Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 30, 2014
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
— Matthew 14:13-21, ESV
The feeding of the five thousand might well be the most notable of Christ’s miracles, notably because it is the only one told in all four of the New Testament Gospels. It brings a peak to the popularity of Jesus and prefaces a downhill slide from this hillside in Galilee to the one in Jerusalem called Mount Calvary. In Matthew’s telling, it highlights the love of God, shows what love can do, and loves what only God can do.
The Love of God
Read this text over and over in Matthew (or the other three Gospels) and you won’t find any Greek words translated into the four-letter English word “love.” But you will find a word, in verse 14, that speaks very loudly of love. It is translated “compassion.”
“Compassion” is a particular word found a dozen times in the Gospels and a total of twenty in the New Testament. In the Gospels, it is always used to describe Jesus, or Jesus uses it to describe a Christ-like character in one of His parables. It literally means to be moved on the inside, to feel something deep, because of love, care, and concern for another person or persons. It aptly describes our Lord Jesus Christ, the Christ-like characters the Good Samaritan and the Good Father of the prodigal son, and it ought to describe every follower of Christ (ref. 1 John 3:17).
Note the various ways and means Christ felt compassion in this passage. Jesus was moved because He remembered John the Baptist, and He took some time alone just to think about John. Jesus was moved because He saw people in need, and He immediately got involved in teaching (as recorded in the other Gospels), healing, and providing food. Jesus was mainly moved because people’s main need is the gospel, and He eventually gave them a great gospel presentation. Whenever Jesus encountered people, He was always compassionate, always moved by love, and always took action.
Jesus was moved because Jesus was, is, and always will be God, and God is love (ref. 1 John 4:8,16). And God is the greatest person of all to show us what love can do.
What Love Can Do
While the love of Christ can be seen in His remembrance of John and His healing touch upon members of the crowd, the most spectacular display of love in this story is the miraculous feeding of five thousand men plus over ten thousand other women and children. Jesus accomplished this feat by making a feast with just two fish and five loaves of bread. Love motivated the Lord, love moved Him into action, and love made a meal for about twenty-thousand hungry souls.
As we examine this spectacular miracle, we see some simpler things love can do in the heart of every man, especially a man or woman of God. Jesus was a man, as if He were not God at all; yet, He was God, as if He were not a man at all. He was the God-man, and there are some things in this story for all men to emulate and some things that only God can do. Let us first consider some of the things love can do in all of our hearts.
Love looks at people a certain way. In our sin-soaked, self-centered society, we tend to look at people as commodities to be used. We see them as votes that can usher us into office, as customers who can make us rich, as sex objects who can fulfill our lusts, or as statistics who can pad our pride. A man-centered view of man makes men objects. A God-centered view, however, motivated by the love of God, is quite different. In the long term, people should be looked upon as living souls who will spend eternity either in Heaven or Hell. What can we do to make a difference? In the immediate realm, people should be looked upon as fellow citizens to be cared for and helped. What can we do to help them? This is the way Jesus, God, love incarnate, looked at people.
Love is exceedingly optimistic. Critics are pessimistic, reporters are realistic, but lovers are always optimistic. They see, think, and believe the best. It takes love to overlook a spouse’s obvious faults and stay with them until death parts. It takes love to bear friends’ burdens, believing that one day they will be there to bear ours. It takes love to speak well of the leaders and members of a church in such a way that outsiders will want to attend. It takes love to swallow gossip instead of repeating it because you believe the person in question is better than that, and so are you. It takes optimistic love to connect with God, help other people, and hope that five loaves and two fish can feed thousands of hungry people on a hillside.
Love serves, love hopes, and love never fails, especially in the heart and hands of Jesus. He knew what love can do, and He did what only God can do, as a graphic picture of what only the love of God can do when it transforms a human soul.
What Only the Love of God Can Do
We can do a lot of things with love, but there are at least a couple of things that only God can do. Only God can create something out of nothing. And, only God can take something and make it more.
The Bible asserts that God made everything ex nihilo, or out of nothing. The Creator, out of an honorable love for His own glory and an overflowing love for the people of His choosing, made the heavens and the earth, the seas and the land, the plants and the animals, and every human being. God would have been perfectly sufficient and sufficiently perfect to remain separate from any created person or thing. But, as only God can do, He created creation around the people He created, to show them His great presence, power, and love.
Out of love, God made something out of nothing. How do you think those five loaves of bread and two fish got there in the first place? What about the young boy who brought them? What about the disciples and the crowd around them? At some point in some place on some day in some way, God made nothing something.
Only God can take nothing and make it something, and only God can take something and make it more. The miracle of the moment was taking the matter that constructed five loaves of bread and two fish, a meal made for one, and multiplying it into a dinner party for twenty-thousand, with twelve big baskets of leftovers besides. God took creation and recreated. God took substance that He had generated, and regenerated. God made something, more.
This is exactly what God does in salvation. He takes a human being, created and procreated, and recreates him or her into a brand new, born again child of God. Before the regeneration, we are about as lifeless as the bread and the fish. But in the hands of God, we become more. We are made alive, spiritually, and we are made to pass onto others spiritual life. The bread and the fish kept people from fainting. The Christian and the gospel keep people from dying, eternally, without Jesus Christ as Lord.
The making of the gospel and the remaking of a child of God is something only God can do, and He does it because He loves. The sharing of the gospel and the word of God is something you can do, and you will do it because of love. Take a look at what the love of God can do, in your life and the lives of others.
Take your life and give it to God today. Put it into His loving hands, just like five loaves and two fish. He can make it something more. Put your family into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ, and watch Him make them something more. Let us put our church in the hands of God, and trust Him to multiply it and make it something more for His glory and the good of our community and world.
Let us reach out and do something that only love can do by telling our neighbors and loved ones about what only God can do. Love changes things, and God is love. He can make something out of nothing; and, He can make something, or someone, much, much more.