This sermon was preached on May 27, 2018 at Lochee Baptist Chapel. You can listen to the audio here (42 min.), or read the sermon notes below.
Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the mountain, He was sitting there. 30And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. 31So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.
32And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” 33The disciples said to Him, “Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?” 34And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 36and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 37And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 38And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.
39And sending away the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.
I used to preach the gospel at the local chop shop in Louisville, Kentucky, where babies get legally murdered and probably sold for parts. We call death chambers like that “abortion clinics”.
From being involved in that ministry I know a family from Texas. Their youngest son’s name is Jeremiah. He’s 16 years old. Last year Jeremiah won a State Championship in American football. He was the picture of strength of character and strength of body.
He still has strength of character. But his body’s strength has left him. He has cancer all over. He’s permanently lost the use of his legs. There’s no more football for him. No more standing to preach against baby killers.
Jeremiah will be fine, because he still has his faith in Jesus. But he’s only got a 10% chance to take a non-fatal exit from cancer.
What problems are you facing this morning? What crippling pain and injury are you dealing with?
What frustrations, what losses, what betrayals are haunting you?
Man is born to trouble. And so, without knowing many of you, I know each of you has a load of trouble.
And I know that none of your troubles are as troublesome as your sin.
I’m here by invitation of Andrew and on behalf of King Jesus.
I’m here to tell you that you are a terrible sinner deserving the wrath of God.
I’m here to tell you that Jesus Christ is the perfect Savior, that there is forgiveness of sin and life everlasting for all who believe in him.
Christian, the worst thing about you is your sin. The biggest problem you face, the problem that makes all other problems tiny in comparison, is your sin.
And, guess what? Jesus dealt with your problem. It is finished. He obeyed in your place. He died in your place. He rose again for you.
Jesus is your Perfect Savior.
Are you here this morning and not a Christian? Your sin is so bad, you’re too blind to see the problem. Your nose can’t smell the smoke and sulfur that is just ahead for you. Your ears can’t hear me even now, begging you to turn to Jesus. Your mind can’t understand; and your heart can’t receive the good news that Christ has suffered and died as the substitute for all who would turn to him in faith.
Your sin is so bad that you’re dead in it.
Father, as we hear you speak and look at Jesus in the Bible this morning, give your children great joy, and strength, and comfort. As we look at Jesus, please raise the dead who are gathered here, and give them faith. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The point of Matthew 15:29-31 is that Jesus is the Promised Messiah for the Gentiles.
The point of Matthew 15:32-39 is that Jesus is the God of Israel and the Bread of Life for the Gentiles.
Look with me at verse 29.
“Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee…”
The “there” is the region of Tyre and Sidon, up on the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon. Jesus and his 12 disciples walked from there down along the Sea of Galilee. We know from Mark that they went down to the eastern side of the lake, to a Gentile area called Decapolis, or 10 Cities.
If my math is right, that walk is like going out that door and walking to Stirling.
“and having gone up on the mountain, [Jesus] was sitting there. 30 And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them.”
Can you imagine a busier A&E doc than Jesus up on that mountain? For three days this crowd just kept bringing folks to him, friends and family who were lame and crippled, blind and mute, and those who had “many other” problems, as verse 30 says. That would’ve been exhausting!
They kept bringing. Jesus kept healing.
Who’d have you brought to Jesus? I’d have had to recruit at least 6 buddies to drag my 300 lb. older brother up that mountain. He’s been mute since birth.
Now, most, if not all, of these folks were just thinking about the physical problems their loved ones were facing. Their concern was physical lameness and physical blindness.
That’s just how folks think. If you ask someone about the problems in Lochee, you’ll hear about physical problems. You’ll hear about poverty. You’ll definitely hear about drug abuse and manky methadone.
But there’s not a physical problem in this community that can compare to the problem of sin and it’s crippling, deadly effects.
Physical problems can cause pain for a lifetime. Sin, left unfixed, will cause pain and terror forever in hell.
