“Hail, Jesus, King of Our Tummies”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Once again, the crowds had gathered. It was as if the circus had come to town. John tells us that “a great multitude followed [Jesus], because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.” This was not the first time that the crowds had come looking for a spectacle from Jesus. Early in His earthly ministry, the people of His own hometown of Nazareth wanted to witness Jesus doing His thing. And it would not be the last time, either. Herod, too, expected Jesus to perform on demand, even while Jesus stood before him on trial for His life. Before all of them stood the greatest Teacher of all time, teaching about the most important subject ever devised by the mind of God or man. All they wanted was the circus.
It wasn’t necessarily a lack of faith. After all, no one doubted that Jesus had the power to do what they expected Him to do. Jesus had given proof numerous times. He proved it by changing water into wine. He proved it by bringing sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, mobility to the cripple. He proved it in shining splendor on the mountain, appearing in robes that shone with the light of the sun with Moses and Elijah. And He proved it once again in the Gospel for today, feeding the multitude with five loaves of bread and two small fish, with twelve baskets left over.
The sign had been given. The crowd had seen the wonder they had come to see. All it took was for Jesus to fill their stomachs. That was enough for them. They made ready to declare Jesus their king. “Hail, Jesus, King of our tummies! Blessed is He who comes in the name of our appetite!” They had missed the point. They had no idea of what it really meant for Jesus to be the Messiah, even if some of them were inclined to believe that He was the Christ. Jesus had no interest in being an earthly king. He already had a task set before Him. He left the crowd and made His way to the mountain alone.
What is it about Jesus that makes Him the subject of our adoration? For the crowd that day, it was the promise of spectacle and that promise fulfilled in the temporary end of their hunger. And we certainly like to have our bellies filled, too. We know that God gives us “all that we need to support this body and life.” For some, that is enough reason to worship God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And it’s certainly not a bad reason to praise God. But if that’s all God is good for in our eyes, then we, too, have missed the point. As I said, it’s not necessarily a lack of faith. After all, we trust that God will provide.
But what happens when our cups don’t “runneth over”? What happens when our bellies are not fat with cheese and chips and meat and gravy and cream and beer and everything else we desire? What happens when we are blinded against the goodness of God by our own greed and selfishness? When help doesn’t come according to our schedules, we feel as though God has failed us, that He doesn’t love us, that we now have to fend for ourselves somehow. Our ideas concerning Jesus are as hazy as were those of the multitude in the crowd that day on the mountain. We, too, want the Jesus who takes away our hunger. We, too, want the Jesus who heals the sick and gives sight to the blind. We, too, want the Jesus who will work great deeds and wonders.
We don’t realize what kind of Lord we have in Jesus Christ. Jesus is not interested in being just a helper in the things of the body. He is not merely a servant who caters to the desires of the flesh. He knew the hearts and minds of His audience on the mountain that day; He knows the thoughts and desires of our hearts today. He knows exactly what we think of Him. He knows that the Old Adam in us would settle for a Messiah that fulfilled our earthly needs. Sinners that we are, when He tells us why He comes to us, we drive Him away, comfortable in our sinfulness.
He also knows that our needs run deeper than the needs and desires of the flesh. If our needs consisted only in having full plates at dinner, a house, gainful employment, or whatever else it is that we consider needs in our earthly existence, we wouldn’t necessarily need miraculous, divine intervention to have those needs filled. After all, God makes the sun to shine on both the righteous and the unrighteous. We don’t have to believe in God to have a full stomach or a place to lay our heads at night or clothes to cover us.
The real miracle in our text is that the Word does exactly what Jesus says it’s supposed to do. When Jesus speaks, His Word has the power to do exactly what He says. When He tells the eyes of the blind man to open, the man is no longer blind. When He takes up five loaves and two fish to feed the throng, those five loaves and two fish are made to be enough to feed every last person, with food to spare. When He tells us our sins are forgiven, all the iniquity is wiped away. As God says to us through the prophet Isaiah: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
In knowing that your needs are greater than just the things of your bodies, Jesus came to bring relief and healing to your soul. He came to bring deliverance from your slavery to sin, speaking to you the Word of Holy Absolution. He came to make light the heavy burden of sin which stoops your shoulders and hunches your back, doing so by bearing those sins for you to the cross. He came to earn for you a new life, rising from the grave on the third day so that you would rise with him to newness of life in the waters of Holy Baptism. He came to nourish your soul with His own body and blood.
Jesus did not come to fulfill our earthly desires; He came to deliver us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He fulfills the needs of our souls, feeding us with another feast in bread and wine that seems inadequate in the eyes of the world. Like the feeding of the five thousand, the miracle here is that Jesus makes perfect for its purpose something which would seem to be lacking. In and under that bread and wine of this Supper is the very body and blood of Jesus Himself, a wedding banquet feast rich and filling and more than merely adequate to do what it is supposed to do. Our souls are satisfied, groaning with the delight of being filled with Jesus. We are made righteous before God, and all because Jesus said He would—for His Word will not return void.
All that, and He graciously fills our bellies, too. God grant us faith to believe and to thank Him for all the riches He provides for our bodies and our souls! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.