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Divine Possibilities

Matthew 14:13-21

Rev. Alan Taylor

Pentecost 7, Proper 13, series A
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

View Associated File

Sun, Jul 31, 2011 

"Divine Possibilities"

Matthew 14:13-21

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Jesus knew what He planned to do, but the disciples couldn't envision such a miracle, blind as they were to Divine Possibilities.  Their reluctance to believe wasn't because they hadn't seen Jesus work miracles before.  No, in fact, by this time, they had seen Him restore sight to the blind, heal the lame, cast out demons, calm the seas and raise the dead. 

They simply weren't open to Divine Possibilities.  All they could see was the problem presented by 5,000 hungry people set against their meager resources.  Perhaps it's in our moments of self-righteous indignation and judgment that we wonder about the disciple's lack of faith.  "Why didn't they understand that Jesus would provide what was needed!?" "Why didn't they accept the fact that Jesus could work miracles and then simply believe that He was going to work a miracle again?" Sometimes we assume that, had we been there, had we seen Jesus work miracles, we would have trusted that He would provide yet again.

At other times though, we understand the disciple's reluctance to believe in the power and the provision of God, better than we should, I should think.  Maybe it's when we are hashing out the church budget, or, when we are making decisions about what we can do to serve the people of our community through this little ministry at St. John's.  Or, maybe it's when we are trying to make ends meet in the household budget, or, when we are called upon t lean heavily on the faith that God has given us.  Then we simply acknowledge that the disciples were sensible and level headed.  They were realists, bottom line type people.  After-all, there were only twelve of them and there were five thousand people scattered out across the hillside that day who needed to be fed.  And that was counting just the men!  The odds against the disciples being able to feed the multitudes were overwhelming.  Even if they pooled their resources they could only come up with five loaves of bread and two fish. 

So, Jesus took what they had, the five loaves of bread and two fish, He gave thanks to His Father, and, moved by compassion for the people, He fed every last one of those people who had gathered on the hillside that day.  And at the end of the meal there was food leftover.  In fact, there was more leftover than they had to start with.  It was a miracle of epic proportions, one for the disciples to tuck away in their hearts and minds, that when needs arose again, they would say to one another, "do you remember when we had all those people to feed and we only had five loaves of bread and two fish, how Jesus blessed us with His power and grace?"

Let me ask you, what do you suppose Jesus expects us to gather from this miracle of the feeding of the five thousand?  Certainly, we learn from the miracle that Jesus is God and that He has power over all things, even the forces of nature, and that "with Him all things are possible."  Sometimes our hopes and dreams are too small because we fail to consider the "Divine Possibilities."  We are people of the living God, whose power is unmatched and whose mercy and compassion are boundless.  And He really does care about every aspect of our lives.  The people out in the wilderness that day were not likely to starve to death by missing the evening meal.  And yet, Jesus saw to their needs both of body and soul.  The miracle then really takes us back to our confession regarding the first article of the apostle's creed, what it means to say "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth." 

"God has created me and all that exists; he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil.  All this he does out of his pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part.  For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him.  This is most certainly true."

On the other hand, Divine Possibilities do not give us license to put God to the test.  Some, I fear, take this miracle, or, any miracle for that matter, as a stamp of God's approval for their own ill conceived plans and self-motivated schemes.  A TV preacher sent out the call to gather $1,000,000 per day for seven days and then put the burden squarely on the shoulders of the almighty God, invoking the Biblical truth that "with God all things are possible."  In a similar fashion, incredibly, one of the four men who assassinated Anwar Sadat back in 1981 said in an interview, "We knew it would be difficult to pull off, but we believed in what we were doing, and 'with God all things are possible.'"

We are to resist every temptation to list our material and emotional desires and demands for happiness and wholeness and then believe that God will respond accordingly because "with Him all things are possible."  No wonder we are so often disappointed and even disillusioned in matters of faith when we don't get what we want!  Frankly, most of what we want and think we need is impossible for God to give us because He knows better than we do what we need for happiness and wholeness and for the sake of our faith.

Another thing that shouldn't be missed about this miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is that Jesus chose the disciples to do the work of feeding the people.  It stands to reason that if He could multiply the bread and fish in such a miraculous fashion, He could also distribute it in a miraculous fashion.  But, He didn't.  The point being, God often employs us as instruments to dispense His grace.  The parallel with the Lord's Supper is obvious.  Jesus takes bread, He blesses it, and the disciples distribute it.  Just as God provides us with bread for our stomachs, so He gives us heavenly bread for our souls.  We come to His table as people wandering in a wilderness, lips parched by the relentless accusation imposed by our sin.  We eat and we are satisfied, our sins washed away in the crimson flow of our Lord's blood. 

Divine Possibilities are finally what draw us here week after week to receive what God, in Christ, so desires to give us, for none of us can, "by our own reason or strength believe in Christ, our Lord, or come to Him, but, the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified and kept us in the one true faith."

Each one of us here this morning is a walking miracle, a "Divine Possibility."  By God's grace we have come to desire what only He can give.  And by His grace we have been put into service to distribute what only He can give, namely, life and salvation in the blessed name of Jesus.  We look out at the world, even this little community of Galveston, and we are overwhelmed by the task at hand.  Far too many people are hungry, not just for bread, but, for the food that will feed their souls for eternity.  Our resources are limited, and yet, as Jesus said to His disciples, so He says to us, "you give them something to eat."

I think of days before when this was a large, vibrant church.  In the 1960's there were hundreds of people who worshiped here on any given Sunday morning.  Like the disciples, were inclined to think of our past and to discount the fact that such miracles could happen again.  Friends, "with God all things are possible."  "You give them something to eat." 

"All glory to the One

Who lavishes such love;

The Triune God in love

Assures our life above.

His means of grace for us

Are gifts He loves to give;

All thanks and praise for His

Great love by which we live!"

In Jesus' name.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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