Memphis Belle

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Matthew 15:32-39


“Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat:  and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.  And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?  [What are they thinking!?  Where were these guys in Matthew 14:16???  Oh ye of such short memory!]  And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye?  And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.  And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.  And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.  And they did all eat, and were filled:  and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.  And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.  And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.”


Matthew 16:1-12


“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.  He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  And in the morning, It will be fowl weather today:  for the sky is red and lowering.  O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?  A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas [Jonah].  And he left them, and departed.  And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.  Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.  Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?  Do ye not understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?  Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

A case of bad memory or slow learners?


“Matthew chapter 15.  We’re still going to go for the baptism.  It’s possible.  Last time we had a baptism, we got totally rained out.  But some folks got dunked.  So ah, we’ll try it again today.  If you don’t know how to get to Wyman’s Lake we have directions somewhere out in the fellowship hall, you can grab the directions.  It’s in Westminster, just a little ways down the road.  You know, it’s interesting to me, last time we attempted this summer to have three outdoor services next door, which is just great to have the stadium.  And last time we had an outdoor service, we were indoors because of the weather, but we were together as one service, and last time we were studying the feeding of the five thousand.  So I was thinking this week, here we are studying the feeding of the four thousand, and we’re going to be outdoors again.  Last time, four weeks ago, here we are four weeks later, and it’s very similar.  I was wondering how that was going to go, for you guys, here we are studying this.  If you can remember back that far, little bit of a daja vou, you know.  But you know, if I were to ask some of you folks, those that were there at the stadium four weeks ago, ‘What were some of the points that we learned as we went and studied the feeding of the five thousand?’, I would have to guess that most of us would probably struggle in remembering.  In fact, maybe some of us would even not remember anything about what we studied that one particular day.  [can’t remember, log onto]  It’s possible there are a few that have notes in their Bible that could bring out some of the points that we made four weeks ago.  But I would guess that lots of us would be ‘Well I don’t really remember.’  You know, even myself, I had to go and look at my study.  I don’t remember what I taught four weeks ago.  So I had to get it out and look at my outline, remember my points.  Definitely a case of bad memory.  That is true, isn’t it, that’s one of the challenges we have as Christians, believers, is we have bad memory.  We lose those understandings and some of the things the Lord is teaching us, sometimes they’re powerful, sometimes they’re tough experiences.  But God shows us things and we start to loose just the memory of it, we start to forget, and so as a result, a little bit later we’re facing similar situations, and you’d never know that we had learned certain principles before because it’s like we’re having class all over again, taking the test again, and trying to remember what the answers are.  You know there’s this phrase often, I did a search in my Bible software, but if you take the phrase “Do not forget”, it comes up quite a few times in the Bible, God saying to his people “Do not forget, do not forget.”  One of the instances is in Deuteronomy chapter 8 where Moses told the people as they were about to enter the Promised Land, and of course they were going into lots of abundance, lots of resources, lots of blessings, they had nothing to do with it [almost the freak way we Americans ended up in the US as a few tiny insignificant English colonies on the eastern shores of the American continent---and look what we inherited].  And when they were entering the land and going to live there awhile, God said ‘beware that you do not forget the LORD your God, and then as a result your heart becomes lifted up and you start to think that you had something to do with this.’  He says ‘beware that you don’t forget.’  ‘Beware that you don’t forget in this manner, for if you do’, he said, ‘you will assuredly perish.’  Well then we flip through our Old Testament study, history there as we’ve been doing on Wednesday nights, and don’t you know they forgot exactly what they were told not to forget, they forgot God, they forgot his principles, specific instructions he told them not to forget, they forgot.  And then as a result, sadly, they were judged.  And boy isn’t it true for you and I, we go through a season, God will teach us things, and then a little bit later, it’s like we never had this season, we forget.  A similar situation, similar circumstance comes and you’d never know that I had learned certain principles before about God and about myself.  Sometimes it’s a case of bad memory, other times it’s a case of being a slow learner.  So I didn’t quite learn it the first time, actually, so I get to take the class all over.  I’ve mentioned before, you might remember, if you’ve been around a little while, but in college, first semester, I’d made the mistake of taking honor’s physics, and I worked hard, and you might remember the story, but come to the final exam, I thought I did well, but I ended up getting an F on the class and went back to my professor later to find out why I got an F, and it turned out I got a 2 on the exam.  Two out of a hundred.  And I thought I did well.  [laughter, chuckles]  Clearly, I had more to learn.  So I had to take that class all over again.  And that was the first time I ever had that experience.  Some of us had that experience a lot in school.  But going, here’s the same class again, I didn’t take the honor’s 2nd time around though.  But you know, I did learn something I think that time, because later, then when I took classes that were based on physics, I did fairly well.  But I didn’t learn it the first time around.  And we can be slow learners too.  [I was a remedial reader, am one.  But for my first 8 years in school, I could hardly read at all until the 8th year, when I jumped to 10th grade reading level, where I have remained ever since.]  As we pick up now in Matthew chapter 15, verse 32, you know, the disciples, they have similar problems.  They have a bad memory and they are slow learners too, no doubt about it.  You could say they’re special-needs disciples, you know.  You could give them some kind of little letter, delayed ADH, whatever, you know, they are special needs disciples, they need extra class-time, a lot of special attention from Jesus so that they can learn some of the principles.  [And we’re not that much different, those of us the Lord has called, cf. 1st Corinthians 1:26-29, read it.]  Fortunately for us, we get to study their lives, and as we do, there are things that we can glean, and prayerfully by the grace of God can also remember a little bit later in time.  But one of the things we’re going to look at today as we watch them, is this aspect of slow-learners.  And what are some of the things, some of the reasons that we’re slow to learn?  Well there’s a few points that I noticed that we’ll draw out, and we’ll point out other things too as we go along.  But some of the points, three points, 1) one of the reasons why we’re slow to learn is because of different variables, different place, different time.  I may have learned it in one context, but now it’s a little bit different.  It’s a similar type faith issue or whatever it might be, but it’s a little bit different time, different place.  And so the variable’s are different, so I struggle.  2), Secondly, one of the reasons why we don’t learn or are slow to learn is that we willfully choose not to believe, with some of us that’s the case, an area where God has spoken, and I just don’t believe, I just choose not to, I don’t accept that.  3), and then thirdly, one of the reasons we struggle in belief, little bit different, it might sound the same, but it is a different principle, and that is that we struggle in faith.  It’s not that we willfully don’t believe, but we actually have faith, but we struggle with faith, it’s a meager faith.  And so, we struggle.  Well let’s say a word of prayer, and we’re going to pick up again in chapter 15, where we left off last week with verse 32.  ‘Lord Jesus, as we now come to this time of studying your Word, well, we would pray that we would learn Lord, and learn in a way that maybe some of these things would go a little bit deeper into our minds and into our hearts, that they would remain.  We just four weeks ago, all together as a group, and we studied a very similar passage, and not necessarily by my planning, but it seems by your doing, here we are again together, and a very similar story, a little bit of a daja vou, maybe by even your design and intent, that we can consider some things again that maybe we’ve already forgotten, things that are important that we would learn.  And I do pray, as men and women that gather here on Sunday mornings, folks that listen in, that we would be learners, learners in a way that our understanding would grow, but also that it would affect the way that we live.  But man, when we learn, when we have those truths in our hearts, oh it’s so beautiful Lord.  It’s a stronger life, it’s a greater life, it’s a better life.  So Holy Spirit, we pray you’d be upon all of us, and even upon myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name, amen.’


