9th Sunday after Pentecost
August 2, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior and Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the Gospel lesson from Matthew 14 and the familiar miracle the “Feeding of the 5000.”
My dear friends,
As I look at your faces, I come to an undeniable conclusion. This is not your first rodeo…we’ve met. You’ve heard me preach/teach from the Bible MANY times. Have you ever heard a narrative in the Bible and just wanted to be THERE? To see with your own eyes and experience that moment yourself? Moses parting the Red Sea. The walls of Jericho crashing down. The sight and sound of the multitude of heavenly hosts bursting forth in song on the cold night when Jesus was born. Standing on the side of the road waving a palm branch and shouting “Hosanna!” as our Lord passed by. Wouldn’t that be cool to be an eyewitness to these moments?
What about being an eyewitness to today’s miracle – the well-known feeding of the 5000, which is the only miracle from Jesus’ earthly ministry found in all 4 Gospels? What would that have been like? What if you could have been there right next to Simon Peter or Andrew or John or James or even Matthew himself? What would that have been like? Remember…I do have an English degree. Maybe it would have sounded a little bit like this.
“The news of the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod Antipas stunned us all, including the Master who wanted some time by Himself. But as you might expect, time alone was very hard to come by. He went off by boat seeking that badly-needed time alone, but crowds of people had a sense of where He was going and went over land to meet Him. We ended up on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee near Bethsaida (Luke 9:10). Jesus went to be alone, He was sad, He needed rest, but He still understood the needs of the people and healed many of their diseases (14:14).
It was getting late – too late – in the afternoon and there were many, many people – thousands and thousands of them by then – and they were all needing food. This was quickly turning into a logistical nightmare! We implored the Master with, what we thought, was a reasonable request: “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves” (14:15). Reasonable enough, right? He told us to feed them. Huh?
Us? What were we supposed to do? We had no way to do this. Frankly, we tried to be realistic. We tried to explain that “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” That’s what we would have expected…5 small barley loaves suitable for an afternoon trip and some dried pickled fish. That’s just what people ate, especially poorer people. 5 loaves and 2 fish. Seriously? That wasn’t enough to feed Jesus and us…let alone the ENTIRE crowd of thousands of people!
But then…a most amazing thing happened. Jesus had the people sit down and asked God’s blessing on the food. He then gave some of the food to us, and we gave it to the people…everyone! The food was not used up! Everyone had enough to eat, they ate until they were satisfied (14:20), and then – you won’t believe this – but there was food left over. We walked around and picked up 12 baskets full of leftovers. I’ve NEVER seen anything like that…ever. At the end of the evening I thought about my grumbling, my lack of understanding, my doubts, and my lack of trust that God would provide. Actually, the story continues, because after this we went back out onto the water and encountered a storm and something else miraculous happened, but that is for another time.” Maybe that’s what an eyewitness account would have sounded like.
It’s easy for you and I…sitting in a climate-controlled space and not being surrounded on that hillside with thousands of hungry people…to speculate about what we would or would not do. If you had been there – an actual participant and eyewitness to this event – would you have wanted to send the crowds away? How would you have responded when Jesus told you to “feed them?” Be truthful now…would you have really thought you were about to see an honest-to-goodness miracle right before your very eyes? What would you have thought and felt when you actually saw the miraculous feeding unfolding before your very eyes? Would you have trusted and believed then? Is that what it would take? To see it first, then believe and trust?
Too often, we have to see before we believe. We get so caught up in the practical concerns of every-day life that we fail to rely on our crucified and risen Lord Jesus – the Redeemer of all and the Savior of humanity – and fail to trust His abundant provision.
These days, we are all looking for some “big” miracles to take place. We are worn down and exhausted by the constant pressure of the Coronavirus and all the changes imposed on our lives as a result. We are hoping and praying that the pointless, senseless violence and unrest in our city streets will end. Closer to home, you may be looking for a miracle of healing. You’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. You want the pain to go away. You want your questions answered and your anxieties quieted. You keep waking up hoping and praying that you too will finally witness that miracle you’ve been waiting and praying for.
But what if it never comes?
Instant, miraculous relief is not always the answer. Many times we have to endure trials in order to grow and mature in our faith and see the REAL miracles that Jesus does…every day. We are not defined by the adversity we face, but how we respond and react to that adversity. C. S. Lewis once said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
Do you want to be an eyewitness to a miracle? First…live the miracle you already are. When you faithfully endure the most-difficult life situations, you don’t need a “loaves and fishes” kind of a miracle. Face life’s hardships trusting, knowing, and believing with your whole heart that for those who love God all things DO work together for good (Romans 8:28) even if they’re painful.
Secondly, find strength and comfort in how God in Christ miraculously cares for and feeds you: His Word, constant forgiveness of your sins, the Bread and Wine, His Body and Blood of the Holy Supper, the granting of our daily bread – the provision of “everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body” (Small Catechism).
You want to be an eyewitness to a miracle? In a moment, you will. However, in reality, you already have. You woke up, didn’t you? Celebrate and trust that the miracles that God does for you every day forgives your sins, saves your soul, and strengthens you for life here and hereafter even amid hardship and struggle. Be an eyewitness to your own faith and boldly give an account to the fact that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). You don’t need to see to believe that.