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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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Matthew 4: 4 
"Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

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May 20

Written by: Andries
Wednesday, May 20, 2020 4:15:27 AM  RssIcon

There are two narratives of Jesus multiplying bread and fish. The second where we are told about 4000 men plus women and children being fed, is found in Matthew 15: 29 – 39.
 
Applying this account of a great miracle of Jesus to our lives today has to take the context of our experience of life into account. In our days where we struggle with the enormous challenge of fighting hunger and famine in our country is the context that informs the application of this miracle to our faith and ministry journey today.
 
What will help us to understand the significance of Jesus’ actions involving abundant food in our time is that 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 also reflects this situation (6:11).
 
The lack of food was one of the ways that the majority experienced the injustices of an oppressive government.
The abundance of the elite signified their abuse of power and influence and total lack of compassion or empathy 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 in 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).
 
Also in the New Testament are we reminded that:
(a) Jesus endorses the merciful practice of almsgiving that redistributes resources to those in need (Matthew 6:2-4).
and (b) that Jesus declared that the nations and their governments will be judged, in part, on whether they have provided food for their hungry citizens (Matthew 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 governors 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’ compassion is powerfully illustrated by feeding this multitude when the disciples produced seven 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. The clear reminder of the Lord’s Supper in this story is significant:  To spiritually feed people with the body and blood of Christ must lead to a strong urge to feed the poor with good food and at least clean water.
 
Our 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 of the miracle of the multiplication of food in the wilderness is expressed in the words: “All ate and were filled.”
 
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, but there were even leftovers, “seven baskets full.” Jesus unequivocally demonstrated his lordship over food resources and prioritising 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 where people are so afraid to die, that they are asked to stop to live!!  Their hunger and thirst is a first priority to Jesus Christ, the Head and King of his Church. It should also be our first priority as we encounter the world as the ambassadors of Christ on earth.  

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