Copyist error or two separate feedings?


Chapter 15, verses 32-39, “Now Jesus called his disciples to himself and said, ‘I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with me three days and have nothing to eat.  And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.’  Then his disciples said to him, ‘Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?’”  And you’re thinking, ‘What’s up here guys?’.  Just a couple chapters earlier, well, a chapter earlier [Matthew 14:12-21] dudes.  “Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’  And they said, ‘Seven, and a few little fish.’  So he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.  And he took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to his disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude.  So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven baskets full of the fragments that were left.  Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.  And he sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.”  So, Jesus feeding a whole bunch of people.  Been there, done that.  I remember the first time, you know if you’ve had this experience, you’re studying through the Bible, and you see something, like ‘Hold on here,’ I remember reading this, going ‘wait a minute’, this is the same story, did somebody make a mistake?  Did somebody copy this, and ah, just the numbers maybe over the hundreds of years, centuries started to change a little bit?  It’s the same story.’  I remember stumbling over that and struggling with that.  And evidently there are a lot of Bible critics that have the same issue, they stumble over the fact that there are two of these feedings and they’re so similar.  But you know, I’ve had these experiences where I stumble like that, then I come back and I began to study, and rather than my faith being in question later, what happens is I see that this is the Word of God, these things are true, as I begin to study and dig in.  And God had a purpose for this.  And so my faith is actually strengthened.  When you carefully compare the feeding of the five thousand and four thousand, no doubt about it, there were two feedings.  A little bit later, we’ll get there, prayerfully today, chapter 16, a few verses down, verses 8 and 9, we’re prayerfully going to make it to verse 12, but you’ll see that verse 8, 9 and 10, Jesus actually himself references two different feedings.  So it’s not a copyist error, where it accidentally just slid in there, because he himself actually says there’s two different feedings.  But then the details, when you compare the details, there’s quite a few different details that clearly there were two different feedings.  For one, of course, the number of people.  You might say that’s no big deal, but there’s a different number of people that are fed.  There’s also the number of fish and the number of loaves, they are different, and the number of baskets.  What is interesting, is also the type of baskets, there’s a Greek word, and the baskets that are used here are significantly different than before.  Furthermore the location is different, different sides of the Sea of Galilee.  One was near Bethsaida previously, now they’re in the area of the Decapolis.  The time of year is also different, it was earlier, possibly springtime, early summer, the grass was green.  No mention of green grass here, it’s a little bit later in time.  So the hot sun has, you know, killed the grass.  But it was noted before, green grass.  The crowd’s response is also different.  The response earlier, the crowd wanted to make Christ their King right there, take him by force.  You don’t see that here at all, there’s not that type of response.  Also what’s significant is the ethnicity of the crowd.  Before, on the western side of the Sea of Galilee, it was predominantly Jewish, and here it appears, for a good reason, it appears that this is predominantly a Gentile crowd.  Well you might also remember the little boy in the previous story, where he was the one that supplied the food.  Here it seems it’s the disciples that supply it, from their own resources, their own supplies.  So some significant differences.  And yet, people question, ‘Why would Jesus, why would he do this same thing?  I mean, it’s so similar.’  Similar situation, similar question, and why, why do the disciples respond in the same way?  Some stumble over that, but you know, as I consider the Old Testament and the Israelites, I’m like ‘Well, you know, looking at the way they were, and then I look at my own life and the way I struggle, and man, same lessons over and over, same struggles.  When I look at it and consider it, then their response, the disciple’s response isn’t so unusual to me.  I mean, when I look at some of you guys too, in your lives, some of the things that you’ve gone through, just watching your lives, those of you I know real well, still struggling with the same sorts of questions and situations.


