A Fine Kettle of Fish (Matthew 14:13-21)

By | July 1, 2012

Not Just Another Fish Story: #1
What Can We Learn From The Great Fish Stories In The Bible?


     The title of our new Series is “Not Just Another Fish Story,” so naturally I have to start with a fish story! It just wouldn’t be right not to, would it? Bass fishing used to be one of my passions. There’s nothing quite like the feel of a bass fighting on the end of a line. I’ll never forget this one bass I caught. I’d bought a brand new rod and reel. I’d been drooling over a particular fiberglass rod and this sweet little reel for quite some time. I finely gave into temptation and bought them.

     That night I cleaned out my tackle box and got ready for the next time I had an opportunity to go fishing. I knew right where I wanted to try that baby out, too. As I was going through the tackle box I found all these bits and pieces of old lures and crank baits. I’d just read an article about making your own lures, so I threw some of those pieces together and made my own special lure. It was kind of a Frankenstein monster of lures, an ugly thing and I had no idea if it would catch anything or not.

     About three days later I was finally able to get away to try out this new rod and reel. I’d made arrangements to fish this one tank. I loaded everything into the little john boat this guy had and rowed out to the spot I’d picked out, a spot where I’d caught lots of fish before. There on the back side of the tank was a huge willow tree. It drooped and hovered over the water, just at the water’s edge. In that mass of willow branches here was about a three-foot hole. It looked like a small cave. I just knew there’d be at least one bass there but I’d never cast into it because I didn’t want to lose any lures. You see, willow trees are close cousins to Charlie Brown’s kite eating tree and I’d lost plenty of lures in their branches. This one looked like it had its mouth wide open waiting for me to feed it.

     But then, I remembered that ugly, homemade lure. It was nothing but parts thrown together so it could easily be sacrificed for the cause. So, there I was, a brand new rod and reel and a brand new lure. I can still see it in my mind like it was recorded for TV. It was something beautiful, something that would have been worthy of Bill Dance or one of the TV fishing shows.

     It was a perfect cast. The lure sailed through the air and landed right smack in the center of that opening under the willow tree. And no sooner had the lure hit the water than the water exploded. A black bass boiled up like a submarine surfacing and grabbed that lure.

     Then off he took. He dove down and swam to the right. A few seconds later he surfaced, danced on his tail trying to get loose and then dove again. He did that two or three times. It was beautiful. And each time I was slowly bringing him in.

     That was one of the prettiest 6 ½ pound basses I’ve ever caught. You know what, I never caught another thing with that lure. I’ll bet I tried 100 more times, not even a nibble. But I’ll never forget that one moment. It’s frozen in time in my mind.

     Peter, James, John and Andrew were all fishermen. I’ll bet they had more fish stories than you and I combined. They’re probably the ones who started the story about the one armed fisherman who caught one this big. I’m pretty sure their favorite fish story though, is the one in today’s passage because it has been recorded in all four Gospels. Let’s look at Matthew 14:13-21 (NRSV)

[13] Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.  

[14] When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.  

[15] When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”  

[16] Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”  

[17] They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”  

[18] And he said, “Bring them here to me.”  

[19] Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  

[20] And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.  

[21] And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.  

     That’s some fish story isn’t it?



     A. Putting the passage in context, we find that Jesus has just received news that his cousin John, the one they called the baptizer, had been beheaded by Herod. Jesus went off across the Sea of Galilee to a lonely place, to be by himself, to sort things out and to grieve for his cousin. It brought his own purpose and mission to mind. The crowds were so enamored of Jesus, that they couldn’t leave him alone even in his hour of grief. After hours of prayer, Jesus crossed back over. He saw the crowds; he saw their hungering eyes, their infirmities, their pleading looks, their desire for love and meaning in their life. He looked at the people and had compassion for them.

     In that compassion, despite his own grief, he reached out and began to heal the sick. Before he knew it, night had come. The disciples were getting hungry. They’d worked hard all day, leading the people to Jesus, being ushers in the healing service, and they wanted to go eat. So they told Jesus to send the folks on into the villages to buy food. But Jesus said, “They don’t need to go away; you give them something to eat.”

     The disciples nearly choked. They scrambled around and stuttered and then said, “But Lord, all we’ve got is this little old sack lunch which somebody packed. It only has a five small loaves and two fish. It’s not even enough for us.

     They knew they couldn’t call out to Dominoes and have a truckload of Pizzas delivered, the villages around were all too small to have anything like a Dominoes, a McDonalds or a Burger King. They were too small to even have a Dairy Queen. So what were they to do.

     Jesus told them to bring the five loaves and two fish to him. Then he looked up to heaven and gave thanks to God. “Baruch ata Adonai Eloheynu.” Which means: “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe,” and would conclude “who brings forth sustenance from the earth.” Then Jesus broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to serve to the hungry crowd. There were five thousand men, not counting the women and children. 