Jesus has come to this mountain in Matthew 15 not just to be incredibly nice to a big group of Gentiles, not just to make their pathetically short lives more comfortable.
He’s come to this mountain in Matthew 15 to announce good news to Gentile dogs, to those who were not part of Israel, those who were far from the blessings of the people of God.
He’s come as the Savior of all those who would believe.
Isaiah prophesied that when the promised Savior would finally come, his arrival would be marked by the blind being given sight, the deaf being made to hear, and the lame being made to leap like deer.
This is what’s written in Isaiah 35:2-6
They will see the glory of the Lord,
The majesty of our God.
3 Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
4 Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The retribution of God will come,
But He will save you.”
5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the Arabah.
This day spoken of is the day of victory, the day promised from back when it all first went wrong. The Promised One would come and miraculously heal all his people from their incurable diseases.
This Promised One is none other than Jesus.
Now, one day all our physical problems will be gone as a result of Jesus’ great work. He will have saved every last one of his own. And he will remake the world. We will be raised with bodies unaffected by sin. And it will be very good.
But all of that will only happen because of what Jesus accomplished when he first came. And these promises of healing in Isaiah, and the healings he’s amazingly doing in Matthew 15, first and foremost point to Jesus’ best work of healing.
He came to die on the cross to heal us. Isaiah 53:5 says, “by His scourging, by his wounds, we are healed.”
And this is no Pentecostal promise that if you come to Jesus you won’t have back pain. It isn’t a settling for mince when steak is available.
“By his wounds we are healed” means the same thing that Isaiah has already repeated three times in the same verse.
On the cross, Jesus was crushed. Why? For the iniquities of his people.
On the cross, Jesus was pierced. Why? For the transgressions of his people.
On the cross, chastening from God fell on Jesus. Why? Because by dying for our sin, by paying the penalty for our sin, he was making peace for us. Though we were enemies of God, Christ died for each of his own, successfully winning for each of us a right relationship with our God.
By his wounds, we are healed. What had been broken is made right by Jesus. We are reconciled to God.
Peter tells us that this is exactly how we should understand the Promise of Isaiah 53.
He writes in 1 Peter 2:24, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
What does “by his wounds you were healed” mean? It means that Jesus himself bore the sins of his people in His body on the cross, that we might be rescued from sin and death and given new life to walk in. It means that, on the cross, Jesus died in our place to redeem us, to return his wandering sheep to “the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
So, on this mountain, Jesus is making clear to the crowd that, in him, there is salvation. In him, our biggest problem, our own sin, will be dealt with perfectly—if we believe, if we trust him, if we follow him.
He is the Promised Savior of God’s people. And he is publicly making that clear in this chapter.
The healings are signs that point to who he is and what he came to do on the cross for all who believe.
In doing this among the Gentiles, he’s making clear that this good news is not just for Jews. It isn’t just for those who’d been included in the Old Covenant. In Christ, Gentile dogs like us can know the God of Israel as our God.
How does the crowd respond to what Jesus is doing?
Matthew 15:31 says this: “So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”
The right response to Jesus is marveling. It is to glorify the God of Israel, the God of the Bible.
But if you don’t understand that your biggest problem is your sin, if you don’t understand that Jesus came to deal with sin and through his death reconcile his people to God, then even if you marvel at Jesus and think well of the God of the Bible, it will be unacceptable. It will be as substantive as sugar, as useful as Stevie G’s hair.
You know, if this church publicized a healing service and could convince people that y’all actually deliver results, I don’t think it would be that hard to get everyone in Lochee buzzing. I think we could get them to show up in droves to a meeting. No way this room would be big enough to fit them all. We’d amaze them like kids at a clown show.
We could get them to say all sorts of positive things about God.
A lot of what passes itself for Christianity today amounts to nothing more than that kind of clown show, built on misunderstanding and ignorance and lies, conveniently designed to make false teachers rich.