1.  Different times, different variables:  But how many times does the Lord have to provide for us before we just simply trust him?


Well, why again, why does Jesus have this happen?  Why don’t the disciples get it?  I think again it’s a case of the disciples being slow to learn, they’re slow learners.  Even though it’s a few months later, Jesus had tested them in a similar fashion, some of these principles hadn’t fully sunk in yet.  And so Jesus is retesting, he wants them to understand, it’s important that they learn the way he can work, what he can do.  But also the way that God can use them.  I mean, there’s a whole lot of needs in the world, and these men are going to be the foundation of the Church.  And they need to be able to go out in faith and be used by God---as a conduit of his power and his love in ministering to the needs around them.  [What are some of the ways we can be conduits of God’s love and power to those in need around us?  Log onto: and .]  And so they need to discern and understand, it doesn’t matter how great the needs and how many people.  God can indeed work through my life, he can indeed use me, he can meet the needs of these people.  So they’ve been slow to learn, so let’s take the lesson through, Jesus is no doubt setting this up.  One of  the reasons, too, maybe at this point, again that causes them to struggle a bit in learning, is the fact that there’s different variables.  It’s a different place, it’s a different time.  And also potentially it’s the fact that there is now a Gentile crowd as opposed to there being a Jewish crowd.  And that could be something too, that type of variable is causing them to, when the situation comes up, and he’s clearly bringing it up.  It’s not connecting initially in their minds.  And you know, we can be like that, you and I can be like that.  I can have, maybe earlier in the ministry where I was trusting God for provision in my life.  Maybe there was a season, it was like that for my wife and I when we first got started, there were a lot of seasons for trusting God for provision, personally, maybe in the church.  And those seasons aren’t quite the same anymore.  But if a season like that comes up today, you know I learned it then, I went through the class and began to trust God that God is a God that provides.  And yet, today, there might be a season because of the way it comes into my life, where now I’m facing unpaid bills or a little bit of a provision deal, and I can start to struggle a little bit.  I can start to question, where my faith isn’t what it should be.  Different time, time is passed, there can be different variables.  So today, maybe you’re here in the same situation, and here you are.  And you can look back in your life, and you’re looking at the situation ahead of you, and you’re struggling right now because of what’s going on.  There’s not the peace of God, there’s not the faith, there’s not the hope as you’re looking at what’s before you.  But yet, if you’re honest, you can look back, and maybe it’s packaged a little bit different, but you can look back in your life, and there are circumstances and situations that are fairly similar, where God came through for you, where God intervened, where God worked.  [“I am the same yesterday, today and tomorrow”]  And if that be the case, it’s a statement of us being slow to learn, or having a bad memory, one or the other.  You know you wonder, how many times does the Lord have to provide for us, how many times does he have to intervene for us before we begin to just simply trust him, and rest in him---not getting stressed out and getting all discouraged, getting frustrated?  It is sad how quickly we forget that God provides, it is sad how quickly we forget how he comes through for us miraculously, and yet we forget a little later.  Or we forget about his compassion.  You know, he showed us clearly he loved us.  And now, a little later, I’m questioning the love of God because of what’s going on in my life.  But he’s shown me before, he just demonstrated it to me so clearly, that one season.  Man, I know you love me, Lord, because of the way you ministered to me then.  And yet, here we are struggling in trusting.  Well are you facing a situation like that?  Little bit different variables---different place, different time?  Looking back, your like ‘Yeah, I can connect and see, there’s some things back there.’  Well, I pray that the Lord just ministers to you today before you leave, and you choose to go out and just trust him.  It’s great to trust God, and just to rest in him.  It really is.  It’s a good life to just trust God, and not to fret and wonder and question, but just to rest---‘You know, I know you’re gonna take care of this, God, you’re good and you take care of my life, you promise all things work together for good, I’m gonna rest in that principle in my life.  I’ve learned it Lord, I’ve chosen to learn it.’ 


