If you are having trouble reading this, click here: Sermon for Sunday Before Advent, Nov 20, 2016
  Reverend Robert T. Tufton, rector, Holy Spirit Anglican Church  

Sunday Before Advent
Nov. 20, 2016
Robert T. Tufton

And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” - John 6:5-14

Our Lord’s feeding the 5,000 is one of the most preached passages from John’s gospel.

I am sure you have heard many sermons about it.

What you may not know is that this is the ONLY miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all 4 gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There are other miracles that are repeated in 2 or 3 of the gospels, but this is the only one that is found in all 4. The very fact that all four gospel authors believed that this miracle was important enough to include in their writings should tell us that something happened that demands our attention.

There are some important things in this story that offer us insight into how God works in our lives. In John’s account of the feeding of the 5,000, he said that what the Lord provided for the people was sufficient for their needs: that they ate "as much as they would;" and "they were filled." The Gospel according to Saint Mark makes the same point regarding the feeding of the multitude: "So they did eat, and were filled."

The lesson is that God's grace was sufficient for their needs.

In a long discourse which follows today's Gospel reading, Jesus continued His message of the sufficiency of God's grace, in these words: "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you." Then He went on to say, "The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world."

Those who were listening responded, "Lord, give us this bread always."

And Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." (John 6:27, 33-35)

These scriptures, including the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, where the people ate and were satisfied, all point us to the Holy Communion.

The multiplication of the loaves and the fishes is a symbol of the Eucharistic multiplication of the Bread of Life that Jesus came to offer.

All His other miracles were temporary signs that brought relief in special situations, and they represented healings of the soul. For example….

* The blind that received their sight represented those who are blind in the spirit and need to open their eyes to see God’s ways.
* The lepers who were healed represented the souls wounded by sin and who need God’s healing.
* The mute who were able to speak represented those who don’t speak with God and need the spirit in order to praise God.
* The paralytic and the lame that were able to walk represent those who can not walk well for lack of faith and who need spiritual health.
* The deaf who were able to hear represented those who have not been able to understand God’s word, but who listen finally to His message through the action of Holy Spirit.
* Those who were dead and brought to life represented the transformation of the soul who is dead because of sin, but which is brought to life again after a conversion.

The multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, however, was different. It represented the great promised banquet, the new manna which came down from heaven and is the new food for the people of God.

This miracle was a preparation for the greatest miracle that Jesus performed at the Last Supper, in which He consecrated the bread as His body, and the wine as His blood. All the miracles prior to the Last Supper had fulfilled their purpose in preparing people. But in the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the living bread became a continuous miracle that represents our Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross.

It is food for the soul intended to feed believers until Jesus returns for us at the end of time.

It is simply this: Jesus offers himself to us as food, and that by receiving him in this way we attain a communion with Him and through Him with God the Father that amounts to eternal life.

In John 6:54 Jesus said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

In verse 56 Jesus said, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” Jesus performed His miracle with the loaves and the fishes precisely to teach those who would follow Him that He would be with them in the Eucharist until His coming again. And, that teaching is important for us because we do in fact make the Eucharist (the Holy Communion the principle act of our Sunday Service. All the other worshipful things we do – confessing our sins, receiving assurance of forgiveness, reading the Bible, this sermon, confessing our faith, making our prayers of petition and thanksgiving, and singing hymns – ALL of it leads toward our communion with the Lord at His Holy Table. This passage – is about salvation and a believer’s fellowship with God in Christ.

If you think about it, you will realize that the Communion service is a series of sacrifices. The word "sacrifice" means "to make holy" "to set apart -- set aside -- differentiate." Anything we give to God is, in that sense, a sacrifice. On Sundays we give a number of things to God. We put them on the altar both literally and figuratively, and then He gives them back to us changed and perfected and purified. We join our sacrifices to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

We offer Him prayers, and He gives them back answered. We offer Him our sins, and He forgives them. We offer Him the elements of bread and wine, and He gives it back to us as His Body and Blood. We offer God ourselves, our souls and bodies, and He gives them back purified and filled with His own eternal life. When the question was asked, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat”, Jesus did not answer it. Instead, He repeated the necessity to - eat His flesh and drink His blood. He insisted in the bluntest terms that His flesh was true food and His blood was true drink. But never did he answer the question “How can this be?” But in that first Eucharist, Jesus took the unleavened bread of the Passover and said, “Take; eat. This is my body, which is given for you.” And when he took the cup he said, “… this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.

When He spoke those words, His disciples must have remembered the teaching He had given them a year earlier about Himself being the Bread of Heaven.

And, so they took and ate; they took and drank. They fed upon the “True Bread of Heaven which the Father gives” (John 6:32). They ate and drank “the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man …” gave them. They might not have understood in all its details how it could be true, but the disciples believed the One who taught them.

It was days later, when the disciples sat down with Jesus on the road to Emmaus that Jesus opened the Scriptures to them concerning the Messiah. And Luke said they finally recognized Him in the Breaking of Bread.

And many years later, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that, when they properly ate and drank the elements of the Lord’s Table, they discern in them the Lord’s body (1 Cor. 11:27ff).

The cup of blessing which we bless,” Paul wrote to them, “is it not the communion of the blood of Christ”? “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (2 Cor. 10:16).

And, today, here at Holy Spirit, my prayer is that you will find at Altar Rail a True Communion with our Lord, brought about in the way in which He taught His disciples and teaches us in the Gospel of John. God grant that we too may find a communion in the blood of Christ in the cup; and a communion in the body of Christ in the bread.

God grant that in this communion with Christ we may truly experience those things which He has promised us: that we are assured of His favor and goodness toward us, and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical Body of God’s Son, the blessed company of all faithful people, and heirs through hope of His everlasting kingdom.

Come, I invite you, eat of this food that has been sent from heaven, it fills the soul, it nourishes the spirit and purifies it of sin by giving it eternal life.

Robin Goodfellow Web Designs