Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

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Feasting with God #30 – What Living Things Need

Feasting with God # 30

What Living Things Need

Text: Mark 5:41-43

41Taking her by the hand [Jesus] said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”  42And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.  43And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Notice how Jesus has concern for the little things.  Jairus, a Jewish elder in the synagogue, had come to Jesus asking him to heal his sick daughter.  By the time Jesus arrived, however, it was too late; the daughter was dead, and the family was in mourning.  But Jesus surprised them by telling them that it wasn’t too late: “The child is not dead but sleeping” (Mark 5:39).  They laughed at him, naturally—how could such a highly reputed healer not know the difference between sleep and death?  So Jesus sent the mourners away and, before his disciples and the girl’s parents he performed this miracle: raising her from the dead.

Shock and awe immediately overcame them.  They knew she was dead, and now she was alive!  Such a change, how could they help but to be amazed?  Jesus knew how their amazement would distract them from what was needed next, so he “told them to give her something to eat.”  He paid attention to the little things.

This girl’s eating after being raised to life accomplished two things: 1) It filled her stomach.  Doubtless she was hungry.  It had probably been hours since her last meal (and perhaps a great deal more, if her illness had kept her from eating anything substantial).  Jesus knew the parents would be excited about their daughter’s rising to life, and that this would probably distract them from doing anything practical about it.  Their natural reaction would be to parade her around town, show her off to all their friends, and forget totally about any sort of food, not out of negligence, but out of excitement.  So Jesus showed he was concerned for her well-being, because as a newly alive being, she needed the sustenance of food.  2) It proved that she was indeed alive.  Yes, she had started walking around, and this proved her coming to life, but the need for food, the act of eating, was the nail in the coffin of proof—so to speak—because all living things need to eat something.  Jesus himself would demonstrate this very proof at his resurrection (“And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ [Luke 24:41]).

All life must be nourished by food.  This is a fact of nature, and a given.  But it is sometimes forgotten that this applies to spiritual food as well.  When we are reborn in the waters of baptism and raised to new sanctified life in Christ, that New Man must be fed in order to remain alive, and that feeding must begin immediately.  The very Word of God which raised that New Man to life in the first place is his food.  We must return again and again to God’s Word to nourish our souls, so that we don’t go spiritually hungry and die spiritually.  But also such feeding proves that we are in fact alive to begin with.  An unbelieving heart does not seek nourishment from God’s Word.  An unbelieving heart may come to God’s Word in search of “teachers to suit [its] own passions” (2 Tim. 4:3), but not to be nourished.  It may come to God’s Word seeking to disprove God, to call God a liar, but not to be nourished.  In this way we can see a glimpse at the heart to find out whether it is alive or dead: only a living heart seeks spiritual food from God’s Word.

And this God provides, before we can even ask for it, just as Jesus provided food for Jairus’ daughter, before she could ask or her parents could think of it.  Just think: if God is so concerned for life to rise up in us, won’t he be equally concerned that that life be sustained?  He will sustain it.  He will give us all things necessary for this spiritual life; and he is even concerned about the little things, the daily bread we need for this physical life as well.

Give us this day our daily bread, heavenly Father, even as you have promised to do.  And above this, give us our daily spiritual bread, so that our souls may be ever nourished in faith toward you, and so that the spiritual life you have begun in us may be sustained by you until we come to our everlasting life with you.  In your Son’s name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #10 – Feeding the Five Thousand

Feasting with God #10

Feeding the Five Thousand

Matthew 14:16-21

16But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”  17They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”  18And he said, “Bring them here to me.”  19Then 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.  20And they all ate and were satisfied.  And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.  21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Did you notice that, at the end of this passage?  We call this story “The Feeding of the Five Thousand,” but that’s not entirely accurate.  Five thousand was only the number of men there: there were women and children besides.  So this may very well have been “The Feeding of the Ten Thousand”!  But it doesn’t matter how many people were there.  It was an enormous number, and Jesus performed a great miracle.

A similar miracle he did at a separate time.  In Matthew’s Gospel we find “The Feeding of the Four Thousand” just a chapter later, and there as well he says, “Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children” (Matt. 15:38).  Twice, great crowds of thousands of people followed Jesus, and Jesus had compassion on their hunger, so he performed a great miracle to fill their stomachs.  So this miracle ought to teach us how Jesus is able to provide for our bodily needs.

