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Lent 4 – John 6:1-15

by pastorjuhl ~ March 19th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Three weeks ago, we heard Jesus tell Satan man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The sign of feeding five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes seem to contradict God’s Word. John chapter six features Jesus giving food to hungry men. Philip and Andrew doubted they could do anything to help feed the crowd. Jesus can do something, and He does. When we read the rest of John chapter six we see many followers of Jesus turn their back on Him and follow Him no more. They wanted Jesus to give them more loaves and fish. Jesus wants to give them living bread from heaven.

There is no contradiction between Jesus feeding five thousand men and Jesus feeding countless Christians with living bread. The contradiction lives in our sin-sick minds. We learn from Holy Scripture that Jesus is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world. We learn from Luther’s Small Catechism that our heavenly Father, Jesus’ heavenly Father, gives us everything we need to support this body and life. What we forget is that the word “everything” does not mean only earthly needs. Our heavenly Father provides for both temporal and spiritual needs to support this body and life.

Many who call themselves Christians expect Jesus to provide only temporal needs. They come to Him with hands held open, ready to receive all kinds of “bread” and “fish”. They come perhaps singing nothing in my hand I bring/Simply to Thy cross I cling. They have the correct posture and they know what hymn to sing. Their hearts are in the wrong place. Empty hands betray a head full of things they expect God will give. When God doesn’t give what they expect, they turn their backs on Him and start singing another tune that another god will hear.

Jesus tells many of the same people who were fed with the miraculous bread and fish you seek Me not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the father has set His seal on Him. Our Lord’s words should bring comfort. No longer must we work for food that doesn’t satisfy. Jesus will provide food that always satisfies because His Father has set His seal on us. But the food that Jesus provides never satisfies a stomach that expects more “bread” and “fish” of this world. We think we are not picky eaters, but when Jesus feeds us we become as finicky as Morris the cat at dinner time. It’s not enough of what we want. It’s always more of what Jesus wants for us. Again, this should bring us comfort, but it ends up breaking our heart because we didn’t get what we want.

The psalmist writes the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise. The best way to fix the heart that comes to God dictating the ways and means He should feed us is to break the heart. God doesn’t despise a broken heart that is contrite. The word “contrite” means “filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement”. God never turns away a guilty heart in need of innocence. It’s sad to say that a great number of people left Jesus shortly after He fed them with bread and fish. It’s sad to say that a great number of people still leave Jesus today. Their problem with Christ is they didn’t get what they wanted. The problem really is Christ gave them everything they needed, sometimes even a broken spirit.

Our Father in heaven provides everything we need. He unbreaks our hearts and repairs them to receive what we need rather than what we want. Consider the last stanza of the Chief Hymn:

I do not merit favor, Lord,

My weight of sin would break me;

In all my guilty heart’s discord,

O Lord, do not forsake me.

In my distress this comforts me

That You receive me graciously,

O Christ, my Lord of mercy!

Here we recall Blessed Martin Luther’s amazing description of Jesus in His Supper as chef, cook, host, butler, and food. Jesus prepares the food for His Supper when He allows Himself to become sin even though He was sinless. He cooks the food for His Supper when He endures cruel punishment, mocking, torture, and slanderous accusations. He was called a blasphemer all the while being blasphemed. Jesus hosts His Supper through the Holy Spirit calling us by the Gospel, enlightening us with His gifts, sanctifying us and keeping us in the one true faith. Jesus serves His Supper through men called and ordained to stand in His stead and by His command. Jesus feeds us His True Body and True Blood in His Supper, delivering forgiveness of sins and everlasting life under bread and wine.

Living bread from heaven is more than the Lord’s Supper. Living bread is the Good News that Jesus provides the greatest gift we could ever receive. Living bread is eating and drinking the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us on Calvary’s cross. We no longer look at God’s gifts and cry out “What is it?” as the Israelites did in the wilderness. We receive all the gifts God gives and know they are gifts of His mercy. As He first gave to us, we also give to others where God puts us. We do what is given us to do in order that our neighbor, especially our neighbor who does not know Jesus Christ, might eat living bread with us.

Living bread from heaven is His holy Word proclaimed from the pulpit. Living bread from heaven is water and the Word of God in Holy Baptism. Living bread from heaven is the words of Holy Absolution spoken publicly in the Divine Service and privately in Individual Confession and Absolution. Living bread from heaven is psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs sung in the Divine Service. Living bread from heaven is the gift of vocation: our station in life that God gives us to glorify Him in His kingdom and proclaim His salvation from day to day not merely with lips but with our lives.

Rejoice, you spiritual Jerusalem! Be glad, you who love her! Nurse and be satisfied from the consoling breast of the Church, Christ’s beloved bride. Receive the living bread that sustain us in this kingdom until Jesus comes to deliver us into His everlasting Kingdom, where there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall be no night there: they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:3-5 NKJV). This is our inheritance, our living bread yet to come because of Jesus Christ, the Living Bread that comes down from heaven. Believe it for His sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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