Dear Children of light! Just before the reading our text the Apostle Paul calls you “children of light.” Children of light, people upon which Christ’s love shines and who are changed by that light. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” We have all come from darkness. We hail from sin and unbelief. But God has called us into the light of his love. Paul encourage us to use that gift and not to foolishly throw it away. Children of Light, Be Careful! See the Dangers.
Seize the Opportunities.
Be very careful, [literally, “see accurately”] then, how you live [literally, walk; so he’s saying “open your eyes and see and move according to what you see”]--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
In a world filled with billions of people, does your life really matter? Yes, there are billions of people in our world and the Lord how many hairs are on each head. Yes, this world will continue to go on if something were to happen to you, but God says to each person, “Be very careful.”
“Be very careful” In other words, “What you do with your life makes a difference at every moment.” You don’t handle your fine china the way you handle your everyday dishes. You don’t handle your fishing pole the way you handle your gardening tools. You have been purchased with the blood of Christ. You are valuable. God’s love makes you valuable. So what you do to your body, what you do with your body and your mind is important. What you do and how you live is important.
If you are important, then what you do is important. If you have responsibility to God, and others, and for others, then your life is important. If Jesus died and rose for you, you are important.
So, dear children of light, be very careful. “The days are evil.” See the dangers. Evil is everywhere. The days are so evil that it’s tempting to just join in. The days are so evil that we are tempted be self-righteous: “at least I’m not that evil.” The days are so evil that a defeatist attitude may be present: God is no longer in charge; nothing, not even God can change things. We don’t want to be the bad guy shining the light into the guy’s eyes who’s comfortable in his darkness.
What a temptation to play with the darkness. What a temptation to have one foot comfortably in the darkness and then thinking you have the other foot solidly in the light. As long as we’ve got the one foot in the light, we’ll be fine. How damnable we are even as Christians.
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” What does God want? Life in a sin-darkened world is challenging. Our consciences have been weakened from living as sinners. But we understand more fully the Lord’s will as we dig into God’s Word. God’s Word tells what the Lord’s will is. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Put your Bible where you’ll see it and use it. And as you see what God wants you to do and be, you’ll be even more aware of God’s righteousness and justice.
But, “knowing God’s will” is also a matter of knowing what God has done rescue us from evil. This God wants our salvation. “God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (Acts 4:12) “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “God is not willing that any should perish, but that but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) He has caused his light to shine on us in Christ. How can we not walk, move, live in a different way?
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Paul warns against the abuse of alcohol. Our culture winks at drunkenness. Wine is not evil by itself. But it leads to debauchery, behavior people wouldn’t otherwise do: senselessness, recklessness, foul language. Solomon said, “Do not gaze at wine while it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bits like a snake and poisons like a viper.” (Proverbs 23:31) We Christians wink at it? It’s evil.
So what someone drinks too much! Here’s what may be going on. Alcohol and drug use offers a substitute for Christ. An escape from the consequences of sin, a temporary relief from the difficulties of life. Drugs and alcohol take away your pain. Christ isn’t enough. God’s Word isn’t enough. Wine, beer, alcohol is the god the drunk runs to.
Drugs and alcohol promise personal growth. If you are not happy who you are, drugs or alcohol will free you from your inhibitions, make you more interesting. It’s called debauchery.
Drugs and alcohol can help escape from the voice of that nagging conscience. If someone wants to be caught in a sin, loves living in darkness, alcohol deadens the conscience and eases the pain of guilt.
The days are evil. As children of light, listen with care and recognize the pain tied to people living in darkness. You might need to wait until the person stumbles and falls in complete darkness. Be ready with the light. Be ready to share the light. Be ready for the knee-jerk reaction to the light. When someone is bruised and battered and living in darkness, he needs to be exposed to the light of God’s love and grace.
The solution to darkness is light. The solution for guilt is forgiveness. The solution for sin is grace. The solution for a troubled conscience is Good Friday. You’ve felt God’s anger against your sin as your conscience picked at you. Imagine the conscience of Jesus as he took the world’s blame. In Jesus there was no darkness, no sin, no troubled conscience. John wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John wrote that Jesus was the “true light that gives light to every man.”
