Matthew 14:13-21 (VOICE) 13 When Jesus learned what had happened, He got on a boat and went away to spend some time in a private place. The crowds, of course, followed Jesus on foot from their cities. 14 Though Jesus wanted solitude, when He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, and He healed the sick and the lame. 15 At evening-time, Jesus’ disciples came to Him. Disciples: We’re in a fairly remote place, and it is getting late; the crowds will get hungry for supper. Send them away so they have time to get back to the villages and get something to eat. Jesus: 16 They don’t need to go back to the villages in order to eat supper. Give them something to eat here. Disciples: 17 But we don’t have enough food. We only have five rounds of flatbread and two fish. Jesus: 18 Bring the bread and the fish to Me. So the disciples brought Him the five rounds of flatbread and the two fish, 19 and Jesus told the people to sit down on the grass. He took the bread and the fish, He looked up to heaven, He gave thanks, and then He broke the bread. Jesus gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples gave the bread to the people; 20 everyone ate and was satisfied. When everyone had eaten, the disciples picked up 12 baskets of crusts and broken pieces of bread and crumbs. 21 There were 5,000 men there, not to mention all the women and children.
Leftovers get a bad wrap. No one ever really wants leftovers, right? It seems no matter how much our family likes a meal one night, we seem to lose interest in them immediately. The next day, food that everyone enjoyed is the last thing anyone is willing to eat. I think it’s a sign of adult maturity to force yourself to eat the leftovers, to make sure you aren’t wasting food.
I’m not sure why it happens, what is it about leftovers that makes us less interested in them? I really don’t understand it – even some of my favorite foods lose their appeal to me, once they are contained in Tupperware in the fridge. Today’s scripture passage might make us think about leftovers a little bit differently. Today, we can look to leftovers as a sign of God’s blessing
This story is one that all of us are probably familiar with. There are multiple stories in Scripture of God miraculously feeding people, in both the Old and New Testaments. All of the gospels include at least one miraculous feeding story and because of that, sometimes we get the details mixed up – were there 5,000 or 3,000? How many fish? How much bread?
I don’t normally say this – but in one sense the details of the story aren’t that important. They aren’t important because the story isn’t about how many people were feed or how many fish and loaves of bread that Jesus started with, or even how many leftovers were. While the amount of leftovers there were isn’t important, I think the fact that there were leftovers at all is important.
The point is that Jesus saw the needs of those around him, and met those needs. But he didn’t just barely meet those needs. The point of the leftovers isn’t how much there were – it isn’t about making it a ‘greater’ or ‘bigger’ miracle. Rather it is about how Jesus meets those needs.
The leftovers are a demonstration of the abundance with which Jesus meets the needs. When Jesus sees the people with open hands, needing help, he pours out an overwhelming blessing. Out of scarcity, God provides abundance.
That is what is important for us to know from this story today – God’s economy is not an economy of scarcity, but rather of abundance. God doesn’t withhold good things from us and when we come to him with our hands open, Jesus pours out blessings upon us – to the point of overflowing.
Our response is to see our blessings through God’s eyes and recognize that what we have been given in abundance is given so that we might participate in God’s economy and share our abundance with those are living with the reality of scarcity.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: Lord, thank you for leftovers. Thank you for the food – more than we can eat – help us remember not just to give thanks, but to hold these blessings with open hands, so that we might share as freely as we have received. Thank you Lord for what leftovers mean – that we have been blessed by you in abundance, and we are benefiting from your economy of grace. Amen.