The miracles of Jesus (Matthew 14:13-21)

A Sermon by The Rev’d Joan Claring-Bould

Taize Service Book – August 2020

Miracles were a large part of the teaching and ministry of Jesus. They were a dramatic way of showing that the kingdom of God had come near.

In tonight’s reading, Jesus sought to get some time alone following the death of John the Baptist. He needed time to reflect. But such was his reputation, that the crowds just followed him wherever he went.

So, Jesus gathered them together, and the first thing he did, in spite of his own needs, was to cure the sick. That was so much part of his ministry, and so much part of the expectation of what Jesus would do, that it sounds almost commonplace. We sometimes wonder why it’s not quite so easy for us today.

It was getting late and the crowd was getting hungry, so the disciples suggested that Jesus should send the people into the villages to get something to eat.

The response of Jesus to the reasonable suggestion of the disciples with a stunning , “You give them something to eat.”

In confusion, the disciples explain to Jesus that they only have five loaves and two fish.

Then Jesus took the gathered loaves and fish, looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them back to the disciples for them to distribute to the gathered people. Amazingly, everyone got enough to eat and there were twelve baskets of left-overs.

Behind the powerful scene of the feeding of the multitude, there must have been in the memories of  each of the gospel writers, many incidents when Jesus fed or nourished people – by the way he interacted with them, by the way he spoke to them, looked at them, reached out to them, forgave them and touched them.

Miracles of healing and nourishing still bring wonder and deep joy to us today. They occur when love, compassion, companionship, forgiveness and hope are offered to whoever may find themselves to be the “the poor in spirit” at some time. This includes the lonely, the frightened, those held captive through poverty, addictions, and the various conditions of bodies, minds or spirits common to humankind.

Miracles do not come about through our human abilities, but through the power of Jesus working through those who entrust themselves and their small, personal resources, to Jesus, to bless them, and to put them to God’s use in us.

In contrast to those who you may have seen in movies or on YouTube, who boisterously proclaim and demand miraculous healings for those who have enough faith, it seems that, on the whole, miracles these days most often occur (and become evident), quietly. They are likely to occur in the “still small voice of calm”- the calm that comes from the knowledge of our faith in God’s presence and love ever in us, beside us and overshadowing us.

Tonight’s story of the miraculous feeding of the multitude occurs in all four gospels. This tells us that it was considered a pivotal story for the early church, due to its early reference to the Eucharist, where bread is taken, blessed, broken and distributed.

Even there we can find ourselves missing the point.

“The Church has long worried and argued about whether and how a piece of bread can become Jesus, but the true miracle is that Jesus becomes a piece of bread. This of course says that everywhere and in every circumstance and in every human relationship and  ordinary experience, Jesus comes to us and meets us there. Jesus is truly the bread of life.” (Father Philip Carter)