But Jesus’ care for our needs does not stop with our physical hunger.  He fills our spiritual hunger as well.  Jesus had been teaching these people for days, and when he went off to be alone, they followed him (Matt. 14:13).  But rather than be annoyed, Jesus recognized their need and knew he could fill it.  So he continued to teach them, and to make them able to remain with him, learning from him, he provided for their stomachs.  Jesus is the provider for both body and soul!

Beginning with five loaves of bread and two fish, and ending with twelve baskets full of leftovers, Jesus proved how far his almighty power extended: He is God!  In fact, if he wished, he could have simply created the food out of thin air, made it miraculously appear in their laps, or even in their stomachs so that they were immediately filled and no longer hungry.  But the way he performed this miracle was purposeful.  He began with material the people could see, and the miracle expanded outward from that point.  This is the way God always deals with people: he humbles himself and stoops to our level, so that we can see him and his working.  This is what he did when Jesus became a human being, conceived in Mary’s womb, and then born in a stable.  This is what he does in baptism, using the water that is washed over us to wash out our very souls.  This is what he does in the Lord’s Supper, using simple bread and wine to bring to us his very body and blood with the forgiveness of sins.  And this is what he does in his Word, using language that we human beings can understand, remember, and believe, in order to teach us his truths.  So in this miracle of bread and fish, Jesus demonstrated his power, as well as his humility and care.

Lord, we thank you that you provide for our every need, both physical and spiritual.  We praise you that you decided to look upon us with compassion and to come to our aid.  Continue to come to us through these means that you have promised to use, so that we mere humans are able to see you, hear you, taste you, and feel you.  Daily, we ask, bring to us all your blessings to feed us on our daily bread, and to forgive us all the sins we commit each day.  We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #8 – The Wedding at Cana

Feasting with God #8

The Wedding at Cana

John 2:6-11

6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”  And they filled them up to the brim.  8And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”  So they took it.  9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.  But you have kept the good wine until now.”  11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.  And his disciples believed in him.

Wedding receptions are meant to be joyful events.  The feasting and the drinking of wine are all intended to honor the estate of marriage, and specifically to commemorate the joy of the now-wedded couple as they enter into their new life together.  It would have been rather awkward, therefore, at this wedding in Cana, if the wine ran out at an inopportune time.  No, the bride and groom wouldn’t have been driven out of town for failing to supply adequate wine, but they definitely would have felt embarrassed, and been viewed in an embarrassing perspective by the guests.  When Mary initially came to Jesus, she had the comfort and well-being of the happy couple in mind.

And Jesus, too, had sympathy on them.  Really, this is the point of this miracle.  Throughout his ministry on earth Jesus had sympathy on those in need.  He felt what they felt, and he yearned to make them better.  This miracle, being “the first of his signs,” was where he began to show the public who he was, what power he had, and for what purpose he had come.  From here on out, Jesus’ sphere of influence really began to radiate outward into a wider and wider circle, but for now, his blessings came upon a simple family, a newly wedded couple.

John takes note first of all of the immense quantity of wine that was made: “six stone water jars… each holding twenty or thirty gallons each holding twenty or thirty gallons.”  Then, he also notes the remarkable quality of that wine created by Jesus: “You have kept the good wine until now.”  This was a very fine wedding gift granted by Jesus to the happy couple.  And it foreshadows the rest of what he would accomplish here on earth.  Jesus’ work was the salvation of mankind; in other words, Jesus came to transform the plain and grimy nature of man into the holy and glorious forms made in his image; he came to take what was base and unworthy of consideration and turn it into something noble.  This he did with the water used for ceremonial washing, turning it into wine, and this he did with our sinful human natures, turning them into his own righteousness.

It has been said that Jesus joins us in all our sorrows, all our joys, all our temptations (cf. Hebr. 4:15).  At this wedding he sought to join in the joy, and to enhance it.  He came into this world to increase our joy.  What joy can be greater than that of the knowledge of our salvation, won for us by the one who lived a perfection we could never reach and then died to take the punishment meant for us?  This miracle is called by St. John a “sign,” and what it signifies is both the divine power of Jesus as god, and the great delight he takes in lending a helping hand to his fellow man.

Dear Lord, you have suffered as we have suffered, and you have rejoiced as we have rejoiced.  But never let us lose sight of the great joy we have since you have won for us the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation from a wicked world.  Let us look on this your first miracle as a sign of your divine omnipotence and so find we can trust in you, and also as an indication of your great love for us, so that we can come with confidence to you in prayer for all our needs.  In your blessed name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.