Leftovers

Pentecost 8 – St. Matthew 14:13-21

If you were to open up any English Bible, printed in the last 100 years or so, and if you went to St. Matthew 14:13-22, and looked at this account, you would see that someone, somewhere along the line, added a heading to this account; sort of a summary of what you are about to read.

And at St. Matthew 14:13, you are going to see a header that reads: The Feeding of the 5000.

And if I were to give you a pop quiz, to summarize the Gospel text in a few words, you would probably tell me the same thing: that the Gospel that we just heard is Jesus feeding the 5000.

And if you were to ask me to summarize the Gospel text in a single sentence, I would tell you the same thing: the Gospel text is Jesus and the feeding of the 5000.

And make no mistake about it; your ears did not deceive you. The Gospel text is in fact the feeding of the 5000.

And do not let me take anything away from it; feeding 5000 people with a few loaves and some fish is a miracle.

You can in fact see the place where this is said to have traditionally happened in Israel. It is by necessity, a large open field, with lush green grass. The place where this is said to have occurred has an abnormality to it, in that even without a microphone set up, sound travels in such a way, that people in the back can hear just as plainly and clearly as those up front.

What this field does not have however, is a grocery store; or a Walmart or Sam’s Club, or even a gas station; let alone a restaurant. And none of those are within walking distance either.

So when the boy shows up with his basket of fish and loaves; that is literally all that there is in that field to eat. None of the disciples called in an order for pizzas; no one is on their way to the store to buy some more bread; no one has extra snacks in their backpack that they picked up at the last rest stop.

Five loaves and two fish; and that is it.

And so the miracle that is put before us is that Jesus takes the loaves and the fish, blesses them, and the food is distributed and everyone eats to their fill.

The multiplication of the loaves and the fish stumps us a little, and it probably stumps the crowds there on that day as well; but if Jesus can raise the dead and cast out demons, it stands to reason He can make bread and fish go a little further if He has to.

But before we leave this field, and head for home, there is another miracle that largely goes unnoticed.

It goes unnoticed because we do not think of it as a miracle, but rather as a mistake.

There are 12 baskets of leftovers.

Think about that for a moment. 12 baskets of leftovers is a lot of leftovers. Depending on the size of the baskets, that could be enough food for dozens of more people, if not even more than that.

You do not see that happen on the Food Network cooking shows, where they are cooking for huge crowds of people. In fact, they often brag that no matter how many people they fed, there were no leftovers at all.

At baseball and football stadiums, where 20-30,000 people gather and make frequent use of the concession stands, leftover food is a bad thing. Leftover popcorn and pretzels can be heated up the next day, but other food, like hot dogs and chicken strips, must be thrown away.

Even in the home, what is your reaction to leftovers? Perhaps in some cases you welcome them, but only in moderation. Leftovers can be used again for one extra meal, but definitely not 12 baskets full, meaning leftovers for many, many, many days to come.

To be honest, leftovers are usually the sign of a bad meal. Leftovers mean someone did not eat their appointed share. Leftovers mean that perhaps, this meal should not be made ever again.

And if that were not enough, then there is always the guilt that leftovers give us. How dare you have leftovers when there are people starving in the streets! How dare you even think of throwing away the tiniest amount of food, when there are countries where that tiny amount of food would be the equivalent of a great feast.

Leftovers get a bad rap; no one wants to eat them, but then again, no one wants to throw them away either. So at any and all costs, leftovers must be avoided. To have even the tiniest bit leftover is a cooking failure; food should only be made in the exact proportions to which it will be eaten.

So as we walk past the 12 baskets of leftovers, we shake our heads. Jesus messed up. You would think a guy who could raise the dead, would be able to get the exact amount of bread and fish multiplied so that there would be no leftovers at all.

How wasteful. How neglectful. What will become of these 12 baskets? Could this miracle have not occurred closer to town, where this food might be given to the poor?

Sorry Jesus, but looks like you goofed.

 

But of course, that depends on how you look at those 12 baskets.

Remember the circumstances of our field: there is nothing else around. The food that Jesus provides is the only food available to anyone.

And as the crowds make their way home later that evening, imagine their amazement when they see the 12 baskets of leftovers.

They had each eaten their fill; no one was hungry any longer. And as they leave, they see that there is still more food to be had.

Jesus had not measured to the exact amount to feed the exact number of people there, although He certainly could have; rather He had provided abundantly and overwhelmingly out of His goodness, and not only had everyone had their fill, but there was still more to be had.

The first miracle of is that Jesus provides all that we need; the second miracle is that even after Jesus provides all that we need, there is still more in reserve.

And that is the true impressive nature of this miracle. We know that God provides all of the First Article gifts that we confess in the Creed of clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home; wife and children, land, animals and all that we have. And we thank Him profusely for these gifts.

But God does not stop there. For there is always more in reserve. If your clothes are worn out, or to small; you can go to the store and get new clothes. If you desire food and drink, you can go to the refrigerator or the cupboard, and get more; or you can go to the store and buy more. If your house needs work, or if it too far from where you want to be, you can always move to another house.

And when you need to have your sins forgiven, there is always more of that available as well. God always has blessings to provide you with, and when you have had your fill, He has more in reserve for you.

No matter how many people showed up in that field, there was going to be enough food for them to eat; and not only would there have been enough to feed several more, but there would have been enough to feed several more after that.

No matter how many times you show up here, there will always be enough forgiveness for you; and not only will there be enough for today, but there will be enough for every day after that, until Christ comes to take you to Himself.

The blessings of God never run out; and there are always more in reserve. That is the true miracle today: no matter what you need, God has it for you, and He has it in abundance.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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