In John’s Gospel we are told that if everything was written down about Jesus that could be written down, the whole world would not be able to contain the books which would be written (John 21:25). Yet, within a very short space, Matthew shares two nearly identical stories of Jesus feeding thousands of people with virtually nothing in hand. Why would Matthew do this? What was he trying to say? The first instance is remarkable enough. The disciples approach Jesus, concerned for the welfare of the crowds, saying “Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Matthew 14:15. But Jesus insists that the disciples themselves give the crowds something to eat. The disciples reply that they are unable to do this, to which Jesus replies that they should bring to Him whatever they DO have, and He will take it from there. Jesus then proceeds to feed five thousand people, having started with only five loaves of bread and two fish.
It is remarkable then, that only a short time later, the disciples find themselves in the exact same position and with the same response. “Where are we going to get food for a crowd like this out here in the country?” Matthew 15:33. Though there may be a hint of hope in the text, there is no clear indication that the disciples were expecting a repeat performance of the previous event. Surely that was a special situation, a demonstration of raw power, or a narrow escape from a potentially embarrassing situation. Surely, that experience was not something to bank on for the future… I have had those exact thoughts myself, after I have seen the Lord’s faithful, miraculous provision and then had to face challenging circumstances again, where my faith was tested again. Yet, with his repeated story within a very short space, Matthew seems to want to say, “Yes! This is something we can bank on! This is the new Moses and this is the new Manna in the wilderness, our daily bread for which Jesus taught us to pray.” And this has been my experience too. Jesus’s provision, even in the wilderness, is something which you can take to the bank. Or better yet, skip the bank all together. The Psalmist says that Yahweh “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10) and Jesus appears to have full access to that wealth! There is no need for us to store up our treasures on earth, in fact, that can only be greed and selfishness. We have all we need in Jesus, so there is no need to hoard anything. Rather, let us bring what we have to Jesus and He will bless it, break it, and give it away until “they all ate and were satisfied” (Matthew 15:37).With his double story, Matthew wants us to see that the Kingdom of God IS really here and it is here to stay. There is a new way to be human, a new way to do economy, a new way to do generosity, because there is a new King in town and His name is Jesus. This is something we can bank on.