O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Eating a Miracle
"Eating a Miracle"
Based on Mark 6:30-44
Preached on July 22, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, especially God's newest, little Madison, what is the biggest feast you have ever been to? Just last week while on vacation we went to a wedding reception that was outdoors - now that was a feast - over two hundred people. I'm sure glad I was on the receiving end of that meal though. Can you imagine barbecuing over two hundred steaks in 33 degree weather? I had to towel myself off just to eat the thing. But as big as that feast was, it was nothing compared to the feast we hear about in our text today. The feeding of the five thousand. Perhaps one of the most popular accounts in the Bible. Yet although it is one of the most well-known accounts, it is one of the most poorly understood accounts as well. Now, I know what you're thinking, pastor, how hard can it be to understand? The people had no food so Jesus gave them food. It's what we teach the Sunday school children, isn't it? Yes, this is most certainly true, but God has a whole feast waiting for us in this text, not just the sugary treat you get at the end of Sunday school. In order to enjoy all of the benefits of the feast God is serving up in this text, we need to think like a Jew that lived in Jesus' day. Now if this is an incredibly difficult thing for you to do, don't worry, we are going to do this together.
So you're a Jew sitting there at Jesus' feet listening to Him preach, and the only thing you can compare His teachings to are what? Moses and the Prophets. Right? What we now call the Old Testament. This is the only Word of God that you know. Now, what is the central event that permeates all the writings of the Old Testament? The Exodus. The freedom that God gave His people from the slavery of Egypt. God can't stop talking about it. Moses talks about it. The Psalms talk about it. Even the prophets a thousand years later are pointing back at it as a reference for what they are prophesying will come. So when you're sitting there are Jesus' feet listening to Him preach, thinking like a Jew, you are thinking about the Exodus.
Now, I know its summer, and schools out, and there's a lot of heat on the brain right now, so how about a cool, refreshing reminder of what the Exodus was all about. God's people were slaves in Egypt. He wanted to free them. He called Moses to lead them out of Egypt. Pharoah. Plagues. Red Sea. And voila! You have upwards of a million people wandering around out in the middle of the desert with nothing to eat and nothing to drink. All they have is the presence of God who has promised to dwell in the middle of their camp in a tent, and provide for all of their needs. He instructs them to gather themselves around His presence in groups of hundreds and fifties, and He begins to miraculously provide them with bread - bread that essentially comes out of nowhere- manna from heaven - that fulfills their needs. Instruction followed by a miraculous feast.
Now if this picture seems familiar put your hand up. Yeah, in our text today, we have a large amount of people that have followed Jesus out into a desolate place. They have nothing to eat. So He tells them to gather themselves around Him in groups of hundreds and fifties and He miraculously provides them with bread - bread that essentially comes out of nowhere - manna from heaven - that fulfills their needs. It is the exact same image. Instruction followed by a miraculous feast.
As important as it was for those people to eat that day, Jesus was doing something much more important in this text. He was leaving no doubt about who He was. Jesus fed the five thousand in that desolate place in that orderly way to show them that He was God. That He was the same God as the one who fed manna to their ancestors in the desert. That while He once dwelt in their midst in a tent, now He stood in their midst in His own human body. Now He had brought Himself so close to them that He could share the bread with them. He could provide for all their needs of body and soul, and actually share their hunger. In the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus was revealing who He really is, and how in-tune He is with His people. He knew what His people needed was not just a feast, but Him and His presence. They needed to know God was with them in the flesh.
Whoa, that is no Sunday school sugar treat, is it? But don't put your fork down yet, that was just the appetizer - The main course of this text is not in what God did in the Exodus, or even what Christ did with the 5000 that day. The main course is what all of these things are pointing to in the future. Christ is foreshadowing how He will provide for His people until the end of the age and also forever in His heavenly kingdom. As our text foreshadows, it will not be a feast only, or even His presence only, but a mysterious medley of God's presence in, with and under a feast that we call the Lord's Supper.
Take a look at the foreshadowing sequence. Verse 41 -"And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people." He took bread, He gave thanks, He broke the bread and He gave it to the disciples. Why did Jesus feed the five thousand in that specific way? To foreshadow the way He would provide for His people in the feast of His body and blood. He connected the Exodus to Himself, to show He was God, and He foreshadowed His Holy Supper to declare His eternal provision.
For the Lord's Supper is the eternal provision that we need. It is what God has been working towards for His entire plan of redemption. Where eternity and creation meet. In the true body and blood of our Lord, there is nothing lacking. There is no want. There is no need. It is the fullness of creation and the fullness of God at the same time. For He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
The Lord's Supper is what God provides you from eternity and for eternity. From eternity because it is His everlasting body and blood which is at the same time in heaven and placed into your mouth. And for eternity because it is the feast that has no end. It gives you eternal life, and because you eat it, you will be able to keep eating it for all eternity. In fact, every time we eat the Lord's Supper, we are communing with all the Christians who have gone before us that are already with the Lord. Now that is a feast!
But even if all of this were not enough, we need to make this feeding of the 5000 text hit home in a much more personal way. Do you remember the two things God did for His people in that reoccurring picture? Instruction followed by a miraculous meal. Is that not what happens in the Divine Service when we gather together each week? Instruction followed by a miraculous meal. We call it the Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacrament. It's right here in our service books. Nothing has changed. God continues to come to us - just as He did with His people in the desert, and just as He did with the 5000 in the desolate place. First in His Word and then in His Sacrament. Sometimes Winnipeg may feel like a spiritual desert, and all we have is the presence of God who has promised to dwell in our midst and provide for all of their needs. Yet, He instructs us to gather around His real presence here at this altar, and we know that in it He gives us everything. Instruction followed by a miraculous meal.
We often wonder what Jesus wants us to do. And we often think He wants us to do something that He did. But in actual fact, He wants to keep His place in the relationship. He wants us to sit down in the green grass and play our part in this sheep/shepherd relationship. He wants us to receive instruction and then a miraculous meal - all at His hand. For as the Sunday school song goes, He is the Shepherd and we are the Sheep. And His love provides for all our needs.
Perhaps the best thing, is that our text shows us what happens when God's people are instructed and feed according to His example. It says each of the disciples returned with a full basket - that's twelve baskets! Why twelve? Why one for each disciple? To show that the Gospel will return the full number of believers, however many that is. Each disciple returned with a full basket. As Jeremiah in our Old Testament text says, "none of my sheep shall be missing."
Fellow baptized saints, what is the biggest feast you have ever been to? That's right, the Lord's Supper. You have eaten an eternal feast with a multitude that no one can number. And you will eat it again, though unfortunately, not today. In heaven it will be like a permanent vacation, and the wedding banquet will be that of Christ and His bride the Church. And just like I was last week, you will be very glad you are on the receiving end of that meal, for the Lord of the universe is sparing no expense. In Jesus' name, Amen.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr