Feeding the Five Thousand
July 17th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
FEEDING THE FIVE THOUSAND
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-17-66 7:30 p.m.
In your Bible, turn to Matthew chapter 14, Matthew chapter 14. On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message On the Bread of Life. It is an exposition of the story of the feeding of the five thousand. Matthew chapter 14; we shall begin reading at verse 13 and read through verse 21––Matthew chapter 14, reading verses 13 through 21. Now on the radio, if you have your Bible, read it out loud with us and all of you in this vast auditorium sharing your Bible with a neighbor who might not have brought his, let all of us read it out loud together. Matthew 14:13-21, now together:
When Jesus heard of it, He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed Him on foot out of the cities.
And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.
And when it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves vittles.
But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
And they say unto Him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
He said, Bring them hither to Me.
And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
In our preaching through the life of Christ, and every Sunday night the sermon is a following through the blessed life of our blessed Lord; and where we leave off Sunday night before, we take up the Sunday night following. Last Sunday night the message was on the martyrdom of John the Baptist, which is described in the first verses of the fourteenth chapter of Matthew [Matthew 14:1-12]. Then in verse 13, it says, “When Jesus heard of it” [Matthew 14:13], that is when He heard of this saying of Herod—Herod Antipas the king of Galilee and of Perea—when Herod heard the marvelous works of Jesus, he said, “This is John the Baptist raised from the dead” [Matthew 14:2]. And when Jesus heard of the remark of Herod Antipas, He immediately left the territory of Herod Antipas [Matthew 14:13]. He left Galilee and went to the other side, the eastern side of the sea into the land of Gadara, into the land of Decapolis, a league of ten Greek cities on the eastern side of the sea from Galilee, out of Herod Antipas’ territory. He went across in a ship, in a boat, but the multitudes who were following Him went around the top of the sea on foot [Matthew 14:13].
And the sixth chapter of John, describing this miracle—the only miracle that is described by the four Gospels, the four evangelists—John says it is Passover time, and the whole land is teeming with Passover pilgrims [John 6:4]. So by the thousands they are there in the trek through Galilee down to Judea. And they have seen the marvelous healing and miracles of our Lord. When He departed then to a place apart, out of the territory of Herod Antipas, these Passover pilgrims follow Him on foot around the head of the lake [Matthew 14:13]. And they meet Him there in that desert country on the eastern side of the sea. And while they are there, the even tide comes, and the disciples suggest to the Lord that He send the people away for they are in a desert place, and there is nothing to eat [Matthew 14:15].
Do you notice how many times the disciples make human suggestions all out of keeping with the character and the ableness of our Lord? For example, when the Lord said that He should be delivered into the hands of His enemies and should be crucified, Simon Peter said, “Lord, that be far from Thee, nothing such shall ever happen to Thee.” And the Lord rebuking Simon Peter said, “Get behind Me, Satan: for thou savorest not the things of God, but of men” [Matthew 16:21-23].
The disciples, upon another occasion the mothers were bringing little children to the Savior, and He took them in His arms and blessed them [Mark 10:16], and the officious disciples seeing it shoved the mothers away, “Why, the Lord is busy and He hasn’t time for children, and for infants, and for mothers.” And when the Lord saw the intervention and the interdiction of His disciples, He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” [Mark 10:13-16]. And here again is the suggestion on the part of the disciples; “It is even tide, the sun is sinking. We are in a desert place. Send the people away.” And the Lord says, “Why no, why no, they need not depart” [Matthew 14:15-16].
I want to pause for a minute. I have spoken of that as the suggestion of the disciples, who could not enter in this period of training, into the character and into the able intent and purpose of our Lord. We are like that in our lives. Looking out on a great throng and sea of people: “Send them away. Send them away. Let’s be done with them.” How easy it is for the citizenry in a city to do that—move out to some salubrious countryside, there in the verdant swarms, beautiful yards with walls around—forget the teeming thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands that are left behind in the city. “Send them away. Forget them!” As you know so well, there has never been a commitment on the part of any church that ever existed as deep and as meaningful, as felt, attended with every emotion that the heart could summon, as the commitment of this First Baptist Church in Dallas to stay downtown.
Let me have my church on a downtown street
Where the ranks of men go by;
The men who are good, the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynics ban;
Let me have my church on Ervay Street,
And be a friend to man.
[adapted from “The House by the Side of the Road,” by Sam Walter Foss]
There is a commitment in the life of the leadership of this church, as deep as life itself, to minister as far as we are able to put our arms around it, to minister to the thousands and the hundreds of thousands in this city.
As I walked across the street to the auditorium tonight, there is an evangelist who is holding a revival meeting in the Good Shepherd department in Embree Hall this very moment. And he was describing to me their open services in a project here in the city of Dallas. “There were more,” he said, “than five hundred attending every night, almost all of them lost.” And he said, “Wednesday through Friday night we have had thirty men saved.” Out under the stars in a playground, putting their chairs where the swings are, and the other things on the playground; every night teaching the gospel of the Son of God to a marginal people who live in a project. That is the First Baptist Church in Dallas!
