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August 2, 2020    The Lesson of That Day

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Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

‘The feeding of the 5,000’.   That’s the event;   but *what’s the ‘lesson’  to learn?

Let’s use a little story to illustrate:  A young girl was shopping with her mother at Walmart.  While they were in the store, dark clouds had gathered.  Then the sky opened up in a downpour.  At the exit,  they stood with a crowd of people,  waiting for the heavy rain to let up  so they could get to their cars.   After many long minutes,  little Emily said,  “Mom,  let’s run thru the rain!”   Mom responded with the usual,  motherly sensibility,  “We’d better wait for things to let up;  otherwise we’ll get soaked.”    The little girl said,  “We won’t get soaked & we’ll be ok.  You said so.”  That answer caught the attention of a few of the people standing there with them.

Mom thought hard;  she searched her memory of the day’s conversations to see if she had talked about rain & getting wet.  She hadn’t.  So she asked,   “Honey,  when did I say we can run thru rain & not get wet?”   Emily answered,  “You remember ~  this morning;  when you were talking to Daddy about his cancer.   You said,  “If God can get us thru this,  we can get thru anything  & we’ll be ok.”   

So,  a simple conversation had turned into a ‘teachable moment.’  Mom & Emily hadn’t noticed,  but the people around them had gotten very quiet,  as they waited for mom’s response.  Would mom stick with the rational application of her own words,  or  *might there be a little God-lesson from her daughter’s simple faith?    I’ll tell you what happened  …in a few minutes.

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As God-in-the-flesh,  Jesus IS the world’s greatest teacher,  & His Bible records for us His works & words as the Lessons of Truth for this life.  At times, Jesus’ ministry enjoyed some huge public approval;  it’s easy to see why.   In His day,  there were very limited kinds of medicines;  so,  rather minor illnesses or injuries  could turn severe,  & end in death.

But wherever Jesus went,  He healed the sick;  the blind were given sight;  the crippled were made to walk again.   It was unheard of.

The deaf had their hearing restored;  those who were possessed by an evil spirits were set free;  and,  on a few particular occasions,  even the dead were brought back to life.   The Son of God was the fixer of life’s troubles.

And,  Jesus was not only popular because of His healing miracles,  but His teachings gave relief from guilt, peace of mind, & future hope;  He taught with an authority no one else had.   Jesus was The Master Teacher who had the truth of life-after-death.   He was not just teaching the mind,  but also the soul with the Truths of God.  He told parables;  these were earthly stories  which taught heavenly truths.  He used simple things like seeds, & shepherds, & rebellious sons to visualize His lessons  so that people would remember them.

+Long after His preaching,  people would look at a seed  and think about how God’s Word of hope is planted & grows within us.  +When they saw a shepherd or a sheep,  they would remember how it is Jesus who is the Good Shepherd of life;  that He is searching for us lost sheep,  & He is protecting His flock from all our enemies.  +Every ‘prodigal son’ became a reminder that a repentant soul will be welcomed back into the family of faith.   So,  Jesus was popular;   people were drawn to this Teacher for the answers & meaning of life.

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Sadly,  more often than not,  Jesus knew that He was popular for some wrong reasons.   Shallow reasons from shallow humans.  1)  His true purpose was to heal sinful souls eternally;   but most who came to him  were concerned only with their body’s temporary needs.

2) He came as God’s Messiah  to free all humanity enslaved by sin, death, & the power of the devil;  but most only expected Him to free them from the harsh rule of the Romans.  3) He came to be the Light of the world,  to show God’s right ways;  but people loved darkness & their own wrong ways.   4) Today’s event shows Him as the spiritual Bread-of-Life;  but people were mostly focused on what earthly things He could do for them.  (if He didn’t, they’d walk away!)

The truth is:  God gave us life,  & He tells us what’s right & what’s wrong,  & He’ll help us reach His goals for our lives.   But,  man’s natural attitude is:  our life belongs to us,  & we want to do what we think is right;  we want God to approve,  & to help us reach our goals & desires.  That’s shallow,  it’s rebellious, & it’s sin.     So,  *what religious teachers are popular today?   Those who appeal to what natural ears want to hear;  which does NOT include identifying our sin & wrong behaviors -by the Bible’s standards- so that we will change.

The shallow man does not want to hear of the need of /repentance, /the cross, /forgiveness, /& holiness.  The shallow person wants to be told that God just wants you to be happy, healthy, & successful;  & that God just wants you to ‘be yourself,’   & enjoy ‘doing whatever you want to do.’    (‘Just be true to yourself’ = but that’s a lie)

So likewise,  there are churches that are popular  because they give the crowds what they want;  & they focus on current feelings & trends,  not lasting truth.   If the culture approves of immoral ideas & behaviors   =for example:  changing the definition of marriage or gender=  the popular church will also approve of those things,  & find reasons to please the crowd.  But pleasing the crowd is not pleasing to God.  The crowd liked some things Jesus did; but they didn’t like other things.

Today we hear that He fed the 5,000.  The very next day,  this same crowd came back to Jesus,  & Jesus scolded them for being shallow.   He rebuked them for just wanting more bread  and for not wanting the spiritual & eternal food that He really came to give.  Forgiveness of sin  is far better than a meal;  & a place in His heaven is far better than good health.   Jesus didn’t come to us to be popular;  but to speak the truth,  & be our Savior from sin & hell.

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In the chapter before, Jesus is teaching the crowd parables of the kingdom.  Then, sad news came to Jesus  that King Herod had John-the-Baptizer beheaded;  John was His relative,  & the prophet who boldly announced His arrival.  The lesson for the crowd should’ve been that,  in times of such wickedness & abuse of God & His people,  there should be quietness, mourning & prayer.  Jesus & his disciples got in a boat,  & sailed to a remote place on the Sea of Galilee.

But the crowd  -thousands of people-  were eager to get stuff from Him,  to listen to Him,  to be healed by Him.   I’ll bet the disciples complained that they couldn’t get a break.  But we see how patient our Lord is;  He would try again to teach His important lessons = the truths of life to shallow people.   After all,  He did come to seek & to save the lost,  so our reading said, ‘he had compassion on them.’     Many were not there for the best or right reasons;  but in His love,  Jesus would try to teach them lessons about His true purpose & about heavenly things.

And so the day passed;  a long day of healing many;  a long day of teaching the truths of life,  and guiding the lost into the kingdom of God.    As the day wore on,  the concern of the Twelve was that the crowd was not leaving to go home.   This could become a serious situation;  thousands of ill-prepared people in the middle of nowhere.  This was not a planned event,  so there were no concession stands with hot dogs &  lemonade.      So, the disciples were trying to be helpful  when they said,  “Lord,  it’s time to send these folks home for supper;   you’ve done more than enough for one day.”     It was the only logical thing to do.

And yet,  the Master Teacher was still in the teaching mode.  So Jesus said,  “I don’t think we have to send them away;   YOU give them something to eat.”

In my mind  I imagine 12 blank stares & the thought: ‘He’s kidding, right?’  Here’s a crowd of 5,000 men,  plus plenty of women & children,  in a remote place.  Even if there had been a market nearby,  they don’t have enough silver in the moneybag to buy enough food.

But,  they looked to see how much actual food was around.  They only find one boy’s lunch = 5 biscuits & 2 fish.  So,  they had considered this instruction of the Lord from every angle,  except the angle of faith.   But that was to be the lesson for the day.

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You see,  they were supposed to be learning to trust Him & rely on Him.  This was a huge teachable moment:  life is more than the earthly angle.   Of all people,  the Twelve should’ve known that the Son of God could do whatever He wanted.  What Jesus wanted right then is for them to trust & rely on Him with a humble faith.  This is the lesson WE need to learn for our lives.   Those Twelve could’ve remembered the Scripture & said:  “Lord,  we know when our people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years,  You fed them;  and You can do the same today.”

They should’ve thought:  Lord,  since you take care of the lilies of the field, & birds of the air,  so we know you can take care of these hungry folks.   Since you are the Christ,  and have come to save these souls from sin;   so,  if you want,  you can save their bodies from hunger.    Lord,  this is your crowd;   just tell us what you want us to do.”   

So,  to help them learn this mind-of-faith, & put away their doubts,  Jesus shows that He is worthy of their trust.   So,  He took the 5 loaves & 2 fish,  blessed it,  and the whole crowd ate their fill,  with 12 baskets of leftovers.  Thru this event,  & thru all of the other teaching moments the disciples experienced,  WE are also being taught to trust & rely on the Son of God,  our Savior.  The Twelve would think back to that miraculous day,  and they would be reminded that the Lord was /patient, /full of compassion,  /strong,  /& reliable in ALL situations.

By the help of the Holy Spirit,  in the Bible,  WE also get to look back to gain the same mind of faith.

We get to look back on the time of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane;  when He was praying about the will of the Father,  because of the great burden being put upon Him = the sins of the whole human race.   We look back to learn that,  altho it was an awful thing,  Jesus HAD to suffer in that way for justice against our sin;  to work out God’s salvation,  He had to die on a cross.  To receive that punishment,  He had to be condemned by the religious leaders,  with the help of an inside betrayer,   with the permission of the Roman governor,  & carried out by Roman soldiers.

And if God could orchestrate this whole tangled wicked mess of evil men & the devil’s work,  and still perfectly accomplish the salvation of the world,  then God can certainly oversee OUR simple lives,  so that we would be blessed,  even thru our troubles.  The lesson to learn is:  Jesus is our refuge & strength;  He’s with us in our troubles  with our eternal good in mind.

In Scripture,  we get to learn with the disciples that our Lord Jesus can do anything = everything.  This Jesus,  who had  /healed the sick, /calmed the storm, /fed the hungry, /& raised the dead,   on Easter morning He had raised himself up from the dead.  *Why had they feared?  *Why had they doubted?

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Truly,  nothing is impossible for this Lord of Life,  who is God Almighty.  By these lessons,  Jesus has taught you & me the Truth  that He is Master over life and death;   He has opened the kingdom of heaven to all who are baptized in Him & trust Him.  The lesson to learn is that when we are helpless,  Jesus will help.   The feeding of 5,000 with 5 loaves & 2 fish  is a small thing  for the Savior who forgives the sins of those who repent,  and who protects His people in all their troubles,  and who gives the ultimate hope = a heavenly home.

He is the one we trust in & rely on each day;  one day at a time.  He is patient and forgiving;   He changes lives to be in-line with His holy ways.  It gives us real courage to know who the Lord of heaven & earth is = to trust that we are in His hands!  When we face trouble or sorrow,  He knows;  & that means we’ll be okay.   Even if our death should come sooner than later  -because of some virus-,  we have learned from Him that our place in heaven is waiting for us.  This faith can get us thru anything.

Which takes us back to the story of little Emily & her mother,  whose lives had been held up by the rain.   When faced with this trouble,  the little girl had remembered what mother had said:  “If God can get dad thru his cancer,  God could get them thru anything;  they’d be ok.”   So,  *what was the mother’s response to this little one‘s mind of faith?

Mom said,  “Honey,  you’re right.  Let’s run thru the rain;  we’ll be ok.   If we get wet,  maybe that’s the Lord’s way of telling us that we needed a bath.” 

So,  hand-in-hand they ran for the car thru the rain;  they jumped over a couple of puddles,  and stepped in a few.  They got wet,  but they were okay.   Some others in that crowd,  who had heard their little conversation,  also ran out into the rain.  They got wet, too;  but they didn’t drown.   And many people were reminded of trusting in the Lord of heaven & earth when faced with trouble.

The Master Teacher wants us to learn about sin & forgiveness,  about holy living & hopeful dying.   *Can we trust Him & rely on Him?   Well,  He once solved a big hunger problem with just 5 loaves & 2 fish.   So,  for our problems,  big or small,  our faith is taught by the lessons of Holy Scripture,  and we ARE trusting in the crucified & risen Lord Jesus.

Amen