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In Genesis chapter 2, we read, “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Gen.2:7). A ‘living creature’ with an appetite. The ‘living creature’ is an ‘eating creature.’
That’s why God created things in the order that He did. First He created everything necessary to feed this ‘living creature.’ Then He created the ‘living creature’ and showed him everything there is to eat. And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the faced of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” (Gen.1:29). “And out of the ground the Lord made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” (Gen.2:9).
And in the background you can almost hear the angels singing, “mange, mange.” (At least the Italian angels.)
We may be surprised to hear that God is concerned that we get something as mundane and non-spiritual as food. But He created us with an appetite that requires food to satisfy and so He needs to provide us with our DAILY FOOD.
When Jacob couldn’t feed his family because of a famine, God put Joseph in charge of the food supply in Egypt and then told Jacob to take his family there. And they ate and were satisfied.
70 people went down to Egypt with Jacob. 2 million people left Egypt to return to the land that Jacob had originally moved from which God describes in gastronomic terms. “A land flowing with milk and honey.”
They follow God through the desert. He is hidden in a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. And along the way they get hungry. It’s not that there isn’t enough food. There’s plenty there. It’s just that it belongs to the people who’s land they’re passing through. And the locals refuse to share their abundance with those who lack. The lacked compassion.
It’s still like that isn’t it? People ask, ‘if God promises to provide our ‘DAILY BREAD,’ then why is there hunger and why do people starve to death?’ (‘And before you answer than how about pass me the mashed potatoes and gravy and how about another beer.’) But God has supplied all the food the world can eat. But some don’t share their abundance as they should. We lack compassion.
But the sound of growling bellies rises up to ears of the Lord. But then again, He is standing right beside you and His belly growls along with yours. And He has COMPASSION. And in His COMPASSION, He skips right over the normal process of tilling the ground and planting the seed and growing the grain and harvesting, milling and baking the bread – and in the morning, bread appeared on the ground. Manna. Ready to eat.
And not just bread – even though that would have been enough. With God there’s always more than enough. There’s meat too. Quail. Currently Quail goes for $15.99 a lb. Semi-boneless for $22.99. For Israel, it’s free. All you can eat – every day. Satisfaction guaranteed.
And the angels in heaven sing, “mange, mange.”
If you’re starting to get the idea that God made man with an appetite because HE REALLY ENJOYS FEEDING US, I think you’re beginning to get the idea.
The scene in our Gospel this morning nearly mirrors Israel in the desert. A great throng of people followed God into the wilderness, just like Israel had done.
“And He had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him 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.”
BUT GOD ENJOYS FEEDING HIS PEOPLE. “Jesus said, ‘they need not go away. You give them something to eat.’”
These are the same 12 guys whom He had sent out 2×2 to proclaim that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” When the returned they were all excited to tell Jesus what they had done. They could hardly believe the power in His Name.
How quickly they forget. They take a quick inventory of food on hand. “Five loaves and two fish.” Hardly enough to feed themselves.
And Jesus grins and says, ‘THAT’S PERFECT. THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN.’ And he does for His New Testament people in the wilderness what He had done for His Old Testament people in the wilderness.
There it came from the sky. Here it comes from His hands.
“And he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, 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.”
Five loaves and two fish are nothing for crowd this size. But God knows how to make things out of nothing – ex nihilo. From nothing God makes everything. And from His everything we have more than we need.
“And they all ate and were satisfied.” THEY COULDN’T FINISH IT ALL. “And they took up twelve baskets of broken pieces left over.”
It was a miracle. Not because He fed the 5,000 men and their families and there were leftovers. He feeds the whole world every day, all the humans, all the animals, all the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. YOU OPEN YOUR HAND; YOU SATISFY THE DESIRE OF EVERY LIVING THING.” (Psalm 145:15-16)
The miracle was in the WAY that He fed them. The bread LITERALLY MULITPLIED as He passed it out to His apostles and they passed it out to the congregation saying, “take and eat.”
Jesus did many miracles that are recorded in the gospels, but the fact that, other than His resurrection from the dead, this is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels, tells you that this really made a deep impression on the early church, along the same magnitude as Easter.
And so this is the impression that this miracle ought to make on us as well. “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus Christ is who He says He is. God in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night dwelling among us then. God in the flesh, dwelling among us now. Feeding us then, feeding us now.
This the point of this text. If you miss this you miss it all. And if you get this you’ve got it all.
But with Jesus, there’s always more, always scraps of leftovers lying around after you’re stuffed and can’t eat another bite.
So, I’d like to explore a thought that isn’t really the main-course of this text, but comes out of the excess. And the thought is this, just as God created us with a belly that gets hungry and needs to be fed so that we may be satisfied, AND HE LOVES TO FEED US, He also created man with a soul. And the soul also gets hungry and needs to be fed so that we may be satisfied. AND GOD LOVES TO FEED US.
But of course, the soul is not satisfied with the same kind of food as is the belly. And we need to understand that, because sometimes it seems as if we don’t.
James put it nicely when he writes, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16). That’s confusing food for the belly and food for the soul. “Soul food” does nothing for a hungry belly.
In the same way, the food that satisfies the gut does nothing to satisfy the hunger that we feel in our soul. To paraphrase James, “IF A BROTHER OR SISTER IS ‘POOR IN SPIRIT’ ‘HUNGRY AND THIRSTY FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS,’ ‘WEARY AND HEAVY LADEN,’ AND ONE OF YOU SAYS TO THEM, ‘HERE’S A CHEESEBURGER AND MILKSHAKE, WITHOUT GIVING THEM THE THINGS NEEDED FOR THE SOUL, WHAT GOOD IS THAT?’
The point is, God created us with a soul that gets hungry and needs to be fed, because HE REALLY ENJOYS FEEDING US. He feeds our soul with His Word and His Sacraments through the Divine Service and through our daily devotions at home, and through the ‘mutual consolation and encouragement’ of our brothers and sisters in Christ.’
Look around this room. It’s pretty obvious that none of us really suffer from physical hunger? We gladly and willingly receive the food that the Lord supplies us to satisfy our stomach. None of us would say, “I think I’ll go without belly food this week.”
But how many, with full stomach, suffer from a hungry heart? Hearts that feel the pains of loneliness, or hopelessness, or guilt, or betrayal, or injustice, and that long to be SATISFIED. We gladly let the Lord satisfy our belly. Why do we not just as gladly let the Lord satisfy our soul?
The prophet Isaiah touches upon our problem when he writes, “Why do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
It’s not that we do not want our soul to be as satisfied as our belly. It’s that we try to satisfy it with all the wrong food. We’re no better than Adam and Eve who ate what was pleasing to the eye even though it was forbidden by God. We have inherited their hungry heart and we keep trying to fill it with the same junk food that leaves us empty and unsatisfied.
“Listen diligently to me,” says the prophet, “eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” The same Jesus who delighted to feed the bellies of the 5,000 in the wilderness delights in feeding your hungry soul.
Let Him feed you with His Holy Absolution, given to His servant to give to you, “I forgive you all of your sins.” Let Him feed you with His Holy Baptism, given to His servant to give to you, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Let Him feed you with His Holy Supper, given to His servant to give to you, “This is MY BODY.” “This is MY BLOOD.”
It doesn’t seem like much I know. How could so little satisfy us so completely? But it can if you will let them. More forgiveness, more mercy, more grace, more peace than you can gorge yourself on. SO MUCH, THAT THERE WILL BE BASKETS FULL OF LEFTOVERS TO GATHER UP AND SHARE WITH OTHERS.
IT’S A MIRACLE.
And all the angels sing, “mange, mange.”