Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our text for today is the second story of feeding a multitude with a few loaves of bread by Jesus Christ. Better known is the story of the feeding of five thousand, which precedes this story in the Gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Mark and appears in all four gospels. This food story is very similar to the first one. So the question may be, why are both episodes written down for us by the will of the Holy Spirit?
The answer is found in the following verses which also have parallel verses in the Gospel of Saint Matthew (Matthew 16: 1-12). Notice, in these verses, Jesus refers to both instances of feeding and their different details.
“And then entering the boat with His disciples, He came to the Dalmanuta region. And the Pharisees came and began to quarrel with Him, and tempting Him, they asked Him for a sign from heaven. And groaning in His spirit, He said: Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no signal will be given to this generation. And leaving them, He went back into the boat, and went to the other side. And the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And He commanded them, saying, Behold, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. And they argued among themselves, saying: It is because we have no bread. And when Jesus understood it, he said to them: Why are you arguing, because you don't have bread? Do you still not understand or understand? Have you still hardened your heart? Having eyes you do not see, and having ears you do not hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of the pieces did you gather? And they said to him: Twelve. And when the seven loaves among four thousand, how many baskets full of the pieces did you gather? And they said: Seven. And he said to them: How is it that you still don't understand? "
In the first instance, Jesus fed five thousand with five loaves and the remains filled 12 baskets. In this instance for today, Jesus fed four thousand with seven loaves and the remains filled seven baskets. Each time the point of the sign was to show the disciples that Jesus has the power to provide for the needs of the crowd. Why? First, because Jesus had compassion for them. But second, Jesus did not want to dismiss the crowd because their spiritual feeding was even more important.
Why did people follow him into the desert? Perhaps in their minds, some of them thought of seeing miracles or perhaps receiving the healing of an illness. However, they were all driven by hunger and thirst for the Word of God. Man does not live by bread alone. It is possible to have food, drink, house, money, all the things that we need in this life, but not hope, happiness or love. Without these things, even a life with many riches is not worth it. Without the promise of eternal life, our earthly life has no purpose.
And Jesus knew everything the crowd needed. Our Lord taught his disciples to pray in the Our Father for “our daily bread” The small Catechism says in its explanation of the fourth petition, “God gives bread daily, also without our supplication, even to all the wicked; but we pray with this petition that He will make us recognize this and thus we will receive our daily bread with gratitude. ” And daily bread consists of everything that is needed for food and for the satisfaction of the needs of this life. The goal of prayer is to increase our trust in God.
Well, then, twice Jesus knew that the crowd needed bread and He gave His disciples the responsibility of caring for the people. And twice the disciples focused on the number of people, the lack of resources, and the magnitude of the work. But, Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to meet the needs of the people.
Jesus tested the disciples in this way to prepare them for a greater task. Look at this language: Taking the seven loaves, having given thanks, He broke them, and gave them to His disciples to set before them. On Holy Thursday, Jesus instituted the sacrament of sacrament taking bread, and having given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples. That is, He gave the apostles the authority to distribute His body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine for the spiritual feeding of the faithful.
Twice the disciples did not understand that they should trust Jesus to fulfill their mission. Also on the boat, when Jesus wanted to warn them against the leaven of the Pharisees, they still did not understand. The leaven of the Pharisees is self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and secret rebellion. But they heard the word, leaven, and thought that Jesus spoke of the lack of bread on the boat. They were still focused on their own strength, not on the power of God. And those men were the founders of the church, the ones who walked with Jesus for three years and talked with Him face to face. Even they did not understand the teaching of the Lord without the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
Today our mission as the church is to care for those in need, first, for the love of our neighbor in his affliction, also to help him hear the Word of eternal life in Christ, to share the same hope and joy that we have received of God. And it is also easy for us to focus on the magnitude of the work and the lack of resources.
There are many people who do not believe in Jesus, but they need a Savior. Many of those who believe need our help. There are members of our mission abroad who need material support because the COVID-19 crisis has changed everything and many of them do not have jobs there. But, more importantly, many live now where there is no confessional Lutheran church, outside and inside our country. There is a lot of work, but God knows that it is necessary, for material bread and spiritual bread, and if we trust Him, if we can fulfill the mission.
May the peace that passes all understanding be with you. Amen.
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