Jesus said about himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” He also said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
So if the light of the world is on Mount Calvary, then why did it get dark? All the sin of all the world’s inhabitants, past, present and future, was there on Calvary, and on God’s Son, for three hours. All of God’s intense hatred against sin was there on Calvary, on God’s Son. How dark it looked as God’s enemies, as Jesus’ enemies, had their way with Jesus and extinguished the light. How troubling when darkness appears to rule the day. Make no mistake, sin was there on Calvary.
And what Jesus did for Jairus’ daughter, what he had done for Lazarus, he did for himself. Off came the grave clothes as Jesus again saw the light of day. And by rising again he has brought “life and immortality to the light” to his children. There is no darkness for you as all is light. There is not a one of you who should remain in darkness, as Jesus said. Jesus is the light of the world and he is the light of life.
Darkness will never rule another day, no sin will ever be charged against you, no punishment waits for you. Jesus Christ is our light and has defeated darkness. Where there is light, there can be no darkness. Well with Christ as our light, the darkness is gone.
So now, children of light, “Be very careful, how you live…making the most of every opportunity.” Making the most of every opportunity, that is, we are to redeem or buy up the right time. Buying something involves giving up something of value to you in exchange. We are to give up something of value in order to take hold of something of greater value. Give up a sinful habit. Now is the time to put off that pet sin. Now is the time to live for your Lord Jesus. Now is the time to witness Christ to the unbeliever. Now is the time to repent and to call others to repentance. Now is the time to do good works so that others may glorify your Father in heaven. Think of Paul in jail in Philippi, hardly an opportune time to be taken as a credible witness, but he was singing hymns. And in the middle of the night, his jailer was led from despair to joy. Make the most of every opportunity. As King Solomon said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might.” (Eccl. 9:10)
“Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” He encourages us to express the joy we have in our salvation through music that comes from the heart. The sound of thankfulness heard in dark times is noticed. Christian music, Christ-centered music and hymns, have a remarkable power to remind us what we believe, what we have to rely on. God’s gift of music gives his people a beautiful way to express what they have.
Be careful how you live. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. Ask yourself as you listen to music, as you work, as you play, as you watch TV: does this keep me in the light? Does this let my light shine? Am I kidding myself and playing with darkness? Am I buying something valuable with my time? Is it worth the expenditure of my time? Are others benefiting from the use of my time? Am I reflecting the light and forgiveness of Christ?
So, children of light, be careful! That sounds so negative, but it is important to be warned of dangers against our faith. But there is a positive side: Look at the opportunities to reflect the light of God’s love and seize them. Amen.
After Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal, he was on a high. The prayers 450 prophets of Baal could not bring fire to consume their sacrifice. Elijah taunted them, because he knew Baal didn’t exist. Elijah told them to pray louder. He suggested that perhaps Baal was on a vacation, or deep in thought, or maybe even sleeping. Elijah knew Baal didn’t exist. He only existed in the minds of people.
Then Elijah prayed and fire came down from heaven, consuming the sacrifice, the wood, and licking up the water in a trench surrounding the altar. He simply prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.”
At that the 450 prophets of Baal were executed. Elijah must have thought that God was going to bring about a great spiritual awakening in Israel.
Now keep in mind it’s been over three years since it rained last in Israel. But now the rain is coming. After the slaughter of the prophets Elijah tells Ahab he better hitch up his chariot and get home before the rain stops him. So he rode home. And the Bible tells us: “The power of the LORD came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.” Elijah ran ten miles ahead of Ahab in his chariot.
So imagine you’re Elijah. The storm is coming from the west, you’re traveling to the east. The storm, a picture of judgment is behind you, you’re God’s prophet leading the king. What a picture! What a teacher the Lord is! As long as I follow the prophet, who represents the true God, I’m okay. So, Elijah was on a high.
But it only last for a short time. I don’t know many girls named Jezebel. That’s would be a lot to live up to, or down to. When the queen of Israel found out she told Elijah, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that one of them.”
So Elijah ran away. For a full day. He ran twenty miles to a town called Beersheba, dropped off his servant there and then ran another 20 miles until he go no further. And he said, “I have had enough Lord…take my life.” And he fell asleep.
Then the angel of the Lord came and fed Elijah and left him a jar of water too. Elijah ate and drank and then laid back down to sleep. But the angel of the Lord came a second time and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” Strengthened by that food, he traveled 40 days and nights for another 200 miles until he reached Mount Horeb, where the Lord ministered to Elijah.