Jesus is the answer to all our needs


Verse 32, “Now Jesus called his disciples to himself and said, ‘I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with me three days and have nothing to eat.  And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”  These people have been with Jesus three days.  Now that’s a statement, that’s a statement of how they were so drawn to him, to be with him for three days, they’re away from civilization, and they’ve got to the point where they’re hungry [ie, their personal food supplies have run out].  So to be out there that long a time, that’s a statement of how they’re really, he’s so powerful in his ministry and in his teachings, so they’re drawn to him.  They are physically hungry, that’s clear, he notes to his disciples, these folks are so hungry.  He’s concerned that when they return to wherever they’re going to return that they may actually faint because of weakness, lack of food, being tired.  We learn in the other Gospel, Mark chapter 8, that some of them have come from a far distance too.  And so as you see, due to his compassion, he’s a God of love, you know, it’s true, he loves you, he loves me.  Why don’t we just rest in that.  But as a God of compassion he chooses to do something, and intervene and minister to these people.  He doesn’t want them to go away hungry.  And it’s true to today, you’re here today, and in your heart, man, there is that sense of lack or hunger, or man, you need just the touch of God in your life, you need healing.  And I believe, the way Jesus is looking at these multitudes at this particular time, Jesus looks here and he doesn’t want you to leave this place without that need being met.  He doesn’t want you to leave hungry, he doesn’t want you to leave with that hurt, not having been touched or being healed.  He wants to minister in your life.  And so may you believe, really, may you open your heart to him, and allow him to minister to you, and touch your life.  You know, Jesus is truly, he is the answer to all our needs, there’s no doubt about it.  You know, the Lord chooses to use the disciples here, clearly he’s engaging them at this particular time.  He wants to work.  But he could work independent of the disciples, he could just have fed these people, setting it up just like before, he asked them the question.  We learn in Mark chapter 8, they actually respond, and maybe they start to tune in at that point, ‘How many before?’, ‘What are we going to do, how many loaves do you have, how many fish?’.  And so they actually respond with the answers.  And I’m sure their hearts and minds are beginning to maybe think a little bit back to what happened before.  But he wants them to fully grasp, fully know, that he can work in their lives, always, every situation.  And he wants them to know that in every situation, all the time, he can also work through them, to minister to the needs around them.  You know, Paul writing to the church in Colossians, he was telling this church that Jesus is indeed the answer to all my needs, and all the needs around me.  Colossians chapter 3, verse 4, Paul writes, “When Christ, who is our life, appears…”  When Christ, who is our life, he is our life.  Do you know Jesus as your very life?  Then he states in a few verses later, in verse 11 of Colossians chapter 3, he says, “But Christ is all and in all.”  Now that is a full statement.  Christ is all, and he’s in all.  So, he is our life, and he is all, and he is in all.  [Comment: Ever study higher level physics?  Top physicists wonder just how matter and the universe are being held together, and use such terms as dark matter and dark energy to describe forces they cannot see, but can only see it’s effects in holding matter, galaxies and the universe together.  That is just one description of Christ being all, and in all.]  And so the Bible makes it very clear that Christ is all that I need, if he is my life.  And he’s all, and in all.  He’s what I need, man, any time in my life, any time.  We come on Sunday mornings, you know, it’s like back to high school, college, some of us are in college, so it’s classroom time, you’re listening to the theory.  And that was a challenge for me, when I studied engineering in college, you know, I heard the theory, maybe could manipulate those squigglies and those little marks (ie, Calculus) and figure out how to get an answer.  But then to go and work for the companies I did later, and to figure out what it all meant at that point, that was a challenge.  I was ok with the theory, but it never really sunk into here’s what you do with it now in practice.  [I’m just studying the first part of a physics book titled The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, and have just finished with the chapters dealing with Einstein’s theory of Specific and General Relativity.  I knew that I knew the concepts being presented in the first 2 chapters when I figured out a time-travel problem flying at 0.75 light speed to Alpha Centauri and back (4.3 L/Ys distance), calculating how long it would take as observed by someone waiting on earth, and how much time would have elapsed for the space-travelers on the Enterprise.  It’s not until you have to apply the theory and using it in actual life situations that you know it, and know that you know it.]  And here’s how you design things or analyze things, and took awhile to learn that.  And so we are here Sunday mornings, you have your own personal Bible time [at home every day], it’s like that instruction time, and I’m listening to the theory, and I’m listening to the practical applications, and this is what it is.  And then when we leave this place, it’s kind of like going to the lab, I don’t know if you ever remember going in high school going to the lab.  You’d have the theory, and then you’d sit there in lab and you’d try to see ‘Well this is what we learned, and now watch when we do this stuff’, and wow, we get the smoke show or whatever it might be, different blue chemicals or whatever, you remember lab, and sometimes the silly things that you did.  [Yeah, I remember figuring out how to make hydrogen sulfide stink bombs which we would set off in other classrooms, like typing class.  Boys will be boys…]  But here’s what it means.  And it’s like that, we leave this place, and it’s like lab time, where now I’ve learned, and now I have to make that step, and where it becomes, ‘Oh, that’s what it means, and this is what it means in my life.  And this is now how it becomes part of me, and this is how I live according to it.  And this is how I apply it.’  Certainly it’s more than head knowledge.  Right?  We mentioned that, it’s heart knowledge, it’s something that should be part of our lives, and we shouldn’t forget it. 


“Let’s see what our Father will do for us now”---We’re the conduit through whom God works


