The Bread of Heaven

Concerning the crowds that have been following Him, our Lord says to His disciples, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” His disciples pick up on what He is suggesting and say to Him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” The crowd was large; 4,000 men plus women and children, Mark tells us. That’s a lot of bread.

You know the story: Jesus feeds them with seven loaves of bread and few small fish. It’s a miracle! They eat and are satisfied. There is even seven baskets full left over. The Lord provides, and He provides in abundance.

But wouldn’t it have been smarter simply to stay in town and teach in the synagogue or in the marketplace? Then the crowds could have gone home and eaten. There’d be no undue stress on the disciples. Then there wouldn’t be the panic that most assuredly arose among many as the children began to cry for bread; as mothers began to look sideways at their husbands who were following this Rabbi into the wilderness. The staples of life weren’t available. Hunger was happening.

And hunger drives men crazy. Hunger causes men kill other men. Hunger makes honest men steal and honorable men rob and lie. Hunger makes men leave families and children steal from parents. Hunger is a powerful force. So the wicked dictators of men suppress the people by controlling the bread. A hungry man will follow almost anyone and do anything to feed himself and his family.

It was hunger that drove this multitude to follow Jesus. Not hunger of the body but of the soul. They were hungry for what He was preaching and doing. He was preaching good news to the poor. With His words of life and mercy He was comforting those whose sin was on their sleeve; the tax-collectors and prostitutes, as well as the unwed mothers and the divorcees and the abandoned children, the alcoholics and wife-beaters; the thieves and liars. He was preaching peace between sinful man and the holy God. He was healing the sick and giving the blind their sight. He was curing leprosy and making the lame to walk. He was casting out demons and even raising the dead. He was establishing the kingdom of heaven. He was doing all things well. And they hungered for it. Like a deer panting for thirst, their souls longed for the goodness of the Master.

So they followed Him even to desolate places where there was no food for the stomach. He was giving bread that was not for the body but for the soul. He was feeding them the Bread of Heaven, the Word of Life. He was giving to them His flesh to eat. For His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink. And they were feasting on Him. The were feasting on Him because He is the good news preached to the poor. He is the healing of all our diseases. He is life in our death. He is peace with our God. He is our God. In Him there is joy forevermore. Whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood has life in them, for the food He gives for the life of the world is His flesh. The crowds were keeping festival, feeding on the bread that comes down from heaven.

Here you are, a multitude keeping festival. A crowd that is following the Master, Jesus. You have not come from very far away, certainly not three days into the wilderness to hear Him, but you have come. And you are in the wilderness. This world is a wilderness, devoid of true life or of food that gives life. The food of this world satisfies only for a few hours, a day at most, and only the body. But it is soon expelled and gone. But the food that the Lord gives is everlasting and changes the eater into a living being. It is true food and true drink that satisfies the hungry heart. Blessed are those that hunger and thirst, they shall be satisfied.

So you come, fasting from the bread of this world to feed on the Bread of Heaven. I don’t know if you’ve fasted today in preparation for the Lord’s Supper, but I do know that even if you had breakfast, you are fasting now. Here you are not eating the bread that spoils. Here you are not engaged in the things of this world. You are not here grocery shopping or planning your next meal or worrying about what you will eat or or what you will put on. Here you are not concerned with the things of this world, things that unbelievers and pagans chase after. Here you are fasting from the world and feeding on the Bread of Heaven, the Word of Life.

So you have come to feast. And you are satisfied. For Christ’s sake your sins are forgiven. For Christ’s sake the wrath of God is not upon you, but His blessing and benediction. For Christ’s sake your body is redeemed and your grave is only a resting place. For Christ’s sake your diseases will succumb to their own death and you will live.

And the Lord has compassion on you because you need also your daily bread. He provides, and in abundance. Your refrigerators and cupboards may not all be equal, but neither are any of us starving. Our bank accounts may be empty, even overdrawn, but neither are any of us homeless or naked. Yes, there are hungry, homeless people in this world. Maybe even in this small town of ours. But not you. The Lord provides. And He provides for them, too. He sends you to feed and care for them, to have compassion on them, just as He had compassion on the multitude. How will you feed the hungry or house the homeless or clothe the naked? By your prayers, by your alms, and by your fasting.

For when you pray you pray for daily bread, not only your own but for all people. And when you give alms – when you give your tithes and offerings – you are giving it to feed the hungry and care for the forgotten. And when you fast you are preparing to feast on Jesus, to hear His word of life, and to give your bread to those who cannot feed themselves. In this way you become to the world the Body of Christ. And the world feeds on you and hears you preach good news to the poor and sees you bind up the brokenhearted and comfort the comfortless. All with the Bread of Heaven, the Word of Life.

Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you. Amen.