The Seventh Sunday after Trinity – Vicar Cody Anderson sermon
Text: St. Mark 8:1-9
In Christ Jesus, who never leaves us hungry but who fills us up abundantly, dear fellow redeemed:
Sometimes when I skip breakfast before going to church, I can often find myself saying that “I am starving” when it is time for lunch. We have other sayings that go along with hunger. One I remember hearing is always, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse. Well, I’m pretty sure that I am not actually that hungry, and I know I definitely could not or would not want to eat a horse. And I also know that like the people in our text, I’ve never been to the point of where I thought I might collapse because of my hunger. That is where these people are. They have been with Jesus for three days and Jesus says that they are at the point that if they go to find food, they won’t make it.
Leading up to this point, the crowd following Jesus had become larger and larger. Jesus has been showing the power that he has over the diseases of the world. He has healed people who are sick. He brought a little girl back to life. The disciples witnessed him walk on water. This is a big deal. The people of Jesus day have only heard about God working miracles in the Old Testament when he used the prophets. Now here was Jesus, a man from Nazareth who was performing all of these signs and wonders. Only a couple of chapters before this account, Mark tells us that Jesus had already had a big crowd seated before him. There was over 5,000 people that Jesus fed with five loaves of bread and two fish. They picked up twelve little baskets full of leftovers, there was more than enough food. As Jesus shows his power to provide, and after he does a miracle of healing someone’s deaf ears, another crowd has gathered.
Now as Jesus is looking at this crowd with compassion about their needs, the disciples yet ask, “How can one feed these people with bread in this desolate place?” Jesus has shown them that before this they have nothing to worry about. The disciples have been watching Jesus perform miracle after miracle. We already listed what he has been doing. Jesus has been healing people’s physical ailments, and he performed this miracle already! What is 4,000 if he has already fed 5,000! So why did they respond, “How can one feed these people with bread in this desolate place?”
The disciples continue to doubt Jesus’ power, they were tested for a second time, knowing the outcome of what Jesus could do, and they failed. Can you imagine the patience that Jesus must have had with them? They saw a little girl brought back from the dead and over 5,000 people be fed by Jesus. Yet they failed. This place is too desolate Jesus, there is nothing here to feed the people. The disciples had forgotten what Jesus was capable of and this isn’t at all surprising as we also forget what Jesus is capable of.
We don’t fully understand how much compassion God has for us. He tells us not to worry about what will happen to us, by telling us that he will provide for our physical needs. God created the heavens and the earth. St. Matthew records, Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matt 6:25-26) But we are often anxious and worrisome. We do not wait for God to feed us when we know that he can and he will but instead we look for more instant gratification. We start to think that we do not have enough stuff. We start to covet what our neighbor has. We might even overindulge even though we know that it could put us behind with our expenses.
When we take these matters into our own hands, we are doubting God’s care for us. We can hear what Jesus tells us, but as life gets hard, as budgets can get tight, we fail Jesus’ test too. Like the disciples, we doubt what God tells us in his Word, which puts us into despair. As we creep into despair, that doubt that we have, then turns into unbelief. How can something so simple turn into something so severe? That is what the devil wants. He wants us to doubt God. What are we fully doubting? Jesus only tells us the truth; He has never told a lie. As humans though the devil continues to use that same temptation. “Did God really say…” This can seem very small. Unfortunately, that is all it takes. One little doubt and we can start to think, “Well if God can’t do this, then what can He really do for me?”
The disciples did not understand the amount of compassion that Jesus had and neither do we. Jesus with great compassion, provided for the group of people with a great miracle. He fed them, saving their physical health, and providing for them. Jesus put the disciples doubt to rest. He puts our doubts to rest too. He provides our daily bread, all that we need for this life on earth. And He has also given Himself as the Bread of Life from heaven. As Jesus is able to feed our physical bodies, his great compassion stretched farther than that. He laid down His life for us. He paid for our sins, and then rose from the dead. Jesus has made sure that we will be provided for here on earth and forever in eternity.
Jesus wants to satisfy your spiritual hunger, which is deeper and more pressing than your physical hunger is. He continually feeds you through the Means of Grace. We receive this feeding every Sunday. As you come to church and listen to his Word, there he is with you. God’s Word gives you the strength to carry on when you think that you are on the verge of collapse. Your souls need to stay fed. When your souls get hungry, that is when your soul can fall into temptation which can lead to unbelief. As you continue to gather with your families with devotions and prayer, your souls continue to stay nourished. This isn’t just to make us feel good, this is for our survival. Our lives here on this earth are very short compared with living for eternity. He feeds us with his Word as it shows the life he lived in our place. Jesus shows us that we can’t make it on our own. All we can do is collapse on the way. Jesus is the one who has compassion and feeds us.
