Sunday, March 14, 2010

Laetare: A Devotional Commentary

John 6:1-15 After these things, Jesus went away to the other side of the sea of Galilee, which is also called the Sea of Tiberias. A great multitude followed him, because they saw his signs which he did on those who were sick. Jesus went up into the mountain, and he sat there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Jesus therefore lifting up his eyes, and seeing that a great multitude was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?” This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that everyone of them may receive a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in that place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus took the loaves; and having given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those who were sitting down; likewise also of the fish as much as they desired. When they were filled, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the broken pieces which are left over, that nothing be lost.” So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten. When therefore the people saw the sign which Jesus did, they said, “This is truly the prophet who comes into the world.” Jesus therefore, perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force, to make him king, withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

The ability to feed so many people is certainly a wonderful miracle. But don't think of it as something that Jesus once did long ago. God does this for us every day. Every day God gives us the food we need, regardless of whether we believe in Him or not. We've gotten use to the ordinary activity of being fed and so we no longer think of it as a miracle. But if God did not give us food we would not eat. By doing this same thing for a smaller number of people Jesus showed that He is God. The people wanted to make Him king. Jesus certainly is king but He is not the king that they wanted. They wanted a king who would destroy their enemies and make food for them all. Over time they would certainly get used to this as well and start asking steak instead of all this fish and bread all the time just as the Israelites did. We do the same thing. Even with our much more varied diets we stop rejoicing in the steak and expect it.

Jesus not only feeds us with food, He feeds us with the Word. We start out hearing it joyfully but after a while we come to expect it as well and grow tired of it. Give us puppet shows or even a sermon series on how to be successful. But the Word is what we need and we have easy access to it.

The type of king that Jesus actually came to be was the very strange type of king that reigns hanging dead on a cross. They would not have been rushing to make Him king if they thought He was going to be that type of king--if they even thought that such a king could ever exist. But this is the king we desparately need.

Christ's feeding of the five thousand points us forward to the Lord's Supper where Christ feeds us with His very own body and blood. The feeding of the five thousand should be enough to show us that the objection that Christ's body cannot be in more place than once is silly. When the bread was multiplied it did not cease to be bread. Jesus is God and is more than giving His body and blood in abundance. Just as in the feeding of the five thousand, there is more than enough to go around. But we get used to this as well. Do we have to take the time for the Lord's Supper? Shouldn't we spend this time doing something more worthwhile? But in the Lord's Supper Christ gives you His very body and blood! Christ gives you forgiveness of sins! If you have stopped sinning I suppose that this act might be boring and unnecessary for you. But for the rest of us, what better thing could we be doing?

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