The disciples, it’s baffling, ‘Where could we, all these people, how, what could we possibly do?’  Just go back, man, a few months---remember, remember.  It is kind of funny.  But you know, if I was on their team, if I was part of this, I’d be right there, I know I would, I’d be ‘What are you talking about, we’re out here in the wilderness.’  It wouldn’t connect.  So then pushing the point a little further, ‘OK, now how many loaves do you have?’  And I wonder what was in his eye as he looked to them.  ‘How many fish do you have?  You’ve got seven loaves and a few little fish.  Do you remember anything?  I know, little bit different, I know that’s a little trip for you, a little bit different, hard to get over it, seven and five, that’s a little bit different, I understand.’  But isn’t it funny, we can be like that.  Well then he sits them down in a similar fashion, just sits the multitude down, takes the bread, and give thanks, and he begins to break it and distribute it.  And it’s interesting, he’s just got the seven and a few fish, and he sits them down, and it’s meal-time, and that’s all the food there is around.  You know, the table’s been set, all these people.  And of course God’s going to work.  And that takes faith, to sit down at a table at that time, with four thousand people, and you’ve got seven loaves and a few fish, and say ‘We’re going to have a meal-time, right now.’  We do, as part of our discipleship class, we get folks, one of the classes to read the book about George Mueller, you know, the man of faith    And you know, you think of what’s here, Jesus is setting the table with that much food, and the people are going to get fed, and George Mueller learned that God could do that.  I’ll just read to you, this is from one of my children’s, they’ve got a book called “Hero Tales” by Dave and Annetta Jackson.  I took the story out of there because it’s just simple.  “Abigail Townsend was not an orphan, but when her family moved to Bristol, England, a close friendship developed between her father and George Mueller.”  Now George Mueller had an orphanage of a couple thousand orphans, all by faith, he stepped out and began to get property and began to believe that God wanted to use his life to minister to the orphans in England.  “So this gal Abbey, her dad knows George, so she develops a friendship also.  Abbey would go off into Ashley Downs with her father to visit George Mueller and the orphanage.  Well one morning George Mueller took Abbey by the hand and said ‘Come see what our Father in heaven will do for us today.’  He led her into the long dining room, where bowls and cups were on the table, but there was no food.  But the orphan children were standing behind their seats respectfully waiting for breakfast to begin.’”  So there are thousands, at this time maybe there were a little bit less than thousands, but there were eventually thousands, they’re all standing there, lots of kids, no food, table set.  “Children, said Mueller, it will soon be time for school, so let’s pray.  ‘Dear Father, we thank you for what you are going to give us to eat.’  Just then a knock sounded at the door, and their stood the local baker.  ‘Mr. Mueller,’ he said, ‘I couldn’t sleep last night, somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast, and the Lord wanted me to send you some, so I got up at 2 o’clock in the morning and baked some fresh bread for you.’  Mueller thanked the baker and praised God for his care.  ‘Children,’ he said, ‘we not only have bread, but God has given us the treat of fresh bread, fresh baked bread.’  Well right away came a second knock at the door, this time it was the milkman who said his cart had now broken down outside the orphanage.  I must empty my wagon before I can repair it, could the children use my cans of fresh milk?’  He sets the table, and he’s so confident, he brings this gal and says, ‘Watch the Lord.’  And you think, ‘That’s just fantasy, that’s not a true story.  You know, I have watched God, and many of us have watched God work in our lives when we step out in faith and trust him, in wild ways. [And just in case any of you are thinking that story is not based on solid fact, log onto and read:]  And oh it would be good to remember that, and to walk in that, and to trust in that.  George Mueller knew that God could work.  So he set the table, and he gave thanks, and there God miraculously provided.  George Mueller knew that God could use his life, his faith, his witness.  And so, he had understood that Jesus was his life and Jesus was all and in all. [And if you read the true story of George Mueller on that link above, you will see that was a more or less regular event at the dining table in his orphanages.]  Well, Jesus, you know, as before, he distributes, the miracle actually happens in his hands, he just gives the bread, he keeps giving the bread and the fish out, and you’re the disciples, and you’re gathering it and taking it and you’re bringing it out, and he keeps going and going and going, and it’s just all happening as he’s doing it.  He does it, but you’re the conduit for it.  You know, it goes through your life.  It passes through the life of the disciples.  And that’s what ministry really should be.  We noted that before, and hopefully we didn’t forget.  He’s a powerful God, I’m that conduit as I just walk with him by faith and trust in him and step out in faith.  He works through my life. 


They were stuffed, glutted


Verse 37, “So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left.”  So, verses 37, note too, this is similar, it says ‘they all ate and were filled’, the Greek word again is, as before, they were glutted, they were really full, Sunday afternoon, like you are, when you just gorge out, and you just want to take a nap.  That’s what they were like.  It says they took up seven large baskets.  Now the Greek here is different [than in the last feeding of five thousand], the Greek word is spureze, and it refers to a hamper-sized basket, a big basket.  These generally had two handles, and they were predominantly used in the Gentile territories by Gentiles.  When Paul was lowered down the wall, he was lowered, as you remember in Acts chapter 9, he was lowered in a large basket, it was one of these, a spureze type basket.  But back before in chapter 14, when we studied the feeding of the five thousand, the Greek word there was cofinos, that was the basket, and that type of basket was a small basket.  So it’s possible that actually there’s more bread left over here, considerably more than in the other one.  But it was a small basket, it was this basket that the Jews had, because it had a narrow neck on the top, small opening.  And the reason it did is, the Jews, more than anything, would put their food in these small baskets.  They didn’t want any dust getting into the basket, especially dust that potentially had been touched by a Gentile.  And as you remember, the radical Jews especially, that dust would be unclean, if that dust got on you, you were unclean.  So they didn’t want unclean dust getting into their baskets.  So there’s a different word for a different basket with a small neck, referring to what would be a Jewish basket.  And so for that reason, this is a different basket, it’s apparently a Gentile basket.  So more evidence that there were clearly two different feedings.  Now also what is interesting, as you remember, from our last study, Jesus has ministered to this Gentile gal, this Canaanite lady, he’s ministered then to a multitude of Gentiles in the area of the Decapolis it appears, and now with the feeding, it’s probably a lot of them that are around, and he feeds them, and he’s in this part of the land where he’s actually ministering to Gentiles.  And as we noted last time, this is a picture of what’s about to come.  Jesus came to the Jew, he sent out his disciples to the Jew initially, but of course as he came to be the Messiah, the Christ to all, where there’s now the Church, no Jew or Gentile, and the Church Age is about to start.  And this is a taste of that again.  [Now this sermon is being given in a Gentile Christian church, with a Gentile bias.  Most of Christianity is of this persuasion.  But was the real Christian Church Gentile in practice and customs of worship from 31-32AD to the 1200s AD?  Check out a history research article on this subject at:  It’s a real paradigm-breaker on this subject, so hold onto your spiritual hat as you read it.]  So it’s interesting there’s seven, because when you come there’s seven baskets in this time with the Gentiles.  Because when you get to the New Testament, that number seven is repeated with a picture of the Church.  We get to the Book of Revelation, we studied that not too long ago, Revelation chapters 2 and 3.  There’s the seven letters to the seven churches, representing all of Church history, Gentile Church, of course, Jewish Church, the Church [made up of both the Gentile and Jewish branches of the Church, is what he’s getting at].  [Comment:  I just finished a commentary on the Book of Revelation for this website, and you can log onto the sections dealing with Revelation chapters 2 & 3 here: , , and]  Then if you look at the number of letters that Paul wrote when he wrote to the churches…[tape switchover, some text lost]…and he goes back to the western side of the Sea of Galilee, and he goes into an area between Capernaum and Tiberias, but he does not return to Capernaum, which was his home-base for quite awhile.  He doesn’t ever return to Capernaum, at least there’s no reference to it.  And remember back, that’s possibly a statement, as he gave a very strong exhortation to that community, and we don’t ever see him going back there.