Elijah the mighty prophet despaired. He told the Lord he was the only one left who believed in God. He was wrong. His despair distorted his vision. A mighty prophet didn’t know what he was talking about, because of his despair.
In his distorted vision, he tried to advise God. He told the Lord things didn’t go the way they should have. Jezebel is having her way. All the prophets are dying: this is all wrong.
Is it true for you too, that we go back and forth from pride to despair and back and forth? One day were think we know better than the Lord, the next we don’t think Lord has the ability to back up his promises. So, where are you? Pride, or despair?
Have you ever thought that it’s a losing battle to talk about Jesus with a family member? The Lord will never bring him to faith, you think. But God melted your heart of stone! And you might be the one he wants to use! Despair: God can’t do what he says he can.
Or the other side of the issue: Lord, this is how things ought to be. You give me better health. You make my kids obey me better. You take away my aches and pains and then I’ll know for sure you are almighty and loving.
20/20 hindsight tells us that Elijah had nothing to worry about. Power was all around him. It stopped raining for 3.5 years after he prayed. It starting raining again after the slaughter of the prophets of Baal. And what confidence Elijah had! Can you imagine calling out the 450 prophets of Baal for a showdown. What if God doesn’t answer his prayers!?
Let’s look at the present and the future. There is power all around us. In baptism a baby is plucked from the pit of hell. In the saving waters of baptism a baby is no longer Satan’s little boy, but Jesus’ little boy.
How in the world is there enough body and blood of Jesus to go around. Think of all the Christians who have taken the Lord’s Supper and have been strengthened in their faith and assured of their forgiveness. There is power here. The Lord’s Supper is enough.
Think of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the dessert. God is so rich in his mercy that the Word is all we really need. But God gives us Baptism and the Lord’s Supper to assure us individually that his grace is ours. You don’t need the apple pie after the big thanksgiving meal, but it sure is good.
God plays with big toys. Did you know that one storm cloud weighs 1.1 million tons? Did you know that 125 million gallons of water and more electricity than is needed for a large city is in one thunderstorm? And God sends the rain.
And did you know that God created this world in six days, with his Word?! Nothing else. On day one he made all the materials and on days 2-6 he decorated it beautifully. There is power in the Word. There’s power in the preacher’s sermon, because it is based on God’s Word. God’s truth goes in here, the heart, out my mouth, to you ears and into your hearts. God’s grace overflows through God’s Word and that is enough.
God told Elijah that the journey was too much for him. So, he insisted that Elijah take nourishment so he could travel another 200 miles to the south in unforgiving wilderness.
The journey is too much for you. Have you learned this? You hear people say, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” No, better to say, “The Lord helps those who cannot help themselves.” If the journey is too much for Elijah, then God needs to bless Elijah. If the journey is too much for me, then God needs to bless me, or give me strength. It’s called grace. And that is why God sent his Son, Jesus.
In matters of everyday life, the journey is too much: this bill, that co-worker, this ache or that pain, this child or that parent. Have you learned that you need the Lord to bless you? Has the Lord taught you rely on him? Do you pray “Give us this day our daily bread” because he has taught you to rely on him everyday for whatever you need for body and soul?
Has the Lord taught you your need for help spiritually? This journey is way too hard! “Be perfect,” God says. “Be holy,” God demands. Be content with what you have. Honor your parents who are sinners. Love your children, who are sinners. Trust in God for every blessing for body and soul.
Talk about a hard journey, but Jesus pulled it off. For us sin-sick sinners Christ put his trust in his Heavenly Father to provide. Jesus loved sinners: he healed, he taught, he loved the unlovable. He died for all sinners. In love Jesus Christ used the Word of God to teach, and preach. The effect of his love we still see today: Jesus Christ instituted the sacraments for our faith. Jesus Christ shared the word God which brought sinners to faith. And when he was done with his 3 year ministry, he offered his life to pluck us from the pit of hell. And his empty grave means we’ll never see the pit of hell, only the glories of heaven.
Elijah went from victory on Mount Carmel and the heights of joy to the despair of believing it was all for naught and a 250 mile journey to Mount Sinai. The Lord let him run away because he would minister to him on Mount Sinai. Tough place to go to be ministered too. But on that mountain the Lord did minister to Elijah. While on the mountain there was a great wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered rocks. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. Then there was an earthquake, but the LORD wasn’t in the earthquake. Then there was a fire but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face.” What could humble Elijah? What could comfort Elijah? The LORD took him to another mountain, to Mount Calvary. The LORD was in the gentle whisper. The shock and awe didn’t humble and comfort Elijah, but the gentle whisper did.
