A couple paragraphs of this sermon were shamelessly lifted from C.F.W. Walther’s Daily Devotions Book. I have enclosed the section in quotes for anyone who cares.
Rev. Paul L. Beisel
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
In the holy Gospel this morning, our Lord was moved with compassion when he saw the people who followed him. No doubt they were haggard and worn, a pitiful looking bunch of people. For three days they had followed Christ into the wilderness. And now they were hungry. What supplies they had brought with them were most likely used up.
In their zeal to hear the Words of Christ, they had overlooked the need for food. They ignored their discomfort. They sacrificed time and convenience to follow Christ out into the wilderness to hear His Word. Hearing the word of the Lord, listening to the words of eternal life was more important than earthly comforts; even more important than eating.
These people could have been doing many other things. Kids could have been playing. Men could have been doing business. Women could have been working on their homes, preparing meals, or taking care of the children. They could have said, “It’s too hot, too dirty, and too far. It just isn’t worth it.”
And yet, here they were. Conditions weren’t great, but Christ was there with His word. They had fixed their eyes on Jesus. They had found the one thing needful. He healed their sick; He raised their dead; He restored sight to their blind; and proclaimed a Gospel of mercy. Everything else could wait.
Dear Christians, this is a picture of true, Christian faith. Faith is one of those words that is hard to define, and easier to describe. What does it mean to believe and trust in Christ? It means doing exactly as these people were doing—casting aside all care and concern about earthly matters, and fixing their eyes solely on Christ.
Faith seeks the blessings of Christ’s word even when conditions aren’t ideal. “The true Christian would rather suffer earthly harm and discomfort than lack something spiritual. False Christians also want to hold Christ and serve Him, but only as long as they can do so without sacrificing time, money, rest, honor, or any other favorite thing. The true Christian, on the other hand, would gladly forsake something earthly to gain something spiritual” (Walther, Daily Devotions).
Seeing their pitiful state, our Lord is moved with compassion. His gut is wrenched at the sight of 4000 + people risking life and limb to hear His teaching. And so he acts. He cannot bear to see them suffer. He takes the seven loaves of bread and two fish that his disciples have, and makes them into enough to feed a multitude. He filled their tummies with bread, so that they would not faint or grow weary on their way home.
Now they could return to their homes and their lives refreshed and renewed. They all ate and were satisfied. They lacked nothing, for Christ gave them what they needed to survive. The word of Christ had filled their ears and strengthened their souls; and the bread that He gave them had filled their mouths and strengthened their bodies.
In this Gospel we see a picture of what Christ does for his Church in the Word and Sacrament. Like those people who followed Christ out into the wilderness, we too are a pitiful sight. Our struggle with sin and temptation has made us hungry for the forgiveness of sins. We come to this place each week burdened by sin and guilt, and weary from the battle.
Christ looks at His congregation and his gut is wrenched by the sight. He has compassion on you, for he knows what you must suffer for his sake. He knows that you are weak. He sees how you struggle against your sin, often times unsuccessfully. He sees families broken apart by pride and self-love. It pains him to see what sin and death has done to you
In his mercy, in his compassion, he feeds you. He gives you the very bread of life itself—His own flesh and blood, given and shed on the cross for your sins. In the Divine Service you hear His word, and then you feast on him in the holy Sacrament. The Church is like an oasis in the midst of a desolate land. Through these holy gifts Christ forgives your sins, and satisfies your hunger and thirst for righteousness.
He removes your weariness, and renews your spirit. And then he sends you back to your homes, strengthened and nourished for the work that you must do. In the Church Christ gives to us and we receive. And in our daily lives he gives us to our neighbor, and our neighbor to us. He gives you husbands to your wives and says: love and cherish them. He gives you wives to your husbands and says: respect and honor them.
He gives fathers and mothers to children and says: provide for them and instruct them in my word. He gives children to parents and says: obey them. If not for this weekly refreshment, Christ knows that you would grow weary on the way. He knows that you might faint from your struggles, that you might be tempted to give up hope, and try to fill the hole in your hearts with things that are not good for you.
But he desires that you would be filled and satisfied with him. The satisfaction that we get from earthly things is passing. It is immediate, but it quickly passes away. It cannot truly satisfy the hunger and longing of our souls for God. This is the bread that you may eat and never go hungry. Eat and be satisfied! Be renewed and strengthened in your faith toward God and in your love towards your neighbor! Depart this place in the joy and confidence of sins forgiven and new life with Christ.
There are many things you could be doing this morning. You could be sleeping, you could have just said, “You know, today seems like a good day to just relax.” I would venture to say that many people are saying that very thing this morning. You could have said, “I have got to finish this project!” Instead, you have chosen the one thing needful. You put up with the minor discomfort and inconvenience of getting out of bed, so that you might receive heavenly and spiritual blessings. Your faith has saved you. Amen.