We begin with verse thirteen of our text, “13Now 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” (v. 13). What Jesus had heard was that His cousin and friend, His way preparer, John the Baptist, had been beheaded by Herod. Jesus, a man of love and compassion, felt the pain of the loss of John, so He withdrew to be by Himself in order to have time to be in prayer and communion with His Father in heaven, in order to be consoled, comforted and strengthened. Here we see what a wonderful example Jesus sets for us. Here we see Jesus, who we know is truly God, reveal Himself to us as also being truly human, showing us His need to spend time in prayer. Jesus, true man, needs to spend time in prayer so that He might be comforted and strengthened in His own earthly life. If Jesus needs time for prayer, how much more do we, sinful human beings, also need time for prayer?
Yet, His time for prayer did not last very long. We pick up at verse fourteen of our text, “14When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (v. 14). Here we see that Jesus always had time, took time, and made time, for those in need. Even as He had a need to be in communion with His Father in heaven, even as He had a need to be spiritually strengthened, and even though He had His own needs, the needs of the people were always before Him and He was always ready, willing and able to meet their needs. Who is Jesus? He is a compassionate human person.
But Jesus is more than just a compassionate human person. Our text picks up at verse fifteen, “15Now 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’” (v. 15). When the crowds had found Jesus and began to flock around Him, He responded by preaching and teaching and by healing those who had need. And He did this all day long. As the day drew to a close, Jesus, again, had compassion on the people. These people had been with Him all day with nothing to eat. Jesus knew their need for physical nourishment, if nothing else, so they would be able to make the walk home. His disciples understood this as well, yet their suggestion is to send the people away so they can fend for themselves.
Jesus has a different answer. We read verse sixteen, “16But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat’” (v. 16). Jesus tells His disciples that they are to give the people something to eat. The disciple are to feed these people, these over five thousand men, along with the women and children, as we find out a little later. One commentator suggested the crowd may have been as large as 15, 000 people.
We read at verse seventeen, “17They said to him, ‘We have only five loaves here and two fish.’ 18And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19Then 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” (v. 17-19). After a quick survey of the crowd, and the physical resources or food that was available, five loaves and two fish are found and brought to Jesus. Jesus offers prayers for the meal and then the food is distributed to the crowd.
Picking up at verse twenty, “20And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (v. 20-21). Not only does Jesus feed the crowd, He feeds them with as much as they want until they are satisfied. His is the best buffet, the best smorgasbord, the best all you can eat dinner. And then, after the meal was complete, after everyone had enough to eat, He also provides twelve basketfuls of leftovers, perhaps a sign to each one of His skeptical disciples, one basketful for each. There are several things we learn from this miracle, one of which is, what I think is the obvious but most missed point and that is that not only is Jesus human, He is also divine, that is He is God. We see that He is God because who else could bless a meal of five loaves and two fish and multiply it to feed over five thousand, perhaps even 15, 000 people? Here we see Jesus as God Himself and the crowd sees Jesus as a miracle worker. We also see the fact that Jesus came to provide for His people, namely for the children of Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel, perhaps as noted with the twelve baskets of left overs. Who is this Jesus? Previously we have said that He is a compassionate human being. Now we would say that He is also a compassionate and loving God who provides for the needs of His people. Might I remind you that the very reason God created us is to love us?
So, let us review. Who is this Jesus? Jesus shows Himself to be truly human. He is tired and He needs rest, that is why He went off to be by Himself. He is hungry and He understands the hunger and the needs of the crowd. He is in need of spiritual, emotional, and physical rest, comfort and consolation. He is a man of compassion, that is a deep seated affection for others. Certainly He shows Himself to be completely human.
Who is this Jesus? Jesus shows Himself to be truly God. He is able to preach and teach for extended periods of time without need for human nourishment, although He does let us know that He, too, gets hungry. He is always ready, willing and able to provide healing for those who are sick or in any need. He has power over the things of this world, power over the food in order to make it multiply to feed the crowds. Other times He has shown His power over nature in His ability to calm a storm, raise from the dead, change water into wine and the like. We see His powers over the spiritual world as we see Him cast out demons and give faith to unbelievers. Certainly He shows Himself to be completely divine, that is that He is truly God.
So what? So what if Jesus is truly human and truly divine? What does that have to do with me? That almost sounds like a line from that one song on the radio that keeps asking the question, “What about me?” But, that is how we are as sinful human beings, is it not? Do we not tend to always ask the questions, “What about me?” “What is in it for me?” Our concern is for ourselves. So, what about us? We may not want to admit it, because we might think that it makes us less of a person, less worthy or whatever, but are we not, at times, tired, lonely, hungry, and the like? Do we not have doubts? Do we not sin? And here I will not just say, “Do we,” but how often do we find ourselves in need. We have the need to be in prayer. We have the need to be in communication with our heavenly Father.
Also, very often we need healing. Sometimes we need physical healing. We need healing from bumps, scrapes, bruises and the like, and worse. Other times we need emotional healing. We need healing from emotional hurts and heart aches, from spats with family and friends. We need healing from the pain of the loss of a loved one. We sometimes need physical and emotional healing, but we always need spiritual healing. We need healing from the fact that we are conceived and born in sin and we daily sin much adding to our weight and burden of sin and the guilt associated with that sin. Forgiveness is our greatest need, because without forgiveness we would be left to pay the price for our sins ourselves and let me remind you that the price for sin is death, eternal spiritual death, hell in other words. Unfortunately, we do not always readily give up our sin and even when we ask for forgiveness, there are many times when we reject complete forgiveness as we cling to our guilt which tells us that we have not rid ourselves of our sin and have rejected God’s forgiveness. Yes, we are always in need of spiritual healing which only comes from the forgiveness of sins.
Thanks be to God that we have Jesus. Jesus provides for all our needs, guaranteed. He provides for all our physical needs. He provides us with food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home and all that we need for the support of our bodily needs. Not only that, Jesus also provides for all our emotional and spiritual needs. Through His means of grace, that is, through the Word and the sacraments, through our making regular and diligent use of His means of grace, reading our Bible, coming to divine service to hear the Word of God, confessing our sins and hearing His Word of absolution, remembering our Baptism, and coming to the Lord’s Supper, our Lord provides for us gifts of faith, and strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life, that is, life in this world and life in the world to come, even eternal salvation.
Our most basic need, the thing we need the most is the forgiveness of sins and our Lord provides that for us first and foremost. As we hear the message of Jesus having compassion on the people; as we hear the message of Jesus preaching to and teaching the people; as we watch Jesus cast out demons and heal people of every kind of illness; as we watch Jesus provide food for the nourishment of the people, that is, as we watch Jesus provide for all the needs of the people in our text, we can know for certain that He daily and richly provides for all our needs as well. Who is Jesus? He is God in flesh who came to give His all, especially, first and foremost, to give His life, to suffer and die, to pay the price, the cost for our sins, which is the shedding of blood, which is eternal spiritual death and He did this, gladly and willingly for each one of us, for you and for me, because of His great love for us.
With that said, I want to conclude with Paul’s words of reassurance from our Epistle lesson from last Sunday. Paul tells us, “35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). Yes, Jesus demonstrates who He is and what He does for us so that we might give Him thanks and praise saying, “To Him be the glory,” for Jesus’ sake. Amen.