Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 17:45 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Nearly everything that is in the news, and in the world, and in the air is about what we lack. There is lack everywhere. People lack food, or water, or housing, or jobs, or money. They lack health or family or community.
And when Jesus gets to the other side of the lake in a boat, intending to go away by Himself to a desert place, He finds people who lack. And unlike us many times, when we’ve had a long day, or seen too many people, or given of ourselves what we can give, Jesus has compassion on them and heals those who are sick. These people are lacking health and Jesus fills up what they are lacking. In a desert place, a wilderness place, that—in spite of the plants and animals that thrive there—is often thought of as a place of lack: lack of water, lack of people. But where Jesus is, there is no lack.
As the day begins to fade and there is a lack of light, the disciples notice that there is a lack of food. Whether it’s out of their own version of compassion or because they just want the people to go away, they ask Jesus to send the people away to buy their own food. But they haven’t yet realized fully who Jesus is or what He’s come to do. He says, “They don’t have a need to go away; you give them something to eat.” But all the disciples can see is their lack. All they know is what they don’t have. And they do not realize the One whom they do have. All we’ve got, they say, is these five loaves of bread and two fish.
Jesus, of course, doesn’t need even that much in order to feed the people. He is the one through whom every grain of wheat and every fish was made. But He takes what they have, which He gave them, and He blesses, breaks, and gives it to them. He looks up to heaven and reminds everyone who is watching that His Father is the giver of all good things. And the Son shows His perfect faith in the Father, that He will feed His people. His blessing is a thanksgiving. This is the Jesus who refused to changes stones into loaves of bread in that desert place with the devil. But here, the gift is from the Father and He gives it to the disciples, and they give it to the people. They give away what Jesus gives them, and they keep coming back to the Lord, and there is still more, always more, more than enough. There is no lack where Jesus is.
But it’s not just that Jesus multiplies loaves and fish so that a lot of people can eat. What He gives completely fills them up, completely satisfies them, until they are no longer hungry. And it’s not just that the crowd eats and is full, but that there are twelve baskets of pieces left over, enough for the disciples too. There is no lack where Jesus is. And it’s not just that the loaves and fish would probably be barely enough for the twelve, and Jesus feeds a lot of people. He feeds 5,000 men, or the heads of families. Which means that there are likely at least 10,000 people there.
The miracle keeps getting bigger and bigger. Have you ever been driving down the road toward a mountain in the distance? At first it seems small. We might know it’s not actually small, but a little child looking out the window might see it and say, “Look at that little mountain.” It seems little at first: Jesus heals some sick people, as He had already done before. He had already made the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, cleansed lepers, and raised the dead. One by one, a few individuals. But then there are many, many people, and they are hungry. Jesus multiplies bread and loaves—the miracle grows; the mountain appears larger as we draw closer.
And the miracle grows: there are thousands and thousands. And not only are there thousands, but they eat to their satisfaction, filled all the way up until they can’t eat any more. The mountain looms larger in front of us; the miracle grows. And we come closer to it, and see that Jesus points us beyond these loaves and fish. In fact, after taking the loaves and the fish, Matthew emphasizes that Jesus breaks the loaves and gives them to the disciples, and they give them to the crowds. Taking, blessing, breaking, giving. These are the actions that Jesus will do again in the upper room, pointing not to bread and fish that gets eaten up, but to eternal, living bread.
The people here who eat, who are full, will soon be hungry again. But Jesus will give them bread by which they will never be hungry into eternity. He takes, blesses, breaks, and gives to His disciples His own body and blood hidden under bread and wine—a body crucified and a blood shed, but the man raised from the dead to give that same eternal life to all people. There is no lack where Jesus is! He gives to His servants again and again, over and over, to distribute—not to thousands, but to millions, to the uncountable masses, hungry and desolate and lacking, who gather daily and weekly to receive the inexhaustible goodness of the Lord. Taste and see!
Those who have been tasked with distributing the gifts and goodness of the Lord do not give from their lack, but from the Lord’s abundance. They can only give what He gives to them. And He takes bread and wine, and makes them far more than what they were before. You give them something to eat. And there is no lack where Jesus is.
Every time you eat a meal, no matter what it is, there is a reminder that the Father of Jesus answers the prayer Jesus has given us: Give us today the bread we need for this day. Daily bread for this body and life. Jesus gives a sign here that He has not come only to heal souls or spirits. There is a lack in our bodies that He has come to remedy, to fill up what is lacking in our health, in our bodies, in our lives. And He will continue to do so until the day we don’t need daily bread anymore. And every time you come to this table for this meal, you have a reminder that God does even more: He gives us what we lack in body and soul, all of it. He gives us bread for now and bread for always.
And now we’ve come right to the foot of the mountain, right to the miracle and the mystery in its full immensity. And we see that we are looking into the completion of this miracle in the eternal, new creation. Jesus is giving to the crowds and to the disciples and to us a sign of the end of all that we lack. It wasn’t meant to be like this. We weren’t supposed to lack food, or water, or shelter, or justice, or life. The full satisfaction of all those longings, all those cries, all that mourning is coming. In that age, and in that creation, and on that day, there will be no more lack because Jesus will be there in the resurrection glory of the Father and the Spirit, having brought everything to its completion. No more lack of life, no more lack of health, no more lack of food and shelter. Because there will be the fulfillment of this feast in its eternity, the fulfillment of Christ’s life in and for us, the fulfillment of all lack, fully satisfied, never to hunger or thirst or die anymore.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. In the Name of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 7/31/20