His disciples answered Him, “How can someone satisfy them with bread here in the desert?”
INI + AMEN.
You either have ears on Jesus or eyes on what’s going on around you. Your faith is either in what your ears are hearing from Jesus, or your trust is in what your eyes are seeing around you. There’s no in between. There’s either trust or doubt, faith or unfaith, ears on Jesus or not.
Another way to put it is you can be where Jesus is at, or you can be off somewhere else. You could live your life in your baptism or reject it. The baptized life is living captivated by His promises and infatuated with selflessly loving everyone around you. The other option is to do your own thing: Giving the Lord your last bit of time or no time—He’ll understand, right?—and loving only those you love, only those you like, only those you think are actually lovable. Unbelievers do that.
((2. We live life looking at what’s going on around us.))
The disciples in our text were right there with Jesus, may have been for a long time now. But their ears weren’t listening to Him. They were actually deaf to what He was saying because their eyes were on the 4,000 people, on the sand. All they could see were those seven loaves and a few little fish. “What are they for so many?”
The disciples are panicked. They’re freaking out. “How can someone satisfy them with bread here in a desert?” As if Jesus is crazy for wanting to feed this crowd. With their eyes on their situation and their ears off of Jesus, they actually forget what Jesus had already done for them. They forget He’d already fed the 5,000! But with hearts turned from Jesus, all they can see is their trouble, and their own calculation for how to get out of it.
You and me, too. Our hearts turn away from the Lord. We are disciples, just like they were. We are baptized into Christ. To be a disciple is to be baptized. It’s how disciples are made. “Make disciples by baptizing,” Jesus says. He calls us to receive from Him, to hear Him.
But when we pile up so much stuff to do, things to have, when there’s another argument, another empty bottle, a dip in prices, a drought, a flood, well, we’re just locked in on that. We’re deaf to what Jesus wants to tell us. We forget what He’s done for us. Our hearts turn away from Him. We calculate how to fix our own problems, or at least ignore them. Finally, we panic, we worry, we doubt Jesus can do anything to save us.
((1. The Lord comes to put our ears and eyes on Him.))
So, what’s the Lord to do with such a sorry lot of disciples? He should probably’ve let them starve. That’s what we’d do. Not Jesus. In fact, He doesn’t even wait for the crowd or His disciples to get their acts together. He gets their acts together for them. He acts. He saves. “I have compassion,” He says. “He announces to the crowd, ‘Sit down on the ground.’”
That’s the Lord’s way. He takes charge. He comes. No one would’ve asked Him to. Without Him coming to them, Adam and Eve would’ve hid till they died after they ate the tree the Lord Jesus told them not to. (Talk about ears off of Jesus and eyes on something else!) So also, He comes to the earth. He comes to preach and teach about what He came to do—die and rise for the sins of the whole world.
That’s why the crowd was with Him. All their ears were fixed to every Word, every promise of sins forgiven, every Gospel of His being a ransom for many, every declaration of peace that their sins would not be counted against them. They were captivated with Him.
The disciples are just pressed into service. Bread into their hands feeding thousands of Gentiles who probably followed Him back to Galilee from the Decapolis. As Gentiles they’re people the disciples couldn’t possible love as devout Jews. But here the Lord just does it. “Take this, and give it to the people. Here’s some fish, too.”
You and I, too. Jesus just ransoms us. He calls us to Himself. Presses us into His service for those around us, for the people we like, especially for the people we don’t. He presses us into service. “Created in Christ Jesus for good works prepared before hand for us to walk in them.” He’s saved us from our sins. Died and risen. He will save us from the troubles of this life. Even though we die, He will raise us from the dead. He just has to, and He will.
He’s good at that sort of thing. He’s good at bringing life into the midst of death, healing into the midst of sickness, forgiveness into the midst of sin, and abundant food in the midst of the desert. That’s the sort of God Jesus is. He comes back to life from the dead. He forgives you. He preaches to you. He brings bible study for you. His body and blood, too. Life—His life—delivered to you.
In all these ways, He turns your ears to Him so that your heart would be His. “I have compassion,” He says. He feels for you. He loves you. And when your ears are on Him, well, there’s no desert wherever Jesus is.
You can either have ears on Jesus or eyes on what’s going on around you. Your faith is either in what your ears are hearing from Jesus, or your trust is in what your eyes are seeing around you. The baptized life is living captivated by His promises and infatuated with selflessly loving everyone around you. Or you can just do your own thing.
There’s no desert wherever Jesus is, and there’s only desert where He isn’t. But how do you know He’s there? You can’t see Him in your sins—though He can see you. You can’t see Him in your trouble—though He sees it and you. You only have Him where you hear Him. Ears not eyes, and only when your ears have heard Him can you trust what He says to you.
“I have compassion.” So He does. And no sin, no trouble, no false way of coping with your sins or troubles will do for Jesus. He takes charge. He comes. He acts. He saves. He dies and rises. He preaches into your ears, body and blood into your mouth. And faith comes about by those Words and Gifts, and faith clings to them, clings to Him! Ears on Jesus no matter what. No matter the Gift, no matter the promise. “I baptize you.” “I forgive you.” “My body and blood for you.” “I have compassion.” There’s no desert wherever Jesus is, only life and peace.
INI + AMEN.