Fourth Sunday in Lent
Empty Pockets; Faith in Christ
It simply won’t add up. It can’t be done. My pockets are empty and turned inside out. My paycheck is no match for my bills. My income cannot keep up with my debt. I am getting old – I won’t be able to work much longer – and I don’t have enough. What I have versus what I need doesn’t add up. The burden of debt. The burden of daily bread.
In the face of 5,000 hungry men alongside their women and children, the disciple Philip answered Jesus, “It doesn’t add up.” This large crowd had followed Jesus to a remote place. Jesus knew what He Himself was about to do, but He tested Philip and said to him, “Where are we to buy bread, Philip, so that these people may eat?”
Philip answered his Lord, “Two hundred denarii (two hundred days’ wages) worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” It doesn’t add up. It’s not going to work out.
Another disciple, Andrew, chimed in, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” It doesn’t add up. Our pockets are empty. If these disciples and this crowd were a church, they had little to offer. A little bread. A little fish. If they were a household, they had too little to live on. What they have and what they need don’t match.
But Jesus is the Lord of what they have, and Jesus is God over what they need. Jesus is the God and Lord of what you have and what you need. What does Jesus do?
“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’” The people, 5,000 men plus women and children, sat down in a grassy area. “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.”
Jesus is Lord over the bread and the fish, and He is Lord over the empty belly. Jesus takes the bread and fish, give thanks to God His Father, and distributes what doesn’t add up to the filling point – and beyond the filling point – of all those in need.
What you need and what you have don’t always agree. But Jesus is God and Lord over both. You will be supplied for. What Jesus grants you will be sufficient; and He will grant you what is sufficient. Philip and Andrew saw only the problem, the shortcoming, in front of them. In Jesus, we trust in what we do not see. We trust in God’s not-yet-seen providence.
You can deal with your lack and your shortfall by faith in Jesus who loves you; and not by fear and doubt. Even when what you have is like five loaves for 5,000 men, you still do have Jesus. You have Jesus who will take care of you.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus provided earthly bread for an earthly need. He provides us our daily bread, just as we pray for it in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave thanks to the Father for the little that they had at their disposal – the five loaves and two fish.
Do we daily, and meal by meal, and pay check by pay check, offer thanks to God in prayer for the little bit that we have at our disposal? Do we offer a “Thank You” to God, or do we only offer up groans and worry? Start by always giving thanks for the little you have. Giving thanks is an act of faith – you are joyful and thankful because you are trusting God.
But, again, as we just noted, Jesus provided earthly bread for an earthly need in our Gospel today. But there is another time when our Lord Jesus took bread and gave thanks and distributed it to those gathered around Him. In the Supper of our Lord, Holy Communion, Jesus takes mere earthly bread – what is insufficient for the soul – and makes it the Bread of Heaven, His own Body.
This account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand is in John 6:1-15. Just a little later in chapter six [John 6:22-59], at verse 27, Jesus says to His disciples “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man (Jesus) will give to you.”
Then, throughout the next several verses, Jesus says these things, “the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” [6:33]. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” [6:35]. “I am the bread that came down from heaven” [6:43].
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life” [6:47-48]. “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” [6:53].
“Whoever comes to me will never hunger. Whoever believes in me will never thirst. Whoever believes has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life.” Jesus is the bread sufficient for the soul. Jesus is the bread which is enough for eternal life.
Jesus said the bread He will give is His flesh. Jesus also said [John 4:34], “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Jesus gave His flesh over to His betrayers to be crucified on the Cross for you. That is how He is your bread. He gave Himself into death for your eternal life. He is, therefore, your bread of life.
You have Jesus as your bread – you consume Jesus as your bread – by believing in Him: “Whoever believes [in me] has eternal life.” “Whoever believes in me will never thirst.” “Whoever comes to me will never hunger.”
We all one day face death. We are all given the life we have. We are all creatures created by God. God created us. God gave us our life. And God calls each of us to account for our life. On a day He appointed, God calls each man and woman and youth to give an account for all his or her deeds, whether good or evil - [2 Corinthians 5:10] “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
What you and I need on that day and what we have in ourselves doesn’t match up. When you examine yourself honestly – when you examine thought, word, and deed – you will see that it doesn’t add up. The righteousness you need isn’t there. The righteousness you and I lack is obvious. In terms of righteousness, when standing before the judgment seat of Christ, my pockets are turned out and empty. You don’t have what you need. It’s not going to work out. But you have Jesus.
The man Jesus is the little bit that has become something great for me – sufficient for eternal life. In my standing before God, Jesus is what fills my pocket so that it’s not empty. Bread fills where your belly is empty and thereby gives you life. Jesus fills where you are empty of righteousness and thereby gives you eternal life. With Jesus as their bread, guilty sinners have what they need to stand before God.
When the Word of God is preached, the Bread of Life is given. You consume Him by your believing ears. That same Bread of Life is given when we bless the little bread and little wine of the Lord’s Supper which is His true Body and true Blood. Those who eat and drink in repentance and faith receive to their abundant blessing for the sake of life eternal.
Jesus is your miraculous Bread which can feed not just five thousand but the whole world. Be where that Bread is given. Jesus fills all that you lack. Jesus is what you need, and you have Him here. Amen.