Matthew 15:29-38 “Don’t
& Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 14 Oct 2012
15:29 And having transitioned from there,
Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee, and after going
up the hill, He sat down there.
15:30 And many crowds
approached Him, having with themselves crippled, blind, mute, maimed and many
other [folks], and they dropped them off by the feet of Jesus.
And He healed them,
15:31 so that the crowds
marveled as they saw mute men talking, maimed men healthy, crippled men walking
around, and blind men seeing, and they glorified the God of Israel!
15:32 Then Jesus summoned
His disciples and said, “I am feeling compassion on this crowd,
since it has already been
three days they have been remaining with me,
and they don’t have
anything to eat,
and I am not willing to
send them away without dinner, lest they faint on the road!”
15:33 Then His disciples
say to Him, “Where in [this] desert would this many bread-loaves be for us, so
as to satisfy this much of a crowd?”
15:34 And Jesus said to them, “How many bread-loaves do y’all have?”
And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.”
15:35 Then He ordered the crowds to recline upon the ground,
15:36 and, taking the seven bread-loaves and the fish, He gave thanks,
and gave [them] to His disciples, and the disciples to
15:37 And they all ate
and were satisfied,
and they picked up the
surplus of the pieces: seven full hampers!
15:38 Yet the men who
were eating numbered four thousand – apart from women and children!
15:39 And, after
dismissing the crowds, He got into the boat and went into the seaside area of
God’s daily bread for a persecuted pastor
Years ago I heard an amazing testimony to God’s provision for His
people that I want to relate to you. Unfortunately, I have forgotten many of
the details over the years, but the gist of the story is that a Christian
pastor and his family were being persecuted by the communist government of their
country, so they were forced to flee over the border to a kind-of no-man’s land
where they were safe from being killed. This pastor would hold worship services
for other refugees who settled in the area and teach them about Jesus, but soon
he became concerned that he and his family had escaped from murder only to die
slowly of starvation, for there was almost no food to be found in that place,
and they had no money to buy food. As he prayed to the Lord in his hunger, he
felt led to drop a string into a nearby pond in a certain place. As soon as he
did so, a big fish chomped down on the string and he pulled it in, thus God
provided dinner for his family that day. The next day he went fishing in the
same spot and got another fish just as big. For a whole year, if I remember the
testimony correctly, he caught one fish every day. Sometimes he tried to see if
he could fish for longer and get a second fish, but never got a second fish. At
some point he talked with some other refugees about this daily source of food
he had found, and it was then that he realized something more astonishing:
nobody else had ever been able to catch fish in that pond – I don’t remember if
it had been poisoned by Communist soldiers or if it was too small to support a
school of fish, but whatever the case, this 20th Century pastor
realized that he had experienced nothing short of a daily miracle!
In the passage in Matthew before us today, there is nothing new. We
have seen all these miracles before –healings, exorcisms, and multiplication of
fish and bread, but I want to try to look at these miracles with new eyes and consider
well how we can trust God Almighty to take care of our needs.
15:29 And having transitioned from
there, Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee, and after going up the hill, He sat
εκειθεν ‘ο Ιησους
ηλθεν παρα την
θαλασσαν της Γαλιλαιας
και αναβας εις
- So Jesus departedKJV,NAS/went on fromESV/leftNIV
the region of Tyre and Sidon where He healed the Canaanite woman’s
daughter and, according to Mark’s Gospel, went around the Sea of Galilee
to the North and down into Decapolis, the gentile Greek towns to the East
of the Sea of Galilee.
- It’s hard to tell from the sketchy details of
these Gospel accounts exactly where the feeding of the 4,000 occurred, but
it was probably up on one of the hillsides surrounding the Sea of Galilee
on its East side.
- What this indicates to me is that this was a
continuation of ministry among Gentiles.
- From Jesus’ healing of the Syrophonecian woman,
the disciples might have concluded that ministry to Gentiles was
permissible, but an exception to the rule.
- But this next event would prove that ministry to
the Gentiles was just as valid as ministry to the Jews, as He heals and
feeds crowds and crowds of gentiles on the East side of the lake.
