Fed By Our Lord
St. Mark 8:1-9 (7/10/16)
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. Mark 8:6-8a And [Jesus] commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. And they had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. So they ate and were filled…
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… Our Lord Jesus feeds His people. There is nothing that is placed into our mouths that ultimately does not come from His hand.
Of course, the Christian knows this. You and I as God’s holy people, made so by Christ in our baptism, know in no uncertain terms that all good things come from our Lord. Or at least we should know that. We are reminded of this in the Fourth Petition of the Our Father. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we confess with Dr. Luther and with Christians down through the ages that “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.”
The psalmist writes in Psalm 145, “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” This, of course, is part of the prayer in the Small Catechism called “Asking a Blessing” that Lutherans have been praying for centuries. In Psalm 104 we read, “[God] makes the grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate, bringing forth food from the earth.” And our Lord Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:45, “[God] causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Indeed, our Lord provides for all people. Our privilege as Christians is to pray that God would help us to realize this and therefore receive all things from His hand with thanksgiving.
In our text today we see the compassion – the deep-seated concern and care – our Lord has for people who need food, people like you and me. Jesus knew that the people had been with Him “three days and [had] nothing to eat.” He also knew that if He sent “them away hungry to their own houses, they [would] faint on the way, for some of them [had]” come a very long distance to hear Him.
The concerned disciples anticipated the Lord’s next action, and asked Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?” In other words, how can any one person feed so many others? How can this little band of disciples, led by Jesus, possibly take care of the nutritional needs of a crowd so large? With this question the disciples reveal their lack of faith in Jesus; they make known just how limited and earthly-minded their opinion of Him is and what He is able to do.
And we ask the same questions of our Lord. In our sinfulness our minds simply cannot comprehend the ability of our Lord to feed so many people with so little as a few loaves of bread and some fish. There were no bakeries in those days mass-producing bread and ready-to-serve meals. You couldn’t call up a restaurant and have a catered meal brought at a moment’s notice. There were no Village Inns with free pie Wednesdays..
We sometimes wonder, do we not, whether God is willing or even able to feed us, let alone so many others. And we wonder because the crops may not come in, or because our paycheck isn’t what we would like it to be, or because we don’t have a paycheck right now, or because we have too many mouths to feed besides our own. You name it, and we worry about it. And we ask, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?”
Look at Jesus. He asks the weak-faithed disciples in return, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.” The first thing Jesus pointed out to His disciples was the very thing they were worried about – the seemingly small and insufficient amount of food they had to work with. He stuck their noses right down into what they had in front of them. He wanted them to realize just how impossible it was for THEM to feed the multitude; He wanted them to see and acknowledge the severity of the problem and to realize how utterly helpless THEY were to do anything about it.
Again, this is how our Lord deals with us. So many times and in so many ways surely we have said or at least thought, “Lord, what I’m facing is impossible; I can’t do this on my own.” And that is exactly where He wants us to be. He wants you and me to realize and admit our weakness; He wants us to admit our inability to handle life on our own; He wants us to confess our inability to do anything without Him. And these are difficult times in our lives; times when we must admit and confess that we don’t have all our ducks in a row; times when we are absolutely powerless to change our circumstances; times when we simply cannot go on the way we are; times when we are unable to remove the hurt, the pain, the frustration of life as it is.
However, it is at those times, dear fellow redeemed in Christ, that we are better prepared to receive help from the Lord, to receive from His hand the things that He wishes to give to us so that our life can indeed go on the way HE wants it to go. It is at these times, when our faith is tried and tested and we may even want to give it all up, that our Lord delivers exactly what we need: He delivers Himself and His gifts and the blessings they give.
Look again at Jesus. “And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. And they had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. So they ate and were filled… This is how our Lord deals with our hunger; this is how He deals with our lack of faith; this is how He deals with our inability to deal with life. He feeds us through the ministry of His Word and the distribution of His food. Jesus gave the blessed food to His disciples – His pastors – and they in turn gave the food to the people. Jesus used then and still uses today the office of the Holy Ministry to administer life and sustenance to His people.
This is all we need to know, at least for now in this life. Whatever we need, be it “food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like,” it all begins with God’s giving to us of His bounty in His Word and Sacraments.
The unfaithful and doubting will say of those things, “How can they satisfy? How can a few words preached and how can a little bread and wine given and received do much to address my situation?” And then our Lord asks, “How many loaves do YOU have?” And in this question He would have us see exactly what we, of ourselves, have to work with. All we “have” is our sinfulness; all we “have” is our wretched inability to save ourselves or to come to Christ on our own. In other words, we have nothing.
And when we are brought to the realization that we have nothing to give or to offer, it is then that our Lord points us to Himself. For He is the One who was crucified, dead, and buried for all of our sins. He was raised again on the third day displaying His power and eternal victory over even death itself.
That is why we come here week after week. Here is where we receive more than a mere seven loaves of bread, for it is the Lord Himself who speaks and acts in this place. It is here that we hear of His victory again; it is here that we receive His Word in the reading of the Lessons and the preaching of His life-giving Gospel. It is here that Christ our Lord is delivered to us in the Sacrament of the Altar, the living Bread of Life and the blood which He shed on the cross for our forgiveness and salvation.
Here is where Christ’s Church receives enough – no, more than enough – for she receives the Loaf which is Christ Himself. She receives it on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, the first day of the week, the day on which the Christian Church has been gathering ever since Christ rose in order to worship and to receive His body and blood. The Holy Sacrament is the feast of every Sunday, a perpetual celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. It is truly food for the soul, food for eternal life, the food which satisfies perfectly all of our needs in this life and for the life of the world to come.
Speaking only in physical terms, there does not seem to be much on this table today; certainly not enough to feed to the full everyone in this room. But it is Christ’s meal which by faith, we receive for the forgiveness of sins. It is a meal that satisfies and abundantly blesses until the day we will eat of it in the eternal Feast to come.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.