Readings for the day:
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Today is the first of 5 Sundays where the lectionary takes us through most of the 71 verses in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. This is also known as the Bread of Life chapter. Here Jesus not only talks about bread a lot, he also does things with bread – plus he refers to himself as the Bread of Life.
So in today’s Gospel reading, we have the very familiar story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 AND we heard the story of Jesus walking on water; except this is John’s version and so we don’t get to hear about Peter attempting to walk on water as well, but then beginning to sink. So we’ll just save that for another sermon.
The story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is the only recorded miracle that is told in all 4 Gospel accounts; which is probably a reason why this story is so familiar to us. But there is something that I noticed in John’s telling of this miracle that is not as clear with the other 3 Gospels. John says that Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there WITH his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. The Passover was near. Jesus is a Jew. His disciples are Jews. People in the crowd that were following him were Jews. And none of that is a problem except they are all sitting on the north side of the Sea of Galilee some 60 to 70 miles from Jerusalem; which is where the festival of the Passover is to take place. Clearly Jesus is doing what many Christians today are doing and saying, “Oh I don’t feel like going to the Easter service this year.” But not only is Jesus skipping Passover this year, but he is also making his disciples skip and the large crowd that is following after him – which the crowd was probably more around 10,000 to 15,000 people because the text says 5,000 men (which doesn’t even include the women and children).
So Jesus is already breaking God’s law by not going to celebrate the Passover. And instead he spends his time teaching and healing all who come to him. But then they also need to be fed; their hungry. Where are they going to get food in the wilderness? Where can they possibly find any resource to feed this multitude of people? Luckily Andrew, one of the disciples, was able to find 5 small loaves of bread and 2 small fish. But that’s so small, such an insignificant amount. “We don’t have enough,” Andrew says. Oh where have we heard that before? We don’t have enough…money! We don’t have enough…people! We’re just a small, insignificant church! We look at what we HAVE and compared to the big churches, we don’t have enough. The disciples look at those 5 small loaves and 2 small fish and the sea of people and they say, “We don’t have enough.”
Maybe you have felt this way in your personal life. Are you living on social security and with prescription costs and medical bills, you say, “I don’t have enough.” Or you see the grain prices continue to fall and you say, “I’m not gonna have enough.” Or you have student loan debt and you struggle to get ahead. Maybe you just lost your job and not having enough is going to be a reality for you real soon.
But there is hope. Notice what Jesus does for that crowd of 10,000 plus? He fed them. He fed them all. All with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Jesus turned their scarcity into an abundance. Jesus turns your scarcity into an abundance. Where does he do this you ask, as your bank account is still in the red? He does so at the table, at Holy Communion; which we will celebrate today. Listen to how John describes this feeding. “Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.” As much as they wanted. They weren’t given a little. They weren’t given a portion. They were given as much as they wanted. And when they all were satisfied, the disciples went and gathered the fragments that were left, so that nothing would be lost.
When Jesus does a feeding he does it right, like a good Lutheran potluck – with more food than you know what to do with. Jesus takes our scarcity and turns it into an abundance.
A couple of weeks ago you may recall hearing the story of the beheading of John the Baptist by King Herod. This actually happens around the same time as this feeding. As King Herod is showing off the wonderful riches of this life through a party for himself and impressing people with the worldly power that he has, Jesus is giving the crowd a glimpse into what God’s kingdom will look like. Rather than an imbalance of riches and power, God’s kingdom will have equality. God’s kingdom will be filled with an abundance where your wants are satisfied and there are still leftovers. When will we see God’s kingdom? When Christ comes again. One of the ladies at Wine, Women, and the Word last week said, “This just gets me all excited to see God’s kingdom.” And it should get you excited. Do you want a foretaste of the feast to come? Do you want a preview into what that heavenly banquet is going to look like? Come and celebrate Holy Communion with us and you will get that foretaste of the feast to come. For that is what Holy Communion is – a Holy Meal for God’s children to get a glimpse into what his kingdom will look like and feel like. Through receiving this bread and wine, we leave satisfied that our sins have been forgiven, we have been nourished by Christ’s body and blood and we all have received an equal amount. At the Lord’s Table we are equals. You may very well commune next to someone in a different tax bracket than you, or someone who drives the wrong colored tractor, or someone who has a different level of education than you do. But regardless of who you are communing with, they are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We all receive that same amount of bread and wine – the same amount of Christ’s body and blood.
Throughout the month of August as we work through the Bread of Life chapter, we will be celebrating Holy Communion and partaking in the foretaste of that great heavenly feast to come, each and every time we gather on Sunday morning. Instead of looking at this next month as a burden to carry, see it as an opportunity to celebrate and feast in the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus who is the Christ, who has fulfilled the law, who has taken away the sins of your life, and who has saved you, redeemed you, and promises to give you eternal life. Amen.
© 2015 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.