No, we’re not told what God said in that gentle whisper. But what causes a man to go back another 300 miles to serve the Lord in a difficult call from which he left? What causes a man who had despaired of his ministry and his life to roll up his sleaves and get back to doing difficult, dangerous work? The gentle whisper: I love you, God says. I forgive you, God says. I’m with you, God says. I can still use you, God says. And all you need to do to hear the gentle whisper of God’s love is go for yourself once again that mountain and see your Savior Jesus bleed and die for you.
In matters of life, the journey is too much for you, but not for the one who promises to bless you. In matters of salvation, the journey is too much, but not for Jesus. The Lord helps those who cannot help themselves. Despair or advising the Lord is forgiven and can truly be a thing of the past, as he takes us to that wonderful mountain. In light of everything I’ve just said, the journey is not too much, because of a merciful and gracious God.
“OLYMPIC SERVICE” Sermon
Jesus Ran For Us
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)
Aaron made a comment to me the other day as we watched some Olympic Diving Competition. He said, “Dad someone said instead of training people for years and years, they should invite regular people to run the races, play the games.” A contestant made a beautiful dive, in my mind there couldn’t have been any deductions, and I said, “No, I’d rather see people who have practiced.”
When it comes to the race called life, I’m not just an amateur, I’m a failure. There is no possible way for me to medal. With original sin from my mom and dad, I’m not even in the race. I don’t want to run for God!
And while no one ran the race, while no one climbed the ladder, even laced up the shoes, Jesus ran. By the Holy Spirit’s help we “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,” who ran, who played, who worked, who trained. Why? Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame.” He endured the cross, he endured a painful death by Roman soliders¸ more than that, endured the punishment of God for sins committed by mankind. As we fix our eyes on Jesus we see an innocent man scoring 10, hitting the bullseye, bringing the Father to his feet, “This is my Son whom I love.” It would earn Jesus no medal on the cross, only pain as he endured the punishment for our sin. But it did earn him this reward, “…sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus ran the race for us. There isn’t a human being alive who could live perfectly. And he didn’t live for himself. He ran this race for us. We fix our eyes on Jesus who loved his fellowman and obeyed his Father for us. We fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the cross, who died to pay for our guilt. We fix our eyes on Jesus because he ran this race of life for us.
We Run for the Prize
And yet we are told to run. We run for the prize.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Cor 9:24-27)
Jesus won the prize for a world full of sinners. With his innocent sufferings and death and resurrection, Jesus has earned the gold medal for all people. Heaven, the prize, is assured through him.
All people run in the race. We are told, “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” What does it mean to “beat my body” and go into “strict training.” How well do you know your Bible? You know everything about your responsibilities at work. You might know all the players on your football team. How well do you know God’s Word? How are your knees? Do they ache for spending so time on them in prayer? How are doing with sin and temptation? Is sin a big deal or not so big a deal? Paul said, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly…No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others I myself will not be disqualified.” The goal is eternal life in heaven. Temptation leads this way or that way. The goal is heaven. Let us train. Let us pray. Let us study. Let us encourage.
The one who won the race is also the one who tells us how to run.
Our Coach Knows What It Takes to Win
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. (Psalm 119:32)
He gives us his commands to lead us, guide us, comfort us.
Sometimes even those who run the race look at his commands and think that they slow down the runner. But his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
But look at what he has done: “You have set my heart free.” With a freed conscience, run the race.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31)
You hear about the American 400 who ran half a race with a broken leg. He didn’t want to let his teammates down. Mind over matter. How about God over matter. He’s trained you for decades now. How long ago were you confirmed, baptized, brought to Christ? “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” “They will walk and not faint.” Your gracious God has trained you for what lies ahead this week, not month, next year. You may be very physical as you run this race, but the race is spiritual. Your loving God will allow you “to soar as on wings of an eagle.”
