Not Too Much or Too Little
March 27, 2022 anno Domini
The Fourth Sunday in Lent means we are over halfway through the fast on our way to the feast of the Resurrection. We’ve lightened up the tablecloth from violet to rose. Today the appointed readings give us feast of bread. Food is what fasting people want. In the Old Testament God gives His people enough food. In the Gospel reading, He gives them abundant food.
But we have problems with the feasts that God gives us through His Son. We’re like children who don’t want to eat our vegetables, who would like a diet of ice cream and potato chips.
The first problem is that we make too little of God’s miracles. There are a large percentage, perhaps a majority of Christians who do not believe in the miracles of Scripture, like the feasts God provided in the wilderness. They must find plausible alternative explanations for any miracle. God didn’t really part the Red Sea. There was a big sand bar, and the wind was blowing strong and the people walked in the shallows. Jesus wasn’t really dead when He was buried. He was mostly dead, but in the cool of the tomb He regained His strength, pushed the stone aside, and walked out. Right.
The plausible explanation for the feeding of the 5000 goes like this. Jesus never multiplied the 5 loaves and the two fish. Rather the young boy who shared his family groceries set an example which Jesus used. Children, look how little Joshua is sharing and soon everyone in the crowd was bringing out their secret stashes of food. Instead of being selfish they shared.
There are a few problems with that theory of making this about sharing instead of about the Savior. When you have to share it doesn’t result in a feast. It results in just enough for everyone to have a little, but no one is full. If you had to share a candy bar with your sister – no one was satisfied, and you didn’t have an extra candy bar for later. If there was enough food in the crowd’s stash for 12 baskets of leftovers after everyone ate his fill there would have been no need for sharing.
The other problem is that after the miracle the crowd tried to seize Jesus and make Him King. Nobody wants a King who teaches them to share and be less selfish. People want a King or a President who tells them that he is going to give them everything they want, and they won’t have to work or sacrifice at all.
I hope none of you think this miracle can be explained away by little Joshua sharing his lunch, however you too are guilty of making the miraculous provision of God too little. When you think you deserve it. When you believe God owes you or should treat you better. If you believe you earned your paycheck or own your possessions or take pride in the wealth you have amassed, you have forgotten the miracle of God’s providence – that He sends rain on the just and the unjust. The unbeliever and the believer are both beneficiaries of His Fatherly goodness and care. That you have enough (actually, far more than enough) to eat and drink and live is due only to His kindness and miraculous provision.
The second problem is that we make too much of this miracle. Jesus takes five loaves of bread and two small fish provided by a boy that Andrew found, and He feeds 5000 men all they can eat. This is a miracle. It is something only God Himself could pull off. The crowd believed Jesus was from God – why else would this crowd of Jews want to seize Jesus and force Him to be their King? They wanted this magic bread breaking fish fractioning Jesus to run the government. What good sinner doesn’t want the government to provide everything for nothing?
But isn’t this how it always is with God? God uses creation to create even more, and He does so in abundance. Jesus used five loaves and two fish provided as an offering and He multiplied it into a feast. Some of you will soon start gardening and how does God grow your garden? You put single seeds or tiny plants into the ground and God causes them to sprout and grow and produce. That one zucchini plant will produce so much you’ll try to pass off vegetables in chocolate cake. One grain of wheat will produce a hundred. Adam and Eve have 7 billion offspring.
Look at yourself. God created you and gave you a body and soul, eyes, ears, and all your members, your reason and senses. With those created gifts you can work and take care of yourself. If He brought you together with another human in marriage He may have allowed you to multiply. (By the way that’s why marriage is only one man and one woman – that combination is the only one that can create.) You came into this world naked and look at all you have. You have so much you don’t even know everything you have.
So let us not make too much of this miracle for this is how God works. He brought the world to life again by one seed planted in a garden on a particular Friday outside Jerusalem. That seed of a woman promised to Eve was born of Mary. The one man Jesus of Nazareth, the one and only begotten Son of God was born to bring you back to life. He kept every commandment for His entire life. Then in His baptism He was covered with all the sin of all the world which means all your sin – and that’s a lot. (That’s another thing of which you have so much you cannot remember it all.) Then by His death on the cross outside Jerusalem, every sin you have, every sin you committed or will commit is forgiven. One man, one death, one Friday afternoon, one dead seed planted in a garden grave. It didn’t look like much. Had you seen it you wouldn’t have thought it would accomplish anything. It might have looked as little as 5 loaves and two fish before a crowd of 5000 hungrymen. But then the seed spouted to life and cracked open the tomb. Jesus is risen and alive. His sin-atoning death and righteousness proclaiming resurrection multiplied life to Mary Magdalene and Peter and John and the 10 and Thomas. By Pentecost day 120 were alive and after Pentecost 3000 more souls were reborn by the watering of baptism and now billions have believed and are forgiven and are looking forward to the feast of the resurrection. Don’t ever think the Lord’s church is small or dying. It’s filled with billions and more spring to life every day and it will live forever.
Look at the miracle the Lord has worked right here. Today you brought your five loaves and two fish. You brought yourself and your offering. Simple created gifts. With those offerings this building was built, the electricity for the lights and the gas for the boiler was purchased. Bread was bought and wine was given, a pastor was called and paid. The Word was preached and the Supper is given, the living Bread of Christ is broken and distributed and whoever believes (and believing is a miracle worked by the Holy Spirit) is forgiven (and that’s another miracle of God’s grace). Forgiveness multiplies in you to everlasting life and the resurrection of your body. Don’t think too little of that or too much. It’s God’s way. He is graciously miraculous to you. In the name of Jesus. Amen.