Sermon: Jesus Provides A Banquet

I invite you to open your Bibles with me to the gospel of Luke. Luke 9, beginning in verse 1. Luke is in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Luke 9, beginning in verse 1.

This Lent, we are joining Jesus around the table. We have been exploring the meals of Jesus in the gospel of Luke – places of hospitality and of mission. We have done so in order to be shaped ourselves for both hospitality and mission. Because around the table was where Jesus taught, rebuked, forgave, healed, and provided. Around the table, Jesus showed who he is and what he came to do. So we join Jesus around the table.

Luke 9, beginning in verse 1. But before we hear God’s word, please take a moment to pray with me:

Father, may your Word be our rule, your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

If you are able, I invite you to stand as we hear God’s word.

Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God.

1When Jesus had called the Twelve together,

he gave them power and authority

to drive out all demons

and to cure diseases,

2and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God

and to heal the sick.

3He told them,

“Take nothing for the journey –

no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.

4Whatever house you enter,

stay there until you leave that town.

5If people do not welcome you,

leave their town

and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

6So they set out and went from village to village,

proclaiming the good news

and healing people everywhere.

7Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on.

And he was perplexed because

some were saying that John had been raised from the dead,

8others that Elijah had appeared,

and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life.

9But Herod said, “I beheaded John.

Who, then, is this I hear such things about?”

And he tried to see him.

10When the apostles returned,

they reported to Jesus what they had done.

Then he took them with him

and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida,

11but the crowds learned about this and followed him.

He welcomed them

and spoke to them about the kingdom of God

and healed those who needed healing.

12Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said,

“Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside

and find food and lodging,

because we are in a remote place here.”

13He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish –

unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”

14(About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples,

“Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.”

15The disciples did so, and everyone sat down.

16Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven,

he gave thanks and broke them.

Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people.

17They all ate and were satisfied

and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. (You may be seated).

This morning, I want us to imagine ourselves in the place of the disciples in this story.

You heard Jesus call your name. You left your job, left your family, left your life in order to follow him and be as close to Jesus as possible. You saw him turn water into wine, filling a wedding with joy. You saw him heal a man born lame, a man born blind, a woman bound and bent and a woman bleeding. Your eyes were fixed on him as he raised a dead child to life. You watched as he spoke a word and demons fled, leaving the bodies of those they had long imprisoned.

You heard him proclaim blessings on the poor in spirit, the meek, and the mourners as he sat on a mountainside. You listened as he spoke parables of seeds and soil, of debts and debtors, of treasures and pearls as he spoke of the kingdom of God. You saw raptured as he debated Pharisees and teachers, rebuking their rigid inhospitality, while Jesus welcomed sinners around the table and forgave them.

You watched, you listened, you learned. You drank deep of Jesus’ gracious teaching, humble presence, and loving actions. And then, one day, he calls you and the other disciples together. He tells you that the power and authority he has to drive out demons and heal the sick, he is giving to you. He tells you to go and proclaim the kingdom of God and heal the sick. He tells you to go as you are, not to spend time preparing, but trust that God will provide for you. He tells you to expect that some people won’t welcome you and that you should then move on to the next town.

After watching and listening as Jesus worked, he invites you to join him in ministry. I wonder what the disciples felt when Jesus gave them power and authority. I wonder what they felt when Jesus told them to go proclaim the good news and heal the sick. I wonder if you know that Jesus has called you too.

You head out from village to village, sharing the good news that God’s kingdom has come near and healing people everywhere. As you go, you begin to hear rumblings. Who is this Jesus? Who is this who forgives sins, who heals the sick, raises the dead, and teaches with such authority? Who is this so clearly filled with the Spirit of God?

You hear some people suggest that Jesus is John the Baptist, who was beheaded by Herod the tetrarch, raised from the dead. You hear others suggest that Jesus is Elijah the prophet, who was taken up to heaven and promised to appear as a forerunner of God’s messiah. You hear others suggest that Jesus is one of the other prophets of old come back to life. Even Herod himself has begun to wonder. Everyone agrees he is a prophet, a man of God, but who is he? Who is Jesus?

You return to Jesus from your mission from village to village. You report to him all that has happened. Jesus gathers you and your fellow disciples and takes you to a remote place to rest by yourselves. But the people of the region learn where you are going and crowds of them follow Jesus to the outskirts of the Bethsaida where you are staying. So much for peace and quiet.

Jesus simply welcomes them. He speaks gently and hopefully to them about the kingdom of God and heals the sick who come to him.