We have here tonight our friends and compatriots who love Jesus, who’ve been won to Christ, whose lives and families and homes have been remade in the power and the unction of Jesus. We have them here from one of our missions, our guests tonight, our Truett Chapel and their pastor Mozinet. This is a commitment of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Wherever there are souls to be won and families to be blessed; wherever there is some heart that needs Jesus, this is the ministry of this dear and gracious church.
How easy it is to follow the suggestion of the disciples, “Send them away. Send them away” [Matthew 14:15]. It is easy to do that as we think of the millions so multiplying on our mission fields, “Forget them! Forget them! Why should we be burdened in prayer with those millions across any sea? And why should it be our concern and our responsibility that the truth of the gospel of the Son of God be mediated to them? Forget them. Send them away.”
There was a cartoon published in a newspaper; how effective it was! A little island, and on the inside of the little island a little group of people with their faces turned inward, and a sea around them. There was no caption; nothing but just that. It would attract your attention if for no other reason you wondered, “Well, what should such a thing mean?” But when you look closely, the sea, the sea was a sea of humanity! And the little inlets to the island were long, stark, emaciated, and bony hands reaching up to the people in the island. But these in the island were faced inward with their backs turned to the vast sea of starving humanity. How easy it is for us in our abundance and in our affluence to close our eyes to the vast multitudes on any mission field and say, “Send them away. Forget them.” What a blessedness when the Lord can open the eyes of His people, can open the eyes of His church, can open the eyes of these who love and serve in His name. And wherever there is somebody that needs God, there has God called us to preach, and to minister, and to serve, and to teach.
It was no new thing to you to repeat, the love of my heart has been through these years the Good Shepherd Department. We are downtown. As long as there ever has been or ever will be a big city, you will find in it poor people pressed against the downtown. And this ministry is an attempt to remember the poor people pressed against the heart of this city. And these six other missions we have are an, they are endeavors in flesh, and in blood, and in prayers, and in gifts, and in testimony of our care and concern of our intercession and prayer for people who are lost.
Send them away? “No!” said the Lord, “No, no, they need not depart” [Matthew 14:15-16]. You know, I couldn’t think of a finer thing to put over the portals of a church door than that: “Ye need not depart.” In any hour of need, in any hour of exigency, any hour of necessity, right over the door of the church, “Ye need not depart.” There is an answer here. There’s a balm in Gilead here. There’s a healing here. There’s manna from heaven here. There’s water of life here. There’s salvation here. There’s glory and heaven here. Ye need not depart.
So the disciples, looking out over that vast throng in a desert place with nothing to eat; and the disciples say [Matthew 14:15]––now we’re going to pick up the story in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John––and the disciples say, “Why Master, two hundred denarii,” translated here “pennyworth,” “two hundred denarii of bread,” that’s almost a year’s wage, “two hundred denarii of bread is not sufficient that each one have just a little” [John 6:7]. And one of the disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said unto Him, “Master, there is a lad here that has five barley loaves, five little barley biscuits, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” [John 6:8-9].
Now there are the disciples again, and there we are: “Why pastor, against this vast lost world, every capability and all of which we are and have, if we were to give our entire possessions, it’s but a drop in the bucket. It is nothing. Look how small our resources, look what little we have.” Are you sure? Are you real sure that is all we have? Meeting a need, a felt need, a human need, a God appointed need, are you sure these few things we possess, are you sure they are all of our resources? Are you sure? Just five little biscuits, made out of barley, the cheapest food ever eaten; are you sure that five little biscuits all, and two little fishes, are you sure?” Ah, we always have the disposition to despise the day of small things [Zechariah 4:10].
I remember reading in the story of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, I remember reading, the Bible says the old men gathered round and they looked at that new building, layered upon the stones of the old Solomonic temple. And the Bible says those old bearded men looking at that wept aloud and lamented and wrung their hands. And when they were asked, “Why do you weep and why do you cry?” those old men said, “Why, we remember the ancient temple of Solomon that was here, and when we see this structure being raised, it is as nothing compared to the glory of the temple that we saw in the days of our youth” [Ezra 3:12]. And the people were discouraged, “We can’t do it like Solomon. We don’t have the resources of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. We’ve been destroyed, and the city is in waste. We are discouraged! We have nothing, nothing, and nothing!”
