Jesus’ miracle of feeding the five thousand happens at the same time as the Passover. That’s not an insignificant detail. The streets would soon be running red with the blood of the lamb. The Passover would recall the night that God struck down Egypt and provided a meal of deliverance by which death itself passed over, and God’s special people were saved, led out of slavery by His servant, Moses.
Those Israelites had seen amazing things too. They had seen God send a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way, and a pillar of fire to guide them by night. They had seen God miraculously part the Red Sea before their eyes as they passed through with their families and children. And then they had seen God’s power on full display as those waves all rolled down like thunder on Pharaoh and all their enemies.
They even sang a song to celebrate it all on the other side of the Red Sea. With their sandals still wet from their watery deliverance they had every reason to be filled with trust in the Lord and His gracious provision. But how sad. Because as soon as their stomachs started to grumble so did their mouths. They grumbled against Moses and they grumbled against the Lord. And pretty soon they started fantasizing about their days in Egypt with rose-colored glasses.
Despite their grumbling, God didn’t ignore them or write them off. In fact, He heard and delivered, saying to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain down bread from heaven for you.” So in the evening He provided tasty quail throughout the whole camp. All they had to do was roast it. And in the morning manna covered the ground. They could bend down and scoop up as much as they wanted and eat to their heart’s content.
But quail and manna weren’t the only things on the menu in the wilderness. At their thirst, the Lord commanded Moses to take his staff and strike the rock at Horeb, because out of it would come a fountain of fresh water to refresh all those weary travelers.
Those sinful Israelites grumbled and complained. They cried out, “Is the Lord with us or not?” and they received a gracious and very undeserved answer again and again through many signs and wonders.
Now fast forward to our Gospel today, and something about the whole scene sounds more than a little familiar. Thousands of folks all huddled together in the wilderness with nothing to eat. Stomachs grumbling. Apparently, no one had signed up for coffee hour that day!
Well, pretty soon the disciples start to get a little panicky. So Jesus, to test them, puts the question to Philip, who is looking over that famished crowd. Jesus asks, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”
And just try to get this picture in your head. Because here’s Philip standing right next to the very Lord of Life! The one through whom all things were made and hold together! But Philip’s eyes aren’t focused on Him, are they? Instead, he is looking out nervously over an impossible situation. And says, “No way, not even a year’s salary will do it!”
Well, from here Jesus takes over. He had those hungry masses of people sit down in the lush green grass. Men, women, children and babies. He took five barley loaves, gave thanks, and before their eyes, miraculously distributed a lavish feast to all those there. They ate till they were full.
Dear friends of God, there’s a practical lesson here none of us should miss. When an impossible situation is laid before us, God’s not interested in how bright and ingenious you are. He’s not testing Philip to see how clever and resourceful he is. “Philip, where are we to buy bread?” is a question that goes out to each and every one of you. “Philip, where will we buy bread?” is more fundamentally, “Where are your eyes, Philip? In whom do you trust?” When God starts asking questions, your ears should perk up. Adam, where are you? Eve, what have you done? And Philip, where are we to buy bread? Those are questions from the Lord. Questions straight from the heart of a catechist and a pastor with a very fatherly heart. And He’s not looking for information here. God intends to teach us something about ourselves and who He is in the process.
You see, when impossible situations are thrown your way, He’s not interested in how you can wrack your brain and solve things for yourself. He’s more interested in how fast you’ve learned to toss that problem, that impossible situation, right back at Him.
When you are stressed out, stretched to the breaking point, you too have a tendency to take your eyes off Him. And refuse to trust in Him. Maybe you can conceal it from others. But you’re a grumbler too and you know it. Forgetful of God’s mercies, and doubtful whether God’s actually in the business of caring for you through thick and thin.
Earlier Jesus had directed the eyes of His disciples to the birds: “Look at the birds of the air,” He said, “they neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” But the sad truth is, you don’t even have the faith of a bird.
So repent, and trust in Him. Because the Lord of life didn’t enter into this world of ours to redeem and rescue birds. No, He came for you. So if anyone has a reason to sing like a bird, it’s just got to be you. Because it’s for your sake that the Lord saw to it that every need of yours has been met. Paul’s got a beautiful little insight to drive this home. He puts it this way: “He who did not spare his own Son but graciously gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
That is, if God has seen to it to secure for you eternal salvation by giving to you His Son with all His heavenly treasures, how can you doubt whether He will provide every little earthly treasure as well? How can you doubt whether He’s up to the task when He has not withheld His very greatest treasure from you?
Dear friends, you’ve got plenty to marvel at this morning. You’ve been baptized into the Red Sea of Christ’s saving blood. And despite your thankless ways, your grumbling and ingratitude, there is mercy for weary travelers.
In this modern world we live in, we think things are glittering and pulsating with life all around us. But that’s just a mirage. We live in a desert if there ever was one. With more spiritual famine, depletion, and unbelief than the world has ever known.
So into this wilderness of sin came Christ our Lord, born of Mary, born under the law to save. The feeding of the five thousand and those five loaves mean something too. Five is the number of the Law – the first five books of Moses. But that’s a law you haven’t kept. It’s a Law that accuses and condemns. So Christ stepped in to do what you could not do for yourselves. To fulfil it all for you. One thousand is the number of fulfillment, so that feeding of the five thousand signifies the fulfilment of the Law.
He lived the perfect life of love for you. He didn’t grumble or complain, but entrusted Himself completely to the Father’s will. He staggered forth bloody to the cross, laden down with all your complaints, bitterness, and unbelief. He hungered for your salvation so much that He was willing to be nailed to a cross and roasted in the Father’s wrath. Our Passover Lamb. Forgiving sins, so that death and hell would all pass over.
And now by His resurrection, we see some marvelous things too. He has compassion on fatigued, spiritually depleted travelers and shows mercy. Christ provides a little oasis for all of us, in His church, in the lush meadows of His Word and Sacraments. And this is no mirage. Because He reaches out to you with something far better than manna in the wilderness. He gives you Himself.
For those Israelites, that water from the rock in the wilderness did fine – it satisfied for a time. But for you the blood from Christ, from His riven side, flows freely and satisfies for all eternity. And so it is from the Sacrament that we ultimately learn and experience how to be content in every circumstance and sing like a bird through every trouble. Keeping our eyes fixed on God alone – our help and comfort in every time of need. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
OFFERINGS TO LMC
Please remember your gifts to LMC. There are a few options for giving:
- You can mail your weekly offerings to the church.
- You can also do an online bill pay through your bank account, which can recur each month. Your bank then sends LMC a check with your offering. There is no cost to you or LMC for this.
- You can set up online giving through an App called Tithe.ly. There is a small fee associated with this transaction. You may find this option at www.lmcusc.org/give