TEXT: MATT 14:13-31/ROM 9:1-13/ISAIAH 55:1-5
CHRIST GIVES THE FULL MEAL!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center loved by God and called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Over 20 hours of airports and flying - to New York City – across the city by helicopter – to Madrid, Spain. Madrid was a brief stop for papers to be cleared and cars rented to drive to southern Spain. It was evening. I was so weary!  I crashed in one bed of our room and the Major in the other. With lack of sleep and jet lag I set no alarm. I was out like a light. Like a bad dream, an alarm was blaring not two hours later. “Lieutenant get up we have to get moving” the Major said. Wear your civilian clothes. I’ll meet you in the lobby.

TEXT: MATT 14:13-31/ROM 9:1-13/ISAIAH 55:1-5
CHRIST GIVES THE FULL MEAL!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center loved by God and called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Over 20 hours of airports and flying - to New York City – across the city by helicopter – to Madrid, Spain. Madrid was a brief stop for papers to be cleared and cars rented to drive to southern Spain. It was evening. I was so weary!  I crashed in one bed of our room and the Major in the other. With lack of sleep and jet lag I set no alarm. I was out like a light. Like a bad dream, an alarm was blaring not two hours later. “Lieutenant get up we have to get moving” the Major said. Wear your civilian clothes. I’ll meet you in the lobby.

The Major had earlier been stationed in Spain. He would be with us only a few days to interpret. He knew well the eating spots in Madrid. I quickly found out that he planned to visit his favorite places in the few hours we had in the city that night. He wanted company and I was it!  In zombie-like state I went with him to his choicest spot. We had his favorite appetizer and sampled his favorite wine. Then on foot to the next spot and the next and the next!  We spent no more than an hour at any place and continued into the wee hours of the morning. Somewhere along the way I think I woke up enough to be good company - asking questions – sampling things I’d never heard of before.  We never did order a meal but went from one “tapa” - one fine appetizer to the next. The appetizers were the meal – for me without cost.

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. Jesus had just heard of people who were eating and drinking fine food without cost to them. They were at a birthday party for the king. What Jesus had heard was that John the baptizer had been cut down while food and drink were flowing freely. Amid the feasting and revelry his head was actually carried in like food on a platter before Herod and his guests.

Now when Jesus heard this, (the details of John’s senseless, violent death) he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. Jesus was weary. Jesus was grief-laden. He intended to be alone. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

This word for “compassion” is used only in the Gospels and it always refers to Christ. It literally means His insides were moved. The word for sick means those without strength. Despite the grief that tore at His own insides, Jesus was moved to help these streams of people who had trailed after Him. In compassion He healed the sick foreshadowing His power to heal us of our greatest weakness.

Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”  

This is the only time the disciples are seen commanding the Son of God – “send the crowds away.”  They do not honor Jesus with respectful address or ask about His plans. Rather, like impatient know-it-all advisors they state the place (desolate) and the time of day (it is now over) – as if Jesus didn’t know. Then they tell Him what to do – send the crowds away to…buy food for themselves.

But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”  In the Greek, you” is emphasized!  You feed them. Moms, you know the drumbeat of that need – You feed them. “I’m hungry – what’s to eat?” several times a day – day after day. Some of you know the logistics of a holiday meal or even preparation for a wedding reception.

But who can imagine feeding 5000 plus a few more thousand in a desolate place with no provisions. They said to him, “We have only five loaves and two fish.”  The disciples added five plus two and stopped at seven. They knew that wasn’t enough!  However they should have counted to eight - for it is never realistic to count Jesus out. Jesus said, “Bring them here to me.”  Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied.

 Jesus used natural means to do the supernatural. He who made the earth and created seeds to grow into fields of waving grain here multiplied the loaves made from grain. An explosion of food!  That which had not been now was and nourished the bodies of thousands. As God had prepared a table in the wilderness and fed his people manna of old (Psalm 78:19-24) 1500 years after the Exodus the God/Man here again sets the table in the wilderness!  

He was deeply moved. He gave earthly food so that weak and wearied people could be nourished and live for a time. Magnificent!  Amazing!  It is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels!  Yet, in a sense, it is only an appetizer!  

He told the people the very next day that the real feast was Himself - I am the Bread of Life He said. He told them not to labor for food that perishes but for food that endures to eternal life that the Son of Man would give them!   “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” Jesus said. (John 6:53).

This astounding miracle of feeding in the wilderness actually led to the greatest turning against Jesus recorded in Scripture until the day of His crucifixion!  They wanted to make him king by force. They wanted to keep on eating their fill in this way on earth. Amid the sicknesses and shortages and struggles of life – this was their man – and this was their menu!  They saw His provision of merciful, compassionate, perishable food as the full meal – not an appetizer.

Dear Christians – today there is still tragic and senseless death all around like that of John the Baptist. The tragic death of children – the violent murder of many – the large scale destruction of terrorism – God help us!  Today there is also physical fatigue and weariness that calls out for a retreat from it all. Today we still face sickness and suffering and weakness in need of healing and strengthening from the outside!  

In the face of evil and need like that we also by nature are willing to settle for appetizers rather than the full meal. We grab for the quick fix – the short term pleasure. We are by nature theologians of glory that primarily desire fulfillment here and now – in our stomachs – in our feelings – in our relationships - in our pocketbooks – in our priorities – in our desire for power!  We may want Jesus to be our political pet – make Him king by force!  We may want Jesus to compromise a bit with the decay of our culture!  We hunger for bread more that we hunger for righteousness!  

Yet the food that we need most is not short-term miracle food. The food we need most comes from a day when Jesus would withdraw to a place where no one could follow Him. While John the Baptist was beheaded in private, the Lord whom He proclaimed was crucified in public shame. What Saint Paul wished to do and could not – to be accursed cut off from God in order that Israel might be saved (Romans 9) – the Son of God could do and in fact did!  He became a curse for us!  He did it not only for Israel but for the whole world. He withdrew from the crowds of this world carrying all their weakness!  He withdrew from the crowds to the place of total isolation from the Father as the target of God’s total wrath against the sin of the world. In His sacrificial death He gave Himself as provision for the life of the world!

It is never realistic to count Jesus out, not even when He is dead and buried. From the house of death He stepped forth to continue healing those without strength. He arose to continue blessing and breaking and giving His body for the life of the world. In the wilderness the disciples only gave what Christ gave to them!  That is still the case for those He calls to serve His people as pastors today. That is also foundational for the men training to be pastors – whether vicars or seminarians. Pastors are called to give out only what Christ gives them – to be stewards (house managers) of the mysteries of God. He is the Bread of Life and He continues to say today - They need not go away: you give them something to eat. He is in your midst today so that you can delight yourselves in His rich food.

Beloved, we grow weary all the time!  Like my time in Madrid we can easily sleep walk from one appetizer to the next!  We can be so enthralled with the food that satisfies temporarily but perishes that we do no labor for the food that endures. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

The food that satisfies is free…Come everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come buy and eat…without money and without price. The food that satisfies is the gift of the Son of Man. Magnificent!  Amazing!  

He is the real miracle, the great miracle of God’s compassion for all people – God’s overflowing grace in the flesh of Christ!  He gives heavenly food so that His people can live forever!  He gives forgiveness food that cleanses us from all sin and sends us weak ones forth with strength to fight against sin – even the sin of being satisfied with appetizers.

Here He serves you the full meal wherein heaven touches earth!  He serves you the full meal that is the sum and substance of the Gospel. What you receive from Him is no appetizer!  Yet, even in its fullness it points to the feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that has no end!  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.”  “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).

In the Name of Jesus - Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a