O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
How to Read the Bible Part II: Scripture interprets Scripture
How to Read the Bible Part II: Scripture interprets Scripture
Based on Mt. 14:13-21
Preached on August 03, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, have you ever heard about what happened in East Germany during the days of the Cold War? Seemingly overnight, the capital city of Berlin was divided by a huge wall. Fearing a mass exodus from their communist agenda, the Eastern bloc built a wall to keep the people in. Trade and commerce ended. Families were split up. And East Berlin began to die. What had once been the capital city of one of the most powerful countries in the world was now a place where people struggled to eat. Poverty skyrocketed. The situation became so bleak that Western governments and charities began an effort to get food over the wall - in secret. Crates of food were prepared, and they were labelled carefully so the people who found them would know they weren't a bomb. GIFT - they read. Hundreds upon hundreds of these crates were secretly dropped over the wall during the many years that followed.
But there was one problem. We all know the meaning of the word GIFT. In English. But GIFT is a different word in German. GIFT is the German word for Poison. When the Cold War finally ended and the West was allowed back into East Berlin they discovered warehouses full of unopened crates labelled GIFT. The food those starving people needed was right in front of them, but they thought it was poison because of a misunderstanding of words.
We're back again this week with our summer sermon series "How to Read the Bible." We are exploring what our Lord says about how to understand His Word, so that we can eat the food He has gifted to us, instead of putting it away on a shelf like it is poison. Last week we learned the first principle in understanding the Bible - it is all about Jesus - who He is and what He has done for us.
This week, we move on to principle two. Scripture interprets Scripture. This means that God's Word is made clear when it is kept within its own Biblical context. What God says in one place is compared with what He says in another so it becomes clear what He means. There are no contradictions in the Bible. God's Word is made clear when it is allowed to speak for itself.
But this is a problem for us, isn't it? Because we don't want to read it this way. Our sinful nature doesn't want to have God tell us. We want to read the Bible with our own understanding. We want to bring our own ideas to God's Word and find them there. Prove that we've been right all along. Our sinful nature looks into God's Word only for those things that it wants - self-justification.
We're kinda like the people in East Germany, aren't we? Starving. Dying. Cut off. And when our Lord sends a message to save us. When the food we need is delivered to us in our desperate situation - we won't open it unless it matches our interpretation. We won't read the Bible the way God sends it, we'll only read it with our own understanding - so it ends up on a shelf covered in dust.
Here's the ironic part. God's Word is poison to our sinful nature. That Old Adam - the old man in us is put to death by God's Word of Law. He is poisoned, so that the new man might rise to live in Christ - to eat God's Word for the nourishing, life-giving bread that it is. Death and Resurrection - that is what the Word says. That is what it does - even in you. So there is no surprise that it is hard to read the Bible - hard to understand it - our sinful nature doesn't want that poison - and yet you know God's Word gives life. This is your fight, your struggle in this spiritual Cold War. Death and resurrection is your life now in Christ - don't run away from it - embrace it - holding firm to Christ.
But I think it's that time now, isn't it, when we take our principle and apply it to our Gospel lesson? The feeding of the 5000. You've heard it countless times. But let's see if using Scripture to interpret Scripture, God will give us a greater understanding as to what is going on.
Alright, typically when we hear about the feeding of the 5000 we think about how compassionate Jesus was to feed all those poor people. We bring this idea to the text so we can say - well I give to the poor - there - I've justified myself. I'm like Jesus. Our interpretation is wrong before we start. Because that is not the situation. These people are not poor or needy. They could go to the villages around them and buy food for themselves. But, Jesus says, they need not go away. I want to give them bread they cannot buy. I will provide.
But why? Why does Jesus choose this time and place to perform this miracle? This is where the rest of the Bible helps us understand. Where else in the Bible have we seen the people of God follow Him out into a desolate place? Where else have we seen God feed His people bread so that they might stay with Him and hear more of His Word? You guessed it - at the foot of Mount Sinai - in the desert - where God gave them manna from heaven.
Jesus isn't doing this to show compassion or any other reason we might bring to the text. He is doing this to show them that He is their God. That He was the One who gave their ancestors the manna. He was the One who gave Moses the Law. He was the One who led them to the Promised Land. And He is here now - in human flesh - to do it again. But this time is the real deal. This time He will bring them up out of the slavery of sin and death. This time He will lead them to the Promised Land of His eternal kingdom by His own death on the cross and glorious resurrection from the dead. Do you want to see what your God is doing to save you, my people? Then watch Me! Fix your eyes on Me as I bring you back to God in my own body on the tree! Your God provides. What you need for this life, and for the life of the world to come - even myself.
God is not a goal - He is a giver. And you have not been right all along - you've been wrong. But your Lord gives Himself to you specifically because of this. He justifies you. He forgives you. And because He knows your flesh is bound to pull you away from His salvation - He puts His own body under bread for you to eat. He brings His own blood under wine for you to drink. The body and blood that defeated sin and destroyed death nearly 2000 years ago - put in your mouth to do it for you also. As we sang in our hymn of the day,
My Lord, You here have led me - to this most holy place - And with Yourself have fed me - The treasures of Your grace - For You have freely given - what earth could never buy - the bread of life from heaven - that now I shall not die.
Your Lord has dropped a crate of food to keep you alive on this side of the wall. And it is a gift. One He wants you to open and devour in faith. Trust the Word of your Lord as He speaks it to you, and pray that He would help you grow it in. For it will make you strong and healthy as you wait for the curtain to rise. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr