Matthew 16:21-28 – A Dying, Rising Messiah

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Matthew 16:21-2821 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Son of Man is coming with his kingdom.”

In the name of Jesus, the Son of the living God. Amen.

Poor old Peter. What had he done to get wiped out like that from Jesus? He had just confessed about Jesus to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” You can’t get a better confession than that. Jesus even said so, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

Peter’s confession was so solid that Jesus said He would build His church on it. I wonder how Peter was feeling as Jesus said, “On [the rock of this confession] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

But Peter went wrong – diabolically wrong, satanically wrong. Peter went wrong when he decided that he knew better than God how things should go for the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus, the Son of the living God, says the way He should go as Messiah is to Jerusalem to suffer, to be killed, and to rise again after three days. Peter didn’t like all that, not one bit. In Peter’s mind, that is not what the “living God” should do. The living God should not die. The living God should not be killed by the hands of men. No way. Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, but when Jesus says that He isn’t going to be the type of Christ Peter wants, Peter says as much. “God have mercy on You, Lord. This shall never happen to You.”

Jesus Rebukes Peter Behind Me SatanBut what does Jesus say? “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus certainly doesn’t beat around the bush.

Peter wanted a Christ who doesn’t do Maundy Thursday or Good Friday or Holy Saturday – the sort of Christ who doesn’t do the Passion. And Jesus wanted nothing to do with that sort of Peter.

As Matthew records this, there were only a few minutes between Peter’s good, faithful confession and his denial, his anti-Christ. Where did it all go wrong? Jesus’ words offer us the answer. When Peter confesses, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus says, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” But when Peter says, “God have mercy on You, Jesus. You will never suffer and die. That will never happen to You.” Jesus responds, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Do you see what flesh and blood does? Do you see where the things of man get you? Left to yourself, you end up in your own devilish design, your own satanic scheme. The fallen thoughts of man and flesh and blood leave you in your sin. Without a Christ who does the Passion, Peter is still lost in his sin. And so are you, so is everyone. You fallen sons of Adam and fallen daughters of Eve, “To set the mind on the flesh is death…. The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Ro. 8:6-8).

We are all like Peter. We think we can tell God how things ought to go. It is called sin. We think we can do a better job of being God than God can. We place ourselves above God in all we think, say, and do. We see the most selfless act of love, the crucifixion, and say that it isn’t necessary because we can’t be all that bad. Could it really be that we are so evil that God would have to die for us to make us right? Yes! Absolutely, yes! We are that bad. We are that evil. We are that rotten. There is no limit to our wicked thoughts and actions. Because of that, we deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment.

And yet God simply does not want that to happen. God has chosen to take our sin from us. Jesus took our sin – your sin – and the punishment we deserve – that you deserve – and placed it upon His only-begotten Son, killing your sin and His Son.

You cannot doubt that Peter loved Jesus, but love can certainly get things wrong. Probably, Peter’s love for Jesus led Peter to not want Jesus to have the rough road of the crucifixion that Jesus said was before Him. And Peter let his love for Jesus get in the way of his faith in Jesus. You can confess using all the right words and have a heart full of love and still be the mouthpiece of Satan (Nagel). Your misguided love for Jesus can bring you to place where you stand with the crowds saying to Jesus, “Come down from the cross, if You are the Son of God” (Mt. 27:42). But out of His love for you, Jesus simply will not.

Jesus says that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, be killed, and rise again, there is no getting around it. And He has done all of that for you. And you, believer, follow after Him.

To follow after Jesus is to deny yourself, to turn away from your lives of trying to be your own god. When you try to save your own sinful life, you lose everything, but when you lose your life of sin, you will find a life, an eternal life, with God. Only when you lose your life do you find another. A new life of taking up your cross and following after Jesus. Following Him through suffering. Following Him to His death and to His tomb. But also following Him to the resurrection and eternal life.Glory of the Cross

The disciples did not taste death, they did not die, until they saw the Christ come in His glory. The cross, that humiliating place of pain and death, is the place of Christ’s glory. And the cross is the place of your glory. For on that cross, you were made a child of God. Amen.[1]

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] I am thankful for a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel on this text as inspiration for this sermon.

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Matthew 16:13-20 – Flesh & Blood Will Not Avail You

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Matthew 16:13-2013 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

In the name of Jesus, the Son of the living God. Amen.

Jesus decides to take an opinion poll while in the district of Caesarea Philippi, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The results vary: some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah, or others one of the prophets. All of those answers are flattering, very complimentary, but are they right? Flattering and complimentary are fine and dandy, but in this question only the right answer counts.

