fish_11688cPentecost 8 2017, Proper 13
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 6, 2017
Psalm 136:1-9, Isaiah 55:1-5, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:13-21

Sermons online:
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A wise, somewhat strange looking man once said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you just might find You get what you need.”

Jesus appears to be having a miraculous day in a most unlikely place.  Jesus goes out by himself in a boat to a desolate place; to the wilderness.  There is a cloud hanging over Him and He wants to be alone.  But, it seems, Jesus is not allowed to be alone.  Someone sees Jesus leaving in the boat and they follow him by foot along the shore tracking His progress on the Sea of Galilee and collecting more and more people as they walk through towns along the coast.

The people have heard the news.  Jesus is amazing.  Jesus can heal the sick.  Jesus can reverse the effects of leprosy, blindness, disability, sickness.  Where every doctor has failed, Jesus succeeds.  Jesus can cure anything.  He is amazing.  He is incredible.  The people have never seen anything like this anywhere.  How can one man have so much power; so much authority over sickness and disability?  Only God can have this kind of power.

And so as Jesus gets out of the boat to have some alone time in the wilderness He is not alone.  He is met by thousands of people who have walked a long way to be there with Jesus.  They have brought their sick friends and family.  Despite His desire to be alone Jesus has compassion on the crowds and heals all the sick.  What an amazing thing to do.  Jesus has authority over disease.  Jesus has authority over blindness.  Jesus has authority over any kind of disorder and can miraculously make it right.  What a show of Jesus’ greatness on display in this desolate place along the shores of Galilee.  And yet there is an horrible cloud hanging over all of what happens this day on the seashore.

Now it is getting late and there are a lot of people and there isn’t any food and the disciples come to Jesus to “help him out.”  Obviously Jesus does not understand the situation.  Obviously he is overlooking a pretty important issue.  I mean, I know He just spent hours healing all these sick people, but He isn’t really engaged with these people’s needs.  It is good we have the disciples there to help Jesus out.  They say to him:

Matthew 14:15 (ESV) 15 … “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”[1]

The 12 disciples are there with empty hands telling Jesus what he needs to do.  But Jesus turns it right around and tells them.  Matthew 14:16 (ESV) 16 … “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”[2]

Amazingly, in this desolate place; this wilderness place, the people now can lie down in green pastures beside the still waters.

The disciples often are pretty thickheaded.  They just saw Jesus do all these incredible miracles, but they think they need to intervene on behalf of the hungry people.  These 12, thickheaded, empty-handed disciples now scramble around trying to find some kind of food for all these people but all they can come up with is five loaves of bread and two fish.  This is not even enough to feed the 12 disciples.  This is ridiculous.  How can the disciples possibly feed all these thousands of people?  But Jesus says, “Bring them here to me.”

Jesus tells the people to sit down on the grass.  Amazingly, in this desolate place; this wilderness place, the people now can lie down in green pastures beside the still waters.  Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish and looks up into heaven, says a blessing and breaks the loaves.  And then Jesus gives the loaves and fish to the disciples and the previously empty-handed disciples now distribute the food to the thousands of people and they all eat and are satisfied and the twelve disciples return with their hands full of the overflow from the feast.  What an incredible happening; how miraculous.  Jesus multiplied the food until there was more than enough for five thousand men, plus women and children.  Jesus is astonishing.  Jesus is beyond belief.  Jesus has the power of God.  And yet a cloud still hangs over this wonderful, miracle-filled day.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you just might find you get what you need.

Jesus has great power; divine power.  Jesus is almighty.  Jesus is God in flesh.  Jesus can heal thousands of sick.  Jesus can feed thousands with food only enough for a few.  And yet this ugly cloud is hanging over everything; dark and gray.  Jesus and the disciples just received word that John the Baptist was killed by Herod Antipas’ henchmen.  They woke John up in the dungeon in the middle of the night and they cut off his head.  And why?  Because Herod got drunk and when his step-daughter danced a likely very provocative dance He promised to give her whatever she wanted.  She asked her mother, Herodias, who is Herod’s sister-in-law, but sleeping with Herod what she should ask for.  Herodias hated John the Baptist because John said that Herod Antipas should not be sleeping with His brother Phillip’s wife.  Herodias did not want anyone telling her what to do; let alone some wacky desert prophet.  And so she told her daughter to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter.  John tried to tell Herodias what was the right thing to do and so John had to be killed to silence him.

How horrifying!  How repulsive!  How evil!  This is the prophet of God who announced Jesus’ arrival.  This is the one who prepared the way for Jesus.  This is the one who leapt in the womb at Jesus’ presence in Mary’s womb.  This new Elijah is killed in an awful, brutal, ugly, stupid, evil way.  Why didn’t Jesus stop it?  Why didn’t Jesus rescue John from Herod’s dungeon?  Why didn’t Jesus save John?  He could have done it, but He didn’t do it.

You have had loved ones who have gotten sick.  You have had loved ones die.  You prayed for them to be healed.  Why didn’t Jesus do it?  Why didn’t Jesus save your loved one?  It is so hard.

Jesus has great power.  And yet Jesus allows evil and sorrow to continue…for now.  Jesus has great power and yet you still walk in the valley of the shadow of death.  But the Lord is with you in the valley.

And still, in the midst of all the heartache and sadness in life Jesus provides for you in abundance.  There is food aplenty.  The problem in this nation generally is not lack of food, but consumption of too much food.  We have an abundance.  There is enough food to feed the world and have leftovers.

God provides for you with food and drink, housing and clothing and all that you need to support this body and life.

Why do you say grace before you eat?  Or, why should you say grace?  What is the point?  What is the purpose?  Does it make the food taste better?  Does it make the food more nutritious?

We say grace because it is our way of acknowledging that each mouthful; each morsel is a gift from God.  Luther’s practice of asking a blessing before a meal is a good one.  He begins with a bit from Psalm 145.  Psalm 145:15-16 (ESV) 15 The eyes of all look to you, [O Lord] and you give them their food in due season. 16 You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.[3]  Then the Lord’s prayer and then the following:  Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these your gifts which we receive from your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

You can find these in the daily prayers section of the catechism.  There are simple copies of the catechism at each entrance entitled, “Simple Explanation of Christianity.”  Take one home.  Share one with a friend.

Saying grace is acknowledging God’s provision.  It is easy to forget that God is the source of all good things.  God blesses and provides, but not necessarily in the way that we want Him to.

Saying grace in the cafeteria of a hospital where you are sitting vigil with a dying loved one acknowledges that even in the valley of the shadow of death God still provides for you.  Even if you don’t get what you want.  You get what you need.

Jesus reigns in ways that we do not expect or understand.  We see this most clearly as He reigns in His most glorious moment in His sacrifice on the cross for our sins.  Hanging in humiliation and excruciating pain is not what you would expect of God and yet there He is, suffering and dying for your sins.

When you receive into your mouth the body and blood of Christ you may think.  Really?  Is this it?  Just a wafer of bread; just a sip of wine?  What good can possibly come of this?  And yet in the bread and wine you receive Jesus.  You get what you need.

Jesus does not reign in the way that we expect Him to.  Jesus does not give you everything you want, but He gives you what you need for this life and for life eternal.  In Jesus, you get what you need.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001


[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001


[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001


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