Jesus Will Replenish You
Seventh Sunday after Trinity
July 15, 2018
What is striking about the feeding of the four thousand is that it happens not long after the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus had miraculously fed thousands of people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Everyone was amazed. Now here Jesus is again with crowds and He says that He can’t send them away because they haven’t had anything to eat and it’s been three days. His disciples ask Him how these people are to be fed out here in the desert.
Had they forgotten so soon? It’s unlikely they had forgotten. Why wasn’t their reaction to Jesus, Go for it, You’ve already done it before. No, they were wondering how it could be done. Their problem was that they didn’t understand and their hearts were hardened.
After Jesus had fed the five thousand He had His disciples get into a boat. In the middle of the night it was hard going and Jesus saw them from the land. He went out to them, walking on the water. They were terrified, they thought He was a ghost. He calmed them. He told them it was Him. Then Mark tells us that they were amazed, because they did not understand about the loaves and their hearts were hardened.
There was something about Jesus miraculously feeding the crowds that was causing them to not see Jesus clearly. After He then did a similar miracle, as we see in today’s Gospel reading, feeding four thousand people, Mark tells us that they got into a boat with Jesus and went to the other side of the lake. Some Pharisees were questioning Jesus. And later on Jesus and His disciples went to another place and the disciples had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus said to His disciples, “Be aware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”
They started to talk among themselves, thinking Jesus was telling them about not having bread. Then Mark says this: “Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’ ‘Twelve,’ they replied. ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’ They answered, ‘Seven.’ He said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’”
They just were not getting it. They saw the miracles, they weren’t understanding about what they were showing about who Jesus was.
How about you and me? Do we see the same miracles over and over again and still not understand? Do we see Jesus performing miraculous actions and still not get who He actually is? Sometimes people will say that they would believe if they had lived back then and actually saw Jesus perform those miraculous actions. Sometimes people will say their faith would be stronger if they could see a tangible sign of Jesus’ power, as they had back then.
The Biblical account does not bear this out. They were not getting it. They continued to not see Jesus for who He truly is. And what about you and me? Are we waiting for some type of miracle like the feeding of the four thousand? Are we thinking that if only God would make Himself known more clearly then we would have greater faith?
Think again about the words of why they didn’t understand who Jesus was. They didn’t understand about the loaves. Their hearts were hardened. They followed Jesus, they didn’t understand who He was. They believed in Him, they didn’t trust Him implicitly. They said they would die for Him, but they eventually deserted Him. It wasn’t until Jesus rose from the dead that they were able to understand.
And what did they do after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven? They trusted His word. They went forward knowing that they themselves had failed so many times and would continue to do so. So they gathered around the bread their Lord had given them. This new meal wasn’t a meal among the crowds and there was no fish. This new meal was with bread and wine. They would eat and drink and He gave it to them to partake of often.
For them, often was every Lord’s Day. We see from the book of Acts that they would gather around the Word of God, the breaking of the bread, the union they shared with each other by virtue of this meal Christ had given to them, and the prayer life of the Church, often called liturgy. They devoted themselves to these things each week because in receiving these things they were receive the Lord Himself. He was giving Himself to them in this bread and wine. He was offering His body to them in bread and His blood to them in wine.
He was forgiving them. He was sustaining them. He was replenishing them. These very disciples who had so often not understood, so often doubted, so often were hardened in heart, were now apostles of Christ and delivering only what they could, and that was not themselves, it was Christ.
The question for you and me is the same as it was back then. What do you and I need? Jesus sees us in our need and He has compassion on us. He saw the crowd and had compassion on them. He fed them, as only He miraculously can. And if you and I forget so soon, or don’t understand, or are hardened in heart, it is not for lack of compassion on our Lord’s part. For He offers here in this place every week His pure word. He gives to us Himself, His body broken on the cross, His blood shed on the cross.
It was evident for the people there that they needed food. If He had sent them away to go home they would faint on the way. What is perhaps not evident to you and me is that we need something far greater than food. It has its place of course. It is a good gift from God that He provides for our physical needs, such as food. But do you and I miss the true miracle He provides each week? When the Word is proclaimed you are forgiven. The proclamation of the Gospel is not a speech. Hearing a good speech is enjoyable. It’s inspirational. But the Gospel proclamation is a miracle. The Holy Spirit works upon you in heart and mind to forgive you.
The eating of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper is a partaking of a miraculous action, in which the Lord actually gives you Himself. When Christ goes into you by your mouth, His body and blood, you are forgiven. You are strengthened in faith. You and I don’t go out into the desert to hear Jesus teach. We come here. Going through the week is more like a desert, where we are beset by all kinds of problems politically, at work, in our home. You may suffer from despair, you may be racked by guilt, you may be beaten down by someone’s words, you may be questioning your faith, you may wonder if the way we do things here at Prince of Peace is enough or even the right way to go about things.
Wherever you are at, you have a need, and you ought to see it clearly. You fall short, you sin, you don’t fully trust God. You have a hunger and a thirst that needs to be quenched. This is why we are here. We need to be replenished. You may not feel much different after going to church. You may wonder if it’s enough. Or even if it’s what you need.
Be confident in this, it is exactly what you need. You cannot make it on your own, don’t pretend you can or convince yourself you can. You can’t. There is nothing you can do to satisfy your hunger or thirst. You cannot overcome your sin. You cannot make it go away. Only Christ can, and He does. Here in this place. First, at the font, when you became a Christian. Next, and for your whole life, from this pulpit and from this altar. You are receiving Christ directly by these actions of God, forgiving you and strengthening you.
Paul knew this well and was clear as day when he said in the Epistle reading, “No one is able to say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Sprit.” You will not be able to maintain this faith in Jesus unless you continue to be replenished. Jesus will replenish you. He will feed you again and again with Himself. He will strengthen you and forgive you.
The last thing in the Gospel reading was that He sent them away. He had compassion on them, He fed them, replenishing them, and only then did He send them away. So with you. He here feeds you by proclamation, by His Holy Supper. And then He sends you out into this week, where you will be bombarded once again. But you have been replenished. Forgiven, strengthened, equipped by Him to serve. And finally, when your last hour comes, He will send you to heaven. He fulfills the promise of Jeremiah 31, “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Amen.