Jesus feeds us with his body and blood at the altar. Here, this holy food is taken and distributed to each of us hungry sinners. This is Christ coming to us. He comes to forgive us our sins, to assure us that those sins of coveting, those sins of doubt are not counted against us. Along with this medicine for our souls, Jesus is giving us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet that awaits us. He doesn’t tell us to receive it occasionally. Or to receive it when we feel like it. Jesus tells us to receive of it often. We need this holy nourishment. This is a gift that we receive not based on our merits, but from Christ, who had compassion, who did not want to see us starve for eternity.
The people ate until they were satisfied. Jesus didn’t feed them a little morsel. He fed them so that they were full. It wasn’t partial mercy. God feeds us in abundance. He makes sure that we will be satisfied here on this earth by providing us with everything that we need. This is what we confess in the meaning of the Apostles’ creed. He provides for us clothing, food, land, and all that we own. All that we need for our bodily life. When life gets difficult, it can be hard for us to find the positives of life that we have. When there is financial burden, a loss of a loved one, that doubt will try to creep back in.
Our text shows that God does not abandon us. He had so much compassion that he gave us the ultimate gift that we never deserved. He gave up his own Son so that we would be saved. When our journey on this world is over, God shows us that he has provided for our eternal lives as well. Our pains in this life, they are only in this life. They will soon cease to exist. Jesus tells us how he has prepared a place for us. His compassion is beyond our comprehension. He promises that someday, there will be no suffering, there will be no pain, and every tear will be wiped away from our eyes, because He has fed us.
The next time that we are hungry, more than likely soon as our service ends today, it is good to remember how Jesus feeds us with everything we need. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has had compassion on us. He had so much compassion that he gave his life for us. He will continue to provide for us even when we think that we don’t have enough. He gives us all that we need. We don’t deserve anything, yet he has given us everything. He will continue to bless us with the physical and spiritual things that we need in this life until he calls us home. Where we will eat at the heavenly banquet, forever and ever. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(picture of the Judean mountains in Israel)
The Second Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 14:16-24
In Christ Jesus, who mercifully invites us to partake of His great riches of salvation and life both now and forever, dear fellow redeemed:
I think it’s probably more fun to watch game shows than to take part in them. When you are simply a viewer, you don’t feel the pressure the contestants do. You can sit on your couch and second guess the decisions they make. You can question their mental abilities. You can think how you would have played it safe when they took chances, or how you would have taken chances when they played it safe. It’s easy to be an expert about these things when you have nothing on the line.
But suppose you were taking part in a game show, and you could see the prize behind door number one but not behind door number two. In one contest, the prize behind door number one is a new truck. In another, the prize is a new house. In another, the prize is a new plot of tillable land. And in each case, the contestants are assured that the prize behind door number two is even more valuable. Do you turn your back on door number one for a chance to open door number two?
We could understand if the contestants went with the prizes they could see. The prizes behind door number one are good prizes! But what if the host told the contestants that while the prizes behind door number one will last for a while and be useful for a while, the prizes behind door number two have eternal benefits? Would you go for the prize you can see and know what to do with, or for the prize you cannot see or comprehend?
Or let’s put it this way: The prizes behind door number one are things for our earthly life only. The prizes behind door number two are things for our spiritual life, both now and forever. Which is the better prize? Many choose the earthly things like the men did in Jesus’ parable. One man excused himself from the great banquet because he wanted to go check out a new field. Another man excused himself because he had to try out his new oxen. Another excused himself because he had a new wife.
Possessions—work—family—all of them are blessings from God. But none of these physical blessings should take priority over God’s spiritual blessings. Is a new truck better than the forgiveness of sins? Is family better than the faith that saves? Is temporarily owning land better than the eternal inheritance stored up for us in heaven?
Of course these earthly blessings are not better, but we can see them. And the things we can see have a powerful effect on us. We imagine the invitees to the great banquet wondering to themselves if it would really be all that “great.” “What if the banquet is boring? What if the food isn’t that good? What if I don’t like the company? Better to stick with what I know I like.” They figured they had more to lose in attending the banquet than they did in staying home.