2. Why we don’t learn, because we willfully choose not to believe:  The religious elite want a sign from heaven---“Prove to us you’re the Messiah!”


Chapter 16, verses 1-4, and we’ll just note a few things here.  “Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing him asked that he would show them a sign from heaven.  He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’  Hypocrites!  You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’  And he left them and departed.”     You know, we were debating today, even last night, should we have the service outdoors, should we not.  You know, they’re talking about this front moving in and all these thunder-storms around noon-time, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be next door and have a thunderstorm come.  But I was up early this morning finishing my notes and I was thinking, ‘Is it red out there?’  I mean, if it’s not red, that’s what it says here.  Because when it’s red in the morning, that means it’s gonna be a bad day.  I didn’t see it, maybe because it was cloudy.  I don’t know.  Well he calls them hypocrites, ‘You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.  The Pharisees and Sadducees come, these guys usually weren’t united together, I mean, they were in some ways as religious leaders in governing the people.  But often theologically they were opposed.  One was the more conservative group and one was the more liberal group.  And generally conservatism and liberalism, they clash.  But here they have a common enemy, so they’re together.  And they come, and it says they test, Mark chapter 8 says they also are disputing, so it’s like there’s an arguing going on as they’re testing him, too.  And they ask him to show a sign, a sign from heaven.  The word translated “sign” clearly, it doesn’t just mean simply a miracle or a demonstration of power, but the word sign actually, the sense is that it will confirm, it will prove, it will recognize that you are what you say you are, that type of sign.  Now the Pharisees, you know it says from heaven, they believed, Jesus just fed four thousand, he’s done many miracles, healing people and things like that.  And they would accuse him, ‘You do that by the power of Beelzebub, by the power of Satan, that’s how you’re doing that.  You’re just possessed by a demon.’  And they believed that you could, through demonic powers, you could do earthly miracles, things in the physical sense, you could heal people or multiply food, you could potentially do that because of demonic power.  They specifically asked for a sign from heaven, and that is because they believed that when it came to a sign from heaven, only God could actually work the heavens.  ‘So prove, really prove that this is God.’  Of course they don’t believe that he’s the Son of God, they’re trying to just corner him again.  We’ve seen, they’re really hostile against him.  But they want thunder, they want a lightning bolt.  [should have given them one, one that took out the Sadducees…]  One of the early Church fathers specifically put his commentary on this Scripture and said that that’s what they were asking for, thunder, lightning, bring rain, do some kind of sign from heaven.  Can’t help but think of Paul’s words to the church in Corinth here, 1st Corinthians chapter 1, verses 21-25, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”   They want a sign, and they stumble over the fact, that they wanted it their way, a certain way, and looking for certain things, and they missed all the wonder of what he was doing---that the Messiah had come, the suffering Messiah.  You know, miracles and signs, you may be here today and thinking ‘I need more than just a Bible study, I need a sign’, and the problem is, is when there is that type of heart, there’s no faith, and you can’t please God without faith.  [Comment:  God does not expect people that want genuine proof of his existence, or proof that his Word, the Bible is true to just take it on faith.  Such proofs are found within the Bible.  Check out and, for proof that Jesus Christ, Yeshua haMeshiach is the promised Messiah check out , and that God created the world and all life on it, check out  But the problem is not that there aren’t proofs of God’s existence, and that his Word is true. The problem is that even after viewing all the proofs, most people still do not accept them, and the reason for that is because they don’t want God in their lives, they want nothing to do with God unless some life-threatening event comes into their lives.  So, even with the proofs in hand, it still boils down to a faith matter, “Do I have faith enough in the wisdom of God to allow him rule over my life?”  That is the problem with belief and non-belief, it’s not in the proofs, but it’s what we personally desire, whether to have God in our lives or not.  If you really want God in your life, you will find him.  He will reveal himself to you.  Rahab the harlot wanted God in her life, the rest of the citizens of Jericho didn’t.  She got her miracle after she believed.  They got theirs too, but not in the way they wanted to see it (with the walls of Jericho collapsing outward and Israeli soldiers streaming inward).]  Sometimes God may in his grace actually get somebody’s attention in a way that, ‘Wow, that seemed like a God thing.’  But these folks, man, they’ve seen God work plenty of miracles around them, and yet there’s no faith.  