Jesus & the DisciplesJesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers for the disciples and, ultimately, for the whole Christian Church, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” If Peter is right (and he is), notice what this means. It means that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise Adam and Eve heard from God, that the seed of the woman will crush Satan’s head (Gen. 3:15). It means that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, “I will bless you. And your seed will possess the gate of his enemies, and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:17-18). Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises God gave to Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

To confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God is a big confession to make. But Peter didn’t make this up on his own. He’s not as good a theologian as that – no one is. Jesus says, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, Peter, but my Father who is in heaven.” Flesh and blood does not avail you. You cannot, by your own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him (SC Art. 3).

Our epistle text (Ro. 11:34-12:8) says, “Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”

Peter’s confession – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God – came from God, was made through God, and gives glory to God. So does your confession, believer. And flesh and blood does not reveal who Jesus is to you. Only the Father who is in heaven can reveal this through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Body of Christ DiscipleshipJesus makes three promises to those who confess this. Jesus promises first to build His Church upon this confession. “On this rock I will build My church.” God builds the Church. I know many of you here put your hands to the very hammers and saws that built this building. You have your own blood, sweat, and tears in this building. But someday this building will fall. It will crumble. But the holy Christian Church is not a building. And some of you, many of you, have brought others into this building to hear the Gospel of Christ, and that Gospel has been heard and believed. But you still have not built this Church. God has. You are the living stones which “are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).

Jesus’ second promise is that on the rock of the confession that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, God will build the Church so firmly that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Now that is quite a promise, but it is difficult to tell the ‘direction’ of this promise – is it offensive or defensive? Some commentators focus on the defensive nature of this. They say that the evil hosts of Satan that issue from the stronghold of hell’s gates will attack the Church but will always be thwarted. If this is the direction of the promise, then hell can send out host after host, but the Church will stand.

violent-men (1)However, other commentators view this in the opposite direction, as offensive. Gates don’t move – they protect. Rocks can be loaded into catapults and hurled against gates. As Jesus ministered, He fought against the devil and his kingdom, and Jesus, the Son of the living God, prevailed. Casting out demons, healing diseases, and overcoming the fallen creation was Jesus’ cup of tea. Jesus’ Church is still on the offensive side of the ball. Sins are forgiven and the rule of Satan is overthrown through Jesus’ continued ministry in the Church. The Church, which stands on  the solid rock of the confession that Jesus is the Messiah, demolishes hell’s gates every time.

Whether this promise is defensive or offensive, doesn’t really matter. Believer, you along with the rest of the Christian Church will always overcome the strongest onslaught of hell.

Jesus’ third promise is, “I will give you the keys of the reign of heaven.” If you give keys to someone, it means you trust them with whatever is behind the door. Jesus gave His Church the keys to the reign of heaven. Those who do not confess that Jesus is the promised Messiah are eternally locked out of the reign of heaven. Those who do confess, who have this revelation from the Father, enter into the door of the reign of heaven.

Luther Preaching ChristYes. God is so reckless that He will entrust the opening and closing of the reign of heaven to His Church. He has given His Church the authority to forgive sins because of what Jesus has done on the cross. Jesus Himself told the Church to disciple all nations opening the reign of heaven to them so that all can enter. However, those who stubbornly refuse Jesus’ call to enter into the reign of heaven through His sacrifice are to be shut out. The Church is to make it clear that they are outside of God’s love – in order that they desire to receive the love of God already poured out for them in Christ’s blood.

And that is precisely what Jesus will do in next week’s Gospel lesson (Mt. 16:21-28); Jesus will close the doors to the reign of heaven in Peter’s face. We’ll see how quickly things fall apart when the Church moves away from its confession of Christ being the Messiah. There is only one Messiah, and He has come to be a specific type of Messiah. Peter will be told by Christ, the Son of the living God, that is necessary for Him as Messiah to suffer, die, and rise again. Peter decides he doesn’t want that type of Messiah. He will tell Jesus, “Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan.” But we’ll leave that for next week.

For now, know the truth of this confession – Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This confession, this faith comes only from God. And this faith is unconquerable. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Matthew 15:21-28 – Table Scraps

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Matthew 15:21-2821 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Several places in the Gospels, Jesus does or says things that make us uncomfortable. Matthew 13:58 is one: “[Jesus] could not do many mighty works [in Nazareth], because of their unbelief.” Mark 8:22-26 is another; Jesus lays His hands on a blind man to restore his sight. But when Jesus asks the blind man if he can see, he responds, “I see people, but they look like trees walking.”