But the great banquet that Jesus talks about is no common event with common goods. It is a feast of the richest of foods, foods that never make you feel uneasy or unfilled, foods that you never grow tired of eating. The great banquet is the feast of salvation which God invites sinners to partake of. He invites them to exchange their dirty rags with the wedding garments of righteousness, to be His honored guests at the head table, and to enjoy all the rich gifts He has to offer.
The Lord expects nothing of His guests except that they take His invitation seriously. Jesus’ parable shows clearly that the Lord does not choose the brightest and best and wealthiest and most impressive for His kingdom. He chooses “the poor and crippled and blind and lame,” anyone who can be found no matter their condition, no matter their station in life. He desires to fill His house, and He welcomes every sort.
The guests that attend the banquet may come from different areas and speak different languages. They may have very different backgrounds and customs. But they all have one thing in common: they are all sinners. The great banquet is for sinners. If you are not a sinner, you can ignore this invitation. If you are not a sinner, you can go your merry way. But if you are a sinner, you cannot ignore the Lord’s invitation. You cannot let anything keep you from attending the feast.
If your favorite singer personally sent you front row tickets to his concert and money for travel, you would do whatever you had to do to get there. If your favorite football team gave you tickets on the fifty yard line, you would be at that game. How much more important, then, to listen to God when He warmly invites you to the banquet of salvation!
The table has been set and the meal has been prepared for you. Each one of you is God’s honored guest. Each one of you has been chosen for salvation by His grace. Your salvation was secured when Jesus fulfilled the holy Law for you and died on the cross for your sins. Then He rose on the third day destroying the claim that death had on you.
This victory over sin and death is served up every time you listen to God’s Word and partake of His Sacraments. Jesus is the Food of this feast. You receive His righteousness, forgiveness, and life whenever you hear the promise of the Gospel and trust that God intends it for you. You taste His grace when you eat His body and drink His blood in His Holy Supper. Jesus is the Food, and you need to fill up!
But it isn’t enough just to come to church. If you are coming just to keep up appearances, if you are coming just to show people how good you are, then you might as well stay home. If all you can think about is how boring this banquet is, or how bland the food, or how little you like the company around you, then you can sit alone at home in your pajamas and rule over your own little kingdom with an easy chair as your throne and a smart phone or remote control as your scepter.
But if you know what you are to the depths of your heart—a sinner—, if you recognize how little you deserve the Lord’s invitation to salvation, if you can see that you have nothing good—nothing worth having—apart from your merciful Savior, then you are in the right place. You are in the place where Jesus promises to meet you. He is the one who died for you. He is the one who rose again from the dead for you. He is the one who is seated at the right hand of God the Father, ruling over all things for your good.
He is here to forgive your sins, to take them away as far as the east is from the west. He is here to strengthen your faith, so that you are not tempted away by the treasures of the world. He is here to comfort you in your trials and to give you courage to confess His saving name. Jesus is here, and He invites you to have everything that is His.
Why is the Lord so good to you? That’s what the “poor and crippled and blind and lame” wondered, the ones living in the back alleys and the back woods. Why should they be invited to a great banquet? The first guests who were invited thought they were better than the master and his banquet. They thought they were above him. The guests who actually attended knew they didn’t deserve such attention and riches. They could not imagine that a seat at the table was reserved for them. They had to be compelled to come.
You also must be compelled to come to the Lord’s banquet. You wouldn’t attend on your own. You know you don’t deserve it. You know all your sins which should disqualify you from being in His holy company. But the Holy Spirit comes through God’s Word of promise and works faith in your heart to believe that His promises are intended for you.
The Holy Spirit comes announcing your invitation to the banquet. When you hesitate about it or doubt it, He repeats the promise and keeps repeating it: “The Master expects you. Your seat is reserved. The food is prepared. Everything is now ready. Come!” “But no,” you say, “it can’t be. There must be some mistake.” So He peels open your fingers, and He presses into your hand the invitation to the banquet with your name on it. “At your Baptism, your name was officially registered on the guest list,” He says. “You are supposed to be at the great banquet. You belong there now, and your place is secure there forever.”
Without the Holy Spirit’s work through the Word, we would ignore God’s invitation. We would stick with door number one, the treasures of this world that pass away. We would never see the great riches behind door number two, the treasures of heaven which God gives to all who trust in Him.