     Out of the very least of gifts given unselfishly for Christ’s service, Christ fed over 5,000 people. The bread wasn’t sliced thin, instead everyone got to eat their fill. And when they were through, they took up the leftovers and there were enough to fill twelve baskets. All of that from somebody’s sack lunch of five loaves and two fish. That’s Not Just Another Fish Story.


     A. I think there are three points in this passage. They are: 1) Trust God. 2) Trust God. 3) Trust God.

     That’s what it’s all about. Trusting God with what we have whether it’s one loaf or five, one fish or two. We’re called to trust God and to place what we have in God’s hands, remembering that God’s math and our math aren’t the same. When we put our trust in God, God always takes our least and makes the most of it. The apostles saw obstacles, but Jesus saw an opportunity to do good and fed the multitude.

     Have you seen the animated movie “Brave” yet? It’s promoted as a movie about changing your fate but it’s really about how pride and self-centeredness can cause alienation and pain. But it’s also about how that pain and alienation can be healed through repentance and reconciliation.

     Merida, a young Scottish princess, didn’t trust her mother, she only trusted herself. She didn’t see herself the same way her mother did, and her mother didn’t see Merida the way she truly was. Their pride and their differences caused a huge rift between them, it tore their relationship apart. WATCH

     When a major crisis occurs Merida and her mother Elinor, learn not only trust in each other, but they discover the greatest qualities the other has and realize that they are very much alike.

     Their love for each other and their willingness to sacrifice for the other by humbling themselves and letting go of their pride is what finally heals the rift between them and the clans and transforms both of their lives.

     When we put our Trust in Christ, we too, are transformed. Just like the Disciples were transformed.

     B. I found out recently that there are (hold up four fingers) three kinds of people in the world. Those who can count and those who can’t. In the Kingdom of God, the disciples fell into the second group. The disciples added up the resources, five loaves and two fish, and came up short. The disciples focused on mathematics and not Jesus and decided it couldn’t be done.

     Sometimes we do the same. We look at a situation and add up one plus one and get two, and conclude that we don’t have the resources with which to act. But we forget that God’s mathematics are different. God is not limited to simple addition or subtraction. God can and does multiply what we give.

     But then that’s how God operates when we put our trust in God and the Son of God. God always takes the small and insignificant and multiplies it. And if God can do that with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, just think what God can do with your life and your gifts.


     A. You might think, “I can’t do much. I don’t have enough to do anything with.” But just look what Christ did with a few loaves and a couple of fish. It doesn’t make any difference how much or how little we have to give. What matters is our willingness to Trust and our willingness to give it in the name of and for glory of Christ.

     A little girl heard about all the children who were dying in Africa because of Malaria. She was told that something as simple as a $10 mosquito net impregnated with insecticide for them to sleep under, could save their life. She told her Daddy all about what she’d learned and wondered why people didn’t just buy those nets for those kids. Moved by her response, in May of 2006, columnist Bill Reilly wrote an article in Sports Illustrated which changed the world.

     He challenged the NBA and every other sport to purchase nets. Not sports nets but mosquito nets. The NBA joined the United Nations and together they approached to Bill and Linda Gates foundation. Bill and Linda Gates said they would get involved only if the United Methodist Church would get involved, which it did.

     An amazing partnership developed and in the last 6 years we have raised over $24 Million, reduced the number of deaths from 1 every 30 seconds to 1 only every minute. That’s over 200,000 lives saved a year. Our goal is to eradicate Malaria by 2015. All because a little girl told her Daddy she wanted to help. That’s God’s math.

     B. It really doesn’t take much, a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish or $10 put into the hands of Christ can be multiplied beyond our wildest dream. God through Christ takes what we have to offer: our faith, our dreams, our commitment, our skills, our inspiration, our talents and multiplies them. When whatever we have is given through trust, to be used for the glory of God, God multiplies it for God’s purposes. There is no gift that is too small. God takes our least and makes the most out of it.


     We each have gifts and talents, ideas and dreams, skills and hopes that can be used for the glory of God. Each of us can do something. We each have loaves and fishes to offer to the Master. What are yours? Remember there is no gift that is too small, God can multiply it for His purposes. Let God take your least and make the most out of it.

     This morning we come to partake of the Lord’s Supper. It’s very reminiscent of this miracle. We will take a small piece of bread and a little bit of wine and through the presence of Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit, it will be multiplied into a banquet of grace and a feast of forgiveness. We will come from the wilderness and struggle of our daily lives and stand in the presence of the Son of God and feel his compassion. And we will be fed. Then having feasted, we will rise and go into the world, filled with the Spirit of Christ and the vision of God, so that God can work through us.

     We come this morning offering our faith and ourselves, and little as that may be, or as little as that may seem, God will accept it and multiply it for God purpose. We’re simply called to come as we are; give what we have and trust in God. And when we come like that, in simplicity, faith and trust then we will receive and be fed.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.