Today’s text is a big one. You can’t get around the fact that in this text, Jesus is rude, racist, and just downright mean and insulting. This is one of those texts that can make us uncomfortable in a society where “tolerance” is the chief virtue. If you will allow me a baseball analogy, Jesus strikes this woman out on three pitches.

This Canaanite woman comes to Jesus for help – and not for herself. She cries out, “Kyrie Eleison! Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” What problem could she have that is more compelling? She’s not coming for her husband or even for her son; she is making a request on behalf of her poor daughter. Her daughter doesn’t need help because she’s done something wrong. A demon is oppressing her and oppressing her wickedly.

But what does Jesus do? Jesus gives her the silent treatment. “He did not answer her a word.”

Strike one.

The disciples come to Jesus, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” The disciples seem to want Jesus to give this Canaanite woman what she wants so they can get rid of her. Jesus responds with a quick response that, frankly, sounds racist. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In other words, Jesus directly tells the disciples (and indirectly tells the woman), “I’m not here to help the likes of her.”

Strike two.Jesus and the Syrophoenician Woman

Down in the count, the woman falls on her knees before Jesus. “Lord, help me.” If Jesus sounded apathetic before, His next words are downright mean. Jesus winds up and throws a killer screwball, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” You heard it right. Jesus just called her a dog – a dog unworthy of His help. Ok, it’s time to be offended. Time to slap Jesus in the face. Time to get on social media and ruin Jesus’ reputation.

It’s strike three, and she’s out in humiliating fashion.

But notice, she’s not offended. In fact, she agrees with Jesus. She says, “Yes, Lord. It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. Give the bread to Your children. But when the children eat, they get sloppy. And their sloppiness means we dogs eat too. Your bread is so good that even the crumbs are more than enough for me and my daughter. I’m not asking for their bread, all I need is one of their crumbs that carelessly falls on the floor.”

Not many things impress Jesus in the Gospels, but listen to what Jesus says, “O woman, great is your faith!” Great faith. What makes this woman’s faith great? There are two things about this woman’s faith that are a lesson for us.[1]

First, great faith knows who Jesus is. This woman is a foreigner – she is a Canaanite. As a Canaanite, she is outside of the promise God made through David’s Son. Jesus is Israel’s Messiah whom God had promised to send through David’s line. You see, “God doesn’t keep every promise [you] can think of. He only keeps the promises that He has made” (Gibbs). And, through faith, this woman knows that Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. It is not right to interrupt God’s plan by taking the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. But she doesn’t ask Jesus to do that. Because she knows who He is, she says, “Yes, Lord. For even the dogs eat the crumbs,” which brings us to the second thing that makes faith great.

Great faith knows that Jesus has something for you. That doesn’t mean that God will give you whatever you want. In fact, God may give you something you don’t want. Jesus is Lord, and you are not. Jesus has something for you, but it may not be what you want. If presented with the choice between bread and crumbs which would you chose? Yeah, bread every time.

Who here would chose to be saved by a God who sacrifices Himself in weakness and shame by dying on a cross? That way of salvation is silly; it is foolish. But, believer, that is the only salvation there is. That is the only salvation from sin, death, and the devil available to anyone.

You see, Jesus is Lord, and He does have something for you. He has given Himself, all of Himself, His body crucified and His blood shed – for you. To believe this is saving faith, and saving faith is always a gift of God.

And remember what Scripture says about faith – what this faith does for you – it makes you a child of God. John 1:12–13 12 But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Remember who Jesus is. Remember that you were separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But remember that He has something for you. Christ Jesus, the Son of David, has brought, even you who were far off, He has brought you near by His blood. You are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:12-13, 19). Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] For these two things that faith believes, I am indebted to Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs’ commentary and a sermon he preached on this text.

Matthew 14:22-33 – More Trauma, More Jesus

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Matthew 14:22-33—Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.

When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Approaching a text like this, it is easy to make a mistake and think it is about the disciples. But this text is not primarily about the disciples – it is about Jesus. We wrongly think this text is about the disciples because of the distance St. Matthew, as he writes this account, creates between Jesus and the disciples. Last week, we saw how the disciples wanted Jesus to dismiss the crowds so the crowds could go get something to eat. But Jesus wanted the disciples to feed them. So He provided.