When you are running a race, it is counter-productive to look to the side, or behind. As you look to the side, you start to veer to the side. If you look backward, we really start to veer and you may even run outside of your lane and be disqualified.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead. You’ve been hurt in life—the Lord saw you through. You have great difficulty—the Lord holds you by his hand in this race. In this race, we press on toward the goal. The only important thing about the race is getting across the finish line. So, run: pray and study. Discipline your heart and mind and body.
Previous Finishers Cheer Us On
Not only have other people already finished the race, these people are cheering us on.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Who cheers us on? Moses and the prophets. David and those who wrote the Psalms. As you read your Bibles you are listening to God make promise after promise and those who wrote the words down are encouraging us: It’s worth it. The goal is attainable and its great. God keeps his promises. All things work for the good.
People who were carried off into captivity in the Old Testament can see now how it all worked out. Job sees now how it all worked out. You’re going to see it too.
And because we have such a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Runners take off their sweats. Basketball players take off their warm up clothes. Runners racing toward heaven throw off the sin that entangles or trips us.
Stay on Course!
Sometimes we are tempted ask, “Is it all worth it?” Running this race. Disciplining our hearts, minds and bodies for something we can’t even see.
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. (Gal 5:7-8)
Satan and a sinful world will do whatever they can to make sure you veer off, or go another direction. You may be tempted to just give up running. When that little voice starts talking, its not Jesus. No, keep going. Jesus’ call and Jesus’ salvation and Jesus’ promises still remain. No one wants you to cross that finish line more than he does.
The Goal: Finish in Faith
I saw an interview with some Americans who won medals but hadn’t received them yet. One of the women said it was the greatest feeling to know that standing on the medal platform was yet to come.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Crossing that finish line of heaven you will find not a gold medal, but a “crown of righteousness” and streets paved with gold. All who finish the race will be so blessed.
Would you agree that the better the teacher, the better the students? I would think that is a pretty fair assumption to make. And if there has never been a greater teacher than Jesus, then it would stand to reason that His students had the absolute best education ever. But that being said, it is also true, unfortunately, that His students or disciples were very slow learners. Most of the time they were very slow to catch on to what Jesus was teaching them.
But this is not only true of the disciples. Today we see Jesus teaching a large audience a very important life lesson. And yet, very few caught on to what Jesus was trying to teach them.
As His students today, it is also important that you and I “LEARN FROM JESUS LIFE’S MOST IMPORTANT LESSON”. Learn that Jesus freely gives of Himself to us so that we who freely receive from Him may also freely give to others.
Once in a while a good teacher will give a “pop quiz” to his students. He will “pop” it on them when they are least expecting it. It not only puts the students on the spot but it gives the teacher a good chance to see how his students are progressing in what he is teaching them.
That is what Jesus was doing here in our lesson today. He and his disciples had just sailed across the Sea of Galilee which at that time was also known as the “Sea of Tiberius” in honor of the ruling Roman emperor, Tiberius Caesar. What Jesus and His disciples had in mind was a little R & R. Even a teacher and his students need a break once in a while and this was supposed to be sort of their “spring vacation”.
But it didn’t exactly turn out to be much of a vacation. No sooner had they landed when Jesus saw a large crowd approaching them in the distance. Jesus was at the height of His popularity there in Galilee, primarily because of the miracles He had been performing.
Jesus could have said to His disciples, “Come on, men, we have to get out of here before the crowds get here”. But instead Jesus surprised His disciples with a little “pop quiz”. He directed His question at Philip but it was intended for all the disciples: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” It says here that Jesus asked this “to test him”.
Philip must have turned around, saw the huge crowd of people approaching, and immediately answered: “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Eight months wages would buy a lot of food, but not nearly enough to feed a crowd like that. John says there were 5,000 men. But the other gospel writers tell us that did not include women and children. The crowd could have numbered as many as 15,000 people or more.
According to Mark’s gospel there was probably an interval now. When the people arrived, Mark tells us that Jesus “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.” It is very possible that this went on for several hours. I don’t know how well the people, or His disciples for that matter, listened that day but I’m sure Jesus had some very important and very interesting things to teach them – and not about the weather or sports or politics either. He taught them about important spiritual matters.
But once the class had finished, Andrew, the brother of Peter, came up to Jesus. He had been thinking about the question Jesus had asked Philip hours before. He did not have the perfect answer on how to feed all those people, but at least he came up with a suggestion. He says to Jesus: “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish”. But even he had to admit: “How far will they go among so many?” The implied answer, of course, was “not very far”.