To receive and retain these great riches, you have to be willing to walk away from some things that appear to be good. You may have to walk away from opportunities that would lead to more success and more glory on earth. But those things are not as grand as they seem. They are only temporary.
The riches that the Lord has stored up for you are far more and far better. He gives them to you now in abundance through His Word and Sacraments, and through them, He prepares you for the celebration to come when you join Him in great feasting and rejoicing in His glorious kingdom.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(woodcut of the poor, the blind, and the lame being invited to the banquet from the 1880 edition of The Story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation)
The Festival of the Reformation – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Matthew 11:12-15
In Christ Jesus, who is “with us in the fight with His good gifts and Spirit” (ELH 251, v. 4), dear fellow redeemed:
Can you answer this riddle: When is a million dollars equal to a penny, and when is garbage more valuable than gold? These things are true where there is no food. Money cannot buy what is unavailable, and the garbage heap may produce something more edible than gold. We need food; we cannot live without it. But there is something still more important than food for our bodies. That is food for our souls.
Food for our souls is consumed not with our mouths, but with our eyes and especially with our ears. It is almost always the case that when sinners are converted, they are converted because someone spoke the Gospel to them. Someone told them about Jesus’ saving work, and they listened. The power to open their ears to hear did not come from the person who told them, but from the Holy Spirit who brings sinners to faith through the Word. This is what Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
The spiritual food of the Gospel is necessary for faith to survive and grow. When a Christian stops hearing the Gospel, his faith weakens, and his love for others grows cold. This was true when John the Baptizer came on the scene. God’s people, the Israelites, had bad teachers at the time. These teachers taught them plenty about obedience to the law but hardly at all about repentance and faith. John urged them to “[b]ear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mat. 3:8), and he baptized them “for the forgiveness of sins” (Luk. 3:3).
He also made it clear to them that the long-promised Savior was coming. In fact the Savior was among them already. This was a major time of transition. The Church of believers which to this point had lived by the inspired words of the prophets now could hear from God in the flesh. The promise made was now the promise fulfilled.
About this change Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” What did that mean? In the short period of time since John was imprisoned and Jesus was traveling and preaching more extensively, many heard Him gladly. But others despised Him. Some were willing to follow Him to death. Others were content—even eager—to see Him die.
There is no middle ground with Jesus. A person either believes in Him as Savior, or he does not. Many today say they believe in Jesus, but they do not actually hold the saving faith. They look up to Jesus only as an example for how to live, as an activist for social justice, or as a self-esteem coach. But they look away from His horrible suffering and death. And they pay no attention to His resurrection. They do not want to reckon with Jesus as Savior because then they would have to reckon with themselves as sinners.
Others pay lip service to Jesus’ death and resurrection, but then they say with a straight face: “It wasn’t enough. The work isn’t done. Now we have to do our part.” That isn’t what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified—declared right with Him—by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24). The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Jesus does not need our help to save us. He won our salvation through His work alone—His perfect life, His death for our sins, His resurrection from the dead. He did it all. This clear understanding and proclamation of the Gospel is the legacy of Martin Luther and the Reformation.
Into his 30s, Luther thought that salvation required our good works. He understood “the righteousness of God” as the holiness God demands of us in His law. But through Luther’s study of the Word, the Holy Spirit led him to understand and believe that “the righteousness of God” is what is bestowed on sinners through faith in Jesus. Romans 1 says that “in the [Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (v. 17). We are saved—we live—by faith alone in Jesus.
When Luther understood this, he said it was as though he could see the gates of heaven open before him. He now set out to let others know about God’s grace and forgiveness. He preached and wrote tirelessly about what the Gospel means for sinners. He wrote so much, that not even half of his writings have been translated into English—and we already have about 100 volumes that have been translated!
Luther pointed people to the food their souls needed. It is the food that souls still need. But how hungry are you to hear the good news of God’s grace? If you lived in a time of famine, and food was scarce, imagine how far you would go to find something to eat for yourself and your family. But would you go that far for the pure Gospel? Or would you be content to nibble on the spiritual food that doesn’t taste quite right but doesn’t really seem to be fatal?
A tainted gospel is what is served at many Christian churches around us. The Gospel of what Jesus has done might be mentioned, but the main message conveyed there is what we have to do for God (or for the church). Or the Gospel is mentioned, but nobody hungers for it, since the law is not preached to convict them of their sins. How far would you go to hear the pure preaching of the Gospel and to have the Sacraments rightly administered?
