Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
The Bread of Life - August 5, 2012 - Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) - Text: John 6:22-35
Two weeks ago we followed along and watched as Jesus feed the crowd, the five thousand men, not counting women and children, perhaps over 15,000 people with bread and fish. He provide for their physical need. He fed the crowds with “five small barley loves and two small fish” (John 6:9). The crowds liked having a full stomach, not unlike a lot of people in our world today. How true the cliche is, “feed them and they will come.”
Last week we followed along as Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him in the boat to go to the other side of the lake. As they were going across the lake, and this was while it was night, so it was pitch dark, a strong wind blew up and began to make the waters rough. The waters got so rough, in fact, that the boat began to fill with water until the disciples thought they were going to sink. We also heard that when He was finished praying, Mark tells us that Jesus looked up and in the dark of night from perhaps two to three miles away He saw what was happening. So, Jesus walked out on the water and we were told that He meant to pass them by in order to test them. When they saw Him, at least at first, they were afraid, thinking they were seeing a ghost. So much for passing His test. Jesus reassured His disciples that He was not a ghost, got into the boat, the winds ceased and the sea became calm.
Our text for today picks up the narrative in the morning. The once fed crowd, that was still on the other side of the lake noticed that Jesus was not present and began to look for Him, probably to be fed again, remember last week we made note of the fact that their desire was to make Jesus their king, their bread king, their king in order for Him to take care of them. In their search, the crowd took the long way around the lake to the other side and there they found Jesus and His disciples. When they told Jesus they were looking for Him, He bluntly tells them that He knows why they were looking for Him in order to be fed by Him and He proceeds to explain to them a better hunger than physical hunger. You see Jesus came not merely to physically feed the crowd, and us, but to spiritually feed the world. Jesus knew that they did not come looking for Him because of the miraculous signs which He performed, one of which was to feed the great crowd, signs which showed that He was the Christ, the Messiah. Remember, John is the gospel writer who reminds us again and again of the signs and wonders, the miracles Jesus performed as proof of His divinity and His Messiahship, that He is truly God in human flesh. And so, Jesus suggests to the crowd that instead of continually coming to Him to be fed with physical food that they instead come to Him for spiritual food. But the crowd still does not get it, so they ask, “What must we do, to do the works of God?” And Jesus’ answer is “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
And again, confused, the crowd asks for another sign, like the one mentioned in the Old Testament lesson for today, like the feeding of the children of Israel with quail and manna in the wilderness. Here Jesus seizes the opportunity to teach them about spiritual food, namely that He is the bread of life.
In our world today, we are not too much different than the people of Jesus’ day. We look for food and God gives food. Unfortunately, when we look for food, our eyes are focused on the food of the things of this world. Certainly we need clothing and shoes, meat and drink, a house and home, and these God provides as we need, the key is that God does not promise to provide in excess, but according to what we need.
Jesus reminds us that although we live in this world we are not to be of this world and our sin is that very often we live as if we are of this world. Our eyes are focused on this world and the things of this world, wanting the newest and the latest, the biggest and the best, more and more. Our ears are in tune to the sounds of today, listening to the philosophies and theologies of this world rather than the sound teaching of God’s Word. Our feet and hands participate in the sins of this life rather than turn aside and walk in the ways of the Lord. Our mouths speak the half truths of our world of today, not building up but tearing down, not encouraging but being discouraging, not complementing but complaining. Too often rather than simply being in this world we live as is we are of this world.
As we live lives of this world we miss all that God has to give. We miss His food, His true spiritual food which comes down from heaven because of our misplaced focus. Or if we do hear His Word, we hear it as we want to hear it because we hear it through the filters of this world. We miss walking in His paths of righteousness for the sake of walking our own paths of unrighteousness. We miss the truth of His Word for the relativistic half-truths of this world. We miss the world to come because we live in and for this world alone.
What is the answer? God provides the answer, His Son. Yes, we are very much like the people of Jesus’ day even like the Children of Israel in the wilderness, we have a short memory and every week and yes, even every day we need to be reminded again and again of all our Lord has done, does and will continue to do for us.
God’s answer is the same answer since the beginning of time and the Garden of Eden. God is the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. God is the one who created all things out of nothing and who created us to love us and now as always He continues to love us lavishing us with all the gifts and blessings He has to give. God is the one who provides for us, and all our needs. God is the one who provides for us a Messiah, a Redeemer, one to trade His perfect life for our imperfect life. God is the one who provides Jesus to live for us in our place. God’s demand is perfection and because we cannot be perfect God provided Jesus to be perfect for us.
Jesus lived in perfection and then because of His great love for us, He took all our sins upon Himself, freely without coercion. Jesus took our sins and then paid the price for our sins suffering eternal spiritual death and hell for us on the cross. Jesus gives His life for ours. On Calvary Jesus paid for our sins and earned our forgiveness. Jesus died and rose. Yet, we know that the gifts Jesus earned are not delivered on Calvary, but are delivered through God’s means of grace.
God gives us the means of grace, the very means, the instruments, the tools through which He delivers the gifts of grace He earned. In order to eat a bowl of ice cream you need a spoon to move the ice cream from the bowl to your mouth. In much the same way, in order to be given the gifts God gives we need an instrument to move His gifts from Him to us and that instrument is the means of grace, namely and in particular Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolutions, the very Word of God which does what it says, and the Lord’s Supper. So, again we are reminded of our need to make regular and diligent us of the means of grace.
As we remember our Baptism we remember that with water God’s name was put on us, faith was put in our hearts, we were given forgiveness of sins and our names were written in the book of life. Through the very means of Holy Baptism God delivers to us the gifts Jesus earned on the cross of Calvary.
As we do every Sunday morning, as we confess our sins, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission, not doing what God would have us to do and our sins of commission, doing those things God tells us not to do, when we confess our sins then we then hear God’s Word of Absolution, the most beautiful words in the world, “Your sins are forgiven.” As we hear these words we know that this is what we have, what His words says, forgiveness of sins. And with forgiveness we have life and salvation.
As we hear God’s Word, either on our own through personal and family devotions, in Sunday School and Bible Class and especially in Divine Service, God’s Word does and gives what it says. God’s Word gives faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
As we come to the Lord’s Supper Jesus gives His body and blood to eat and drink, in, with and under the bread and wine. As we eat and drink His body and blood we participate in Him and His sacrifice so that His life, His perfect life becomes our perfect life, His death becomes our death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection. Through His Holy Supper we are given strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Once again we see that God provides for all our needs. God created all things out of nothing, providing us with a world in which to live. God provides for each of us life at our own conception. God provides a Savior, a Redeemer in His Son, even in Himself taking human form in the flesh in the person of Jesus. Jesus earned forgiveness of sins for us and through His means of Grace He distributes all the gifts and blessings He has earned, faith, forgiveness, strengthening of faith and eternal life.
God gives and we are given too. And even when we fail to recognize our needs, even when we fail to admit our sins, even when we reject all that God gives, He is there ready to give anyway. What a great God we have, what a loving God we have, what a gift giving God we have. And thanks be to God He continues to stir in us the desire to make regular and diligent use of His means of grace through which He gives us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give.
This morning, as we need to be reminded every Sunday morning, we are reminded that not only did God provide for His people in the wilderness, not only was Jesus the bread of life for the people of His day, He continues to provide for us today as He is our bread of life, filling us with His presence, giving us His good gifts and blessings, stirring in us to say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.