In chapters 14 and 15 Matthew serves up three stories about
crumbs with a few teachings thrown in, like salad and vegetables, to round
out the meal and fill the plate. But make no mistake, the theme of these two
chapters is the Kingdom of God being served up so the hungry might be filled,
the hurting might be healed and the dead might have life.
These two chapters are focusing on the banquet feast of the
Kingdom of God. There are two stories of mass feedings with meager supplies. Both times Jesus takes what’s available, gives thanks and then, without making
a fuss, tells the disciples to “Feed the people.” Both times there are left
But, I’m getting ahead of the story. Before each meal, there
are healings. Jesus walks into one crowd and the other walks up to Him. The
first crowd is on the shore, Jesus has compassion and he goes ashore and heals
them. The second crowd discovers him sitting on a mountain and rushes to him – with their lame, blind, deformed, deaf and
dumb – and he healed them all. The difference between the two crowds was their
heritage – and the size of the baskets they brought to the banquet.
The Israelites followed Jesus’ boat from the lakeshore
hoping for an audience with Him. In compassion He went to them – although, as a
people they failed to recognise Him time and time again. His compassion knew no
bounds and when He saw the need – even of His fickle fellow Jews – He provided
all He had to meet all they needed.
The Gentiles flocked to Him because of the testimony of
those who had met him previously. Mark tells us this was the same place where
Jesus healed two demoniacs. They went to their homes and towns. They told their
Jesus story. And when Jesus returned the people rushed to Him and begged to
touch the tassels of His robe, such was their faith. They fully expected to be
prostrate before Him as He walked by – and then they could just reach up from
their humble lowly place and touch the hem of the Master’s garment. Instead,
Jesus sat down – at the level of a child – and healed all who were brought to
After the two stories of healing we read about the feedings.
In the first feeding, the quantity is precise – five loaves and two fish – and the
result is a filled multitude and 12 baskets of left overs. In the second
feeding, the quantity is unsure – seven loaves and a few small fish – again
resulting in a filled multitude and 7 baskets of leftovers. The meat in Matthew’s
Kingdom crumb sandwich is completely missed in the English word “basket” and
yet it is the entire point of these two stories.
Before we explore these baskets – and the amount of crumbs
they held – we need to visit a lady with a demon possessed daughter. She is a Gentile.
Jesus is a Jew. She knows her place – lower than the Master’s tassels – but
puts herself under the table instead. She asks Jesus to heal her daughter. At
this point in Matthew’s Gospel he is hoping the reader is starting to get the
point that whenever Jesus gets cryptic, He’s talking about the Kingdom of God –
the new Kingdom of God. She begs from a distance. Jesus keeps moving. She gets
closer – crying out in prayer for her daughter’s healing – She says, perhaps
quoting Psalms, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David.” She knew Jesus for who
He truly was. Jesus keeps moving. Finally, the disciples beg him, “Quiet her!”
Jesus stops and enters into dialogue with the woman. He
talks about the first Kingdom saying, "I was sent to Israel." Finally able to catch up with Jesus, she
crumples to the ground and reaches for his tassels, “Lord Help ME!” Then, reflecting
on the common practice of keeping pet dogs in the house, Jesus says, “It’s
wrong to take the children’s bread and feed it to their pet dogs!”
Quick on her knees, the woman replies with a truth of the
ancient world, “Yes, Lord, but everyone feeds the crumbs of that same bread to
the dogs once the children are done!” In a world without puppy chow, the pet
dogs ate last at the masters table.
Jesus laughs. I’m not sure if you can hear it but I sure
can! “Too right, woman! Your faith is great. As much as you have asked, you
have received!" And from that moment her daughter was cured.
Jesus contrasts the woman’s faith with the few crumbs typically
left for the dogs. It’s not just falling off the table like left over crumbs,
it’s pouring onto the floor and bursting out the door of the house and into the
streets of the Gentiles – much like the Kingdom of God.
Matthew is ready, now, for the next mass feeding. Again,
healings come first. Three days later, Jesus suggests that the people might be
getting hungry. The story follows the pattern set by the first one. The
disciples are asked for what they have. Jesus thanks the Father for it. The
disciples distribute it. This time seven baskets remain. This time its Gentiles
being healed then fed. This time it’s the people who, like the woman of ‘great
faith’ have been healed to a man, woman and child. And this time there are a lot
more left overs.
To our ear, it’s less. 7 is less than 12. But look again. The
first story – with the 12 baskets – says just that in Matthew 14:20. Twelve baskets full. The second
story – with the 7 baskets – says … (have a look at Matthew 15:37, it’s more fun if you see it
yourself!)… Seven LARGE baskets full.
How large? Before we answer that – lets talk about the 12.
The Greek word used for those baskets is a basket the size of a lunchbox. The 12
disciples, busy feeding the crowd, probably hadn’t eaten. Collecting the
leftovers, they each had a basket of fish and chips to fill their hungry
bellies. Israel was fed. Sufficiently.
Now to the 7 baskets. Remember how Paul escaped from the men
who wanted to kill him .. In a large basket – lowered by a rope? That’s the word used
here. 7 man-sized baskets of crumbs. The translation 'large baskets' is understated to say the least!
The Kingdom of God is no longer restricted to Israel – it’s
being served to anyone who needs God’s grace – whether your need be for a slice
of His Divine mercy or a basket full of Kingdom crumbs so big you can climb in,
eat until you are full and then fall asleep in the basket of His love.