Well, how do you think the disciples did on their pop quiz? The truth is, of course, they failed miserably. Here they were already approaching the third year of their theological studies and they still showed a tremendous lack of trust in the Lord. After all that He had taught them and after all the miracles He had performed right before their eyes, they still could not come up with the simple answer Jesus was looking for: “No problem, Master, I know You can provide enough food for all these people”.
But aren’t you and I a lot like those disciples of Jesus? When we face a problem or a situation that seems overwhelming or impossible to solve, we either despair or seek some human solution that is never going to work. And all the while the solution is right in front of us. It’s Jesus, isn’t it? He has the perfect answer to every problem and every situation you and I may face, no matter what it may be. And you know a lot better than I do what particular problem or situation you may be facing right this moment.
Jesus now showed His disciples what the answer is. He took the five barley loaves and two small fish from the boy nearby and then He gave thanks for this food – an important lesson for us. Jesus was teaching us to recognize that our food and all we have come to us as a gift and blessing from our heavenly Father.
And then Jesus instructed His disciples to distribute the food. The crowd was divided into sections and each disciple went around handing out the food to everyone they came to – as much as they wanted. And when everyone had eaten and could not eat another bite because they were so full, Jesus told His disciples to gather up whatever was left. He did this not only in the interest of conservation so as not to waste anything but to demonstrate to His disciples and the crowds what He had just done. There were 12 baskets of leftovers!
Wow! How could anyone conclude anything else but the fact that this was a tremendous miracle? This was another powerful demonstration that Jesus can and does provide for all our needs. But more importantly, this was a demonstration that Jesus is our one and only hope for this life and for the life to come. Only Jesus could do this miracle because only Jesus is the Christ, the Promised Messiah, the Son of God. It was He who came from heaven to earth at His Father’s bidding to serve us – not by giving us a nice, comfortable life here on earth but by giving us the greater hope of a hunger-free, pain-free and sin-free life for all eternity in heaven.
That is why Jesus perfectly obeyed His Father’s will for 33 years and then laid down His life on Calvary’s cross, offering His own precious blood as the sacrificial payment for all our sins. That is why He took up His life again on the third day to assure us that our sins are paid for and death has been defeated.
You see, Jesus has so much to give if we only learn the lesson He is teaching us here. It’s not a matter of bread or food or health or material possessions. Sure, Jesus can and will provide us with all those things as He sees fit. But all those things are only a means to an end – the means that will lead us to a most glorious life with Him in heaven. We only need to learn from Jesus how freely He gives of Himself to us.
But let us also learn that Jesus wants us who freely receive from Him to freely give of ourselves to others.
You and I, of course, are not the only people in the world that Jesus loves and cares for. In deepest love He came to give of Himself for all people. The Bible says that He is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world”. Jesus had so much to give and He gave it all for us. And to this very day He keeps on giving more and more, especially to us who are His own. We need only to put our trust and confidence in Him, knowing that “in all things He works for the good of those who love Him”.
But as Jesus used His disciples to freely give to the crowds of Galilee, so now He also wants to use us to freely give to others. Yes, you and I also have so much to give. We all have time that we can devote to helping others in their needs as Jesus did. We all have different gifts and talents that we can use in the interest of serving the Lord with our hearts and hands and voices. We all have been blessed with material things – some more and some less – but all of us have something we can offer and give to support the Lord’s work in whatever way we choose. And just like with Jesus, the greatest good you and I can do while we are still on this earth is to help bring the crowds to know Jesus as their Savior. That will not only help get them to heaven, but it will give them strength and hope and comfort for this life, knowing they have a Savior who loves and cares for them, who promises to bring them through every situation they may face, and who will finally bring them safely home to heaven.
Hopefully, we all have learned our lesson today so well that we will never fail another pop quiz. Amen
O Lord Jesus, we thank You for the important lesson that You have taught us in Your Word. Grant that we may learn well and take to heart this demonstration of Your love and care for all our needs. But especially may we see in this miracle that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who came not only to address our physical and material needs but especially our spiritual and eternal needs. To that end grant that we may always look to You as the Giver of our salvation who lived and died and rose again so that we might have forgiveness of our every sin and the sure and certain hope of the best life of all when You call us from this vale of tears to our eternal home with You in heaven. Amen