Sermon for Pentecost 9 – August 2, 2020
+ 9th Sunday after Pentecost – August 2nd, 2020 +
Series A: Isaiah 55:1-5; Romans 9:1-13; Matthew 14:13-21
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
“A Feast in the Wilderness”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Israel had been set free from slavery. They fled Egypt. Crossed the Red Sea. Their joy, however, quickly turned to grumbling. “Why did you bring us out into the wilderness only to die of hunger,” they cried out to Moses, and to God. Israel found themselves wandering in the wilderness feeling broken and feeble, hopeless, helpless, and hungry.
And yet, in his compassion, Christ provided for his people in the wilderness. Manna and quail rained down in abundance.
Crowds of people fled their homes, villages, and towns. They came beside the Sea of Galilee hoping to see Jesus. To catch a glimpse, a word, a healing touch. And yet, they found themselves in a desolate place feeling broken and feeble, hopeless, helpless, and hungry.
And yet, in his compassion, Christ provided for his people in the wilderness. Five thousand men, plus women and children ate bread and fish in abundance.
What about us? It may seem like we’re far from the wilderness, at least geographically speaking. Even in this pandemic we still have food to eat, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, and plenty of toilet paper. And yet, we find ourselves in the wilderness, in a desolate place. The wilderness of fear and uncertainty. The wilderness of disease and despair. The wilderness of sin and death. As we hear Matthew’s account of Jesus’ feeding the five thousand, we see ourselves in the Galilean crowds and the Israelites in the wilderness, feeling broken and feeble, hopeless, helpless, and hungry.
And yet, in his compassion, Christ provides for you, his people, in the wilderness. In spite of the way everything looks in this wilderness, Jesus saves you. Jesus provides for you. Not just for eternal life, but for this life too. Soul and body. Daily bread at your table and from his table in abundance.
From beginning to end, this is a story about Jesus and how he provides for the people of God.
When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
“Had compassion” sounds rather ho-hum. No. Splanchnidzomai is the word. Jesus has a gut-wrenching, feel-it-in-your stomach compassion for the broken and feeble, the helpless, hopeless, and hungry. And for you. But compassion is more than a feeling for Jesus. It’s an action. He heals. Feeds. Later on he bleeds. Suffers. Dies. Rises. Forgives. That’s his compassion for you.
Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “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.”
Now, it’s easy to be hard on the disciples. After all, it was evening. They were tired. Hungry. And no doubt asking themselves the same question this crowd and Israel long ago had asked. “Is this Jesus really the one God has sent to save us? How is he going to provide for us in the wilderness?”
It’s a question that, no doubt, has crept into our minds a lot lately. Will this pandemic ever end? Will the insanity on the nightly news ever get better? Will kids ever return to school, and parents to work, and people to church? Will the Lord provide? Is Jesus really God come into the world to save us? Matthew’s answer is clear. Yes, Jesus will provide. Yes, in Jesus, God’s kingdom comes to you. But look at how he will provide.
It’s no accident that this story began with Jesus hearing the news of John the Baptist’s death. John’s death foreshadows Jesus’ death on the cross. But where John suffers innocently for the sake of the Kingdom of God, Jesus suffers innocently for your sake, to bring his kingdom to you.
And isn’t that just like Jesus to go about his work of saving and healing and having compassion by doing it in the most unexpected, unimaginable kinds of ways. Dying on a cross to give you life. Becoming the disease of sin to heal you. Hungering and thirsting to give you eternally, satisfying food and drink in his own body and blood. Or, using poor miserable sinners and a meager fives loaves of bread and two fish to feed thousands.
Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.”
The disciples look down at the bread and fish. Look out at the crowd and down again at the bread and fish. “That’s it? It’s not much. It’s not enough.” We come to our Lord the same way. Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling. Like the disciples, even our best works are meager. All I’ve got is Jesus’ Word and the blood of Jesus on the cross. And yet, Jesus will take our meager selves and use it all the same. Stuttering Moses. Denying Peter. Doubting Thomas. Fill in our names too. Five loaves. Two fish. Jesus loves taking the ordinary and filling it with his extraordinary grace.
In his compassion, Christ provides for you in the wilderness. Jesus ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass [do you hear Psalm 23 in the background?], and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
Jesus piles on his compassion the way we stack up our thanksgiving dinner plates. All ate. And not just a little bit. All were satisfied. And not just satisfied. 12 baskets leftover. Doggy bags for everyone. A superabundance. In a word, grace.
Jesus transformed that little Galilean hillside into a banquet table. A table that stretches all the way back to Exodus and all the way forward to the Lord’s Supper and even into eternity, to the marriage supper of the Lamb. In the evening, the Lord rained manna and quail. In the evening Jesus fed the crowds. On the night when he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to his disciples and said. Take, eat. This is my body given for you.
From the Galilean hillsides to the hills of Milton, Edgewood, Fife, and Puyallup, Jesus feeds you. Forgives you. Pours out his compassion upon you. In abundance. In Jesus you are no longer broken and feeble, helpless, hopeless, and hungry. In Jesus’ death you have life. In Jesus’ compassion you have comfort. In Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand you have his promise that he will provide for you in body and soul. Jesus healed and then fed the crowds. Today, Jesus does the same for you in reverse, he feeds you and then heals you. In his compassion, Christ provides for you, his people, in the wilderness.
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.