They don’t believe.  They don’t want to believe.  And so they’re asking for this sign.  He answers them, and Mark says in chapter 8, verse 12, when he answers, that he actually sighs deeply in his spirit.  There’s that sense of ‘Here we go again.’  It’s that kind of response, and then as you see there’s even a rebuke in it, ‘When it is evening, you say it’ll be fair weather tomorrow for the sky is red, look the sunset is beautiful, gonna be a nice day.’  ‘And then you say, in the morning, it’ll be fowl weather today because the sky’s red in the morning and threatening.’ He says, ‘You guys know how to do that.’  You know, we  have a similar saying today, don’t we.  “Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”  Same kind of thing, and that’s what he’s saying here, principle that’s been around a long time, people have discerned.  I read this, I think of the John Hancock Building in Boston, you know, going to college in Boston, you’d look up there.  If it was solid blue, it was going to be a good day next day, that’s what it was saying.  If it was flashing blue, ah, not a bad day tomorrow.  If it was flashing red, maybe you’ve noticed it, the old Hancock Building, the old one, not the new one next to it.  If it was flashing red, it meant that it was going to be not very good weather, rainy, drizzly.  But if it just stayed red, if you ever see that driving by, it’s saying “BAD WEATHER IS COMING”.  That’s what they do.  And so, he says, ‘You guys have that, you can look at the world physically, you can look at the world and you can discern things, and be practical and make application.  But you look at the Word, and you’re not able to do that.  Because the Word of God has clearly spoken about me, has prophecied about me and why I am here, Isaiah 53, clearly, the suffering Messiah.  I came to die for the sin of the world.  And you can’t look at the Word and discern, but you can look at the skies and discern.’  Well as you see, he says “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.”  Wicked and adulterous because they wanted God a certain way, they wanted to manufacture their own god, spiritual adultery, and so wicked and adulterous in that case.  Now this is interesting, this isn’t the first time the Pharisees have done this.  If you have good memory, back in chapter 12, they came and did exactly the same thing.  The Pharisees came back in chapter 12, verses 38 to 40, and they asked the same thing, they said “Show us a sign.”  Jesus back in chapter 12, verses 38 to 40 responds in the same way.  So same lesson.  In fact, this is the fourth time, if you put all the Gospels together, this is the fourth time the religious leaders came and ask for a sign.  First time was in John chapter 2, verse 18.  Second time was back in chapter 12 of Matthew, third time is John chapter 6, verse 30, this is the fourth time.  And they actually do it another time, a fifth time, at least, in Luke chapter 11.  They continue to come to him, ‘Show us a sign’, he comes back with the answer, and they don’t get it.  ‘Show us a sign’ he comes back with an answer, and they don’t get it.  Hey, these guys are slow learners too.  And why are they slow learners?  Well obviously, clearly as we see there and note there, it’s because they just don’t want to believe, so they don’t learn, they’re not getting it.  He’s giving the answer, and it’s not computing, they’re not getting it because they don’t want to believe.  They don’t want it to be true.  And so they continue to come back.  And I tell you, that’s one of the reasons, often for many of us, we’re slow to learn because we don’t want to believe.  I know that, I sit down sometimes in counseling, somebody’s struggling and I’ll say “This is what Christ says to you, this is what he promises for you.”  And it’s like, it doesn’t even go there, because they don’t believe, and they think they need this other thing.  ‘I need to go to this other place.  I need something else.’  And you’re like “LISTEN, you can have victory in Christ, you already have victory.”  Romans chapter 6, chapter 7, chapters 5, 6, 7, & 8, the victory, you already have it.  [see and read through that whole series.]  You just explain, ‘Walk in it’, and they don’t want to believe.  You can actually have the joy of the Lord, you have the fruit of the Spirit, which is joy [one fruit of many, cf. Galatians 5:21-23].  And they come back with this long list as to why I don’t have joy.  And it’s like ‘I don’t want to believe.’  You don’t understand, ‘I don’t want to believe because I have this, and I’m refusing to believe.’  And so, slow to learn.  God is true to his Word, when he says certain things, he is absolutely true to his Word.  He’s true to what he promises, for us.  And the problem is, is we don’t accept it, and we don’t want to believe, and choose not to, so we’re slow to learn.  We willfully choose not to accept the things that he says.  Man, these men, though they could look at the world, and make application, but man, when God spoke, they look to the Word, they couldn’t make the application.  And isn’t that a struggle for a lot of us?  Maybe that’s you today.  Maybe God’s trying to speak to you again.  And there’s these issues, and you know what the Bible says, you know what God says.  Maybe today, maybe you’ll be willing to believe.  You won’t just put up the wall and turn it off, like it doesn’t apply to you or something.  It’s the Word of God. 


