This morning I had planned to make it out to Vulture’s Knob to get a bit of trail running in first thing before the sun came up.
I didn’t make it.
I think I underestimated my level of fatigue from traveling all day yesterday. We got home and hung out with the kids for a bit before going to sleep around midnight. When my alarm went off at 4:05am I got up, came to my senses, and laid right back down.
I was able to get my 5k in at 6pm at the OARDC with Jodi and a couple of friends. I like the idea of having at least one “group run” per week for those nearby who are participating in the 5k Every Day in the Month of May challenge. Next week may end up being a Saturday morning run. We’ll see how the week plays out.
We had a great run, finishing our 5k in 30 minutes and 36 seconds. That was an average pace of 9:51 per mile. I was really proud of Jodi. That was a great run for her!
Today’s reading was Matthew 13-15. The main thing that stood out to me today was the miracle feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 14 and the feeding of the 4,000 in Matthew 15.
I have studied this portion quite extensively and have preached sermons from several different facets of the story -everything from God using what little we have, to the fact that the miracle happened in the hands of the disciples… but today I am most struck by Jesus’ mission to Israel and his heart for the world.
In Matthew 14, we see that it is the disciples who seem to notice the needs of the people.
Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” – Matthew 14:15
Notice that they are in the land of the Jews when this happens, and the Jewish disciples have compassion for the crowds, asking that they be sent away so that they can have their needs met. In this situation, Jesus essentially acknowledges their request, but says, “You meet their needs.”
So they pull their supplies together and see that they have 5 loaves and 2 fish -more than enough for Jesus to work with. A miracle happens and 5,000 men (plus women and children) are fed. In the end, the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of pieces left over.
It’s a simple math problem:
5 loaves + 2 fish ÷ 5,000 hungry men (plus women and children) = 12 baskets of leftovers.
The number twelve is significant. It is the number of disciples and the number of tribes of Israel. Essentially, Jesus is sending a message that he is the savior of Israel.
He is more than enough for ALL of Israel… for all 12 tribes plus their descendants. I believe that is the point of the 12 baskets of leftovers. That is what Matthew wants us to get from the story.
And all of this happens while Jesus is still freshly dealing with sad news of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist. Jesus is running on empty, emotionally speaking, and yet he is more than able to meet the needs of all of Israel.
One chapter later and we have a similar story, yet very different.
In Matthew 15, we see 4,000 hungry men (plus women and children) in a similar situation. What supplies do they have this time? Well, they actually have MORE than they had last time. Now they have seven loaves and a few small fish. Let’s say the number of fish is three (even though we only know it was “a few”, that seems to indicate more than one or two, so let’s call it three). Our new math problem is this:
7 loaves + 3 fish ÷ 4,000 hungry men (plus women and children) = ?
Admittedly, this is still going to require a miracle, but the circumstances are sizably BETTER than they were one chapter ago.
Naturally speaking, 7 total food items divided by 5,000 people is worse than 10 food items divided by 4,000 people. Both require a miracle, but one is worse than the other.
But that is not the main difference between the feeding miracle in Matthew 14 and Matthew 15. The big difference is in geography and initiative.
The miracle in Matthew 14 was initiated by the disciples because they were concerned about their fellow countrymen.
The miracle in Matthew 15 was initiated by Jesus because the disciples were indifferent concerning the hungry gentiles.
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” – Matthew 15:32
Notice that following the feeding in Matthew 15, the disciples pick up seven baskets full of leftovers.
Seven is the perfect number, the number of completion. Not only is Matthew wanting us to see that Jesus is more than enough for ALL of Israel (Matthew 14), he also wants us to see that Jesus is more than enough for everyone in the whole world. He is perfect.
Less general, and more specific, I believe that Matthew wants his readers to connect the seven baskets left over with a new way of understanding God’s work among the nations. At one point God’s plan was to destroy the nations who would contaminate his plan of bringing Jesus into the world:
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you” – Deuteronomy 7:1
This is now the same area where Jesus is making provision for the seven nations, proving by the seven baskets left over that he is more than enough.