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Lent 4 – John 6:1-15

by pastorjuhl ~ March 31st, 2011

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

Jesus usually gives answers to other people’s questions. Up on a mountain, where Jesus sees many people following Him, He asks a simple question to Philip: Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat? John lets the cat out of the bag by telling us that Jesus said [this] to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. We might wish John had not told us that Jesus knew what He was going to do. It would be great fun to hear Philip and Andrew put their respective foot in their respective mouth.

The joke’s on us this time. John tells us that Jesus knew what He was going to do because we think we know what we would do. Philip and Andrew are stand-ins for us. Our answers to Jesus’ question would be similar to theirs.

Philip is a doubter. Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little. The Twelve could take up a collection among them and come up with a little bit of money, but not the required amount to feed the multitude. Therefore, he doubts Jesus has an answer to the question.

We are doubters. Like Philip, we doubt Jesus can answer our questions, let alone His own questions. We learned to pray Give us this day our daily bread but conveniently forgot what it means to pray this petition. Here is what it means to pray this petition according to Luther’s Small Catechism: God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

Jesus knows how He will feed the multitude on the mountain. Philip does not realize it. Nor do we realize it. Jesus knows what we will ask Him before we ask it. Nevertheless, we do not, or will not, ask Him. We doubt that He will give us our daily bread. When we receive it, we doubt we know from where comes daily bread.

There’s a glimmer of hope with Andrew. There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many? Andrew gets so close to the kingdom of heaven, but backs away at the last second with doubt that Jesus can do something with next to nothing.

That is our problem too. How quickly we forget that God created the heavens and the earth with no raw materials. He spoke the Word and everything came into being. We should believe that, with five fewer loaves of bread and two less fish, Jesus could feed everyone there with plenty to spare. Instead, like Andrew, we look at the numbers stacked up against us, shake our heads, and lament that what we have is never enough.

So did the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. God gave them quail and manna to eat. He gave just enough with none to save for tomorrow. However, the Israelites doubted God’s Word and found out what happens when they doubted His Word. Some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Moses has every right to be angry with those who doubted God’s Word. God gave them exactly what they needed without lack. Some doubted, and there were consequences to their doubt.

The consequences of our doubt are worse than wormy, stinky manna and quail. The consequences of our doubt are death. Our heavenly Father promises a Savior, but we look to tablets of stone for salvation. God’s Law always accuses. We look instead to the One Who keeps the Law for us, God’s Son, our Savior Jesus. But is He the One? He doesn’t look sufficiently Messianic enough. He does wondrous things for others, but what about my needs and desires? What are mine compared to so many?


Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband. We are not children of the Law, but are children of the Promise. The Jews are God’s children by blood, but many of them do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Lamb of God promised of old. The Gentiles are God’s children by faith, trusting in the Promise made to Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Joseph, and their generations forever.

Unlike Philip and Andrew, who despair over feeding 5,000 men with a lack of money and merchandise, Jesus knows exactly what He will do for them and for us. He provides them a meal that satisfies their hunger. He provides us everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body. What is more, Jesus provides us with forgiveness of sins and eternal life because of His blood and righteousness. These are the treasures from the Priceless Treasure, the Source of purest pleasure, our dearest Friend of Sinners, Jesus.

These words from Blessed Martin Luther turns our heads away from other providers toward the lone Provider of all good things: What Christ did in the wilderness He will and can do again, if only I trust Him; He will provide food for me to eat; if not in superabundance, yet sufficient to care for my necessity…. I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But whatever I placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.

Let’s think about those last two sentences for a moment. Things of this world come and go. As quick as we receive something, we let something else go. When we place something in God’s Hands, we still have it. We are taught to pray: Into Your Hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Sure enough, we have all these things to this day! Not only that, but when we commend ourselves to God as His Word teaches us to do, what we commend to Him remain ours because they are ours by faith in Christ.

Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband. Sarah’s laughter of doubt turns to laughter of joy when she bears Isaac. Our chuckles of doubt turn to cackles of surprise that shouldn’t surprise us. God provides everything we need, and just enough, if only we trust Him to do so. Psalm 125 says those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. Trust in Christ, the Provider of all our wants of body and soul, plants our feet on the solid rock foundation of our Savior, Who keeps His promise of provision for all things temporal and spiritual.

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

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