Alternate reading: Matthew 4:18-22
GOSPEL READING: Matthew 15:29-37
29 And Jesus went on from there and passed along the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain, and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the throng wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel. 32 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.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get bread enough in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied; and they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
SCRIPTURE READING: Isaiah 25:6-10
6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined. 7 And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” 10 For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain, and Moab shall be trodden down in his place, as straw is trodden down in a dung-pit.
Meditation: What sign does God give his people that the promised Messiah, God’s Anointed Son, will come to bring his heavenly peace and blessing and kingdom power to overcome the power of sin and oppression? In Jesus’s time the people were in eager expectation that the Messiah would come soon. The prophets foretold that he would come in the power of Elijah and would perform mighty signs like Moses did when he delivered his people from slavery in Egypt. Some 700 years before Jesus came, Isaiah had prophesied that God would provide a heavenly banquet for all peoples and would destroy death once and for all (Isaiah 25:6-8). Jesus, God’s Anointed Son, came to fulfill that promise.
Signs of the coming of God’s kingdom of grace and power
Jesus’ miracles are both a sign of the coming of God’s kingdom and a demonstration of God’s power to deliver his people from slavery to sin and Satan’s oppressive rule. Jesus’ miracles also showed the magnitude of God’s mercy.
When the disciples were confronted by Jesus with the task of feeding four thousand people many miles away from any source of food, they exclaimed: Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them (Matthew 15:33)? The Israelites were confronted with the same dilemma when they fled Egypt and found themselves in a barren wilderness. Like the miraculous provision of manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4, 15; Psalm 78:24-25), Jesus, himself provides bread in abundance for the hungry crowd who came out into the desert to seek him. The Gospel records that all were satisfied and they took up what was leftover.
Jesus nourishes us with the true bread of heaven
In the multiplication of the loaves and fishes we see a sign and a symbol of what God always does. God knows our needs and he cares. When God gives, he gives in abundance. The Gospel account records that the leftovers from the miraculous meal was more than seven times the amount they began with. Seven is a symbol of completion and wholeness. When God gives, he gives until we are satisfied. When God works for his people he gives abundantly – more than we could deserve and more than we need. He nourishes us with his life-giving word and with the bread of heaven. In the kingdom of heaven God will feast us at his banquet table. Are you satisfied with God’s provision for you? And do you long with expectant hope for the coming of his kingdom in all its fullness?
Lord Jesus, you alone can satisfy the longing and hunger in our hearts. May I thirst for your kingdom and find joy in your presence. Give me the true bread of heaven and nourish me with your life-giving word.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;
2 he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: The joy of the hope rooted in Christ, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
“Having said that the Lord will reign in Zion and Jerusalem, Isaiah leads us to the mystical meaning of the passage (Isaiah 25:6-10). Thus Zion is interpreted as a high place that is good for surveillance, and Jerusalem is the vision of the world. In fact, the church of Christ combines both: it is high and visible from everywhere, and is, so to speak, located on the mountain. The church may be understood as high also in another way: there is nothing low in it, it is far removed from all the mundane things, as it is written, ‘I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’ (Psalm 47:7-8). Equally elevated are its orthodox and divine doctrines; thus the doctrine about God or about the holy and consubstantial Trinity is true, pure and without guile.
“‘The Lord of hosts will make for all people,’ not just for the Israelites elected for the sake of their patriarchs but for all the people of the world. What will he make? ‘A feast of wines on the lees; they will drink joy, they will drink wine. They will be anointed with myrrh on the mountain.’ This joy, of course, means the joy of hope, of the hope rooted in Christ, because we will reign with him, and with him we will enjoy every spiritual joy and pleasure that surpasses mind and understanding. By ‘wine’ he points to the mystical sacrament, that of the bloodless sacrifice, which we celebrate in the holy churches.” (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON ISAIAH 25:6-7)