- Matthew specifically mentions the fact that Jesus
“sat down” which probably indicates that He was teaching them as well.
- Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:10 was being
fulfilled which says the nations (ἐθνῶν/עמים) will look with anticipation (LXX=προσδοκία)
and gather to obey (MT=יקהת) the Messiah.
many crowds approached Him, having with themselves crippled, blind, mute, maimed
and many other [folks], and they dropped them off by the feet of Jesus. And He
παρα τους ποδας
- The connotation of this Greek word for “castKJV/laidNAS,NIV/putESV”
is that the crowds considered these sick people as a problem to be
- The last place we saw this word was in Jesus’
observation of the crowd at the end of chapter 9 being “harassed and
- The only other occurrence of the word in Matthew
is when Judas took the 30 pieces of silver he got for betraying Jesus and
“threw” it into the temple.
- I think the KJV is the best translation here,
saying that the multitudes “cast” off these sick people at the feet of
- But even though the crowds saw the sick people
as a burden to be gotten rid of, Jesus received each one with love and
respect and healed them. Halleluiah, what a savior!
- Don’t forget the
needy: This example of personal attention to needy people who were
rejected by society is an example Jesus set for us to follow.
- Mark details the
healing of one particular deaf man at this point:
They *brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they
*implored Him to lay His hand on him. Jesus took him aside from the crowd,
by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He
touched his tongue with the saliva;
and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He *said to him,
"Ephphatha!" that is, "Be opened!" And his ears were
opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. And He gave
them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more
widely they continued to proclaim it. (Mark 7:32-36 NASB)
- We think of what Jesus did as a nice thing, but
by now, we’ve heard of so many occasions where Jesus healed people that
none of us are impressed any more at the miraculous-ness of what He did.
It becomes ho-hum because it happened so often. Stop and think about it
again! Don’t ever let the miracles of Jesus become humdrum to you!
- He took a man whose leg was so deformed that he
could not walk, and, without doing surgery, reconstructed the bones and
tendons and muscles and blood vessels and nerves in that man’s leg so
that he could walk! Amazing!
- Jesus took a man
who could not see anything and instantly fixed all that was wrong with
that incredibly complex organ we call the eye and enabled him to see.
- Jesus took a man who was unable to hear or speak,
and not only caused his eardrums and all to work properly, but placed a
lifetime of language-learning information in his brain so that a man who
had never communicated in words before suddenly began forming words and
sentences with a tongue and lips and vocal chords he had never used
before to make words. Incredible!
- Jesus took a man whose leg or arm had been
maimed in an accident so badly that it was twisted and disfigured and
useless for work, and He restored it to full strength, just like that.
Wonderful beyond words!
15:31 so that the crowds marveled as
they saw mute men talking, maimed men healthy, crippled men walking around, and
blind men seeing, and they glorified the God of Israel!
ωστε τους οχλους θαυμασαι βλεποντας κωφους
λαλουντας κυλλους ‘υγιεις χωλους περιπατουντας και τυφλους βλεποντας
τον θεον Ισραηλ
- I wish I could have been there! What a party that
must have been! What joy must have been continually erupting around the
Son of God as He sat there, healing one after another of these broken
people and speaking to them!
- “Hear Him, you deaf, His praise, you dumb, your
loosened tongues employ. You blind behold your savior come, and leap you
lame for joy!” ~Charles Wesley
- This was proof positive that God had sent Jesus
to be the savior of the world!
- Notice the object of
their praise: “They glorified the God of Israel.” This is remarkable
- They were praising a God that was foreign to
them – the God of Israel, not of Greece
- They gave God the glory instead of
praising a man, even though it was a man performing the miracles,
- and it even seems that they recognized Jesus to
be Himself the God of Israel and praise Him as such!
- Of course these gentiles weren’t the first to
praise the God of Israel, but it’s always exciting to see it happen:
- King Hiram of Tyre glorified the God of Israel
back in 2 Chronicles 2:12,
- and so did the Philistine lords in 1 Sam 6:5.
