Friday, March 19, 2021

Serving Our Bodily Needs


Isaiah 55:1-3

1 "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. 2 "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. 3 "Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David.

The Fifth Wednesday in Lent                    3/17/21

Jesus Servant of Us All

Serving Our Bodily Needs

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Our society tends to make a distinction between the "sacred" and the "secular." The distinction should properly be between that which is holy, and that which is profane, but our culture chooses to view them in terms of sacred and secular – which means something like "holy and connected to the church" on the one hand, and "of the world" on the other. There are words, for example, that you can use on the street that you would never think of using in the church.

This distinction is a wonderful distinction. It unfortunately flies in the face of what Scriptures teach and of what is real. There is no such distinction in the Bible. That is because there is no place in one's life that God does not see or care about.

The Bible does speak about "holy" and "profane," but it uses these words in a very technical way. "Holy" is used to describe something set apart for God and by God. "Profane" is something different, completely lacking in the ‘holy' distinction of dealing with God or His things. At times, "profane" is even disrespectful or contemptuous of the things of God and religion. The biblical perspective says that everything in life is sacred, something God cares about or as something God watches and blesses – except sin, in which case He punishes. Part of the reason that Jesus showed Himself to be our Provider, the One who gives all blessings, is to reveal this total intimacy, where God is in and concerned with every moment of our lives. Tonight we will look at Jesus, Servant of us all, providing for our bodily needs.

The clearest image of Jesus as our Provider may well be the feeding of the 5,000, last Sunday's gospel. The feeding of the 5,000 was a tour-de-force. Here was Jesus, alone, no supplies, and so many hungry people around Him that more than half an average year's income (that is what 200 denarii was back then) would not suffice to give each of them just a little, let alone enough. Then a little boy comes with a lunch – five small loaves of bread and two small fish. Then Jesus gives thanks, and gives the disciples each some food to distribute.

Somehow all of these hungry people were fed. They not only each had a little, but they each had all they wanted and were, according to Scriptures, full, and there were leftovers, more leftovers than they started with in the first place.

Jesus had no obligation to feed these people. They did not come to the wilderness expecting to be fed. Jesus was simply showing His own nature – a nature of love and goodness and service. Jesus had compassion on them, not wanting to see them suffer. When the people saw the miracle, they understood what they were seeing. Jesus was acting as Provider, as only God can do – providing in abundance, without apparent regard for who it is He is providing for. They knew it was a miracle which revealed the coming Messiah. It revealed His power to provide.

What looks so fantastic to us, was just a small sample for Jesus. He is our Servant as Provider. Jesus does the same thing every day, only more so, and He does it for far more than just 5,000 people. He gives all of us each our daily bread, just as He multiplied the bread for those thousands that day. But by daily bread I mean to suggest more than just food. I mean to speak of daily bread as Luther did in the Small Catechism: "Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as food, drinking, clothing, shoes, house, home, fields, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like."

Jesus provides all of humanity each day with everything we need to live, and to enjoy this life. He not only provides the immediate needs, but He establishes the needed conditions for those needs to be met every day. He owes it to us no more than He did to those who followed Him out into the wilderness to hear Him preach or be healed by Him. But He faithfully provides. He fed the 5,000 in this instance, He fed the 4,000 at another time. He did these miracles so that we could see that He could provide, and that He was willing to provide. But every day, Jesus is providing. He gives us what we need.

Lest we be confused and think that the world goes on and does what it does without any attention, and things exist by momentum, we can look at the fall of the Soviet Union. It looked so strong and so permanent. But one day it fell. There was no more business as usual. Or look at the war-torn and famine-ridden places of the world. Our daily bread comes to us by the deliberate act of God. It is not just naturally there, but the daily gift of God and lasting sign of His love toward us – He does all that we need and more.

He provided the wine at the wedding of Cana. He did it not because it was a necessity, but to increase and continue the joy of the moment. He does those kinds of things, too, providing the unnecessary for the joy of the moment, or gives blessings to those who clearly do not deserve it. He does such things for one purpose – to demonstrate what God is like. God gives and blesses. God doesn't let a sparrow die without His notice. Jesus provides for us and tells us that the basis for all this faithful giving and abundance is the love of God for us. And Jesus also tells us that when we focus on the more important things, the less important stuff will be taken care of as well. "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you."

When men preach about the providence of God, it is always a temptation to focus on these delightful worldly blessings to the exclusion of everything else, particularly everything more spiritual. It is a strange phenomenon, almost paradoxical, the way many people approach faith in God. They tend to think of God as out there somewhere, good only for eternity in heaven and "spiritual" things that seem to most people so disconnected from real life. At the same time they tend to blame God personally if things are not just precisely the way the individual wants them to be. The temptation to preachers, then, is to deal with God as though the majority of His value to us is this-worldly, in order to get people to understand that God is real here and real now and that He loves them in ways that are felt in this world, and that He helps them in real ways they can identify by looking around. And He does provide for us. He serves us so well here and blesses us so richly, that we can see and sense these blessings.

But these blessings here are to teach us to know His love, and encourage us to trust in Him, and, of course, to supply our temporary needs while we are here, on earth. The danger is dealing with God as only a roller-skated waitress at the drive-in of life – here to provide for our physical needs and forgetting the most important part. That is, that the truth is that our first and final purpose here is to know Him and to trust Him and to come to spend eternity with Jesus.

Isaiah 55 says: "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without costs. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David."

God isn't calling through the prophet just to announce a bargain-basement food store. He is inviting us in prophetic language to wallow in His love and goodness by faith and in heaven by living with Him. He means to invite you to know that which really satisfies – enticing you gently by providing the temporary satisfactions. He invites you to quench your thirst for salvation, by reminding you of how He has quenched your physical thirst in the past. And He wants you to invest yourselves in that which has real value, real power to meet your needs, real abundance and real satisfaction. That is what He means by asking, "Why do you spend your money on that which is not food?" Every miracle of provision is just Jesus showing you that He is the one to whom you should come, especially for those eternal provisions. Every miracle of providing is just Jesus making what He always does on a much larger scale visible on a smaller, individual scale, so you can understand that He is the provider who provides every day.

Jesus is our Servant, not by nature but by His love and His grace and His choice. He richly and daily provides all that we need so that we may know His love and learn to trust in Him. He also promises that when we trust in Him, he will not let us down, but will take care of every aspect of our lives.

"Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it you." That's the promise of Jesus. He will provide. He provides for us as He did for those back then: unexpectedly, without apparent resources, and abundantly – so that we might see His nature and His goodness and trust in Him. Jesus is our Servant, Servant of us all, providing all of our needs.

Ponder Jesus as we approach the day we celebrate Jesus providing for our deepest need and our greatest hunger – forgiveness and life everlasting.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,
(Let the people say "Amen".)

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