What comes to mind when you listen to Matthew’s introduction to this story of Jesus healing and feeding the multitudes? We read, “After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down.” Do those words remind you of anything?
If you recalled the Sermon on the Mount you’d be correct. Earlier in his gospel story, Matthew tells us that Jesus “went up the mountain” and sat down and began to teach his disciples and the crowds that followed him (5:1). In that instance, Jesus was revealing God’s will through his words; here, Jesus reveals God’s power through his deeds.[i] “Great crowds came to him,” the gospel writer tells us, “bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others… and he cured them…” The story then goes on to tell us of how Jesus – moved with compassion for the crowds – feeds them with loaves and fishes – an abundant feast, with baskets of food left over. The location – on the mountain – is significant. It is a place associated with God. It is a place of revelation, of encounter with God. It is also a location associated in the minds of the Hebrews with the coming of the Messiah.
“On this mountain,” Isaiah had written, “the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines…And he will destroy the shroud that is cast over all peoples… and will swallow up death forever” (Isa 25:6-7). When the Lord returns to Zion, Isaiah said, “He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy…” (Isa 35:5-6)
There can be no doubt that Matthew saw Jesus as the Anointed One, the long-awaited Messiah, who came to heal and save his people, and to fill them with life abundant. As with Moses, Jesus ascends the mountain to reveal God’s will and to demonstrate God’s power. On the mountaintop the Messiah makes God known. On the mountaintop he gathers the sick and the infirm, and heals them. On the mountaintop he makes for all people a feast of rich food.
This Messiah has come to you, Matthew insists, just as Isaiah promised long ago.
This is the good news of the Gospel. Jesus, God’s Anointed One, the Christ, has come to us. He has shown us by his words and his deeds the love and power of God. He has revealed God to us by demonstrating God’s loving concern for all people. He has embodied God’s compassion, and reflected God’s generous love and provision. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Healing us, saving us, feeding us, keeping company with us, in joy and in sorrow, through good times and bad. He is our Savior.
How do you need him to save you today? How do you need him to heal you today? How do you need him to feed you today?
[i] This insight comes from Douglas R.A. Hare in Matthew (Interpretation Commentary); (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993); p.180.
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