Lent 4—Laetare (Jn 6, 1–15)

Photo by Matt Meilner on Unsplash

Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

“Now the Passover, the Feast of the Jews, was at hand.”

᛭ INI ᛭

The feeding of the 5,000 holds a special place in the Gospels. It’s one of only a few accounts that are recorded in all four Gospels. What are some others? Well, all the Gospels include the events of Good Friday and Easter—Jesus died and risen. Another one is related to this: when Jesus was anointed by Martha in preparation, as Jesus said, for His burial a few days ahead of time. And lo and behold today’s text in John 6 is also related to Good Friday!

How does this text relate to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection? Well, it’s a little historical detail. (Well, there aren’t really innocent historical details in the Scriptures. Like they’re just there because. The Spirit of Christ had a plan for the details being written. As the New Testament, so also the Old: “they were written down for our learning,” but not as some factoids to win Bible Trivia. No, Paul continues, “so that the trough the patience and comfort that come from the Holy Scriptures we would abound in hope.” That means they relate in some way to Jesus’ death and resurrection—the only true source of our hope!) So, what is it in John 6 that relates to Jesus’ death? What little clue does the Spirit give? “Now, the Passover, the Feast of the Jews, was at hand.”

((2. John 6 points backward to Passover and Manna.))

The events in John 6 point backward to the Passover. Passover meant death of the lamb. Passover meant blood on the door posts and lintels. Passover meant eating the Lamb. “The LORD’s Memorial Feast.” Passover was salvation, salvation from bondage and slavery in Egypt. (Judgement for Egypt, salvation for Israel.) Everyone who was eating the lamb, everyone inside a house with blood around its door—every firstborn of the sons of Israel—was kept safe and secure. “I will see the blood,” the LORD said, “and I will pass over your house, so that you will not be destroyed when I execute My judgments on all the gods of Egypt.”

Passover, death of the Lamb, meant salvation. His blood did! It meant leaving Egypt. It meant passing through midst of the Red Sea. It meant wandering in the wilderness and death for the Israelites because of their unbelief and their sin. “The wages of sin is death.” But that means Passover also meant drinking, drinking from the Rock that followed them. “The Rock was Christ.” Passover also meant manna. And that’s the other thing the events of John 6 point backward to. (Further proof of this is the fact that Jesus talks a lot about Manna in the rest of the chapter.)

Manna. Bread from heaven. The Manna was given every day for the people of Israel to eat. “Everything to support this body and life,” of course—First Article, 4th Petition gifts! But it wasn’t just any life. Israel lived a life of traveling toward the promised land. “A land flowing with milk and honey,” but until they got there the Israelites ate the Manna that was “like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” Foretaste of the promised land to come.

Not all the manna was lost either. It certainly dried up every morning with the dew. But some was kept, too. Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD to be kept throughout your generations.” So also Jesus said, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets. One for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

((Transition.))

John 6 points backward to Passover and Manna. Rescue from Egypt. Strength in the wilderness. Strength to travel was given by the Manna. Given everyday. Just like the Lord set up daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly sacrifices. Lord knows how to give gifts. Do we know who to receive them? Without taking them for granted? Doesn’t matter if they’re earthly gifts or spiritual gifts. Repent. He’ll let you have your heart’s desire all the way to your grave and hell.

Israel didn’t know how to receive. Israel didn’t want to eat. Moses said, “Take, eat.” “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.” Gift given became gift rejected: “we loathe this worthless food,” they said. Faith had given way to unbelief.

Children of the devil, not children of the LORD. Eating when the LORD says don’t, not eating when He says to. So serpents. The LORD led His children to repentance, only He can. No preparing yourself for it. No drumming it up for yourself.

The LORD also gave free salvation from the serpents. Serpent on the pole. Christ for you. “So also must the Son of Man be lifted up.” As Jesus said in John 3. So also the events of John 6 don’t just point backwards. They point forwards, too. As did Passover. John 6 points forward to Calvary and Supper.

(And by the way, even after the snakes, the LORD still gave the Manna daily. He’s determined to give in spite of His children’s sinfulness. “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”)

((1. John 6 points forward to Calvary and Supper.))

Passover means the death of Jesus. Led out to be crucified, “around the sixth hour,” the time when the passover lambs would’ve been sacrificed. Jesus final Lamb. Passover meant death of Jesus. Passover meant blood of Jesus poured out for many, for all, for you. “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Blood pouring down both beams of the cross. His death means salvation, salvation from the bondage and slavery to sin, death, and the power of the true Pharaoh, the devil.

Jesus’ death means He’s true King. No seizing Him to be bread King, only seizing Him to be crucified King. “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.” There the firstborn, the only begotten, the Son of God dies for you.

Jesus’ death means passing through the waters of Holy Baptism. Jesus’ death means the opening of the way to Paradise, the eternal promised land. (Even Abraham “by faith went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents…he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”)

Jesus’ death also means eating of the Lamb. He is “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” Jesus’ death means eating of the true heavenly Manna: His body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. That Manna and His body and blood are related is made abundantly clear at the end of John 6. “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will resurrect Him on the Last Day.” Foretaste of the feast to come. At Jesus’ table now. At Jesus’ table forever. Isaiah 25.

“Breaking of the bread” (Acts 2), Jesus’ Supper, the meal for our journey to the promised land. “They were daily attending the temple and breaking bread in their homes.” (Daily services in the temple means daily “breaking of the bread” in house churches.) As the Large Catechism puts it, “The Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may be refreshed and strengthened and that it may not succumb in the struggle but become stronger and stronger.” Why not? After all, as the Christian questions tell you, they are something good to attend to weekly,

But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?

To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it…

Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say…

Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, within or without, as the Scriptures picture him…

((Conclusion.))

Laetare! Rejoice. We get to see the Lord’s salvation. We get to receive the Lord’s salvation. That’s all He wants to do. Passover. Red Sea. Manna. Promised Land. Calvary. Baptism. Supper. “Resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Everything in John 6 points to that—forward and backward!

WHETHER FORWARD OR BACKWARD, JOHN 6 POINTS YOU TO THE LORD SAVING YOU.

It was all part of the plan. Whether the slaughtered lamb or Jesus on the Cross, Egypt’s Passover or the Lord’s Supper, the Red Sea or Holy Baptism, promised land or “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

WHETHER FORWARD OR BACKWARD, JOHN 6 POINTS YOU TO THE LORD SAVING YOU.

Not just in the actions of the Feeding of the 5,000 (actions recorded in all 4 Gospels), but also what Jesus says in John 6, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you…I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness and died…the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh…Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you…Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will resurrect him on the last day.”

᛭ INI ᛭

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