You know God raised up two prophets? One was named Haggai and the other was named Zechariah [Ezra 5:1]. And those two prophets stood up and walked among the people and said, “Thus saith the Lord, thus saith the Lord. This temple,” so despised with none of Solomonic glory, gold and silver and precious stones, “This temple, thus saith the Lord, shall be greater than any temple, Israel has ever raised” [Haggai 2:9]. Why, it looked like the saying of a madman to say that in those days. But there came to that temple the Son of heaven, the Prince of glory, deity Himself; Jesus Christ walked in that temple and talked in that temple. And His great ministries in Jerusalem were in that temple [Mark 12:35-13:2; Luke 2:41-52, 19:45; John 7:14-53]. And it was in that temple that Pentecost came, and the fire came, and the great message that began the new Christian dispensation was launched in that temple [Acts 2:1-47], in accordance with the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah [Haggai 1:8; Zechariah 6:12-13, 8:9].
Who has despised the day of small things? [Zechariah 4:10]. You don’t know what resources God lays at your command if you will attempt a work for Jesus. Try it. Give yourself to it and out of the blue of the sky, out of the very dust of the ground, God will raise up helpers for you. “All we have is five little biscuits made out of barley and two little fishes in a little lad’s lunch. That’s all we have.” Not so. There stood in the midst the Son of God and He said, “Bring them to Me” [Matthew 14:17-18]. And Andrew laid into the hands of our blessed Lord that little boy’s lunch [John 6:8-11].
And the Lord had the people seated in ranks, in sections, in aisles––as you are here tonight, in companies, companies, companies. And when the people were seated, He gathered His apostles around Him like we have our deacons and our junior board around us. And the Lord brake and brake, and He gave to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the people. And the Lord brake, and He brake, and He brake the bread, and there was sufficiency [Matthew 14:19-20]. It was a sermon in eye, in sight, in deed, in truth what God can do with the feeblest, humblest gift that is dedicated unto Him, placed in His blessed hands.
What can I do? I am the least of God’s servants. I have nothing of the superlative gifts. What can I do? My friend, in God’s hands you are the mightiest of the mighty, greatest of the great, most powerful of the powerful. It’s God that does it. Ten thousand times have I seen men with superlative gifts stand in the way of God. They shine. And when you see them, you see them. They are superlatively gifted. In how many ways are they blessed, but they stand in the way. You don’t see God. You see them. How many times have I seen a humble somebody, maybe a humble preacher without superlative gifts, but he’s given himself to Jesus, and when I listen to him and when I see him, I see the Lord.
A visitor to England one time said, when he returned back home to America, “I went to Christchurch and listened to the world-famed Joseph Parker. And when I left the church, I said in my heart, ‘What a preacher! What a preacher; one of the greatest of all time and one of the most eloquent.’” Then he said, “I went to Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, and I heard the great Baptist preacher. And when the service was done and I went away, I said in my heart, ‘What a great Savior! What a great Lord!’” Spurgeon was without education, never even went to college, one of the humblest men, but God shined in his face, and the Lord used him, oh how preciously, how gloriously! You don’t know how God can bless even the humblest gift placed in His precious hands.
There is so much more. I want to close before we go off of the radio. So I must close now. Have you heard this message tonight in your living room, in your bedroom, driving along on the highway? Have you listened to this sermon tonight? Have you given yourself to Jesus? Have you? If you’ve never trusted the Lord, do it now. Kneel in His presence. Pull the car to the side of the road, bow your face over the steering wheel, tell Jesus you give your whole heart and life in trust to Him, and you do it now. If you’ve been saved and you belong to a church but you’ve never wholly, fully given your life to the Lord, do it now. “Lord, such as I am and what I have, I lay in Your blessed hands. Bless Lord, bless.”
And in this vast throng here tonight, in the balcony round, and on this lower floor, somebody you, give himself to Jesus. Come, make it now, do it now: a family you, “Pastor, this is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming tonight”; or a couple you, or one somebody you. I cannot press the appeal, the Spirit of God must bear it on wings of love. Listen to the voice of the Spirit of God. Is there something to which He calls you? To faith in the blessed Jesus, to membership in the church, to the consecration of your life to a special task, while we sing this hymn of appeal, “Break Thou the Bread of Life, Dear Lord to Me”—while we sing that hymn, somebody you, coming to the Lord and coming to us; make it now. In a moment when we stand, stand up coming. “Here I am, preacher. I make it tonight.” Do it. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE FEEDING OF THE FIVE THOUSAND
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-17-66I. Matthew 14:13 – Jesus leaves Herod’s territory
A. Desert place
B. Passover pilgrims walk around the lake to see JesusII. Matthew 14:15-16 – “send them awayâ€¦they must not depart”
B. Looking for the easy solution to a problem
1. Citizenry of a great city moving out to more salubrious countryside
2. Our commitment to stay downtown
a. Easy to close our eyes to the multitudes here and overseas
b. Our Good Shepherd departmentIII. John 6:9 – exclamation of Andrew
A. Our disposition is to despise the day of small things
B. Nehemiah’s temple will be greater than Solomon’s temple(Haggai 2:9)IV. Matthew 14:18 – “Bring them hither to me”
A. There was sufficiency
B. God blesses the humblest gift placed in His precious hands