5000+ Mouths to Feed: Hunger for a New Politics

Read: Matt. 14:13-21

I know some of you like The Hunger Games. I saw the film and enjoyed it. As I was thinking about today I thought the parallels between the miracle we’re looking at today were numerous. Significantly regarding politics in HG (e.g. panem, bread and circuses and President Snow).

When we are reading the gospels it is really important to remember that they are narratives with themes and events that lead to other events etc.

What happens here makes much more sense when we remember a couple of things,

1) God’s kingdom is a huge theme for Matthew
  • God’s kingdom is about an alternative community, with an alternative way of life and values and approach to concerns.

2) Matthew’s gospel has lots of Israel connections
  • Matthew was writing his gospel in a setting in which Jews didn’t want to be associated with (their twins) Christians. Matthew is trying to show they share the same story and this he tries to make this clear from the story of Jesus’ life – the feeding of the 5000 is connected with Israel’s wilderness experience were they received bread from heaven (manna).

3) The story immediately before the feeding of the 5000 is super important to know how it fits into the bigger picture of the gospel.
  • The story with Herod and the feeding of the 5000 bring all of this together around the God’s kingdom idea that goes right through Matthew. Jesus is the king, within an alternative society which is springing right out of Israel’s story under Herod’s nose.

Read: Matt. 14:1-12

Let’s see what’s going on now?

V13 – what has Jesus heard?

V14 – how huge is compassion here?

V15-18 – Let’s link the feeding here to the Herod story. How might we connect the two? (v9 – v17-18)

“That Jesus has compassion on the crowd is best understood in contrast to Herod’s banquet. Jesus provides food for those without food solely because they are hungry. Herod provides food for those who are not without food as a demonstration of his power. Jesus feeds the five thousand because he has compassion for them. His feeding, therefore, is an alternative politics to the politics of envy and greed that the Herods of this world cannot avoid.” Stanley Hauerwas

Jesus doesn’t have to do what he did but he does because this is what God’s kingdom is like. Providing for those who need provided for (in excess) because compassion works that way – this is how God’s king acts.

That this story follows the story of Herod is vital.

Herod’s power is received from others. He can lose it if he doesn’t keep up the show. In doing this very thing he neglects the people he is king over.

Let’s get to the HG here.

Do you see any parallels?

Capitol/Food on the train – abundance. (Think Herod in his palace at his party.)

District 12 – Katniss + Peeta – bread/starvation. (Think the remote place with only 5 loaves and 2 fish for thousands.)

These conditions are imposed by the Capitol and Snow – but the HG must be entertaining to provide and keep power as the events at the end demonstrate so much of life in the Capitol is simply aesthetic.

The events between President Snow and Seneca Crane get to this a bit. Seneca is regularly threatened by Snow because the charade of power and control must be maintained. This is a fascinating parallel to the situation with Herod in v9

But we need to go back to the story and link up with some Israel connections in all of it.

V19-21: This were the Israel connections really kick in and they make sense with because…

V15: notes that where they were was a “remote place” and this is important because as we said this is all connecting back to Israel in the wilderness.

A massive number of people were provided manna in the wilderness and a massive number of Israelites are provided for here as well – in both God was providing for his people.

V17: 5 loaves = Pentateuch and the 2 fish = law and prophets.

For the Jews these were vital for living and understanding life. Just as important as bread and fish.

God’s kingdom and the Israel story mix in all of this because Jesus as Israel’s king has created a new Israel around himself, with an alternative politics and way of administering and handling power. This is the significance of getting the (12) disciples to feed the people (Israel and it’s (12) tribes) that have come to Jesus! Nor is insignificant that 12 baskets of leftovers are gathered by the (12) disciples.

This is showing the 12 representatives and advancers of the new Israel that their king is good and provides as they learn their role in realising the renewal of Israel like, with and through Jesus. (Jesus was after all being serious in v16)

What’s also mega-important in all of this is that we see this linking to Eucharist (v19 / 26:26-29).

Jesus breaking the loaves foreshadows Jesus breaking bread (that represents his body and wine that was his blood) that last time, which provide for many more (in excess) who find life in Jesus’ and the new Israel community. Here Jesus lays down his life to utterly subvert the politics of violent oppressive power.

Now, the feeding of the 5000+ is a miracle for sure. It’s a big ass miracle at that! But the miracle is part of something – the life and mission of Jesus to see God’s kingdom come in the life of a new people centred around and living like Jesus himself. That’s what this miracle is exploring. This miracle helps us anticipate the moment this mission would fully confront and be inaugurated in the world through the crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus and the kingdom are an alternative to Herod and anyone and everyone like him because Jesus’ kingdom is compassionate and provides for all who interact with it. This is what the church does.

The church is an alternative to bread and circus politics.

The HG is great because it underlines there is something desperately wrong and that people need better. We need power that isn’t fragile and contingent – and because of that get oppressive and neglectful.

This is one of the things the feeding of the 5000+ is getting at. A new people, a new community, a real community with God’s way of doing things (or kingdom) determining its behaviour!

Compassion becomes the rule. Abundance and provision are the game. Service is the nature.

This is what the crucifixion and resurrection underline. That these authorities were undermined and robbed of power by the power of self-giving love, which couldn’t tolerate diminished and lost life. Like the disciples we go out with baskets full of ‘bread’ “broken for us”.

[These were notes for my class for Bible Class this morning]