Replaying the Exodus with Loaves and Fishes

MP3 Audio: WS330369_Dn-Joseph_Replaying-the-Exodus-with-loaves-and fishes.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, August 3, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services


Gospel Reading: Mark 8:1-9

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Our God is One.

About three-and-a-half thousand years ago, there were hundreds of thousands of slaves in Egypt. God called them His people, and by a miraculous hand, he saved them out from under the burden of Pharaoh’s whip. He brought them out of Egypt. By a mighty hand, he took them across the Red Sea. He led them to a mountain in the wilderness. They heard the Word of God, and they received the Law from God at the mountain. There in the wilderness, without any sowing, without any reaping, and without laying up anything into storehouses or barns, God fed his people bread from heaven called manna, and he satisfied their hunger for meat with quail.

In today’s Gospel reading in the Book of Mark, and in its parallel in the Book of Matthew, we see Jesus Himself to be Yahweh, Jesus Himself to be the Creator, Jesus Himself to be God, as He Himself recreates the Exodus. He did not multiply the loaves and the fishes in the city. He called them out from their spiritual oppressors — the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the false teachers in Israel — just as Israel had been called out from under its pagan oppressors in Egypt.

So now, [the city] having spiritually become Egypt and Sodom, God calls his people out of the city once more and into the wilderness. We are told in the same Gospel reading in the Book of Matthew that Jesus sat on a mountain. Just as God had called His people out of Egypt to the wilderness, to Mount Sinai, now Jesus calls His people out of the city into the wilderness to a mountain. For three days, they have followed Him. They have heard His Word. They have heard His teaching. Just as the Israelites had heard the Word of God from Mount Sinai and had received the Law, so now the people who have come out of the city into the wilderness to the mountain have received the teaching of Christ who is Yahweh in the flesh.

But having left everything behind, having been freed from this pagan spiritual oppression, having entered the peace and tranquility of the wilderness — which is still untouched by the sinful hands of man — having heard the voice of God, having sought the Kingdom of Heaven first, God, still knowing the physical needs of man, takes care of these needs. 3500 years ago, out in the wilderness, God fed His people with bread from heaven, with manna, and with quail. In this recreation of the Exodus, these people neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and Jesus multiplies the bread, and He multiplies the meat — the fish — so that those who have sought Him first would also have every physical need taken care of.

He breaks the bread, and what began as only seven loaves fills every belly of over 4,000 people. Then seven baskets full are picked up afterwards. So the leftovers are more than they even started with. The fish are also divided among everyone, and there is more left over than they started with. He has called His people out of the city into the wilderness to learn from the Word of God on a mountain, and to take care of their physical needs, he miraculously provides bread from heaven and meat from heaven. Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. Jesus is Yahweh. Jesus is the Creator. Jesus is the God of Israel.

These miracles performed by Him encourage us. They set us in appropriate awe of who He is. But in some cases, we are also left with a little question mark:

“Yes, He is God. Yes, He can do this. Yes, He did do this! But will He take care of me like He took care of them? If I am hungry, will He feed me? If I am in need, will He meet my needs? Or was this just a big song and dance so that Charlton Heston could eventually make a movie about it? Was this just an impressive miracle so that it could end up in the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew?”

Jesus makes a promise to all of us in his Sermon on the Mount. He says, “Oh ye of little faith! God feeds the birds of the air. They don’t sow. They don’t reap. Yet your Heavenly Father feeds them, and you are of more value than many sparrows. Look at the flowers of the field. Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. How much more will He clothe you, oh you of little faith? Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things – food, water, shelter, clothing – all these things will be added unto you” (cf. Matthew 6:26, 28, 33). Jesus promises this to us.

Jesus does not promise that if you seek after a paycheck, and food, and water, and clothing, and shelter, and paying your mortgage, and shopping at the grocery store, and cooking meals, and doing all of these “necessities of life,” and then try to shove in a little prayer and worship here if you have time . . . Jesus doesn’t promise that if you do that, that your needs will be met. People in the world then, and people in the world now, do starve. People do go thirsty. People do get sick. People do go homeless. Jesus does not promise that if you seek after the things of the world with your whole heart and then throw a few crumbs to Christ, show up for an hour on Sunday, pray now and then, drop a dollar in the offering plate . . . Jesus doesn’t promise that that will result in your needs being met.

Jesus promises that if you put the kingdom of Christ first, then God will add all of these other things to you. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

God did not send down manna in Egypt. He sent it in the wilderness. That means if you want the manna, first you have to get out of Egypt. Are we willing to get out of Egypt? After all, they have onions there; they have garlic. They’ve got all the best restaurants. They’ve got all the best music. They’ve got all the best entertainment. You know  — “Egypt’s kind of nice. It’s the cosmopolitan place to be. It’s New York. It’s Chicago. It’s Hollywood.” — Before you can get to the mountain in the wilderness where God speaks, you have to get out of Egypt.

