Bread for the World

By Chuck Alley

Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, 15:29-39

29 After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. 30Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, 31so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. 32Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” 33The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” 34Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 38Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39After sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.


Jesus is the Messiah, the awaited Savior, not only of the Jews but of the world. This is revealed to us as Jesus passes through the Gentile region of the Decapolis. Once again, the people bring their sick to Jesus and he heals them. For a second time Jesus’ compassion for the people and his concern for their well-being goes beyond their healing and meeting their need for physical sustenance. The disciples witnessed Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand by the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 14:13-21), but once more they express their doubt about feeding such a large crowd. Is it an ethnic blindness? The Jewish Messiah providing manna to a Jewish community is one thing — heavenly bread to Gentiles is quite another. But the numbers add up. There are twelve baskets of left-over pieces for the descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel and seven (the number of completeness or perfection) baskets for the whole world.

God’s redemptive work in the world is not confined to a chosen people group or solely to those who have the gospel at their disposal. He desires that every people group experience his reconciling love and be drawn to him as his children. As God sent his Son into the world to reconcile the world to himself, he also sends his Church into the world with his message of reconciliation. As his disciples we are not to ignore the “unreached” people groups in favor of those who have been “reached.” Nor are we to ignore the “reached” people groups for those who have not as yet been reached. The two feedings in Matthew’s Gospel provide us with the example of God’s indiscriminate love. Our call as followers of Jesus is to be ready to allow his “manna” to flow through us and into the hands of anyone around us.

Chuck Alley is a retired Episcopal priest and an adjunct associate professor of anatomy on the medical faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University. He and his wife, Scottie, have three children and nine grandchildren.

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