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Lent 4 – John 6:1-15

by pastorjuhl ~ March 10th, 2013

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

            The Lord provided manna and quail for the Israelites as they traveled through the wilderness to the Promised Land. God reminded them of how He provided for them in Deuteronomy chapter eight: Remember all the ways that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order that He might humble and test you, that He might know what would be in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commandments. He humbled you and allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna that you and your fathers never knew you had; in order that He would make known to you that man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that goes out from the mouth of the Lord.

Not long after manna and quail appeared from the Lord, Moses said to Aaron: Take a little jar and put an omer of manna in it and lay it before the Lord, that it is kept throughout your generations. Moses made sure that the Israelites never forgot Who provided for them not only in Egypt, but also during their journey through the wilderness as well as in the Promised Land.

Flash forward to John chapter six. Jesus has been teaching His disciples in the wilderness for some time now. The feast of Passover draws near, something so important to today’s Gospel that Saint John mentions it seemingly in passing, but perhaps not so much in passing as in wanting you to know that this feast has direct correlation with what is about to happen. A great crowd follows Jesus because they saw the signs that He was doing on the sick. Here we have our Lord’s ministry in the flesh in a nutshell. He teaches, preaches, heals the sick, and on short notice will provide food for those gathered.

There are two amazing things about this miracle. One is that Jesus provides bread and fish for 5,000 men in the wilderness. You couldn’t be farther from a place to purchase food and other supplies than where our Lord is right now. The other amazing thing is that the Twelve forget that Jesus is able to provide for temporal needs. They, like you and me, forget that Jesus not only takes care of sin and death, but also takes care of food, clothing, shelter, and other earthly things.

Being in the wilderness is one thing. Providing in the wilderness is another thing. Jesus knows what is on the hearts and minds of the Twelve. That is why He asks Philip, Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat? Jesus is testing Philip when He asks this question. He knows how Philip will answer. He knows that Philip’s answer is also our answer. Philip replies, Two hundred denarii (almost seven months wages) would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little. Andrew has a solution, but immediately discounts it. There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?

Two things stand out here. First, Philip thinks this is a hopeless case. He is partially right. Left to his own ways, there is no way Philip can provide food for 5,000 men. This is the wilderness. There are no places to buy food. Philip can’t do it. However, standing in front of Philip is the Man Who can provide food for 5,000 men. The question is whether Philip actually believes Jesus Christ can do it.

That’s a good question for you, too. These last few years have taught us that man certainly does not live by bread alone. Having to go without some things like a perennial raise of Social Security teaches that you have to prioritize your life. What is necessary for daily living? What can wait until next year? How much should I set aside for an emergency? These are questions asked also among younger generations. A McMansion is not necessary. Having the best of everything on credit is certainly not necessary. What has been necessary is a redefinition of what it means to be content.

You are content in Jesus Christ alone. That’s the secret to life that unbelievers refuse to believe. God provides for them as He provides for you, but they refuse to recognize or even believe that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Light. Saint Paul tells Saint Timothy, If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. Contentedness is not a race for the most toys in life. Contentedness is trusting in Jesus Christ to provide for temporal and spiritual needs even in the most improbable circumstances.

If our Lord is able to feed 5,000 men with five barley loaves and two fish, if He is able to provide manna and quail, enough only for that particular day, then certainly He is able to provide forgiveness of sins and eternal life in His holy Word. That seems to be the easy part of the Christian faith. You pretty much treat the Gospel as a “given”. Beware this attitude! Count the cost of the Savior’s death and resurrection! He bled and died a horrible, cruel death for you, in your place, that you shall live in Him and with Him forever. Our heavenly Father provided this for you when He promises Eve that her Seed will crush the head of the serpent.

You pretty much also treat God’s providential care as a “given”. As a Christian, I should have everything my heart desires. If I don’t have it, that is proof that God really doesn’t love me. Beware this attitude as well! Remember the explanation to the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread. What does this mean? “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 quickly disappears from the scene after the feeding of the 5,000 because He perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king. Believing He is your Savior from sin and death does not mean that He will also give you a constant flow of earthly riches and earthly happiness. Everything that Christ touches provides for your care both here and in eternity. There will be hard times yet to come. You will die, unless our Lord returns soon. You may never purchase anything from Neiman-Marcus or Tiffanys. You will suffer illness. You will have to bear much bad news.

God is there through it all. He is there in His Word to bring to your remembrance that there is hope for His children. That hope is eternal life because of the blood and righteousness of Jesus. He is there in your Baptism, where you were washed clean of sin and made a child of God. He is there in Holy Communion, where Christ’s true Body and true Blood is your Living Bread that comes down from heaven. Where Christ is, there is your contentment, even in the valley of the shadow of death. Believe it for His sake.

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

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