I wonder what the disciples were thinking as Jesus welcomed these strangers and healed them. 

As the day wears on, you begin to notice a problem. There are around 5000 men, plus women and children, gathered in this deserted area to see and hear Jesus. If nothing is done soon, these people will go hungry and sleep all night on the hard ground. You and the other disciples get together and come to Jesus.

“Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside

and find food and lodging,

because we are in a remote place here.”

Let the people go and find their own food. We don’t want them to go hungry, but there is no way we can provide for them, you think. This is the practical solution with such a great need and your limited resources. But Jesus says,

“You give them something to eat.”

With what? You have only five loaves and two fish, not even enough to feed the twelve of you, let alone 5000 people. There is not enough.

“We have only five loaves of bread and two fish –

unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”

You offer to go and buy food for the people, but you know the cost would be through the roof. This is not practical, not financial responsible, not logistically feasible, it is simply not possible, Jesus. We cannot do it.

I wonder what the disciples felt when Jesus told them to feed the people. I wonder if they felt overwhelmed by what Jesus asked of them. I wonder if they felt too weak or too small to follow Jesus.

Jesus tells you to have the people sit down in groups of about fifty. Not sure what he is planning, you obey and everyone sits down. Jesus sits down as the host of this large banquet with such little food. Jesus takes the five loaves of bread and the two fish. He takes your meager meals and looks up toward heaven. He gives thanks to God for bread and fish, for these simple ingredients given from the hand of God to sustain the weary.

Then Jesus breaks them. He gives you these broken pieces and you start walking to the groups and sharing it with the people. You bring a few handfuls of bread and fish to the first group and come back. Jesus gives you more and you make a second trip. A third. A fourth. You then notices that something is happening. The more Jesus breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples, the more there seems to be. Again and again he breaks the bread and again and again there is more to go around. You soon lose count of how many trips you have made, how many groups you have visited, when you notice people are smiling and patting their stomachs.

They have not just eaten, but have been satisfied. They ate not just a snack, but ate until they were full. You and the rest of the disciples begin to collect what is left and each come back with a basketful of leftovers.

You turn and look at Jesus, who has provided a feast for 5000 from just five loaves and two fish. I wonder what the disciples felt as they made trip after trip to feed the hungry crowd. I wonder how they felt when they realized they were in the middle of a miracle. I wonder how they felt to know that Jesus provided food enough for them too.

As you look at Jesus sitting like a host at a banquet, surrounding by such a great multitude of joyous and satisfied people, the words of the prophet Isaiah arise in your heart:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

And he will swallow up on this mountain

the covering that is cast over all peoples,

the veil that is spread over all nations.

He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the Lord has spoken.

It will be said on that day,

“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

This is the Lord; we have waited for him;

let us be glad and rejoice in this salvation. (Isaiah 25:6-9)

Isaiah spoke of a wonderful banquet that will take place at the coming of the Lord and his Messiah. As you take in the scene before you, you realize you have gotten a glimpse of the kingdom of God, a taste of that great banquet – right here and right now. Jesus doesn’t just provide a morsel for this people, but a feast. Isaiah’s words come unbidden to your mind again:

Come, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

and he who has no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Suddenly, those questions you heard in the villages comes sharply into focus. Who is this Jesus? Is this John back from the dead? No, Jesus is so much greater and more wonderful than John. Is this Elijah come at last? No, this is greater than Elijah, greater than all the prophets. This Jesus is the Lord who provides food for the hungry, who sustains his people. Jesus is the God they have waited for, the one who promised salvation. He is the great host of the heavenly banquet, the Lord who will swallow up death forever.

Who is Jesus? You see his face and know, this is the Messiah, the beloved of God.

As you gather the left overs, you look down in your basket and realize there is more in that one basket than the five loaves and two fish you began with. You look around and see your friends standing stunned with their baskets in hand as well. There is more at the end than at the beginning. The more Jesus broke and gave, the more there was. He multiplied the gifts of god for the people by breaking and giving.

A few days later, Jesus will begin to head with you to Jerusalem. Toward the end of that journey, you will sit around a table with him again. You will watch him take bread and turn his eyes toward heaven. You will watch him give thanks, break bread, and give it to you. In simple words, he will show you that it is not just bread that is broken that multiples grace and the provision of God. It is Jesus himself, who will break and be given, that all who hunger and thirst for the kingdom of God might be satisfied.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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