Satisfied -- Matthew 14:13-21
When our LORD brought his chosen and treasure people out of the land of Egypt, delivering them from slavery, he first brought them out into the wilderness of Sinai. There they discovered the necessities of this life, food and water, were nowhere to be found. Instead, those things would be provided by the LORD. There he provided, according to his steadfast love, bread from heaven in the mornings and meat in the evenings, along with water which flowed from the Rock. Moses notes in Exodus 16 that all who gathered had their fill, none lacked but were satisfied. This was the case all 40 years they wandered. In Deuteronomy Moses reminds the people of this very fact (Dt. 2). The LORD was teaching, displaying his gracious will to care for Israel, his treasured possession.
The LORD’s invitation through the prophet Isaiah in our Old Testament reading for today (Isaiah 55:1-3) is filled with the same compassion and promise. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Isaiah is speaking to a wayward people, a people who have in many ways, rejected the LORD. They have sought out what does not satisfy and “that which is not bread” in many ways like their fathers before them did in the wilderness. However, following several chapters about the coming salvation of the LORD and the promise of the Suffering Servant whose wounds will bring healing, the LORD provides this compassionate invitation to his people. Come, eat. Everyone. It will cost you nothing.
We meet this Suffering Servant in the pages of our gospel reading found in Matthew chapter 14.
Having heard about the death of John the Baptizer, Jesus desires to retreat to a desolate place. Getting into a boat with the disciples, he sets out across the lake. The crowds find out about his trip and they themselves seek him out. They meet each other on the shore of the lake. His compassion overflows so he begins to heal the sick. Time flies. As evening approaches his disciples come to him imploring him to send the people away so that they might be able to find food for themselves. Jesus, the compassionate one, tells the disciples to give them something to eat. They announce that they cannot, they only have some loaves of bread and a couple fish. There is no way they could provide for so many people.
In a way, we are seeing an accurate picture of the disciple’s faith at this time. It seems they were thinking that in order for the people to be fed, they must be sent away. That was the solution, they do not look to Jesus to provide.
The invitation to come to the Lord has been given already, but the disciples are having trouble hearing the invitation. They would have read it in Exodus, and the scroll of Isaiah. It was given on the mount in the beatitudes, in the call to “come to me all who are heavy-laden,” in the miracles and the proclamation that “your faith has made you well.” It has come in the call of each disciple to follow and the parables about the reign of God in Jesus. Those who have ears, hear! When Jesus asks them to bring the fish and bread, we begin to see the Bread of Life at work. As the disciples organize the people, the table is set, the invitation is given, it is time to eat.
The Lord calls his people to hear through Isaiah. He says in chapter 55 verse 3, “incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant…” In the Gospel of according to Matthew, the disciples are still wrestling with the understanding of who Jesus is, and what he has come to do. They hear, but don’t hear, they are not understanding. Their testimony here in the wilderness makes that plain.
What about you? Do you understand that “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Dt. 8).” Do you understand that from Jesus’ mouth, his promises, he speaks life and life in abundance? He speaks the promise, “for the forgiveness of sins.” We will hear those words today. Do you believe? Do you seek that which is not the Bread of Life and that which never satisfies? Listen, hear, incline your ear and live---come. Believe.
Here on the mountainside, in the middle of nowhere, Jesus displays his divine compassion and steadfast love for his people, for all people. He is the Lord of Life, the Bread of Life, the Living Water. In him the reign of God has come to earth to bring that which provides life everlasting—the gift forgiveness. It comes through his obedient life, his lowly death, his glorious resurrection, and the words spoken—“for the forgiveness of sins.”
This is the promise of our Lord Jesus. Hear it! Hear it and you will live, body and soul! He has made an everlasting covenant with you. A new covenant given this day to you in the bread and wine, in his own body and blood, he feeds you life—the forgiveness of your sins. And, on that hillside, just as at this altar today, the food Jesus gives is in great abundance, satisfying every welcomed guest. Today we come to eat and drink at our Lord’s table, with no money. The price is only faith. Faith grasping the promise of Jesus that he is here, that he freely gives, that all who believe are forgiven and have peace and are satisfied.