In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
“Only a jar of oil.”
“Go to your neighbours, and borrow as many jars as possible. Pour oil into the empty jars and keep pouring till you run out of jars.” And somehow miraculously God provided for her causing the one jar of oil to multiply into many. And when she sold the oil, it paid all her debts, and left enough for she and her two sons to live on.
In the same chapter we also hear of a man who brought twenty barley loaves to Elisha as an offering to the Lord. Elisha gives them to 100 prophets to eat. The man is embarrassed that his offering will be too little for that many. But Elisha says, “The Lord says, 'They shall eat and have some left over.'" And all 100 were fed, with lots left over according to the Word of the Lord. You see, the Word of God does all things. It creates the world, saves you, and even provides super-abundantly for you from the little bit that you have.
Our Lord echoes these events with the feeding of 5000. But why 5000? Five is the number of God’s Word. Five is the number of books that the form the foundation of the Old Testament---those first five books of the Bible written by Moses, known as the Pentateuch or Torah. And 1000 is the number of fulfilment in the Bible. Therefore, the feeding of 5000 indicates the fulfilment of the Old Testament! But how does Our Lord do that? With what? Five barley loaves. These barley loaves remind us of how Elisha fed more than is physically possible with barley loaves and there was lots left over. The fact that there were five loaves of bread reminds us of Moses who wrote the holy five books and presided over the miraculous bread from heaven that was there every morning. You see, man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Why? Because even the food that sustains you is a result of God giving it to you. He commands it, He ordains that it come to you, He sustains the world with His Word so that the sun and rain give food to the sower and bread to the eater.
The Lord takes those five loaves, one for each book, and gives thanks to who? His Father, whose Word Our Lord speaks. He breaks them and gives the loaves to them. These five loaves are super-abundant. So much food comes from those loaves that 5000 eat their fill with twelve baskets left over, one basket for each apostle of the New Testament. The Old Testament is fulfilled. The New Testament is abundantly provided for. Five books form the foundation of the Old Testament and teach all that is ultimately needed so that the New Testament Church can know and receive Her saviour. Five loaves feed 5000 and provide all that is needed for the New Testament Church.
Five loaves, two fish. Why two fishes? Because the Old and New Testament peoples of God are both fed from the Word of God. Five plus two equals seven. Seven is the number of God’s Holy Spirit, the number of salvation. Our Lord’s death fulfills the Old Testament, providing salvation and all that is needed under a New Testament, including the Holy Spirit who lives in and works through the Church and Her Sacraments.
All these numbers with their meanings are found in the Old Testament. But hungry people, focussed on their tummies, miss the point. It was hunger for God’s Word, for the New Testament, which drew them into the wilderness after the Lord who taught them. But their human need overcame their faith which clings to His Word. They forgot that man does not live by bread alone, but by God’s Word. They loved the bread. Free food where they didn’t expect it. So they sought to make the Lord king. A bread king. A king who would feed them and do what they wanted. Hunger for the living bread from heaven drew them into the wilderness, but a full stomach so easily distracts mankind, and drew them from their first love. They wanted Our Lord, but not because of God’s Word, but because of free food.
But the Lord isn’t about food. He is about salvation. He can more than provide for you, His Church, when there is need. He miraculously did it for Moses and the Israelites. He did it for so many others throughout the Old Testament. Even now in the age of the New Testament He works miracles for His beloved too. But He is not about bread. He is about salvation. That’s what He distributes even when He gives bread!
Did you notice how John writes the feeding of the 5000? Our Lord took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them...
Does that remind you of anything? The Lord’s Supper where our Lord distributes salvation along with bread and wine! That’s what He wants you to know: He takes care of the big things—salvation. He’ll take care of the little things too—everyday life.
On a related note, did you notice that little detail that in that place "was much grass"? Why does St. John tell us this? Because the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He literally took His sheep out into the pastureland to feed them both physically and spiritually. Miraculously. But the Twenty-Third Psalm is not just about the Lord providing for you physically. For our Good Shepherd “restores my soul, he leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
We know the green pastures and quiet waters He restores our souls with are His Word and Sacraments. Thus, being a Christian is about craving those things your Shepherd provides for you. But have no fear little flock, for the Father has chosen to give you the Kingdom. And this is a miraculous Kingdom—a kingdom where His people provide for each other as they are able, and He makes their feeble efforts, their little bit, super-abundantly, overflowingly more than you could ask or imagine, just as we heard in Acts, chapter two. Even when the money physically isn’t there, its always there, because you can’t out give God. He provides for you through each other, through the physical blessings that we, the Church, have. There will always be enough. Not always enough by the world’s standards, but more than enough, super-abundantly enough to save you and excessively provide for you.
This is our God. This is what He gives to His own body, the Church. So repent of your worries. Repent of your clinging to your wealth or comfort and your despair that God has abandoned you if you might lose such physical comforts. Repent of not trusting the Lord to provide for you physically with food and drink, house and home. Repent of not trusting Him to provide for you spiritually—to be able to cover over the sins that plague you; to be able to heal the hurts that sin, Satan and the world inflict on you. For He is super-abundantly able to meet and exceed your needs of body and soul. That’s what the precious blood of Our Lord poured out at the cross gives to you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON