Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 24 2013 - Matthew 15:29-16:12 – Give us this day our daily bread

Matthew 14 records Jesus feeding the five thousand from five small loaves and two fish. Matthew 15 records a similar feeding, now of four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish. In both accounts the background is similar: Jesus had sought to find a place where he could be alone with his disciples but the crowds had sought him out. They had come bringing their sick for healing. Jesus not only healed their various diseases, he also had compassion on them and fed them before sending them away. In both accounts it is emphasised that the crowd were fully satisfied; they ate their fill and there was food left over.

Jesus' actions with the crowd stand out in strong contrast with his conduct when tempted by the devil after his baptism. Jesus had been fasting for forty days in a desert place when the devil tempted him to turn stones into bread. Jesus would not use his miraculous powers for his own benefit but answered that God's people should live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And this was how he continued to live; this was the food he had that the disciples failed to understand (John 4:32). But here, on two occasions he feeds the crowds in the "desert" place – the uninhabited countryside. Jesus will not use his powers for his own comfort, but he will use them to meet the needs of the crowds, for he has compassion on them. He heals their sicknesses and provides food to sustain them.

In his Gospel account, John tells us that the crowds saw a parallel between Jesus' feeding of them and the manna which the Israelites ate in the wilderness. And they were right to do so, for the God who had compassion upon their ancestors and provided for them in the desert is the one who now stands among them showing the same compassion. But they fail to see the depth of God's compassion for them. They would be satisfied with bread in their stomachs but Jesus has come to give himself for their healing.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came asking Jesus for a sign. Jesus refused to offer them yet another sign. They had seen the things he was doing and had heard the things he was teaching and that should have been sign enough if they only had eyes to see it (see 15:31). Yet he does tell them that they will witness one further sign, the sign of Jonah. By this, Jesus refers to his own death and resurrection. This is the ultimate sign and the ultimate display of his compassion. Jesus gave himself that we might live. He is the Word of God by which we live. His death has defeated death and his resurrection is the beginning of the life of the age to come.

Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee.

Father in heaven, give us this day our daily bread. Jesus, Lord of compassion, feed me and satisfy me with your goodness. Lord, open my eyes to see the needs of this crowded world. Give me your heart of compassion that, by the power of your Spirit and out of the abundance of your provision, I may minister freely to those who are hungry, those who are sick and to those in desert places who thirst for the water of life.

Peter Misselbrook