Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
For the life of me, I will never understand why people throw themselves out of perfectly good airplanes. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. I’ve had friends who do it and love it. They even have a fancy name for it: “Skydiving.” But if you’ve got a plane that isn’t on fire, why not just stay on board!? Why not just relax, sit back and eat some complimentary snacks!? I guess it comes down to two things really: adrenaline rush and faith. It must take a lot of faith to jump out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute strapped to your back as your only method and hope of survival. You need to trust that the chute will open – but it only opens as you fall. Now that’s faith!
Being spurred on to faith is the heart of this Gospel text that we have before us today. Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5000 member plus multitude capacity crowd is recorded in all four of the Gospels. When things are repeated over and over again in God’s Word, it’s a pretty good indication that we ought to perk up our ears and listen to what is being said. This reading takes place just after John the Baptist was beheaded at Herod’s command. Don’t forget that John was Jesus’ first cousin. This is the reason our text says that “Jesus withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” But as usual, an enormous crowd was gathering around Jesus and, as St. Matthew says, “He had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
A pastor had a four year old son and they were out to dinner one night with family and friends. The little boy decided that he would say grace. Overcoming a little bit of shyness, he finally prayed. “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Amen.” All was well until the pastor, wanting to show off the brilliance of his offspring, turned to him and asked: “And who are we thanking for the food, Son?” Without skipping a beat the little boy piped up and said: “Mommy!” Ah yes, all of you Moms and Grandmas out there can relate to this and to what happened next in our Gospel story! All of a sudden, you’ve got a house full of people and you need to give them something to eat! But as our text says, it was evening. The sun had begun to set already. They were in a desolate, deserted place. The local Tim Horton’s was closed! There was no way to get enough food to feed this many people. The Disciples who were with Jesus urged Him to send the people away, to get rid of the rabble and let them forage for their own vittles. It was an impossible situation. They only had five loaves and two fish to feed 5000 men, plus wives, plus children. Not even Martha Stewart could have recovered from this catering nightmare. But then, it happened!
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then Jesus handed out the broken bread to the Disciples who then gave them to the crowd. And everyone ate until they were full and ready to put on a pair of elastic waistband sweatpants and recline on a chaise lounge! It really shows the heart of God. He not only has compassion on the sick by healing them, but also now in grace and mercy providing for their physical needs. Jesus fed the great multitude much like He did hundreds of years before with God’s people in the wilderness, raining down manna from heaven. Here in this desolate place, Jesus Christ, God’s Son our Savior, had compassion on His people who were in need. The Early Church Fathers saw in this miracle as a reference to the Eucharist – Holy Communion. Here we have Jesus Himself, truly present, blessing the bread and then breaking the bread and giving it to the Disciples, who in turn give it to the multitudes. The language is so close to that of the Last Supper, it is easy to see the connection. This is the same today for us, as we gather at our Lord’s Table. The miracles still are happening as we in faith receive our Lord’s true body and blood broken on the cross for us for our salvation.
No matter how we examine this Bible reading, God’s Word is clear that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ did an amazing miracle in the sight of many witnesses. It humbles us and teaches us to consider: what is impossible with God? Instead of trusting that the parachute will open, we worry whether or not it will. Instead of having faith to trust that God has what’s best for us in mind, we worry. When we worry about money, we tell God that He is unable to provide for us! Even though He has riches beyond belief in Heaven and on Earth, we tell God that He is too stingy to share them with us. When we worry that no one understands us or what we are going through, we tell God that even though He has been with us since before we were formed in our mother’s womb, He doesn’t know us. When we worry that we won’t have enough food for our daily bread, we tell God that even though He fed thousands and thousands of His people in the wilderness and the desolate places, that we are the only ones He has forgotten. When we worry and refuse to hand over our problems to God, we tell Him that even though He made the universe, He can’t handle what is going on in our lives.
This Bible text is incredible because it cuts through our sin of worry. It blows away the dark clouds that blind us to see God’s amazing love, forgiveness and provision for every need of body and soul! This text encourages us to see Jesus for who He truly is: the all compassionate Lord of all. Nothing is too much for God to handle. No sin, no doubt, no worry, nothing can over come our Lord’s love and care for us. He showed it when He fed the Israelites in the desert, He showed it when He fed the multitudes and the crowds. He showed it when He died on the cross for our sins, cares and worries. And He continues to show us His love and salvation every time we gather around His table to eat and drink the cup of salvation.
I walked into a house one day and the people had an interesting little sign that greeted all the people who stopped by to visit with a wonderful and deeply spiritual message. No, it wasn’t “beware of dog,” or “these premises protected by Smith & Wesson,” or “Behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town.” But rather: “LOVE IS A BASKET WITH FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISHES … IT’S NEVER ENOUGH UNTIL YOU START TO GIVE IT AWAY.” And isn’t that the natural conclusion of this Gospel text? When we think how amazing God is to us, all the incredible things that He has given us and done for us in the resurrected Christ, we can’t help but be joyful. We can’t help but be full of God’s love! We can’t help but to give it away! At first it may seem small and insignificant, like five loaves and two fishes, yet as God continues to work His good work among us, it changes us and helps us to help other people around us – not just because it’s the nice thing to do, but because the power of Christ compels us. The true nature of the grace of God is that it multiplies. And God’s love truly is a basket with five loaves and two fishes … it’s never enough until you start to give it away. Amen.