27 Mar 2022
The Gospel. St. John vi. 1.
Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 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 of 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. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
Do we recognize the signposts God has placed along life’s way? Do we know what God is showing us and what it means for us? In the Gospel today, we look both into the past and into a future time to see how God has built the pathway of our salvation.
When St. John wrote about the feeding of the five thousand in his Gospel, it had a special significance for him. This miracle, where Jesus fed five thousand people in the wilderness with a meal that started out as five loaves and two fish, reminded him of the feeding of Israel with manna. It reminded him of the Passover meal, where God's people fed on a sacrificed lamb. And it reminded him of the meal that he and all Christians ate as their main act of worship and fellowship - the Lord's Supper.
When we hear this story of the feeding in the middle of Lent, it reminds us of how, when we go on a journey of prayer and penitence, He feeds us. A time of straightening out our lives becomes a time of blessing and feeding as well. It should remind us too of the Lord's Supper, the Holy Communion or Eucharist that we share. Holy Communion is a time when God feeds us in the middle of life's journey. It is a time of refreshment for our spirits, giving us nourishment and strength to move forward.
How is Holy Communion like the feeding of the five thousand? When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, he showed that God can make complete that which seems not nearly enough to us.
Remember, Jesus had asked Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat." The Gospel tells us that Jesus knew what He would do ahead of time. Doesn’t God do that in our lives as well? Testing us and granting us opportunities to rise above ourselves? Many of us approach Holy Communion with that same sense of ‘What can God do to make me better? How can He take what I am and make me more like what He wants me to be?’
We should regularly give our confession to God. It’s the most important thing we should do in our lives. We should all confess the poor condition we have brought our lives to. We should admit that we do not have what it takes to do what God wants from us. We all fall short – but we should know that what we need He will supply. On our own we have only a few loaves and fish worth of righteousness, but by his death on the Cross Jesus gave us an abundant banquet. God provides. We are to receive, to welcome what He will give us and always, always express our thankfulness.
Whatever needs to be changed, whatever has gone wrong for us, God gives us the strength and the direction for our journey this holy Lenten season and always.
Source: A Sermon on the Gospel by Dr. David Smith
preached on the Fourth Sunday in Lent at St. George's Anglican Church,
Prince Albert Saskatchewan, March 6, 2005.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins