Sunday, March 6, 2016

Your Lord Provides for You in Body and Soul

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 6, 2016
You should try this. Get out a pen and paper and write down the things you want. It doesn’t have to be a long list. Just write down things you want, whether you have them or not. Then make a list of the things you need. This might be a little harder. Of course, everyone needs food and water and shelter. So think along the lines of what you need for your day-to-day living. For your home, your work, and other things you’re involved in.

Now take a look at the things on your list and imagine they were all taken away. What would you do? What would you pray to God for? Or would you wonder if it were even worth it to pray to Him? If you have nothing left, is God even still with you?

It’s hard to imagine this because usually people don’t lose everything. But it’s worth thinking about because if you believe God is the true God then you need to believe it no matter what. What this means is that all the things you don’t have and all the things that you lose still do not throw you into doubt of God’s faithfulness to you. If God loves you then He loves you whether you’re in need or in plenty.

If we’re honest, we usually think of God’s faithfulness to us as His blessing us with those things that are on our lists of what we want and need. If He gives those things to us then He is our God. If things are going well for us then He is blessing us and He is doing what He as God is supposed to do.

That’s what the people in the Gospel reading thought. They weren’t dumb. They saw that Jesus was providing miraculously and they thought, This is what we want. This is what we need. So they followed Him. They were looking for more.

Did Jesus get frustrated with them for seeking the things of this world? No, He gave them to them. He fed them. After listening to Him He didn’t say, That’s all you need. You don’t need the things of this world, only the spiritual and eternal things. He knew they needed food. He provided for them in what they needed.

When Satan had tempted Jesus to provide for Himself bread, Jesus quoted the Scriptures, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the very Word of God. The simple truth is, Jesus ate food. He needed sleep. He made use of shelter. He wore clothing and took care of His temporal needs. Just because our ultimate needs are met with the Word of God doesn’t mean we should ignore our needs of this life. Just because we live by the very Word of God doesn’t mean we live only by the Word of God. We are given many blessings of this life by God, as Jesus shows in the Gospel reading.

But actually, even the temporal and physical things God gives us are by His Word. It was by speaking that God brought all things into existence. Him blessing us with the eternal things we need and the temporal things we need are not either/or, they’re both/and. God blesses us in body and soul. There’s a reason Jesus gave us the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Give us this day our daily bread. And of course that is followed by the next petition, And forgive us our trespasses.

All this sounds simple enough, but it’s not that simple played out in real life, is it? God provides for us and wants to bless us but sometimes we’re in need. Sometimes things we need are taken away. Sometimes we’re caught up in the things we want, even seeing them as things we need. How is it that God blesses us and provides for us when we’re in need?

There’s a one-word answer, and it sounds trite. But it’s true. It’s absolutely the one thing we need no matter what happens to us, no matter what we have or don’t have. It’s the basic Sunday School answer: Jesus. Our Lord shows He is the answer to all that we need when He shows us that what He gives to us is Himself.

When John tells us that Jesus was about to do something that He knew He was going to bring about miraculously, he could have just told us that Jesus fed thousands of people with a few loaves and two fish. But inspired by the Holy Spirit, John connects this with what Jesus was yet to do; and a far more miraculous blessing He would bring about.

John says that Jesus fed these people when the Passover was near. On its own, this detail might not be anything more than a time marker. But we know what Jesus did at the Passover on the night in which He was betrayed. He took bread and broke it, and giving thanks, He gave it to His disciples and said, Take eat, this is My body, given for you.

John likes to call Jesus’ miraculous actions signs. They are actions that point to something greater. It’s hard to imagine something greater than Jesus feeding thousands of people with a little bread and fish. But we know Jesus did the greatest thing of all, He fed the world with Himself. He says later on in John 6, My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink. Jesus Himself is the true food for the life of the world.

When Jesus was feeding the masses in our Gospel reading He alone knew that He would be giving thanks at a later Passover in which the bread and wine given would be His very own body and blood. This is why He escaped the crowd when they wanted to seize Him to make Him their king. The only king He would be was the one who would lay down His life for the sin of the world.

If you make a list of things you need and things you want and then you see that your life doesn’t match up with those things, know that you don’t need to take Jesus by force as the people in the Gospel reading tried to do. You don’t need to try to make Him your King, He already is. He already gives you everything you need. You know this because He gives you Himself. He provides you in body and soul because here in this Meal you have something even greater than the meal He provided in feeding thousands of people with bread and fish. Here in this meal He gives you Himself, His body and His blood, given and shed for you for your forgiveness. No matter what you are going through or what you need, He gives you everything you need by giving you Himself.

When you know that He feeds you often with Himself for the forgiveness of your sins then you can see how He blesses you in so many ways. He gives you people in your life who help you in your need. He gives you things like food and shelter and money and other material blessings for your basic needs. If you are ever lacking in even basic things, instead of wondering if God is providing for you or not, know that He works even through trials you go through to bless you and strengthen you. If you limit your requests to God of the temporal things you need you are missing out on the amazing array of blessings He wants to give you.

Oftentimes it’s when we’re in need that we see how much we really need God. Oftentimes it’s when we have what we want that we think we don’t need Him as much as we ought to. The world and our sinful nature, not to mention Satan, would like us to think that if we’re in need then God must be holding out on us. How can He possibly make us believe He is providing for us if we are in need? That’s why we must rely on the Word of God rather than listening to Satan and the voice of our sinful nature and the voice of the world. We must stand fast on what God tells us despite what things seem.

If God has delivered over His very own Son, how much more will He give us all things? If Jesus trusted His Heavenly Father when He was being forsaken by His very own Father, how much more can we see that our Heavenly Father loves us so much to save us by His love for us in His Son?

He will provide. He will give you what you need. He will keep you in body and soul to life eternal. He will keep giving you His Son in and with bread and wine in a meal that is far greater than any miracle, far greater in blessing than anything you could ever put on a list of things you need in this life.

You see, when you get Christ, you get it all. Amen.


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