The devil, our flesh, and the sinful world are so effective at their work, that they convince us there are more important things in life than hearing and learning God’s Word. There is money to make, hobbies to pursue, sporting events to watch, parties to attend. We wouldn’t miss the television show we love or maybe the evening news, but we might miss church. We religiously check our social media accounts or news feed each day, but we haven’t got time for Bible study and prayer.
Martin Luther fought some hard battles to guard the truth of the Gospel from those who wanted to pollute it or do away with it. That battle has not ended. Every generation must fight for the truth of God’s Word, or they will lose it. We cannot be indifferent about the Word. We cannot be complacent. Those who oppose the Word are not complacent. You know how fiercely they fight to get us to change our beliefs to match the thinking of the world. If we do not bow down with them at the altar of human passions and perversions, they seek to destroy us.
The question we have to ask ourselves, and the question that really determines whether or not we are Lutheran Christians is this: Is the Bible God’s Word? If we answer “yes,” there are other questions that follow, such as: Is the Bible clear and sufficient? Are we free to reinterpret the Bible to fit the times? Are we free to pick and choose what to believe from the Bible? Can we actually be Christians if we deny what the Bible says?
Jesus tells us that opposition to God’s Word will not diminish. With the devil’s encouragement, there are many who want to violently snatch it away from us. So Jesus urges us to actively defend the truth. We must struggle and fight for it, not using physical force, but by knowing how to use “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17).
If we are willing to compromise the truth of God’s Word, nothing in the Word is safe. If we compromise what it says about moral issues, it won’t be long before the Remedy for sin is done away with too. If there is no longer objective right and wrong, then there is no longer a need for a Savior, who came to right all wrongs.
This is why we cling to the Word so tightly and defend it so fiercely. We do not want to lose the Gospel. We cannot forfeit the forgiveness and salvation that Jesus won for all people. He came to deliver us a good conscience through His perfect life in our place and His death on the cross. There is no question that our sins are many—choosing the empty promises of the world over His Word, choosing our plans over God’s will, ignoring the spiritual feast He continuously supplies. These are serious sins, as all sins are.
But Jesus died for all these sins. They were counted against Him, so they are no longer counted against you. By faith in Jesus, all the spiritual blessings He won are yours. There is nothing you must do to gain them. You don’t have to prove your worth somehow. You and I do not deserve to be saved, but God considered us worth the life of His only Son. Jesus willingly went to the cross for you. He died so that you could join Him in His everlasting kingdom.
This is what we celebrate today, that God used Martin Luther to proclaim the Gospel so clearly, and that the Gospel is still clearly heard today. What Jesus promised is still true, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against [His church]” (Mat. 16:18). The forces of evil will not overcome our Lord and His Word. The Powerful Gospel which Opens Ears to Hear will prevail. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(1877 painting, “Martin Luther at Worms” by Anton von Werner)
The Fourth Sunday in Lent – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. John 6:1-15
In Christ Jesus, who came to give life to the world through His flesh and blood, dear fellow redeemed:
They had been free for one month. No longer were they under the harsh rule of the Egyptians. The LORD had led them out of Egypt by His servant Moses. He even opened up a path for them to walk through the Red Sea. But the people of Israel were dissatisfied. Their bellies growled with hunger, and they began to wish they were back in Egypt where at least they had something to eat. The LORD heard their cry; He had not forgotten His people. He said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not” (Ex. 16:4).
Every morning, there was dew around the camp. “And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground” (v. 14). The people were encouraged to gather as much of this as they could eat, but they were not to keep any until the next day. The exception to this was on Friday when they must gather twice as much, so that no collecting would be needed on the Sabbath day, the day of rest. Whoever did not listen to the LORD and kept bread overnight any day but Friday, found that in the morning it had worms and stunk. This was to teach the people to rely on the LORD for food day after day. The people called the bread “manna,” or “what is it?” because they had never seen anything like it before. God gave them this bread for forty years until they came into the Promised Land of Canaan.
Nearly 1500 years later, the people of Israel followed Jesus into the wilderness by the Sea of Galilee. No one had ever done the signs He was doing; He healed the sick. No one had ever taught like He had; His teaching cut to the heart, but it also comforted. So focused were they on the things Jesus was doing that they had brought no provisions with them. As the shadows lengthened, the twelve disciples came to Jesus and said, “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” (Mt. 14:15). Jesus had another solution. A boy shared with Him five barley loaves and two fish. He gave thanks for this gift and proceeded to distribute bread and fish to all who were gathered there—five thousand men with women and children besides.
