Sunday, August 06, 2023

God Can!

[Below you'll find the message shared during both worship services with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio earlier today. Also, you can watch live-stream videos of both services.]

Matthew 14:13-21

Today’s Gospel lesson, Matthew 14:13-21, tells us about Jesus’ miraculous feeding of more than five-thousand men and unnumbered women and children.

I want to focus on just one part of this lesson and its meaning for us today. Matthew tells us: “As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’” (Matthew 14:15)

In this fallen world, everything has a price. Everything’s a commodity to be bought, sold, or owned. Marxists and capitalists completely agree on that. So did the disciples. “Jesus,” they say, “the crowd is going to get hungry out here. Send them away so they can buy the food they need.” The corollary of their request, of course, is, “And, if they don’t have the money, that’s their tough luck”.

The disciples are right, under the Law, aren’t they? The Law says: “If you want a meal, you’ve got to work for it; if you want a miracle, you need to be worthy of it; if you want salvation, you need to be a good person.”

But the laws of a fallen world cut no mustard with Jesus, God the Son. According to God’s Word, none of us deserves to be fed.

None of us deserves the miracles God brings to our lives.

None of us deserves to be saved from sin, death, and eternal damnation.

“Surely I was sinful at birth,” Psalm 51:5 rightly says.

In light of Jesus’ innocent suffering and death for us sinners, the apostle Peter writes that “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)

The kingdom of God doesn’t work like the kingdoms of this world.

By God’s grace given in Christ, there’s nothing we must do to deserve life, forgiveness, or material blessings from God, because there’s simply nothing we can do to deserve anything the God revealed in Jesus Who has secures for us.

There’s nothing about sinful Mark Daniels that deserves forgiveness or new life from God.

And I had nothing to do with the fact that I was born in an era of medical wonders that means that, once again this past Monday, I received a pacemaker and defibrillator that could help me live beyond what would have been expected in previous times by someone who suffered from the widowmaker heart attack. I should have been dead twelve years ago!

In this world of sin, death, and fallenness, there may be no such thing as a free lunch, but in the Kingdom of God, everything is a free lunch. That includes every spiritual and physical blessing you have.

In light of the fact that anything they might give away was from God anyway, Jesus tells the disciples, “You feed the crowd you claim you don’t want to see faint from hunger!”

The disciples tell Jesus: “We can’t!”

But, friends, “You can’t; God can.”

When the world cannot forgive our sins, the God we know in Jesus can and does. “For if while we were enemies [of God], we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,” the Bible tells us, “much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10) By the grace of God, you already are forgiven all your sins, although you don’t deserve it. Your call is to daily turn to Jesus to receive for free from Christ what the world can’t give you.

When Jesus says, “Go, make disciples.” We say, “We can’t.” Jesus says, “Go and I’ll make disciples through you.” By the grace of God, the Church has been making disciples of Jesus even though we’re incompetent sinners. 

Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” We say, “we can’t.” Jesus says, “Just go to your neighbor and I will love your neighbor through you.” By the grace of God, you are the vehicles of His love for all. 

Jesus says, “Feed the hungry. Care for the poor. Give the hope of the gospel to those who aren’t even interested.” We say, “There’s no way we can do that, Lord.” Jesus acknowledges that we can’t. But He can do these things through us. In Mark 9:23, Jesus says, “Everything is possible for one who believes."

Give Jesus your loaves and fishes, give Him all that you can’t do and through you, He will demonstrate all that he can do.

The feeding of the 5000 happens within the context of the disciples being together with Jesus as part of the fellowship of the Church Jesus was then creating. God, of course, can work in the lives of individuals. But no one will remain long connected to Christ outside the fellowship of the Church. Or our connection will become self-directed. We’ll go off on our own tangents. In the fellowship of the Church, we grow together, we keep each other on track, we encourage one another, we lovingly call each other to the carpet.

The disciples never would have had the courage to give Jesus those five loaves and two fishes if Jesus hadn’t been pouring power and faith into them. The Church is Christ’s creation, the fellowship into which He is constantly pouring power and faith. It is His very body in the world.

After telling the disciples who couldn’t feed the crowd to feed them, Jesus gave the disciples the food needed. It’s like when Jesus tells us to believe in Him, to trust in Him, then freely gives the gift of faith to those who daily take up their crosses and follow Him. (Ephesians 2:8; Luke 9:23)

Jesus specializes in doing for us and through us things that we can’t do.

Not only does Jesus feed the crowd in today’s lesson, He also feeds the disciples. And there were leftovers!

In the shadow of John’s execution, with His cross clearly ahead of Him, Jesus gives a sign that He can provide grace and daily bread and power for living to all people.

And in His Kingdom, all of these things are free gifts!

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold Jesus’ invitation to all people: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

The gospel lesson ends: “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” 

Friends, receive all that the God revealed in Christ gives you: your body, soul, health, money, home, family, and friends. Receive too, the forgiveness, new life, and eternity, given without price, given to those who receive them by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

You can never receive or give more than Christ is willing to give to you or through you, materially or spiritually.

When we can’t; God can.

That’s Jesus’ message to you in the feeding of the 5000. Amen

The Gospel of John, August 6, 2023