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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our Lord Jesus has a way of caring for His children that is unlike any other way that the world has ever known. It is the Lord’s way to gather people unto Himself. It is the Lord’s way to feed those whom He gathers as His own. It is also the Lord’s way to give us what we need in order that our burdens may be lifted. The sort of Lord and Savior to which you and I belong looks beyond Himself to the needs of others. Jesus said to His disciples, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat.” Don’t take this statement lightly. Jesus uses a word which means His concern for the people causes His insides to ache with sadness. What happens to His children affects Him deeply. The condition of the people affects His very being. He sees a people who are going through a spiritual wilderness, a people who are at risk, who are saddened and troubled. He sees disbelievers, sinners, people who are hurting, people who are troubled. We see those same people when we look in the mirror.
Jesus cares for them with a Divine love. We see in this text something that sounds very familiar to our ears: “He took the loaves and blessed them and broke them and gave them to His disciples.” Time rushes together in such a way that the event becomes timeless. Just as God placed Adam and Eve in a delightful garden filled with food they could eat just by plucking it from the tree; just as God provided manna in the wilderness for His wandering children; just as Jesus, God in flesh dwelling among His people, provided for these 4,000 hearers, He now comes to you in the Word, in the water, in the bread and wine here in the Divine Service, sustaining and blessing His people. It is for you, free, given without any work or worth on your part.
Did you hear it? Remember the words recorded by the Apostle Paul: “The Lord Jesus, on the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you.’” It is sad, though, that, in the midst of these blessings of bread come from God, Israel ends up grumbling about it. Many disciples in the Gospel of John stop following Jesus because of His Bread of Life teaching.
Even today we are sometimes guilty of despairing of ourselves, of not rejoicing in the Supper which is Jesus Himself, taking it for granted, saying it could be something less than special if we receive it more often. At times we are numb to its blessings, and we even neglect the opportunity to receive and find comfort in this gift of Jesus, present in and under bread and wine. We must repent of this apathy. We should thank God that He gives us this holy Feast, and we should cry out and beg Him for it when it is not made available to us.
What we see in the feeding of the multitude is Jesus pointing to the upper room and to Golgotha. Jesus looks upon you with compassion and love. Jesus has mercy for you and forgives your sins—even the sin of our disbelief that God would provide heavenly bread in the midst of the spiritual wilderness of the world in order to give us heavenly peace. The blood He shed, the body He gave as the sacrifice, is the sign of His compassion and love showered upon you. In the same way, the Church looks upon the holy Supper as the evidence of God’s love, mercy, and concern for His people. This is how our Lord operates. When you hear the Words of Institution in this place over bread and wine, God grant that you remember that it is the compassion of Jesus being showered upon you by Him directly. 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.