After Israel crossed the sea to freedom, they began to complain that Moses had led them into the desert to die of starvation. Slavery was bad, but starvation was worse. God had compassion on the people, and promised to give them bread from heaven (Exodus 16:1-4). Then, the morning after God made this promise, the people looked out and found a white substance covering the ground. They gathered it up and made bread from it. They called it manna. This manna sustained the people of Israel during their journey across the desert (Exodus 16:13ff).
As we continue with our “Eating with Jesus” sermon series, we hear Matthew’s report that Jesus has retreated to a deserted place after Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded. Most likely he went into the wilderness to pray about his future. Would his fate be the same as John’s? It was there, in the wilderness, that Jesus shared bread from heaven with hungry people caught in a deserted place. According to Tradition, Jesus retreated to a spot near the town of Tabgha, just north of the Sea of Galilee. There’s a reconstructed stone church there that dates back to the fifth century. Much of the church is relatively new, but laying before the altar is an ancient mosaic that reminds us that it was here that Jesus fed the five thousand. The mosaic is brown and white and “depicts two fish flanking a wicker basket filled with a few loaves.” [Martin, Jesus, p. 256]. Whether or not this is the spot where Jesus fed the multitude, the shrine reminds us that Jesus made an impact on the lives of everyone he encountered.