Side A/ Side B
Severed Head and Hungry Crowd
WELCOME to The Feast! Before we move on, let’s check our map. Where are we in our amazing “Matthew Expedition” which we started last December 2019.
One of Matthew’s messages is that Jesus is the New Moses.
That has zero emotional impact on us, but this was a radical claim for the Jews. To press on this point, Matthew did something ingenious: He divided the teachings of Jesus into five chunks to parallel the five teachings of Moses:
Today, we’ll start a brand-new series which we’ll playfully call Side A/ Side B— because most of the talks are about twos— two stories, two kingdoms, two kings, two parties…
Obviously, people a little older than me will have a softer spot in their heart for the phrase, Side A/Side B. Let me show you a photo and tell me what is the connection between these two objects. Warning: Your answer will reveal how old you are…
If you’re young, you can only guess.
If you’re my generation, a flood of memories is rushing to you now, because you have, many times, frantically used Mongol #2 to save your favorite love song from being “knotted” into the trash bin.
‘Come and Eat!’
Today, I want to preach the simple message, “Come and eat.”
Are you hungry? Not for pancit or chicken or pizza. Are you hungry for meaning and passion and purpose and real happiness and true love? Jesus is inviting you, “Come and eat”. He’s prepared a Feast for you.
Today, we’ll read two Bible stories: The beheading of John the Baptist and the multiplication of the loaves. The two stories are very different from each other,
but they’re more connected than you think.
Warning: The first story is gory. Think of the movie, 300. For Herod had arrested and imprisoned John as a favor to his wife Herodias (the former wife of Herod’s brother Philip). 4 John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry her.” 5Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of a riot because all the people believed John was a prophet. 6But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’s daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him, 7 so he promised with a vow to give her anything she wanted. 8At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “I want the head of John the Baptist on a tray!” 9Then the king regretted what he had said; but because of the vow he had made in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders. 10 So John was beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. 12Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened. (Matthew 14:3-12 NLT)
This was a depraved Royal Party, with booze overflowing and young girls dancing.
They were so drunk with power, they actually thought that a severed human head, with its blood dripping from a silver platter, was entertainment.
This was evil. Evil to its core. But they couldn’t even see how bad they’ve become.
Warning: Evil numbs your conscience.
Before you know it, you become a monster. Let’s continue the story…
Jesus Feels Your Pain
“As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.” (v.13, emphasis mine)
Jesus was shaken. He loved His cousin, John the Baptist, very much.
Some, if not all of you, might have lost a family member. But I’m sure your family member wasn’t beheaded in a private show for a party, before the stand-up comedian and after the erotic dance number.
Jesus’ grief was so intense, He wanted to be alone. In prayer, He wanted to cry out to His Heavenly Father.
And if I may insert, this is what I always tell people who are grieving: Grief heals.
Let your sobbing be your song and your weeping your worship.
But did Jesus succeed in His planned retreat? Nope.
Matthew said, “But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns.” (v.13)
Someone leaked intel and the secret destination was not so secret anymore.
Imagine Jesus and the disciples riding on a banca to go to a secluded spot where Jesus could pray and be alone. But while they were more or less a hundred meters away from the shore, lo and behold, they saw a throng waiting for them, clapping, jumping up and down, waving a banner, “Welcome Jesus!”
I bet the apostles whispered to Jesus, “Master, we’re changing plans. Do you want to go to Tagaytay instead? Lots of retreat houses there.”
But Jesus shook His head. Matthew said, “Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (v.14, emphasis mine)
Com means with and passion means to suffer.
Literally, compassion is to feel the suffering of the other person.
But you don’t just feel it. You do something about it.
Jesus was already in pain. He lost a loved one.
But He felt the pain of others more.
Because Jesus is selfless. Jesus loves people.
Dear friend, are you in pain?
You’re not alone.
Jesus feels your pain.
After the Beheading Is the Breaking
The story continues with one of the most popular miracles.
You’ve probably heard it hundreds of times before.
But please listen to it with fresh ears, and believe me, you will be rewarded:
“Remote place” equals wilderness or desert. Matthew wanted us to remember that more than a thousand years before, also in a desert, God fed people with manna. But on that day, Jesus was going to do the same thing. Because Jesus is not only the new Moses– Jesus is God.
“Like the apostles, we too look down on ourselves and focus on our lack, because we think only of our own resources. We forget that we also have God’s resources.
My estimate is 12,000 persons, minimum. What an awesome miracle. That was a lot of pan de sal and salted tilapia.
But if you read the story in context, you get to hear four profound messages that you would have otherwise missed.
Matthew presents to you two kings: King Herod and King Jesus. The first one, utterly selfish. The second one, utterly selfless.
King Herod chops off the head of someone else to entertain his guests at a party. But King Jesus breaks the bread, which is a symbol of His own Body, to feed others.
Because the miracle story is obviously eucharistic. Jesus used the same words in the Last Supper—He blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it away. By the time the Gospel of Matthew was written, house churches were already, each week, breaking bread together. So, they knew the formula. Ask yourself these four questions…
If it’s Jesus, follow His selflessness.
There were two feasts.
First is an obscene royal party attended by powerful people, poisoned by insecurity, pride, and murder.
Second is a miraculous meal prepared by God in the desert for the poor, the sick, and the sinner, the true kings, and queens of the Kingdom.
To what Kingdom will you belong? Every single day, you have to choose what party you’ll join.
The apostles told Jesus,“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” (v.17, emphasis mine)
Note that this was their “baon” (packed lunch). They brought it for
their trip. It was good for 12 blokes, not for 12,000. But Jesus asked for all of it.
When you follow Jesus, you give up everything. This was the same message of the parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price. But when you sacrifice everything, He will multiply your offering. Finally…
Read this detail in the story: “…he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people.” (v.19)
I love this. Matthew made clear the distribution method of Jesus.
In the first party, they were so insecure, they held onto their power and were willing to kill for it.
In the second party, they gave what they received.
May I preach to you? This is how God wants His Kingdom to work.
Jesus wants to use you as His distribution method.
He wants people to know God’s Love through you.
Friend, are you hungry?
Are you looking for purpose and peace and joy and love?
There’s a party happening right now.
Everyone is treated like a King and Queen.
No matter how broken. Or wounded. Or sinful.
Jesus is speaking to you, today.
He’s telling you, “Come and eat.”
And then whatever you receive, He’ll ask you to give away.
Will you give away your five loaves and two fish?
What you give will feed a multitude.