Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
July 18, 2021
Let us pray, “The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” Amen.
What is a Sacrament? A Sacrament is a means of grace, which includes a visible element joined to God’s Word. A Sacrament delivers God’s grace and forgiveness for Christ’s sake. This grace and forgiveness given in a Sacrament is received through faith alone. So, Baptism is a Sacrament. The visible element is the water. Yet, not all water in the world is a Baptism. You are not baptized every time you take a bath or go out in the rain. Added to the water must be the word of God, that is, the command and promise of Christ. Then the water becomes a Baptism, that is, a washing of regeneration and a renewal by the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Supper is also a Sacrament. The visible elements are the bread and the wine. Yet, not every time you eat bread are you eating the body of Christ, nor every time that you drink wine are you consuming Christ’s blood. The words of Christ must be added. Then, the meal is not simply bread and wine, but the very body that was nailed to the cross and the blood poured for the forgiveness of all sins, consumed in a supernatural way with the bread and wine, giving forgiveness and salvation to all who believe.
Genesis chapter two gives us a helpful illustration to how this works. God planted the Garden of Eden and placed Adam in the midst of it, telling him that he could eat the fruit of all the trees in the garden. Yet, two trees were different. There was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Not every tree in the garden gave the knowledge of good and evil and not every tree in the garden made one live forever. Yet, to these two trees God added his word. This is why God forbade Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and why he banished Adam and Eve from the garden after they did, so that they would not eat of the tree of life.
Why does Christ Jesus give us Sacraments? Why doesn’t he simply speak to us? Our Gospel lesson tells us why. Jesus has compassion on us. Compassion is an attribute of God. He pities us in our distress. Even before we realize the trouble we are in, God sees it and makes a plan to help us. That is why Jesus instituted the Sacraments.
When God created Adam, he did not simply make another animal of flesh. Nor did he make another angel without a body. God made a unique creature, a person with a physical body and an immortal soul. That is what Scripture teaches us when it says that God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
And so, when mankind fell into sin and God desired to send a Savior, his Son did not become an angel, but a human being, born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus Christ, who is true God from eternity, is also true man. He has a physical body like we do. He also has a human soul. He loved the Lord God with all his human heart, soul, and mind so to fulfill the Law for us. And when he suffered for us on the cross, he not only bore the scourge on his human body, but his human soul endured the punishment of hell for the souls of all mankind. This makes Jesus a true Savior for all people.
And this also helps us understand God’s purpose in the sacraments. Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17) Jesus is the bread of life, of which whoever eats will live forever. And this eating is done through faith alone. Faith is an activity of the heart. Why then does Jesus give us something to eat and drink? Why does he say, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved?” (Mark 16:16) It is for the sake of our faith. It is because he has compassion on us and wants us to be thoroughly comforted in his mercy.
When God baptized you and the water was poured on your skin, God was telling you that he desires to save not only your soul, but your body. Just as Jesus’ body was made wet by the waters of the Jordan when he was baptized by John and then rose from the dead imperishable after his crucifixion, so we who are baptized are buried with Christ, so that we might rise with him. The water touching our bodies tells us that this is a promise of a real resurrection. Our bodies will be raised imperishable, just as Jesus’ body is. As our souls live forever, so will our bodies with Christ our Savior.
Likewise, when the body of Christ is put in your mouth and you drink his blood, you receive in your body him, who rose bodily from the dead and is ascended in glory to the Father’s right hand. So too will our bodies rise and ascend to be with him. Unlike what some accuse us Lutherans of teaching, we do not believe that Jesus’ body and blood are torn apart when we eat the Sacrament, but that we receive Christ’s body and blood in a supernatural way without harming him. And so, as our bodies have received the supernatural, they shall be like him who rules over nature forever.
Jesus gives us the Sacraments, because he is generous. When Jesus waited three days before he fed the crowd, he taught them that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. The multitude sought first the kingdom of God and its righteousness by hanging on to the words of Jesus. And all the rest was added unto them. Their bellies were filled and their strength revived for their journey home. By using what was available, seven loaves and a few small fish, instead of raining bread down from heaven or turning rocks into bread, Jesus showed that while the mouths of all are satisfied from God’s most gracious hand, God expects them to work to earn their bread. Yet, despite these two lessons, Jesus proved himself to be generous, and so proved himself to be God.
People worry a lot about food. That makes sense. Food is one of our most immediate needs. We can’t live long without food. Toward the end of the 18th century, Thomas Malthus postulated that the human population would always grow faster than the ability to grow food to feed that population, and so he advocated for population control. This of course was contrary to God’s word. The human population when Malthus lived was under one billion people. The population today is closing in on eight billion, yet there is a smaller percentage of the population going hungry today than at any time in human history. Malthus was wrong. God opened his hands and satisfied the desires of every living thing.
Only a month ago, our farmers were looking at their dry fields with wrinkled foreheads, praying that God would send rain. And did he send rain? He sure did. And as God provides for the physical needs of our human race and causes the food to grow in more and more abundance, even more does he provide for our salvation. Jesus had the crowd wait three days before he filled their bellies, because he had something more important to give them. Was he stingy in that which is more important? By no means. The Gospel is our most important bread. And the Gospel shows that God loves us abundantly. If God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Water covers most of the earth’s surface. People do not live where there is no water. So, God joined his promise to water, so that we would know that he generously pours the Holy Spirit upon us and washes away our sins. Bread is the most common food on earth. Wine is plentiful. So, Jesus joined his word and promise to bread and wine, so that we would know that his body and blood would never run out to forgive our sins.
There were four thousand men (Matthew tells us not including the women and children). Four is the number of the earth, with its four winds. One thousand is the number for completeness. Jesus truly fed this great multitude, but the number teaches us that Christ provides for all people everywhere. Although they only started with seven loaves of bread, they had seven large baskets full of bread when they were done. Seven is the number of the Church. This shows that Christ has given his Church an inexhaustible supply of himself, the Bread of Life. As the earth must not worry about becoming over populated, because God has promised that he will continue feeding us, so Christ promises to continue to pour his grace upon us as long as the sun and moon exist. As the fields continue to surpass the need to supply bread for the mouths of the growing population, so much more will Christ meet the demand to satisfy our hunger.
When I was a child, we would ask our mother what’s for dinner. We’d get annoyed when our father would say, “Dinner? We fed you yesterday. Do you mean we have to feed you every day?” Of course, they had to feed us every day. We get hungry every day! If we don’t keep eating, we will die. And so, it is for our eternal life. We went to church last week. We heard the Gospel then. We received the Sacrament then. But what have we done in between? We’ve sinned. We neglected our prayers. We trusted in earthly things, rather than him in heaven who blesses the earth. We’ve lusted, coveted, hated, slandered, gotten drunk, cursed, sworn, been lazy, fought, been impatient and selfish, and whatever other breaking of a commandment you can add. Although we’ve been washed clean, we soil ourselves. Although we’ve eaten and drunk, we’ve exhausted ourselves in the fray. Although we were set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness, we have turned to obey our former master and gotten ensnared again. We need to be washed. We need to be forgiven. We need to be fed and strengthened.
So, we come to church and hear God’s servant forgive our sins in the stead and by the command of Christ. We hear the Gospel, which is food for our souls. And, because Christ Jesus is compassionate, and because our Jesus is especially generous, he feeds us his very body for bread and his blood for wine. He lets you know that he does not intend to leave your body dead and rotten in the grave, but that he will raise you up to new life. He tells you that your sins are personally forgiven. He strengthens you for your pilgrimage ahead. And he lets you know that this source of heavenly food will never run out.
Let us pray,
Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou are mighty; Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.” Amen.