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The Rev Andries Combrink is a Presbyterian Minister of the Gospel. He lives in Centurion, South Africa. 
To teach the Word of God is his calling,  based on the Reformed tradition. 

 

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It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’ Mt 4:4.

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Aug 18

Written by: Andries
Tuesday, August 18, 2015 5:08:53 AM  RssIcon

A second narrative of Jesus multiplying bread and fish to feed 4000 men plus women and children, is found in Matthew 15: 29 – 39.
 
The gospels often speak about bread against the background of Jesus calling himself the Bread of life!  The message is clear: we do not receive crumbs of his redemption. presence, love, forgiveness and power, but we  receive complete fellowship with him that indicates abundance.
 
But there also is another context that helps to identify the significance of Jesus’ actions involving abundant food. Firstly, we must remember that the world of the first-century Roman Empire was marked by significant inequalities concerning food access.
Many experienced food insecurity and struggled on a daily basis to acquire enough food and nutrition. The small group of ruling elites in the Roman Empire enjoyed an abundant variety of nutritious, excellent food, while the majority of the population lived below subsistence level with inadequate food resources.
The petition in the Lord’s Prayer that God will supply daily bread, reflects this situation (6:11).
The lack of food was one of the ways that the majority experienced the injustices of the oppressive empire. The abundance of the elite signified their abuse of power and influence and total lack of compassion for the poor.
 
The Old Testament clearly states God’s will that hungry people be fed and that enough good, nutritional food would be a sign of the coming of the Messianic Kingdom.
God provided food for the Israelites in the wilderness,  a prophesy of the “land of milk and honey” they would inherit Canaan.
Ezekiel condemns Israel’s leaders or “shepherds” for failing to feed the sheep/people (Ezekiel 34:1-10).
The prophet Isaiah declares God’s will that people “share your bread with the hungry” (Isaiah 58:7, 10).
Jesus endorses the merciful practice of almsgiving that redistributes resources to those in need (Matthew 6:2-4).
Jesus declared that the nations and their governments will be judged, in part, on whether they have provided food for their hungry citizens(25:32-42).
 
The coming age of the Messianic Kingdom is depicted in terms of abundant food and feasting for all. Ezekiel  said  “They shall be secure on their soil … when I break the bars of their yoke, and save them from the hands of those who enslaved them … I will provide for them a splendid vegetation so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land … ” (Ezekiel 34:27-29). This happens when God breaks the self-satisfying rule of oppressive governments and powers.
 
The scène in Matthew 15: 29 – 39 is set in a “wilderness place.” The setting reminds of the exodus and God’s feeding of the wilderness generation (Matthew 14:21).
Crowds joined Jesus in this deserted place.
Jesus’ response was first of all one of compassionate power expressed in healing. His compassion is then powerfully illustrated by feeding this multitude when the disciples produced 7 loaves and some fish.  Jesus took control and hosted the meal. He took the food, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the crowd gathered there.  
 
This narrative echoes the miracles of Elijah in multiplying the meal and oil of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:10-16) and of Elisha in multiplying the widow’s oil, and in feeding one hundred people (2 Kings 4:1-7, 42-44).
 
The blessing on that day in the wilderness,  is expressed in the words: “All ate and were filled.”
Remember Psalm 107:9 celebrating God’s actions of grace and love: “he satisfies the thirsty and the hungry he fills with good things.”
God intervened in this narrative to multiply the limited resources so that there is abundant food. Not only is the crowd of four thousand men plus women and children fed, there were leftovers, “7 baskets full.” Jesus unequivocally demonstrated his lordship over food resources and that the abundance of his provision signifies that “the Kingdom of God has come near”.
 
Jesus hosted a life-giving feast representing , proclaiming and celebrating the gracious abundance of God.  And this is the message we should share with a lost, hungry and oppressed people living in an immoral and power hungry world!
 
 
 

 

    

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