- In Jesus’ day, it
was the Samaritan leper who came back to thank Jesus for healing
- And this is the
fulfillment of prophecy: Gentiles glorifying the God of Israel is exactly
what Isaiah prophecied in 24:15 “Therefore in the east, in the coastlands
of the sea, glorify Jehovah - the Name of Jehovah, the God of Israel! (NAW)
- Let us as Gentiles
on the other side of the world be sure not to miss out on the party
centered around Jesus; let us join in praising the God of Israel!
15:32 Then Jesus summoned His
disciples and said, “I am feeling compassion on this crowd, since it has
already been three days they have been remaining with me, and they don’t have [anything]
– what shall they eat?, and I am not willing to send them away without dinner,
lest they faint on the road!”
‘Ο δε Ιησους
τους μαθητας αυτου-KWΘ ειπεν Σπλαγχνιζομαι
επι τον οχλον ‘οτι
μοι και ουκ
ου θελω μηποτε εκλυθωσιν
εν τη ‘οδω
- Mark 8:3 mentions the additional fact that some
of these people have come from far away.
- We have already seen in Mt. 9:36 and 14:14 that
gut-wrenching compassion was part of Jesus’ character – and it
continues today to characterize Him.
- Another character trait of Jesus is that He
doesn’t leave His people empty.
- In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve food
from every tree - save one.
- In the Exodus from Egypt, God gave His people manna and quail to eat in the wilderness.
- In Psalm 107, David says, “Let them acknowledge
to the Lord his mercies, and his wonderful works to the children of men.
For he satisfies the empty soul, and fills the hungry soul with good
things” (Ps. 107:8-9, Brenton)
- And then while pregnant with Jesus, His mother
Mary sang of how God “fills the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53).
- God doesn’t leave His people empty – either
physically or spiritually. Think of how often the words “fill” and
“fullness” occur in the Bible. If you’re feeling empty, maybe you need to
spend some time alone with Him.
- Three days without a square meal was a long time
for these people to stay and listen to Jesus teach and watch Him heal.
Jesus cares about our physical needs. He was not willing to say goodbye
while they were still hungry after having fasted/gone without eating for
- Remember the Lance snacks slogan: “Don’t go ‘round
hungry!” But Jesus wasn’t selling anything; this was genuine compassion.
- Is it possible that some of them presumptuously didn’t
bring food because they were just waiting for Jesus to provide food for
them like He did at the feeding of the 5,000? I don’t know, but by
waiting three days without food, maybe Jesus weeded out most of the
freeloaders, and He made it worth the wait of everyone who waited for
15:33 Then His disciples say to Him,
“Where in [this] desert would this many bread-loaves be for us, so as to satisfy
this much of a crowd?”
μαθηται αυτου Ποθεν
ημιν εν ερημια
- This was a remoteNIV, desolateNAS
place – it sounds like there weren’t even any hamlets nearby where people could
buy food, like was the case in the feeding of the 5,000.
- Could enough food to satisfy a crowd of 3,000+ be
found in a desert?
- The word “feedNIV/ fillKJV/
- is the same Greek word Jesus used in the
beatitudes “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they themselves will be satisfied.” (Mat. 5:6, NAW) Hey, if you are hungry for righteousness, God
will satisfy you.
- This is also the same word from the feeding of
the 5,000 “and all ate and were satisfied” (14:20, NAW), so if Jesus
could satisfy a crowd once, He could do it again.
- And if He could do it in the First Century, He
could do it in our century.
- Yet it appears that the disciples had not grasped
this yet. “Where could that much bread be found for us in a desert?” they
- Now, how could they have forgotten that Jesus
had just fed a larger crowd in similar circumstances a chapter earlier?
- Perhaps part of their question was, “Of course
God might provide miraculously for Jews like He provided manna in
the wilderness for the Jews escaping from Egypt and like He fed the 5,000
on the Jewish side of the sea of Galilee, but would God provide for a
crowd of Gentiles? These Jewish disciples were skeptical that God
would do such a thing for a bunch of unclean pork-eaters.
