“Lord, may the words of this sermon be directed by your Holy Spirit, and may that same Spirit direct our understanding and draw us in greater faith to you. Amen.”
“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
The prophet Isaiah spoke these words thousands of years ago, but oh how true they are today. We as people spend our money on all kind of things and work so hard for so much stuff.
As 21st century people, especially in the United States, we have a very high standard of living.
But we also have insatiable appetites for more and more and more. We are never satisfied. And it is not just food. I don’t think the prophet Isaiah was only talking about food that you eat, he was talking about all the things in the world that we want to have and want to consume. We have insatiable appetites. We want more television channels and bigger screen TV’s. We want faster internet speed. We want an upgraded cell phone. We want more sports, longer seasons, even for little kids. We want better cars, bigger houses, a closer parking space, and on and on.
And none of this ever satisfies us. We always want more. We work harder and spend more and more and it is never enough. We are not satisfied. So Isaiah’s words are just as relevant today as they have always been. “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
We are hungry and we cannot find the right food. There is something missing,
something that we need that we cannot find. We are hungry for something, but no matter how much we consume, no matter how much we obtain, it does not satisfy.
So, if all of this stuff never satisfies us, why do we keep working so hard for all of it? Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
Maybe we are looking for the wrong things.
The Bible also says, in the psalm: “You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.” “You give them food in due season.”
God is the one who gives us what we really need, and what God gives what will finally satisfy our hunger.
God has always given us all that we need we never think that it is enough. God has literally blessed us with food and water and air and homes and families. God has blessed with all the comforts and luxuries of modern life.
But far more than that, God gives us the true bread from heaven to sustain our eternal life.
And this is the real point of the feeding of the 5000. The people who gathered by this lake to listen to Jesus did not come there looking for food. They came there because they were hungry for something more. They were hungry for what Jesus taught and they were hungry for the healing that only he could bring. They wanted to hear more. They wanted to be filled with what Jesus gave. They were hungry for the good news that he proclaimed.
And by feeding them, Jesus illustrates that with him there is always enough, and that he can satisfy the hunger heart. There is always enough of God’s grace, and more than enough. An amount that flows over until 12 baskets are full.
This story has very strong echoes of communion in it. Jesus takes bread and divides it up and gives it to people, just as he does every time we commune. This feeding of the 5000, in a way illustrates what Jesus does in communion.
Jesus draw us in as a crowd. He draws us in as his people, and he feeds us with his body and blood in the bread and the wine.
And when we have communion, one of the first things that we do is gather the offering. We bring what we have to Jesus. The offering is not a collection to pay the bills. It is a response to all that God has given us. There is a prayer that is often said after the offering is gathered, and it begins, “We offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us.
And then Jesus takes the stuff that is gathered and he uses it to feed his people.
In this story, Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish, that is what the people bring to him, that is what they have, and he uses those things to fill the people.
When we commune, we eat bread and drink wine, and Jesus uses those elements to give us his body and his blood, to feed us. And that bread and wine comes from the ordinary stuff that we have. It is more difficult to see this, since we gather an offering of money. In the early church the offering was food and grain and included bread and wine, and so the bread and wine for communion came straight from the things that were gathered then and there. We do the same thing, except it is more indirect. We gather our money and then that money is used to buy bread and wine to commune with.
So Jesus takes what we already have and then he blesses it and gives thanks, which is what we do when we commune. After the offering is gathered and brought forward, there is a prayer of thanks. We preface this thanks with a dialogue between the pastor and the people saying, “The Lord be with you, and also with you” and so on. And we sing Holy, Holy, Holy. That part of the service is called, “The great thanksgiving”.
Just as Jesus took the loaves and fish and gave thanks, we too give thanks for what we have and what God gives.
And then after giving thanks the bread and wine are distributed. It is given to everyone.
Now, in the feeding of the 5000 there were a lot of people to hand out that bread and fish to. I imagine it took awhile and it had to be taken all the way to the people in the back. So Jesus has the disciples distribute the bread and fish.
We too, when we have communion, distribute the bread and wine to everyone. Everyone who can gather here close up and even all the people who are far away, homebound. We all eat of the same meal, even if some are far away. If you receive communion in your home, you are not having your own separate communion, nor are you getting the left overs that were saved back for a few days. It is more like you are sitting in the back of the crowd and the bread had to be sent back to you. You receive the food from the one meal that we all have together. It just takes a little longer to get the bread to you, because you are in the back row.
And then, after everyone has receive the bread of communion, then everyone is full. There is nothing more that is needed.
In the story of the feeding of the 5000 it says that all ate and were filled and their were twelve baskets full left.
Now, when we have communion, you probably do not get a full stomach. After all, you only get a little piece of bread.
But you are filled in a far more complete way. You are filled with God’s grace. And you receive all of it. Even if you only eat one small piece of bread, you receive the full grace of God.
And then you do not need anything else.
God gives us the body and blood of his only son Jesus, and what more could you need? No other food can satisfy like this. Even if you were to starve to death, this holy food would sustain you in an everlasting life.
When we gather around Jesus, when he feeds us, you are receiving Jesus Christ, God himself, in the flesh. What more could you need?
And God gives it for free, there is no fee, no price. You do not have to take out a mortgage. You don’t have to put it on your credit card. When you come up to receive this great gift, you hold out your hands to God, and they are empty. You give nothing. You have nothing that could pay this price anyway.
So you come to God and you stretch out your empty hands as if you were a beggar, because in front of God that is what you are.
And God doesn’t just put a quarter in your cup. He doesn’t give you just enough food for today. He gives you enough to fill you for all eternity. Jesus didn’t just give part of his life, he gave his entire life. For you. The body of Christ, given for you.
I think that after hearing this story about the feeding of the 5000, there are two important questions that we need to ask ourselves, both as individuals and as a congregation:
First, we need to ask, “What do we really have?” How much money do we really have? How much time do we really have? How much talent do we really have? And how much grace has God really given to us? Are we really short on time, or is the problem how we use that time? Are we really not able to do this, or do we use our ability in other places, or do we have talent that we just don’t recognize.
And then we must ask, “What are we really called to do?” And to be honest. The disciples were told to feed all those people. It was an impossible task, but it is exactly what Jesus told them to do. Too often we focus on what we think is possible, instead of focusing on what the Lord is calling us to do. Too often our first consideration is: Do we have enough time? Are there any people who have that ability? Who will do that work? Or we think, Do we have enough money?”
Notice that the disciples focus first on what they perceive to be a lack. Jesus, by contrast, focuses on the will of God. The question is not what are we capable of doing, but rather what are we called to do.
And we might be surprised to find out that if Jesus wants us to do something, that it may be possible after all.
God freely gives all that you need. Receive it believing that now, you have enough, now you are full, you don’t need to work so hard for stuff that will not fill you. And now, What is God telling us to do with all that time and talent and money that we have. What is God calling us to do with his abundant grace? It may seem like an impossible task, but with God, all things are possible.
You have God’s grace and that is sufficient. Jesus gives you his very self, God’s greatest grace. And that is finally satisfies. Amen.
- Matthew 14:13 - 21