Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
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14 As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick.
15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves."
16 Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat."
17 They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish."
18 And he said, "Bring them here to me."
19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
14 Καὶ ἐξελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶδε πολὺν ὄχλον, καὶ ἐσπλαγχνίσθη ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς καὶ ἐθεράπευσε τοὺς ἀρρώστους αὐτῶν. 15 ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης προσῆλθον αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ λέγοντες· ἔρημός ἐστιν ὁ τόπος καὶ ἡ ὥρα ἤδη παρῆλθεν· ἀπόλυσον τοὺς ὄχλους, ἵνα ἀπελθόντες εἰς τὰς κώμας ἀγοράσωσιν ἑαυτοῖς βρώματα. 16 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν ἀπελθεῖν· δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φαγεῖν. 17 οἱ δὲ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· οὐκ ἔχομεν ὧδε εἰ μὴ πέντε ἄρτους καὶ δύο ἰχθύας. 18 ὁ δὲ εἶπε· φέρετέ μοι αὐτοὺς ὧδε. 19 καὶ κελεύσας τοὺς ὄχλους ἀνακλιθῆναι ἐπὶ τοὺς χόρτους, λαβὼν τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας, ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησε, καὶ κλάσας ἔδωκε τοῖς μαθηταῖς τοὺς ἄρτους, οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ τοῖς ὄχλοις. 20 καὶ ἔφαγον πάντες καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν, καὶ ἦραν τὸ περισσεῦον τῶν κλασμάτων δώδεκα κοφίνους πλήρεις. 21 οἱ δὲ ἐσθίοντες ἦσαν ἄνδρες ὡσεὶ πεντακισχίλιοι χωρὶς γυναικῶν καὶ παιδίων.
22 Καὶ εὐθέως ἠνάγκασεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἐμβῆναι εἰς τὸ πλοῖον καὶ προάγειν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ πέραν, ἕως οὗ ἀπολύσῃ τοὺς ὄχλους.
Larger Thought Unit
Chapter 14 stands alone as a single unit. Matthew frames the lives of John and Jesus together, so the story of John’s death and the various details will also be the pattern of Jesus’ death. Note as well that this is the “third” Herod in the Matthean gospel and each one threatens murder setting the stage for the ongoing biblical struggle between king and prophet. With the death of John, Israel is bereft of its greatest prophet and now the stage is set for the rejection of its messiah. This leads us into our episode of today’s gospel of feeding of the 5000. The parallels with the Exodus and wilderness periods of Israel are obvious and replete with disbelieving disciples. It also presupposes the last supper as well where the “food” that Christ offers will be his own life sacrificed.
Notice how the entire pericope is under the heading of compassion, which is a major feature of Matthew’s gospel.
As later at the last supper, the disciples here misunderstand the Eucharistic gathering. They want to see the ‘success’ of the gospel in the large number of those who are attracted to its teaching, without paying the price of this ‘success.’ Food and gospel are intrinsically connected just as manna and Law are, which explains why, at the Eucharistic gathering, dispensing the life-giving teaching of Christ is linked to table fellowship. Unless the people are fed bread, they will not have the ability to be fed with the word (see 1 Cor 11:17-34).
As Paul insisted (Rom 1.1-2) the true teaching of the gospel is nothing else than the five books of the Law, symbolized by the five loaves. In turn this teaching is the same to Jews and Gentiles, referred to here in the two fish: the disciples were called to become fishermen of men. Finally, it is this teaching that produces the congregation of God’s church (qahal/ekklēsia), symbolized by the number “twelve” of the scriptural Israel that is created by God’s word of the Law (the number five thousand is a reference to the five books of the Law.)
It is indeed God’s word that creates and gives life: notice how the crowds sit on the “grass” in a “lonely,” i.e., desert/arid, place (the Greek original is e;rhmo,j).
Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.1: Paul and Mark, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 1999; pp.175-76.
Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.3: Johannine Writings, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2004; pp.171-77.
David E. Garland, Reading Matthew, Crossroads Publishing Company, NY, NY, 1995; pp. 153ff.