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Laetare, March 26, 2017 - St. John 6:1-15

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Posted: Sunday, March 26th, 2017 by Pastor Westgate

We’re now half-way through Lent, so today is a popular day in the Church Year. Today has a few nicknames. One is Rose Sunday – thus the roses. Lent’s theme of repentance is lightened in view of the coming Easter feast, as the Gospel says; so this Sunday is related to the Third Sunday in Advent, the other Rose Sunday, which looks ahead to the joy of Christmas. That’s why the Introit sings “Rejoice!” instead of “Repent!”

Others call it Mothering Sunday because The Epistle calls Jerusalem above our mother – so in old times people might go to the mother church in the area today and servants might go home to visit their mothers – the original Mother’s Day! Other names are Refreshment Sunday and Bread Sunday, due to today’s Gospel of the Feeding of the 5000, which inspired a practice of giving the poor bread today. The Slovaks and Wends even celebrated the end of winter and the beginning of spring on this day.

I doubt the disciples were happy about the great big crowds. Jesus obviously wanted to get away from the crowds so He could spend some time alone with them. Why else would He go up a mountain? He wanted to teach them and pray. Was He going to talk about how He was going to fulfill The Passover? But these people foolishly went up the mountain behind Him, not because they wanted to hear His words, but because they wanted to enjoy another showing of “Signs by Jesus;” “signs” is St. John’s word for miracles.

They were foolish because they paid no attention to the time or the distance. They went to a place where they wouldn’t find food and they didn’t bring food. Maybe they weren’t thinking. Maybe they didn’t think He’d go so far away. Maybe they were hoping to see a food miracle, especially if they were getting bored of just healing miracles.

They were fortunate, because Jesus wasn’t going to let them go hungry. They may have been foolish, but He was still going to care for them. Shepherds feed their sheep no matter what. So He asked the disciples where they could find food. Philip didn’t believe He or they could do anything. Andrew at least knew who had 5 barley loaves and 2 little fish, but he had no idea how that could feed 5000 men AND their families

They knew not God’s power. They forgot this Jesus is no mere man but God in the flesh Who created all things. How else could He have changed water into wine, known the history of the Samaritan woman at the well, or declared Himself equal with God when He was preaching to the Jews. How else could the Baptist have called Him “The Lamb of God Who bears the sin of the world”? How else could He have healed the centurion’s son from a distance and the lame man at Bethesda? There’s all that and more just in the first 5 chapters of John’s Gospel. Yet the disciples didn’t think He just might be able to feed all these people with so little.

He told the people to recline to eat. That’s how they ate back then – you laid down on your side and ate. Then He gave thanks and distributed the bread and then the fish. And wonder of wonders, the people got all the food they wanted and more – so much more the disciples found themselves filling 12 large baskets of bread afterwards, lots of food for each one of them.

So what did the people do? They tried to seize Him and make Him “King.” What kind of “King?” The kind of king that would always give them whatever they wanted. The kind of king that would be at their beck and call all the time, no matter what. The kind of king that would make them rich and healthy and live forever. The kind of king that is no king at all, but a slave. The kind of king that would be illegitimate because He Himself had placed them under the Romans.

What kind of god do you want? What kind of god attracts you? Sinners are wired to want a god they can put in a box and control. They want a god who will give us exactly what we want when we want it, a god who will go along with all our desires, a god who will condone anything we do, no matter how wicked it is. Sinners want to be in control, want to fill their greed, and greed is never satisfied.

That’s the type of god Adam wanted when he decided he had to know evil as well as good. The sinner wants his own will to be done in heaven as it is done by him on earth. For that he worthily deserves to be punished for his evil deeds. You are a sinner. You too have desired God to do what you want and not desired to bring yourself under His will. This may have happened when things weren’t going the way you wanted them to go. We all have told God, I suspect, that if He did a certain thing for us, whether it has to do with toys, family life, health, or something else, then we’d do something else for Him, something that we probably thought was some great deed but He’d not really be impressed by. His Law is right; you deserve to be punished for your evil deeds.

What kind of God is the true God? He desires His will to be done on earth as it is done in heaven. You don’t get to control Him. You don’t get to tell Him what to do. But that’s a good thing. You would never ask God to send His Son to die for you. You would never ask Him to guide you with His Word. You would never even think you deserve to be punished for your evil deeds.

So God comes to you in His Word. He tells you to repent. He tells you to be sorry for your sins, for you deserve eternal death for them. But then He tells you Passover is near. For that’s when The Shepherd Who fed the 5000 made Himself food for sinners. The people ate lamb at Passover every year on that day, and God’s Lamb roasted Himself in the fires of hell that day. Now He gives you His own Body to eat and His Blood to drink. The Israelites ate the lamb and went free from Egypt. You eat His Body and drink His Blood, and you are set free from sin that you may serve Him and be guided by Him all your days.

That’s the kind of God you have. You don’t get to tell Him what to do. Actually, you don’t need to tell Him what to do. He knows what He needs to do for you, and He loves to do it all the time. He provides you with all you need for this body and life, with family, clothing, food, and so much more. Most importantly, He calls on you to repent of your sins and believe The Gospel. What’s that? He Who fed 5000 men with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish serves you far better than you could ever imagine. He forgives your sins and gives you eternal life. He pledges to you that this is true every time you receive His Sacrament at this Altar.

So come, kneel to eat. He will give you life-giving food. He will give you Himself. He will distribute to you His Calvary-Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. This is why you rejoice to go into the house of The Lord: Here He feeds you with forgiveness and eternal life. Here the comfort of His grace mercifully relieves you from the punishments you deserve. For He suffered those punishments in your place upon The Cross. There is no more punishment – only His loving grace. So repent of your sins, and then rejoice!

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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