Just hours later, Jesus sends the disciples away in their boat to go to the other side of the sea. As they row and sail away, Jesus dismisses the crowds and hikes up the mountain to pray. Remember, Jesus created this separation between Himself and the disciples sending them into the middle of the sea even though a storm was approaching.

Remember who has sent them: this is Jesus, God-in-the-flesh who created the waters. He is the God who shut in the sea with bars told the waters, “Thus far you shall come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:8, 11). This is the very Jesus who sends the disciples out into the middle of the storm.

Does that sound just like God to you? Have you ever sensed that you have been guided by God to go and do something, but then things falls apart? What do you do in those situations? It is easy to doubt. It is easy to assume that you have gone outside of God’s will or done something wrong that has made God is angry.

But that is not case. God can and does send you out into situations that are bigger than you. God can and does send you out into danger and trouble.

Well, these experienced sailors and fishermen are separated from their Master stuck fighting the wind and the waves on their home turf – well, surf would probably be more appropriate. This day just isn’t going their way.

Jesus Walking on Water 1Notice, though, that even though they are having trouble, there is no mention of the disciples being afraid. The disciples are not scared – until they see Jesus. Jesus advances towards them, but all they see is a phantasm. They see a figure emerging from the darkness walking on top of the very same waves that are inhibiting their progress.

The Man who had taught them and explained parables to them, the Man who handed them bread to feed the throng, the Man who they had left everything to follow after nears – and they don’t recognize Him! They see Jesus pealing back the curtain revealing His divinity, and they think He is a ghost. Their Teacher, their God, and their Savior comes to them, but they only see something to fear. Granted, Jesus is appearing in an odd way; He was doing something that no man can do walking across those stormy waves as though they are just wet pavement. Even though the Old Testament speaks about God as the one who walks on the waters (Job 9:8; Hab. 3:15), seeing it causes the disciples to fear.

Remember though, this text isn’t about the disciples. Jesus doesn’t give the disciples tips on how to get out of their precarious situation. He doesn’t say, “Row harder. Put your backs into it. Think positive. You can do it.” He simply speaks words. But in these words, Jesus gives Himself to the disciples. And He doesn’t wait. Immediately (notice ‘immediately’) He says, “Take heart; it is I. Fear not.”

But sometimes, for us, that isn’t enough. Even though Jesus has given Himself to the disciples through His Word, Peter wants more.

Another wrong approach to this text is that we make it about Peter. This text isn’t about Peter; it’s about Jesus.

Peter wants more. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Always gracious, Jesus invites Peter, “Come.” Things go well – at first. Peter steps out of the boat, walks across the water, and comes to Jesus. But then Peter allows himself to get distracted by the wind. Standing out there on the water, Peter fears what he did not fear before, and begins to sink. The way Matthew words this makes me wonder: How did Peter sink? Did Peter immediately fall into the water just like he was dropped? Did he slowly sink like the sea was quicksand? We don’t know.

Walking on WaterAnyway, Peter cries out, “Lord, save me.” If I were Jesus, I’d have lost my patience. I would have let Peter sink down to the bottom of the sea. But how long does Jesus wait to rescue this braggadocios disciple? He doesn’t wait one second. “Immediately, Jesus reached out His hand and took hold of [Peter] saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”

Peter has no excuse; neither do you. Why would you doubt the God who is so powerful, He could create the universe with a simple word? Why would you doubt the loving nature of God when He is willing to sacrifice His own Son to save the likes of you? You who doubt – you who are also a little faith, there is no excuse for unbelief. Unbelief and doubt only creates trauma.

Peter doubted twice. He doubted that it really was Jesus approaching the boat walking on the water, “Lord if it is you…” then Peter doubted when he saw the wind. Peter should have believed Jesus the first time, and Peter should have believed Jesus the second time. But all this self-induced trauma doesn’t stop Jesus. He keeps saving. He keeps giving Himself.

This text is about Jesus. Believer, even when you too are a little-faith, Jesus continues to do what He came to do. He came to save you. While you were dead in sin and an enemy of God, Jesus came to save you. When you look at this text, see the gracious nature and attitude of your Savior. Truly, He is the Son of God. Truly, He has come to save you. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Matthew 14:13-21 – A Lot to Chew On (A Sermon on Vocation)

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Matthew 14:13-21—Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him 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.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Matthew records two events between last week’s text and this week’s text. First, Jesus returns to His hometown of Nazareth where He is rejected. The last verse of Mt. 13 is downright depressing, “[Jesus] did not do any mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Then, ch. 14 opens up by telling about the death of John the Baptizer. Herod had decided to make John a little shorter and beheaded him. But then when Herod heard about all the things Jesus was doing, he was worried that John had risen from the dead.