But Jesus doesn’t want ignorant marveling. This church doesn’t exist to whip up excitement without knowledge, aiming just for the biggest and loudest crowd possible. This church, the body of Christ here in Lochee, sits on top of this hill to week in and week out point sinners to Jesus, to announce to them that the Promised One has come, that their sins will be forgiven if they trust him, because he has died and risen from the grave. This church is here to give real glory to God, to call the Gentiles of this community to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ, and to give real marveling and real praise to Jesus.
How do we know if our praise and marveling and wonder is real?
Genuine praise creates grateful obedience to all of Christ’s commands.
Now, Jesus doesn’t stop with just healing the crowds to show that he is the Promised Savior of the Gentiles.
He now goes on to feed them, showing that he is God, and the Bread of Life for the Gentiles.
Look with me at verse 32.
And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.”
This crowd of Gentiles have come out to him for healing, they’ve marveled at his work, they’ve probably listened to him teach, for three solid days. They didn’t come with supplies for three days. They’ve been out in the Israeli sun for three days without food.
This isn’t the hunger you feel when it’s a good 30 minutes before tea time. This is hungry. They were so hungry, they wouldn’t have made it home without fainting.
Jesus sees this and feels compassion for them. He wasn’t walking around doing stuff begrudgingly like most of us.
Jesus was and is the best of men, the definition of masculinity. He assumed responsibility for the good of others with gladness, not grumbling. He had compassion, time and again. You can think of someone being moved from their bowels, not from a bad curry the night before, but from pity and love for another. His gut would have been just as hungry as the crowd, but he went to work for their good. That’s a man’s man.
Men, most of the guys in this country are premier league losers. They know about hair products, fake tans, biceps, and new tracksuits. They know about cheap sex, fast cars, video games, and football.
But they know nothing about real masculinity.
Look at Jesus in this chapter. Don’t be a loser. Take on pain for the good of others. Deny yourself and lead out in taking on responsibility. Be like Jesus.
His compassion that we’re told of repeatedly should remind us not just how we should live, but also of why Jesus came.
As Andrew says, what we experience as good emotions are perfections in God.
God is goodness. God is power. God is wrath. God is love.
And that has nothing to do with what some Episcopalian preaches at a Royal Wedding about “the redemptive power of love”.
God is love. It is his holy perfection. And, in his unchanging, eternal will, he, before time, set his love on his people and gave them to the Son as his Bride.
Why did the Son of God so humiliate himself as to take on human flesh and become a man?
Why would the Creator take to himself created human nature? Why would the I AM choose a life of lack, of hunger, of sorrow, of rejection, of crucifixion?
He came first and foremost for his own glory, for the glory of God.
But that glory of God, which was to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, was celebrated and pursued as Christ came with love and compassion for his Bride. She was in trouble. His church was enslaved to sin, Satan, and death.
And Christ loved her, came for her, and rescued her through his death and resurrection.
When you look at the cross, see the Second Adam. His Bride had eaten the forbidden fruit and so was guilty of sin against a holy God, caught in the dragon’s lair, bound for fire and brimstone. See the Second Adam, moved with compassion and love for his woman, courageously saving her and slaying the dragon—by dying in her place, for her sin.
So, again, in verse 32 we see the compassion of our Savior. He sees the people hungry, and he will feed them.
The disciples respond in verse 33, “The disciples said to Him, ‘Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?’”
Do you find anything striking about this question from the disciples? I find its stupidity quite striking. The question is forgetful. It’s faithless. It’s self-reliant.
Why do I say that?
You’ll remember what happened just one chapter before. When Jesus was out in the sticks with 5,000 Jewish men, plus women and children, how did he feed them? He only had five loaves and two fish. What did he do? He blessed the food and had the disciples pass it out. And everyone ate and was satisfied. And there were 12 whole baskets left over.
What did Jesus do? He did a miracle.
Then he walked on water.
Then he healed a little girl who’d been possessed by a demon.
So, I don’t know, disciples? Where do you think you should look to feed all those folks? Maybe, uh, Jesus?
