Return to Index or Sermons
Proper 13, Yr A, Tr 1,
(Trinity 6, 31.07.2011)
Gen 32.22-31: Jacob wrestles with God and is named
Ps 17.1-7, 16: (I am innocent) when I awake I shall behold your likeness and be satisfied
Romans 9.1-5: Paul yearns for the Jews’ welfare
Matt 14.13-21: Feeding of the 5,000 (1229)
Creator God, you made us all in your image: may
we discern you in all that we see,
and serve you in all that we do; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(All who intend to follow Jesus as God's way are invited to God's table.)
We all have our usual way of doing things.
It works well for us. So what
do we do when a new situation comes along that requires us to look at things in
a new way and change how we do them?
Starting from today’s gospel and working backwards in time, I would
like to help you see how the very early Christian community dealt with a major
problem that might have split the young church down the middle.
If it had, you and I would not be here today.
For example, we have heard in our reading from Paul’s letter to the
We are in Year A of the RCL so our gospel readings are primarily from
Matthew. Next year they will be from
Mark, which is our earliest gospel. When
Matthew and Luke set out to write a gospel for their communities they used Mark
as their model and base, but there is a striking difference between them.
Matthew follows Mark all the way through but Luke shows no knowledge of a
big chunk of Mark. For example, all
three gospels have the story of the Feeding of the 5,000, which is our gospel
for today, but only Mark and Matthew have the story of the feeding of the 4,000.
The very simple answer is that the version of Mark that Luke used was an
earlier and shorter version of Mark. So
our Mark is, in effect a second edition. When
we compare the gospels side-by-side we can see that the part that Luke never saw
begins at Mark 6.45 and ends at 8.26, that is it begins immediately after
Mark’s account of the Feeding of the 5,000 and resumes with the story at
Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asks the disciples whom do they think he is.
This later addition contains far too much significant material to begin
to put it all in one sermon, but basically it is all concerned with the outreach
to the gentiles, that is, it would include us.
Perhaps the main problem being faced was the issue of table fellowship of
Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus. So
in these verses in Mark’s second edition Jesus declares that all foods are
clean , so that the rules for kosher foods are set aside.
Just imagine what a shock it would be to you if all your life you had
been told that certain foods were taboo, and now Jesus says that they aren’t.
He also sets aside special washing of hands, pots and pans as quite
unnecessary (7.1-7). This same point
is further stressed when Jesus declares that nothing going into a person can
defile but only what comes out of that person (7.14).
That is, the problem lies within ourselves and not in God’s good
created order. And to top it all,
Jesus says to the pious Jews, ‘You abandon the commandments of God and hold to
human tradition’ (7.8f.).
Now we have just heard Matthew’s version of the Feeding of the 5,000,
which basically just repeats Mark’s version, so let’s begin by looking at
significant details in Mark’s story. When
it grew late, the disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowds away.
They can see the problem coming and they want no part of it, but Jesus
orders them to feed them (6.37). In
Mark’s story they still baulk at the idea and say in frustration at the size
of the problem, “Shall we go and buy 200 denarii worth of bread?” - Remember
that one denarius was the wage for a whole day of labour.
So Jesus says, “How many loaves have you?”
They are still reluctant, so Jesus orders them twice more: “Go and
see!” (6,38), The answer is five
loaves and two fish. He commands the
crowds to sit down on the green grass, and the rest of the story you know.
But there are some very significant details.
If you go to the book of Genesis in the story about Joseph, you will find
three numbers that become significant for the Jews.
They are 5, 12, 70. When the
Israelites go down into
When we turn to the Feeding of the 4,000, it is in the
So where does that leave us? Quite
simply, we, too, are invited to the fellowship at the Lord’s Table, along with
all those of whatever origin or background who intend to follow Jesus as God’s