3. We’re slow to learn because we’re “of little faith”, our faith is weak


Verses 5-12, “Now when his disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.  Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have taken no bread.’---these guys are kind of comical, special-needs disciples, no doubt about it---But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, ‘O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?  Do you not yet understand, or remember the five thousand and how many baskets you took up?  Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up?  How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?---but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’  Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  They had forgotten to take bread, maybe they’re in a hurry, and they’ve crossed and they don’t have it.  And it becomes a concern to them.  That’s why when he says, there’s a concern there, ‘We don’t have bread, what are we going to do?’.  That seems to be implied.  And so when he turns to them, ‘Hey listen, guys, take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’  They take a spiritual lesson here, and they get confused in the physical, tripping over the physical.  And when he says “take heed and beware”, the tense is ‘constantly you need to constantly be on guard.’  ‘Beware, constantly, of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of the Sadducees.’  In Mark we learned he also said “the leaven of Herod”.  Well they reason, ‘Is it because we don’t have enough bread, boy, we forgot it, you guys…’, maybe they’re blaming it on each other, he’s overhearing this, ‘Come on Peter, man, it’s your job, or Judas, ‘You’ve got the money, man, did you buy any?’  ‘And now he’s telling us we’ve gotta be careful, because we don’t want to buy the wrong bread, get the wrong leaven, leaven is evidently bad.’  They’re just not getting it.  But you see, he then says to them, “O you of little faith”, that would be like their nickname, he says that so many times.  He could say, ‘Hey, little-faith, come here.’  [laughter]  It’s true for us too, ‘Steve-little-faith, come here.’  We like the nice name, you know.  We like the big names, the nicknames on the back of our Jersey’s that make us sound cool, when really it’s God saying ‘Steve-little-faith.’…but ‘You of little faith, why are you struggling over that lack of bread, guys?  Why are you struggling over that again?’  In Mark, when he actually goes and explains it to them, he actually does it as a question/answer thing.  ‘How many loaves again’, they answer ‘five and a couple fish.’  ‘How many loaves again’, he kind of does it, bringing them through it.  And there’s a picture isn’t there, one is they’re slow to learn, and one of the reasons they’re slow to learn is because, and this is different.  When you willfully choose not to believe, you’re just closing the door, you don’t want to believe.  But that’s not the case here, their struggle is just they have little faith, it’s a lack of faith, they’re struggling in faith.  And that, I tell you, that’s probably the bigger one for me, more than anything is bad memory, and I struggle in faith.  I can have God come through for me, I have had many times where I have just got on my knees and gone ‘Lord, we’ve got bills to pay, Lord’, and God miraculously provides.  The church, you know, ‘Lord, here we are, God we need your provision.’  Many times, many times, and then watch God, I have it in my journal, have the story written, ‘Look at what God did.  It was a miracle.’  And then a little later, I can feel uncomfortable again, rather than just rejoicing, like George Mueller going ‘OK Lord, what are you going to do?  This is wild.  Seen you do this a thousand times.  What are you going to do?’  We struggle, we’re slow to learn because we struggle in faith.  We struggle in faith.  You know, George Mueller, I could have brought in stories, I chose not to.  But if you actually study his life, even him, he had times, there are yet times where he confesses, for whatever reason, maybe it’s a spiritual battle, maybe just human nature, but he struggled, would have that time of doubt, ‘Lord, are you going to do it?’.  And yet then God would come through, and just showing and start showing.  Today maybe that’s what’s going on with you, and God’s just saying ‘You’re problem now is a little faith.  You’re wrestling, you’re wondering, and you’re problem is a little faith.’  And why don’t you just let God speak, and the hearing of the Word, and just walk out with more faith, and have the peace that goes with that?  Well, ‘How is it you do not understand?  That’s not what I’m talking about, guys.  What I’m saying is beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ 


What was the ‘doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees’ he’s talking about?


And then Matthew, fortunately, tells us that what he was referring to is the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and they then go ‘Ah, I get it.  Now that you explain it again, I get it, it’s the teaching, the doctrine, it’s the ministries of the Pharisees and Sadducees, that’s what we need to be careful of.’  Of course the Pharisees, they were the legalists, they were the traditionalists.  And as the legalists they added to the Word, they had their codified law that was in some instances more important than the Word, they added to the Word.  [This is talking about the Oral Law, which was finally codified in writing about 200 AD as the Mishna.]  The Sadducees, on the other hand, they only looked at part of the Word, they only looked at the first five books of Moses, that’s all that they considered to be the Word, so they took away from the Word.  And they were liberal in their interpretation, they didn’t believe in angels, and resurrection of the dead, and life after death, they didn’t believe in that, they were liberal.  So you have those that go the way of legalism, and those that go the way of liberalism, adding to the Word and taking away from the Word.  And isn’t the Bible so repetitive on this subject, God was so often repetitive with the people of Israel, so often with the Church, with the instruction: “Don’t add to the Word, and don’t take away from the Word.”  [cf. Revelation 22:18-19 is just one of those places.  It also says something similar in Deuteronomy, the last book of the Law.]  Just stick to the Word.  In fact, the Bible ends by saying in Revelation chapter 22, verses 18-19, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:  If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”  So you have legalism, and you have liberalism.  In the Church today, it’s the same thing.  We have to just stay in the Word and stay in the Spirit, so that we don’t become legalists, and suddenly it’s all these do’s and don’ts, when God is saying ‘listen to the spirit of what I’m saying, it isn’t do’s and don’t’s, it’s to be led in the Spirit.’  And we don’t become liberal, and suddenly start thinking ‘Well, you know, listen…In Harvard University this is what they teach, “Scientists have told us this, so we can just forget this part of the Bible, it was clearly not intended…” 




Well, we’ll pick up next week, verse 13.  Slow learners, I guess we can all confess, we’re slow learners.  Watching the disciples we get to maybe consider some of the reasons to why, and one of the reasons, as we note, is the different variables, different place, different time.  Could be a little bit different, I learned it before, now it’s a little different, and for some reason I can’t get over that right now, I struggle with that.  For some, we aren’t learning because we just don’t want to believe.  He can say it until he’s blue in the face, and we just don’t want to accept it.  And then, so often for so many, it’s the struggling in faith, struggle in faith, we of little faith.  Let’s close in prayer…[connective expository sermon on Matthew 15:32-39; 16:1-12 , given somewhere in New England]     


Related links:


George Mueller, Man of Faith and Miracles:                      


Start of the Early Church:         


Church History from another perspective:    


God does provide proof of his existence, and that his Word is true, it’s just we don’t want to believe because we don’t want him in our lives:


We already have the victory, Christ is in us:

(and read through that whole section)     


How can we be conduits of God’s love and power to those in need around us?  Log onto:


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