Anyway, John’s disciples bury John’s body and go to tell Jesus. Now our text, “When Jesus heard [about John’s death], He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by Himself.” After hearing about the death of His cousin, friend, and forerunner, Jesus wishes to take some time to be by Himself – understandably so. But it doesn’t work. The crowds learn about it, follow, and find Him in that desolate place. Now pause for a minute: This is the same word that was used to describe the type of place Jesus was when He was tempted by Satan, just after He had been baptized by John. It is also used to describe the wilderness where the people of Israel wandered for forty years. It is a desert wilderness, the place of demons, and the haunt of jackals. The crowds seek Him anyway.

Jesus sees these crowds and “has compassion on them,” and He spends the better part of a day healing them. Morning is long gone, lunch is past, the afternoon is getting late, and toward evening the disciples say to Jesus, “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.”

Maybe they were trying to look out for their grieving Master. Jesus is compassionate, but even His compassion has to have its limits, right? Or maybe the disciples were tired and wanted to be alone too, after all, some of them had been John’s disciples before they were Jesus’ disciples. And their request of Jesus isn’t too uncompassionate. The people will need to eat, and there’s no food around here.

But look at what Jesus says, don’t miss it. “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” If I were one of the disciples, I’d be thinking (if not saying), “Good one, Jesus. Remember, You called us to be fishers of men, not caterers for massive crowds. That’s not in my job description.”

But Jesus is serious. “You give them something to eat.”

“Is this some kind of joke, Jesus? All we can scrape together is five loaves and two fish.”

“Bring them here to Me,” Jesus says. Then He makes an announcement, “Ok everybody, sit down in the grass with your family.” He tells the disciples, “I’ll take that food, boys.” Then He prays, “The eyes of all look to You, O Lord, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing. Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us, and these Your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness. Amen.”Jesus Feeds the 5000

Then, what happens? Jesus gives the bead to the disciples and maybe repeats Himself, “You give them something to eat.” And the disciples do – with their own hands, they feed the crowds. Now, of course, the disciples wouldn’t take any credit for all of this. They didn’t provide or multiply the food – Jesus did. They didn’t do anything miraculous – Jesus did. They simply were God’s vehicles to get God’s provision to God’s people.

Five thousand men plus women and children ate. They all had enough to chew on. But Jesus didn’t supply enough food just to keep the crowds on their feet. He didn’t just supply enough so everyone could be filled. He started with barely enough food to fill a lunchbox. But after everyone in that throng of people ate until they were full, the disciples collected twelve baskets – one for each of them – full of leftovers.

After the resurrection, Jesus told Peter, “Feed My sheep” (Jn. 21:17). This command was given to Peter, but it also applicable to all apostles and pastors. “Feed My sheep. You give them something to eat.” Can I speak to you as your pastor about your pastor? Through you, God has called your pastor here to feed you. In the same way, God has called your pastor here telling him, “Feed My sheep. You give them something to eat.”

You know what, your pastor doesn’t even have two loaves to rub together. I can tell you without a doubt, your pastor has the same shortcomings, the same doubts, the same failures as you do. Your pastor suffers the same disappointments you do, faces the same temptations you do, and commits the same sins you do. But, for some reason, God has seen it fit to send this broken, fallen sheep to shepherd this congregation. If anything is done, it is only because God is doing it. Your pastor is simply the vehicle that brings God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament.

God does the same through you too. God is at work through each one of you. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. God is using you to feed, clothe, shelter, heal, provide for, and protect people around you because God has compassion for them. And, yes, you fail. You grudgingly go to work sometimes only to ensure that you get the paycheck that will provide shelter for your family. You get tired of preparing meals for kids who complain about everything you set before them. You aren’t content with what God has given and you covet after more. You aren’t kind enough, and you aren’t thankful enough. But God keeps on giving.
Communion Cross with JesusMost importantly, God keeps giving you His forgiveness for your failure and sin. He has given it to you already today through the Absolution. And if you doubt that that forgiveness proclaimed through your pastor is really for you, He gives you forgiveness that cannot miss in Communion, in Bread and Wine, in His very body and blood given unto death on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. Strengthened by this food, this little meal, God gives you a lot to chew on. Your God equips you and sends you back out into this broken world with sins forgiven and hearts full of joy. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.