All You Can Eat; Nothing Held Back

Text:  John 6:1-15

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

We are halfway through the Season of Lent.  Easter is not that far away.  And today, at the hallway point, we get a bit of a break from the sober disposition of Lent.  Yes, in today’s service we have a sense of celebration – not heavy repentance – as we hear about the Lord multiplying bread and fish in order to feed some 5,000 men, plus women and children. 

Now, in regard to the feeding of the 5,000, liberal scholars and liberal pastors will read this miraculous story and will conclude that it is a miracle of ‘sharing.’  In other words, they will teach that Jesus did ‘not’ multiply bread and fish, but rather, Jesus inspired generosity among the people, so much generosity that they began to share fish and bread with each other.  According to this liberal perspective, the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is not that Jesus made bread into more bread and fish into more fish – for that would be physically impossible according to their perspective – but rather the people learned to share bread and fish with each other.  Being inspired, they shared bread and fish that was already there – bread and fish that wasn’t multiplied by Jesus.

If all of this is true though, why does our Gospel reading say that the hungry people were given as much bread and fish as they wanted to eat?  That is not the way to share.  Sharing involves that the resources are divided up equally among all persons where each person limits their portion; whereas, in the Gospel reading we hear that people ate as much as they wanted.  Some had one portion, others two, and others three, as much as was needed to be full.  My point is this, “if the message [from our Gospel reading] is that we should all share resources and stop hoarding, so that no one is rich and no one is poor, then [today’s Gospel reading] would be a [metaphoric story] meant to teach [limits] and moderation, maybe even self-sacrifice.  But [contrary to this liberal fantasy, the Gospel reading] is described as a feast.  Each [person] has as much as he wants, and there are leftovers remaining that can barely be contained.  Sharing doesn’t make a feast”[1] but leaves everybody kind of hungry. 

My friends, this story is not about Jesus inspiring sharing.  It is not about Jesus teaching self-sacrifice – giving up bread and fish for your neighbor, as good as that can be.  It is none of this nonsense.  But rather, this Gospel reading is about Jesus providing for the needs of the people by feeding them – every… single… person...  no one left out and no one left hungry.  All full.  All feasted upon a bountiful meal.  Yes, it is a true story of Jesus feeding 5,000 men, plus women and children, even though there were only five loaves of bread and two fish.  This true story is about the Lord miraculously providing for all, so that all could be satisfied.  It is about the Lord changing bread into more bread and fish into more fish, making an abundance of gifts to feed several thousand people.  It is the Lord taking barely anything and then having baskets upon baskets left over.  It is the Lord doing the impossible, showing that He is God in the flesh.  It is a story showing that the Lord Jesus Christ has the power not only to change water into wine, heal the blind, walk on water, and raise people from the dead, but to also multiply flour particles, yeast, and fish meat.  Simply stated, it is about the nature of the Kingdom of God, that there is grace upon grace for you and for me – no shortage, no rations, and no need to portion it out in order to share.  Plenty of grace for you and for me – unlimited and abundant and more than you will ever need regardless of circumstances or earthly limitations.

All of this is good news for us this morning to hear. 

There is a problem with this though.  As we hear in the Gospel of John, there were many in the large group of people who simply did not get what Jesus had done.  They ate the multiplied bread; they ate the multiplied fish.  They had their fill.  They wanted bread and fish and wanted more bread and fish; however, they were acting like a snot-nose rebellious adolescent boy who demanded the keys to dad’s car and dad’s liquor cabinet, as well as mom’s ATM card, in order to please his immediate desires.  In other words, “the people there were so impressed by what Jesus did – which makes sense – that they decided to seize Jesus and force Him to be their king.  They knew a good thing when they saw it, and they reacted to free food the same way we do - get it while the gettin’s good.”[2]  Jesus, fill my belly!  Jesus, make me rich!  Jesus, give me this and give me that!  Jesus, we want you to do for us whatever we ask! 

My friends, this is not faith.  Jesus is not a means to another end.  Jesus is not some dispensable savior that we can crown king and then, as they say, milk him for all he’s worth.  Being a Christian is not grabbing a hold of Christ to flippantly cast aside His Word and Sacraments and then wring Him with our tight fists to squeeze every drop out of Him for our own wicked pleasures.  Again this is not faith; this is not love, but this is coerced extortion. 

Let it be clear, if we do not want to hear the Word of God, but see it as a waste of our time; if we see the Sacraments and the Church as some dead ritualistic place that we must endure in order to get close to the Lord for the sake of getting Jesus to do stuff for us, well then… that is not faith, but self-centered greed.  This is the way of the old Adam; this is the actions and mentality of a non-Christian…  Repent of this with me. Jesus does not respond to our self-centered bidding.  Why should He?  And besides, typically what we ask for are things that would destroy us anyway and Jesus has so much more to give us than our immediate self-centered desires.

Dear friends, we must never forget that in the wilderness of the world we need refreshment.  There is no food for our souls in the wilderness of the world and we do not have the strength within ourselves to endure.  Seeing that we are impoverished and how poor and how empty we are – that we do not even have five loaves and two fish to spare at times, the Lord has compassion.  Yes, we as the church are a bunch of poor and helpless people out on in the wilderness of the world.  But like our Gospel reading, the great miracle is that Jesus has power to satisfy human hearts.  Our Lord can and does satisfy human hearts when nothing else can – not the world, not sin, not temporary pleasure, not high positions of power, not learning, not health, and not wealth. Our Lord alone is Bread and Fish for our souls.  He forgives, He satisfies; He fills; He sustains; He gives life.  We feed upon Him.[3] 

As the bread and fish were multiplied to the large group of people, so dear Baptized Saints, the Lord goes on breaking bread and consecrating wine at this altar and millions more, as long as His children – like you - are before Him.  When Christ blesses the Holy Meal of Communion, the supply will never run short for you and for me.  Yes, grace upon grace for you and for me!  He, who supplied the bodily needs of the five thousand in the wilderness, offers us an abundance of grace and forgiveness right here and right now this day.[4] 

So, into your ears and into your mouths, the Lord does not place multiplied bread and fish, but His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and mine too.  The same grace given to you in baptism, the same grace given to you in the Word, the same grace given to you two weeks ago in the Supper, is here for you again. 

Grace for you, grace upon grace: this day; in the weeks to come; and unto your very last day.  No shortage, no need to ration, no limits, nothing held back, all of Him for you; 200 proof grace – 100%  all for you – for the forgiveness of all of your sins. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] David H. Petersen, Thy Kingdom Come: Lent and Easter Sermons (Fort Wayne, IN: Emmanuel Press, 2012), 86.

[2] Robin Fish, “More Than You Will Ever Need,” LCMS Sermons, (accessed March 4, 2016).

[3] Fred H. Lindemann, The Sermon and The Propers: Volume II (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), 80.

[4] Ibid.

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