How faithless we can be as Christians.
Saved completely by the grace of God, how quickly do we turn to our own strength to stay right with him and make it to the end?
Ourselves saved by the miracle of God’s grace, how easily do we give up in evangelism?
With the all-sufficient God as our God, how easily do we get stressed out about logistics?
“God says to put my sin to death. But I’ve sinned for so long. How am I going to do it?”
“God says to count all my trials and sufferings as joy. But my trials and sufferings hurt and I’m tired. How am I going to make it?”
“God says it’s good and loving to discipline my children with a rod. But the Scottish government already calls parents who do that criminals. Oh no! What are we going to do?”
“God says to call sin sin, and to tell men that Jesus is the only way to heaven. That everyone who does not believe in him will go to hell. But the Scottish government wants to continue to rob us of freedom to speak the truth. Oh no! What are we going to do?”
“There are so many enemies of the cross in this land; and there are so few faithful churches! Oh no, are we going to make it?”
Family, even if the gates of hell stood between us and faith and obedience to Christ, we have Christ. He who gave himself for us, will he not also give us all we need for this life?
He is the winner. He is in control. And he will generously supply all our needs.
Jesus asks his disciples in verse 34,
“How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 36and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 37And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 38And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.
As with the healings he’s just done, the point of this feast of a miracle is not the miracle itself, but, rather, what the miracle points to. It points to the same truth about Jesus as his feeding of the 5,000 did. Except this time, it makes that point as good, gospel news for Gentiles like us.
Do you remember what God did for his people when they were in the wilderness, after rescuing them from slavery in Egypt?
When they didn’t have bread and didn’t have meat, when they weren’t looking to God in faith to provide, he provided bread and meat from heaven, manna and quail enough to feed all who would eat.
This is what we read in Exodus 16.
2 The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.
3 The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction…6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, “At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt; 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord; and what are we, that you grumble against us?”…11 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
13 So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.
14 When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground.
15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.
Israel had no food and deserved no food. Yet Yahweh, the One True and Living God of Israel, graciously fed them the bread of heaven that they might live.
Jesus has already fed the multitude of Jews. And now, with a hungry crowd of Gentiles, he makes the same point about himself. What God did for Israel in the wilderness was preparation for what God would do for his people, Jew and Gentile, through Jesus Christ.
On this mountain, Christ miraculously gives the people bread and fish, making plain for all to see that he is the One True God. He is the I Am. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and of his people.
In John 6, Jesus says that not only does he give bread to the hungry. He says that he is the Bread of Heaven. The manna in the wilderness, come to earth to feed his people, was pointing to him.
In Matthew 15, he breaks the bread.
In Matthew 27, his own body will be broken in death, on the cross, in the place of his people.
Anyone, even the Gentiles, even the people of Lochee, even you, anyone who feasts on this Bread of Heaven by believing in him, will not perish, but have eternal life.
Jesus serves this meal in Matthew 15 that we might know him to be the Savior.
We remember his body broken for us, on the cross, in our place, for our sin, every time we eat the Lord’s Supper.
We eagerly wait to feast with our Savior, when he comes again at the end of the world.
The chapter ends with verse 39.
And sending away the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.
At the end of this meeting, you will be sent out into your week. You will have gathered with this crowd to meet with Jesus, for here, as his church has gathered in his name, as he speaks to us and teaches us from his Word, he is surely with us.
Will you leave hungry? Will you have the Bread of Life put before you, only to reject him? Will you not believe? Will you leave for the road, only to faint and die in your sin?
Take up and eat. Eat of the Bread of Life. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.
Christian, Jesus cares for you. He loves you and has compassion for you. Though even young men stumble and fall, Jesus will bear you up and keep you. Know that he will continue to feed your faith until you get to die and be with him in Paradise.
One day soon, He will tell us to sit down, and you and I will sit down together at his table, and he will serve us a feast for the ages.
May God bless us and keep us. Amen.