Jesus didn’t multiply the loaves and the fishes in Jerusalem, or in Capernaum, or in Decapolis. He went into the wilderness on the mountain, and the only people who got to see and participate in that miracle were those who left the city, went into the wilderness, climbed a mountain, and faithfully were there for three days to hear the Word of God.

If we want to expect Christ to meet our needs this miraculously, we need to get out of Egypt. We need to dedicate ourselves to learning the things of God. Jesus said, “they have now been with me three days and have nothing to eat.” There were many other hungry and homeless people on earth that day. The only ones He fed were those who had been with Him.

You see, it’s not enough to leave Egypt. It’s not enough to go into the wilderness. If you left Egypt and went into the wilderness and just pitched your own tent to camp out, you’re on your own! You need to find the mountain He’s on. You need to be with Him. You need to be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Before they received this blessing from Christ, they left the city. They climbed the mountain. They were with Him, learning from Him, seeking to learn what He had to speak. And then, Jesus didn’t just call down bread to fall from heaven. Jesus didn’t do what he could have done, and take one loaf and one fish and multiply it for everybody. He had the ability. He didn’t say, “You keep six of your loaves; I just need one. You keep all these fish, except give Me one of them, and I am going to do this magic trick.” No. He required it all.

It doesn’t matter whether you come to Him with five loaves and a few fish. It doesn’t matter if you come to Him with seven loaves and a few small fish. He’s going to ask for it all. It’s not that the number five was so significant, or that the number seven was so significant. The point in both cases was that they had to give up everything to Him. He could take one loaf and multiply it for everybody, but He’s not going to.

He could take a half-way commitment from you, and do something amazing. But you know what? I think He’s not going to. Whatever you have, however little — however insignificant — however insufficient for the multitudes, don’t hold back anything, but give it all over to Him. For only when you give 100% does He take it, and break it, and multiply it so that He may have compassion on all and bring a blessing to everybody.

It is also important to notice in this case that when He miraculously met their needs, they were NEEDS. They were actual needs. See, there is another place that you read in the Gospels that His apostles were walking with Him. He had been talking to them. They had been learning from Him, and they were hungry, and He performed no miracle. He performed no miracle because there was grain right there. They were hungry, so they went and started picking the grains of wheat off the plants and eating the kernels of grain right there. (Matthew 12:1, Mark 2:23)

The people out here in the wilderness are not people who had a restaurant they could go to to get fed. They didn’t have their refrigerators and their pantries full. They were not near fields at harvest time where they could even go glean what grain was left after the harvesters had been through the field. They truly were in a state of need. In all too many cases, we pray for God to miraculously supply our needs when, in truth, we’re just asking God to enable our laziness. We’re hungry, not because there’s no food, but because we don’t want to go through the effort of harvesting. We have nothing to harvest, because we didn’t want to go to the effort of planting. We didn’t plant, because we didn’t want to go to the effort of plowing.

When the food was right there at there at their hands, Jesus didn’t call down bread from heaven. Jesus told the apostles, “pick some grain.” But when it is a true need, when you are truly doing all that He says to do — when you are truly seeking first the kingdom of heaven — and because of His command (not because of your laziness, not because of your foolishness, but because of His command), you’re out in the wilderness, and having heard His Word for three days, you look around and there is nothing for you to eat, there is no food for you to harvest; you’re going hungry. . . When you truly are following Him, and you truly find yourself in need, He truly will meet your need.

This story is a replay of the Exodus. If we are going to seek the blessing of God, then we too need to be willing to leave the city, turn our backs on Egypt, turn our backs on the false teachers, turn our backs on all the comforts and conveniences of civilization. We need to be willing to follow Christ into the wilderness. We need to be willing to seek first the kingdom of heaven and His righteousness. We need to be with Him wherever He is. We need to be diligently, consistently, daily learning from His Word. We need to be willing to work to meet our own needs in whatever ways that He provides for us. When going through all of that, if we still find ourselves in actual need, we can trust that He will meet our needs. And even then, in that case, we need to expect that He is going to ask us to give Him all that we have so that He can bless it and multiply it. Just like with the loaves and the fishes, the leftovers after that blessing — the leftovers after that meal — will be even more than you gave Him in the first place.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. God is One.


This homily was preached on Sunday morning, August 3, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services. Dormition Text Services offers full-service secretarial support, including transcription and publishing services, to Orthodox clergy and communities. 



About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in 2014 Homilies, Fr. Joseph Gleason, Mark 2:23-28, Mark 8:1-9, Matthew 12:1-8, Matthew 15:32-39, Matthew 6:25-34, Numbers 11:4-6, Orthodox Homilies. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Replaying the Exodus with Loaves and Fishes

  1. Sharon says:

    I understand now about The Septuagint. Thank you for posting this. NOW- what about an equally sovereign NEW TESTAMENT VERSION? Please, if you can help on that one, I desperately want to know. Thank You. Sharon

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