Matthew 14:13-21

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

The verbal threads that link this story together are relatively few. The first one is in the first episode, "when Jesus heard this" and then "when the crowds heard it." This verbal thread links these two sentences by the contrast between Jesus' discouragement from hearing about John the Baptist’s arrest and the crowd’s enthusiasm in following him. The verbal thread creates a change of mood or spirit between Jesus and the crowd. And it is interesting that in this instance Jesus is the “downer” whose spirit is lifted by the crowd.

The other major verbal thread is when the disciples say, "Send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages" and Jesus’ response: “They need not go away." (This translation follows the NRSV but I would suggest that this be translated in a more down to earth manner: “They don’t need to go away.”) There is some implied tension in this verbal thread between the disciples’ giving Jesus an urgent order that Jesus first contradicts and then turns on them. A third verbal thread is the five loaves and two fish.Once again, this verbal thread creates a contrast between the disciples’ naming the five loaves and two fish with a tone of cynicism about the meager resources they have found and Jesus’ blessing and giving thanks for the five loaves and two fish.

The structure of the episodes is relatively easy to identify and to remember. The story clearly moves from episode to episode and if you simply give names to the episodes or visualize them, you can see the progression and simply describe what you are seeing in your mind’s eye as you tell the story. The thing to remember in these stories is that many elements of meaning are conveyed by tone and attitude. Simply focus on what is happening in the story, tell that with an appropriate tone and attitude, and the story will come through with power.

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