Sermon – Lent 4 “Laetare” - March 10th, 2013
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, IL
“The Lord Who Feeds”
I don't know how any Lutheran can honestly look at the feeding of the five thousand and not think about the Lord's Supper. Well, I guess I'm getting ahead of myself, but that's where we're going, of course, to the table. But first let's back up a bit.
Jesus is at the zenith of his popularity. He is well known and well liked. The crowds are following him. But largely for the wrong reasons. This crowd of 5000+ had followed him around the Sea of Galillee. They knew of his many miracles and healings, and were looking for more. The other Gospels tell us that yes, even here, he healed their sick. Our Lord Jesus is merciful.
He had also been teaching them all day. No doubt similar teachings to those in his other sermons – teaching about the kingdom of God and how it's not the kingdom you might think it is. A kingdom in which the king does things for the subjects, not the usual other way around. He would soon demonstrate this reality, as the true king, by feeding them. He knew what he had in mind.
Later, after the feeding, the crowd would try to make Jesus their king, their bread-king. But by doing so they show they miss the point of the kingdom, that Jesus comes to provide so much more than mere food. Some suggest that this crowd was on its way to Jerusalem for the Passover, where one year later, Jesus would also be – and where he would be sacrificed as the true Passover lamb for them, and for us.
The apostles, as usual, are the bumbling fools. Jesus tests them, “Where will we buy bread for these people to eat?” but they stand powerless. The task is overwhelming. They don't have what it takes to do it. Yes, but Jesus does.
So the Lord in his good order doesn't initiate a free-for-all, but has the disciples sit the people down and prepare for the meal. He takes the elements of the meal, gives thanks, and gives it to the disciples, whom He appoints to distribute the fish and loaves, and miraculously, somehow, without explanation, there is enough. All are fed and satisfied. There are even leftovers enough for the disciples to each fill a basket.
When the people saw this sign, they confessed Jesus as “the Prophet who is coming into the world”. But sadly, though they got the words right, their interpetation was all wrong. Jesus is indeed the One, but they, like so many others, miss the point of what he came to do. His popularity would soon wane. The bustling crowds would abandon him.
Now you and me. We come today to hear Jesus, and receive good things from him. We come with various hungers and needs. Perhaps a grumbling tummy – some earthly wants. But most importantly we come hungry and thirsting for righteousness. We are beggars before the king, far from home, nothing to bring to the table. Indeed nothing but our sins.
Still, we come in faith, knowing that the One who gathers us is One who joys to give. Our Lord Jesus is merciful.
First we hear Christ's teaching – his word, read, sung, proclaimed. We confess, same-say, what he has said about us and to us. We pray for daily bread, but also forgiveness of trespasses, using his own words. We acknowledge him as king, but also as Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And he has mercy on us.
The pastor, or pastors, the bumbling fools that we are, nonetheless are charged with feeding the sheep. We don't have what it takes to do it. But Jesus does. And he gives freely. “Forgive their sins”, he tells his ministers, “and they are forgiven in heaven. Feed my sheep – do this often – in rememberance of me.”
And now we come to it, the sacrament itself. The Holy Supper, the feeding of far more than 5000. A greater miracle than multiplication of fish and loaves, but a bodily and bloody presence of the man who is God made flesh. Crucified and resurrected body, nonetheless. Here, now, for us to eat and drink.
In an orderly fashion, we come to receive this gift. We come at Christ's invitation. Being well prepared, examined, and confessing both our sins and our Savior's promise in the meal. In the fellowship of a people who rejoice in his teaching and proclaim it together – even proclaiming his death until he comes – by our very presence at his table.
We receive the body of Christ. Take and eat. It is given for you. Not some other sinner who sins less than you. But you, yes, you... who doesn't do what you should. You who break his commandments daily. You who love other gods, and love yourself before your neighbor. This sacrament is given for you – for the forgiveness of your sins. This wine is his blood, which was shed for you on the cross, and which now covers your sins in its crimson tide.
The point of it all – Christ our Lord delights to feed his people. He fed the 5000 in word and miraculous deed. And he still feeds his people today, in word and miraculous sacrament. He gives us always exactly what we need, and need the most. He gives us himself. Yes, he gives daily bread, too. But man does not live by bread alone. Man does live, by Christ alone. And in him, who we receive today, we live.
May we never abandon our Lord, or turn from his teaching. May we never look to him only for earthly goods, for he gives so much more. And may we follow him always, receive from him always, and be fed by him with all the good things he has to offer.
So come, gather at the rail, and be blessed to be fed by our Lord. What a miraculous meal! What a wonderful king! What a merciful Savior!