15:34 And Jesus said to them, “How
many bread-loaves do y’all have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few little
Και λεγει αυτοις ‘ο Ιησους
εχετε; ‘Οι δε
και ολιγα ιχθυδια
- In the Bible stories, it is interesting how often
a person comes up against a need for resources on a magnitude that only God
can provide, and yet God starts by asking what they have to put
towards that need:
- When God told Moses to go convince the king of Egypt to release all the Jewish slaves, Moses knew he needed supernatural help, but when he
asked, God said, “What is in your hand?” Well, he had a rod in his hand,
so God used that to perform his first miraculous sign for Pharaoh.
- The widow whose
sons were about to be sold as slaves to pay her debts came to the prophet
Elisha and begged for help. So what did the prophet do? He asked her,
“What do you have in your house?” She had a jar of oil. So her
deliverance came through selling oil – lots of it, as it continued to
pour miraculously out of her little jar. (2 Ki. 4)
- Fast-forwarding to Jesus’ day, at the feeding of
the 5,000, Jesus could have created a 7-course meal out of thin air, but
He didn’t; He multiplied the 5 loaves and 2 fish from a little boy who
had carried them there for his dinner.
- It’s a little funny the way the disciples in
this story downplay what they have. It’s the only time in the Bible that the
word for “fish” is spelled in its diminutive form “little fishies” – it’s
like the disciples are underscoring how inadequate their resources
are – “Yeah, we’ve got a few fish… but they’re really little.” (Later on
in v.36, when the fish are mentioned again, it’s just the regular word
for “fish” - Icthus).
- What resources do you have that you can offer to
God for Him to multiply miraculously beyond your wildest dreams?
- But Jesus takes what they’ve got, and He uses that.
15:35 Then He ordered the crowds to
recline upon the ground,
και εκελευσεν τω οχλω αναπεσειν επι την γην
- Just as Jesus did before feeding the 5,000 in Mt.
14:19, Jesus bids them prepare to eat by assuming the position that they
normally would when they ate,
which, for people in His culture was a reclining position. It took some
faith in Jesus for these people to sit down to eat when there was no food
- This is a little later in the year than the
feeding of the 5,000, so although the accounts of the feeding of the 5,000
say the 5,000 sat down on the “green grass,” that grass is now withered,
and this crowd of 4,000 just has to sit on the bare ground. This is just
one of those details that lets us know it was an eyewitness who is
relating this true story to us.
15:36 and, taking the seven
bread-loaves and the fish, He gave thanks, broke and gave [them] to His
disciples, and the disciples to the crowds.
τους ‘επτα αρτους
και τους ιχθυας
τοις μαθηταις [αυτου]
‘οι δε μαθηται τοις
15:37 And they all ate and were
satisfied, and they picked up the surplus of the pieces: seven full hampers!
και ηραν το περισσευον
των κλασματων ‘επτα
- This is word-for-word the same as the description
of the feeding of the 5,000 except that instead of 12 baskets the
size of shopping or picnic baskets full of leftovers,
there are seven baskets the size of bushel baskets or
laundry hampers full of leftovers.
- (This was the same kind of basket that they hid
the Apostle Paul in when he escaped from Damascus, but that’s another
- Is there any significance to the seven
baskets? Seven is a number which signifies completeness and perfection.
Apparently there was somewhere the disciples could get that much
bread in that deserted area – and that was from Jesus!
- “God’s power is not tied to means or helps and…
it does not matter to Him whether there be much or little (cf. Jonathan
in 1 Sam. 14:6)” ~John Calvin
15:38 yet the men who were eating numbered four thousand – apart
from women and children!
- So once again, a crowd of people – probably
Gentiles this time – who trusted in Jesus and worshipped the God of Israel
were fed by the hand of the Lord.
What can we learn from this story?
forget the POWER of Jesus.
forget the COMPASSION of Jesus.
- It is worth
reviewing the Gospel stories to refresh in our minds the power of
Jesus demonstrated in His many miracles. Never let the miracles of Jesus
become humdrum to you!
- Back in Matthew
11:5, we saw that these amazing miracles were prophesied hundreds of
years in advance by Isaiah, as signs of the coming of God to save His
people: “God… Himself will come, and He will save you. Then the eyes of
the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
Then the lame will leap like the stag, and the tongue of the mute will
shout for joy…” (Isa. 35:4b-6, NAW) Nobody
else has done all this; this is proof that Jesus is God who came to save
us, and that He has the power to help us!