They had never seen a miracle like this! And then the wheels started turning. This abundant food in the wilderness reminded them of something. They thought of Moses’ words, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deu. 18:15). The people said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” They wanted to make Him their king, but Jesus quietly left them and went up the mountain by Himself to pray.
The next day, the resolve of the people had not changed. Full of anticipation, they located Jesus. But their conversation with Him did not go as they had hoped. Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (Jn. 6:26-27). Jesus exposed the plans of the people that they were looking not for a Savior from sin, but for a savior from hunger. If they wanted a Savior from sin, they should expect to find this in the One who performed all these wonderful miracles. But the people just wanted their physical needs satisfied, and following Jesus seemed like the way to accomplish this. They focused on the gift when they should have been focusing on the Giver.
This was true of the Old Testament Israelites also, but forty years of continuous manna from heaven taught them something. Before they entered the land of Canaan, Moses recounted the people’s journey through the wilderness. He said, “And [the LORD] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deu. 8:3).
Our bodies certainly need food. That is how the LORD designed them even before the fall into sin. But we are not to live “by bread alone.” This means that our days and our lives should be occupied with more than the pursuit of daily bread. We learn in the Catechism that “daily bread includes everything needed for this life.” We also learn that it is God who gives daily bread, even to all the wicked. We know by experience this is true. Each of us can say that God has given us earthly blessings far beyond our basic needs, like the large amount of leftovers collected after Jesus fed the multitude.
But these earthly gifts can only do so much for us. They only go so far. Their usefulness is limited to our short life on earth. Jesus pointed out to the people that “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died” (Jn. 6:49). It was bread from heaven, but it did not bring with it the promise of eternal life. In the same way, Jesus could continue to produce for the people vast amounts of food from very little or even out of nothing, but what good would this do for their souls?
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (vv. 35,51). And how did the people react to this? They “disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (v. 52). Well, how could He? He had already told them. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life” (40). Jesus, the Bread of Life, is consumed by all who believe the Gospel message. God’s gracious Word is the platter that serves up Jesus. His flesh and blood are the main course which satisfies the hungry soul.
But does your soul feel hunger pains for Jesus? Are you more concerned about “the food that perishes,” or “the food that endures to eternal life”? This is a real struggle. You know very well when your stomach is empty. And you can see when your earthly goods need to be fixed or replaced. But it is not as obvious when faith is running near empty, or when your understanding about God and your perspective on life in the world needs to be fixed or replaced. If you go without food for twenty-four hours, your body lets you know. There is discomfort and pain. But you can go twenty-four or forty-eight hours, or seven days, a few weeks, or even a number of months without realizing that your faith is starving.
Faith is not some mountain to climb or goal to reach, that once you have gotten there and know the facts, you never need to return again. Faith hungers for the Bread of Life, for Jesus. If faith does not hear Jesus and receive Jesus and be filled up with Jesus, then it cannot last. But if faith is given a steady diet of Jesus through home devotions and the administration of the Word and Sacraments at church, the Lord promises that it will not expire. It will be rejuvenated and strengthened just as your body is whenever you eat.
There is no better food for your soul. Your soul hungers for forgiveness and life, because by nature you have sin and death. This sin is what tricks you into thinking that you have no pressing spiritual need, and that your pursuit of earthly riches is more important than anything else. But the world’s goods go the same way as the manna the Israelites sinfully tried to stockpile overnight. They leave a bad taste in the mouth, and in the end they are worthless. The food, clothing, and home that you have are gifts from God. But they must never take the place of Jesus and His Word.
When Jesus comes to you through the Gospel, He counteracts the sin and death in you. He chokes the old Adam which is trying to choke you. He starves the death that is hungry for you. He has the power to do that because sin already did its worst against Him, and death already swallowed Him up in the grave. Neither was able to destroy Him, and He emerged victorious over sin, death, and hell. Whenever you consume Jesus by faith, whether by hearing His Word, or by eating and drinking His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, you are partaking of His victory and filling yourself with His life.
For all who hunger and thirst for righteousness believing in His name, Jesus Gives the Food That Endures to Eternal Life. He gives you the food of Himself which never grows old, never spoils, and never runs out. This Bread of Life is the rich nourishment your soul needs—a holy food offered to you for this life and for the life to come.
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