Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 8-6-23 “The Church, a Beacon of Hope.”

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Matthew 14:13-21

The miracle of feeding the 5,00 that we read this morning is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels, and according to the scholars, this fact speaks about the importance the early church gave to this miracle. Scholars believe that with this miracle Jesus faced the reality of poverty in his time, and reminded his followers also about God’s will to feed those who were hungry.  

Verse 13 says, “the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. And verse 14 says, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them.” As I said last Sunday, people followed Jesus because he was a sign of God’s Kingdom, Jesus was good news for the poor and the brokenhearted; those who followed Him were the least and the last of society. The massage of this miracle is the same of last Sunday: Little in God’s hands is much.

The society of the first-century Roman Empire was a society with significant inequalities, especially in food access. Common people experienced food insecurity and struggled daily just to bring food to their table. Jesus’ request in the Lord’s prayer, “give us this day our daily bread” reflects this reality. When Jesus fed this multitude, he fed people who even if they return to their homes or went away into the villages looking for food, as the disciples wanted, they would not been able to buy bread, because many of them did not have money. So, Jesus with this miracle was revealing the reality of poverty of his time.

When Jesus fed the multitude, he also reminded his disciples about God’s will. The Old Testament tradition explicitly reminds Israel, God’s will to feed the hungry. Ezekiel, the prophet of the exile condemns Israel’s leaders or “shepherds” for failing to feed the people or sheep as he calls them (Ezekiel 34:1-10). In the Book of Isaiah in chapter 58 verses 6 and 7 God questioned Israel, He said, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to lose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter; when you see the naked, to clothe them?”

God wanted Israel to do what he did when they were in need in the wilderness. God provided food for the wilderness generation (Exodus 16).

When Jesus fed the 5,000, he also proclaimed the Kingdom of God. The establishment of God’s Kingdom is described in terms of abundance of food and feasting for all. Ezekiel predicts a time when “the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase. They shall be secure on their soil … 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). Ezekiel is foreseeing the Kingdom, a kingdom where God provides for those who are hungry.

Isaiah also anticipates a time when “The LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, and rich food filled with marrow.” (Isaiah 25:6-10a). The reasons why the prophets often represented the Kingdom of God in terms of abundant food is the absence of food in their present. Therefore, when Jesus asked his disciples to feed the multitude, he was not playing a bad joke on them; he was just practicing God’s will and announcing The Kingdom of God.

Now, what message does the miracle of the feeding of 5,000 have for us, disciples of the XXI century? The message is, continue being a beacon of hope. People followed Jesus and his disciples because they saw hope in this group of men and women. Jesus had a message for the poor and the brokenhearted who came to him; Jesus had a healing touch for the sick and comfort for those who grieved. When all of them came to Jesus they found what they were looking for.  

“YOU give them something to eat” continues being the challenge for Christians today and as the disciples we tell him, “Jesus we have not much. All we have here is only some loaves of bread and a couple fish.” This is not even enough to pay the church expenses. And, as before Jesus answers us, Bring them here to me.” Sometimes as the disciples, we believe we must have a lot to do a lot. Last Sunday Jesus reminded us that all we have to do is plant the tiny seed of mustard and let him do his work. Today, he is asking us to bring the bread and fish even when it looks like nothing compared with the need we have, and he will do the miracle of making with us a beacon of hope in this community.

Sisters and brothers, God does not ignore that we have limited resources. Paraphrasing Luke 10:2, God does not ignore that “The harvest is plentiful, and our resources are few. What he is asking us to do is: do your part, bring the little that you have and let me do the rest. God does not need much. However, he needs us to get involved; he needs us to be workers in his fields. Our presence worshiping Him on Sunday is important. If a new person comes to church and sees more empty pews than pews with people, they will feel discouraged and will look for another church. However, if they come and see a church with many people singing and worshiping God, they will feel attracted. Brothers and sister let us bring our bread and fish, let us do our part and God will do the rest.  

Let us prepare for communion.

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