- The same Jesus who had compassion on the “harassed
and helpless" and hungry crowds continues to have compassion on His
- He is not so callous as to stand back and let
- He took the cast-offs of society and showed
personal love to them, and He continues to do that today.
- “For we do not have a high priest who cannot
sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all
things as we are, yet
without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of
grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of
need.” (Heb. 4:15-16, NASB)
- So, remembering His power and compassion…
forget to trust Him to provide for your needs.
- It’s easy for us to criticize the disciples for
doubting God’s provision there on the shore of Galilee, but if we are
honest with ourselves, I think we’ll find that we struggle just as much
with doubts that are just as ridiculous. How many times do we find
ourselves wondering if God will provide for our needs?
- We think, “Sure, God provided for the Israelites
in that desert. But that was then; this is now! He doesn’t do those
sorts of things anymore, and even if He did, he wouldn’t do it for me!”
- We hear stories of how God provided for pastors
from communist countries or for George Mueller when he trusted God to
feed all those orphans in London, and we think, “Well, of course God
would do things like that for a great man of God like him,” but we’re
skeptical that God would be so generous with struggling Christians like
- Remember that God doesn’t leave His people
empty. If the compassion and power of Christ demonstrated in the feeding
of the 4,000 are not enough for you to counteract those doubts, then
listen to some more promises from God’s word:
- “The steps of a
man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who
holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen
the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread.” (Ps. 37:23-25,
- “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of
the land of Egypt: open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Psalm
might have to wait, like the crowd did for three days, but He will make
it worth the wait, whatever it is that you are legitimately waiting on
Him in faith for.
- Many of us can look back to times in our lives
when we had a desperate need, and we prayed and God provided for us, but later
when we come up against a similar need again, we doubt that God would do
it again for us. Just like the disciples this second time after Jesus had
already fed a crowd once.
- This happens all the time with me. I have been
a faith-supported minister for over 22 years, and I’ve had countless
experiences where God provided miraculously for me, such as when I was
without a vehicle because I couldn’t afford the repair bill, or hungry
because I couldn’t afford to buy food, or homeless because I couldn’t
pay the rent, just to mention a few, and time after time God took care
of me. And yet, still today, every time it looks like things are getting
into a pinch financially, I panic and wonder if God will provide for me this
time. “Oh God, I believe, but help my unbelief!”
- Apparently John Calvin struggled with the same
doubts. He wrote, “The disciples betray a too-brutish dullness when they
do not remember the earlier proof of Christ’s power and grace and
turn it to their present use… And because daily, a like dullness
creeps over us, we must be the more careful never to let our
minds be turned aside from reckoning the benefits of God. Past
experience must teach us to hope for the future the same blessing
which God has once or often bestowed upon us.”
to look to Jesus to meet your spiritual needs
- “Whatever our case
is, the only way to find ease and relief, is to lay it at Christ’s feet,
to spread it before Him… submit it to Him and refer it to His disposal.”
- The physical needs are the urgent ones which
captivate our attention – when we’re hungry or tired or threatened or
trapped, but our greatest problem is our sin that offends God and brings
on death and hell as its wages.
- Don’t let the crises and emergencies in our
earthly experience make us too busy to confess our sins to God and ask
Jesus to apply His death on the cross to us in payment for our
sins, and trust Jesus to make us right with God.
- “The spiritual cures that Christ works
are wonderful. When blind souls are made to see by faith, the dumb to
speak in prayer, the lame to walk in holy obedience, it is to be wondered
at.” ~Matthew Henry
to thank God for His providence.
- When God provides for us a tasty meal or a
delightful time with a friend or a refreshing rest or a ray of sunlight
or a sudden insight, let us not forget to glorify Him for His blessings
- And, of course when He answers a deep need or a
- “Sing to the Lord a new song; for the Lord has
wrought wonderful works, His right hand, and his holy arm, have wrought
salvation for him.” (Psalm 98:1, Brenton)