressed by our Lord.

Pilgrim groups from northern Galilee, from the Decapolis, and from regions to the north of Palestine usually camped by the lake for a few days before the last lap of their journey down the Jordan valley and up to Jerusalem for the paschal feast.

Our Lord began his teaching, probably before midday, from a hillock a few hundred yards from the lake. About seven hours later, when the sun was sinking behind the Galilean hills, some of the apostles raised the question of feeding the people, with Jesus. The few provisions some had brought had been eaten long since. (Adapted from writings of R. Cox)

Jesus gave priority to the needs of the people.

He taught and ministered to them for many hours. He healed all who were sick or unwell, and He liberated others who were deeply troubled in spirit.

As evening approached one, or two of the disciples, made a helpful suggestion ― “Wouldn’t it be good to send the people away to buy food”. But Jesus responds, “If you care for them ― why don’t you give them something to eat?”

Think of the likely excuses that would have been offered in response to His challenge.

I / we couldn’t feed them ― there are too many people;

I / we don’t have enough energy / know-how / money /

skills / time, etc.

Jesus then rescues the situation by taking what they do have available to them:

[5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish ― a little boy’s lunch.]

We are probably familiar with how the story unfolds:

Jesus gives instructions for the people to sit in orderly groups;

Jesus takes what they do have (the bread and the fish);  and looking up to heaven,  gave thanks, for what they have;  and broke the bread (and divides the fish);  and gave the food to His disciples to distribute.  Everyone has more than enough to eat, and 12 baskets, filled with left-over pieces are collected.

A lesson to be learned from this example:

When we are doing what Jesus requires of us, we can be sure that Jesus will always accept what little we have, and then, giving thanks, He will cause our contribution to be made more than adequate for His purposes.

Our offerings, in this day and age might relate to:

  •  our energy and time;
  •  our art and craft skills;
  •  our other natural skills and talents;
  •  any spiritual gift we have received.

Now returning briefly to our Gospel account:

Jesus had been mindful of the needs of His disciples for a time of rest, and so directed them to go to the other side of the lake.

He then sent the crowds home, and finally, went to a quiet place, for the personal prayer He so desperately needed.

Jesus still needed prayer-time to deal with His own grief ― regarding the death of His  cousin ― John the Baptist.

What happened after that ― Well that’s another story for another day!  

Amen.

 

Sunday Sermon 4 January 2015 – The Way of Humanity versus the Way of God!

Sermon ― Bill Davey ― Elder at BBP

 Reading:  Matthew 2: 13 ― 23 – New International Version

13        When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get  up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14        So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,

15        where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had  said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”   (See: Hosea 11:1) 

16        When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

17        Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:  (See: Jeremiah 31: 15)

18        “A voice is heard in Ramah,  weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children  and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.”               

19        After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt

20        and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for              

those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21        So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

22        But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father              

 Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee,

Our current Lectionary highlights three elements in our text for clarification:

“The flight into Egypt,”   “The Slaughter of the Innocents,” and  “The Return to Israel”

Before we examine the text let us underpin two principles from the teaching of Jesus:

In Matt. 5: 17 ― Jesus taught:

“I did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets

 but to fulfill them   (Law  /  Torah ― the teachings of God) !”  (NIV)

In John 10: 10  ― when talking about a “Good Shepherd, Jesus taught:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;  I have come that they may  have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV)

A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”  (NAB)

In our text today, we find Jesus ― the Incarnate Son of God as a new-born totally dependent on his parents, and upon the super-natural care for his nurture, protection and provision, including that of His parents.

What does our text show and teach us?

It compares the Way of Herod ― in his Humanity with the Way of God

King Herod displays a particular example of his way of humanity!

[Pride / Independence / Deceit]

We find King Herod: ― ever promoting self-interest with evil manipulation and deceit:

―        He deceived the Magi with his lies, claiming a wish to worship the God-child;

―        He then arranged the slaughter of the Innocents,

(all boy children under 2 years of age) in Bethlehem.

the “Slaughter of the Innocents” (Matthew 2: Verses 16 to 18)

“A voice is heard in Ramah,                          

weeping and great mourning,           

Rachel weeping for her children            

and refusing to be comforted,                       

because her children are no more.”  (Jeremiah 31: 15)

During the octave of Christmas the Church celebrates the memory of the small children of the neighbourhood of Bethlehem put to death by Herod.

Sacrificed by a wicked monarch these innocent lives bear witness to Christ who was persecuted from the time of His birth by a world which would not receive Him.

Our Christmas joy is tempered by a feeling of sadness. Our thought goes principally to the glory of the children, of those innocent victims, who are now in heaven following the Lamb wherever He goes.

Those children became known as the “infant Martyr flowers”; the Church’s first blossoms, martyred by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.(Sermon of St. Augustine)

Question:  Why is the greatest gift of the unconditional love of God set alongside Herod’s [Pride, Independence and Deceit], acts of extreme cruelty and human savagery?    (Comparison? Paradox?)

The Way of God ― (His Divine Plan)

―        Prophetic links to this New Testament passage when referring to the Messiah.

(See: Hosea 11:1) ― Out of Egypt I called my Son!

(See: Isaiah 11: 1  ― The branch of the stump of Jesse!

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him-

The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of power,

the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD —

and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.”

(and see Micah 5:3) ― when she who is in labour gives birth!

 What can we learn from Joseph and Mary?

―        Two unplanned journeys ― one into Egypt, and then a return from Egypt!

both journeys inspired by God for the protection of His Child (The Son of God),

and marked by super-natural timing in the most testing time of circumstance.

Dreams guided Joseph about the when, where and how to journey to Egypt.        Vv 13-14

Dreams guided Joseph about the when, where and how to return to Israel.          Vv 20-23

Dreams guided Joseph about his decision to go to Nazareth rather than Bethlehem.

―        Joseph ―   Listen to God and pray for guidance even as you obey Him!

―        Mary   ―        Listen to your husband and pray for his guidance!

―        By trusting the faithfulness of God ― We can listen to, and obey God, without question!

Our Church culture traditionally teaches us to:         Know God;   Serve God;  Love God!

Today we have considered how important it is to:    Listen to God;

Obey God; Live ― as if you are in the presence of God ― because you are!

 

To summarize:

We have noted the contrast between the way of King Herod and the way of God:

“Slaughter of the Innocents” and the

“Unconditional love of God ― the Gift of His Son ― Jesus!”

We have identified some key elements of the plans of God:

―        the prophetic aspects of the unfolding truth of the escape to and from Egypt;

―        the detailed dream-inspired decisions of Joseph and Mary;

―        the key examples of Listening to God and Obeying God, without debate.

Important to learn:   How well will I or we listen to, and obey God, in this coming year?

How well do I or we know the way of our Lord?

Let us pray: . . . .

Lord help us to: Listen to you O Lord; Obey you O Lord; and Live ― as if we are ever in your presence ― because we really are!

Amen.

 

Acknowledgement of www.electronicprayerbook.com