Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Jesus Is Our Eternal High Priest

Hebrews 7:23-27 Several weeks ago Billy Graham died.  He was 99 years old and had been a preacher and leader in evangelical circles for decades. 
John Paul II died at 85 after serving as pope for nearly thirty years and as a bishop in Poland for many, many more years before that.  For most of us siting here today, the pastors who baptized us and confirmed us have all passed away. 
No matter how much we appreciated their sermons and learned from their teaching; no matter how much they meant to us at meaningful moments in our lives; the pastors who served us did not continue in the ministry forever-- and as many funerals that they conducted, some servant of God conducted theirs. 
Unless the Lord comes first, the pastor standing in this pulpit will also pass away and someone will take his place.
For every faithful servant of God who sets before us Jesus Christ crucified for the sins of the world:  we give thanks.  But none of them live forever—and they never have.  The Bible says:
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office,
            Over thousands of years, there were thousands of priest who served God’s people.  They taught the people the Word of God.  They cared for the temple.  They offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. 
And yet, no matter how great, no matter how godly, no matter the blessing they were to the people of God—they died—and another man took their place and then he died—and so it went down through salvation history:  the life and death of old priests and the service of the priests who took their place were an emblem of the brokenness of this dying world where generation after generation are born and live and die.
            The priests who served God’s people died because they were Adam’s children too, no less than those they served.  They were chosen from the tribe of Levi but they still bore the curse God placed upon Adam that the wages of sin is death.  They died because they were sinners too.
For example, when the high priests made atonement for sin of the people of God by the shedding of blood, they first had to sacrifice for themselves, for their own sins separated them from God no less than the sins of the people kept them from God. 
These men who were set apart to stand as priests between a sinful people and a holy God, were absolutely no different than the people they served in their sins and in their death—right up until the moment the One they promised and proclaimed took upon himself that priestly office—the One who is our eternal high priest.  The bible says that Jesus:  holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
            Jesus was and is and always will be our great high priest.  He is the content and fulfillment of the office of high priest for it was his service and his sacrifice that all who came before him proclaimed and demonstrated in their service and in their sacrifices. 
He offered up on the cross the once for all sacrifice that has reconciled a holy God to a sinful people.  It is his blood alone that has truly washed our sins away.
Unlike every other priest who came before him-- and unlike every other servant of the church who came after him--he hold his priesthood permanently because he was nt defeated by death but rather was its conqueror. 
When Jesus died on the cross, a priest and a sacrifice died there that day.  To all the world—and certainly to his enemies-- it looked like Jesus’ service and Jesus’ sacrifice were like all of those that came before him—ending in death.
But early in the morning, on the first day of the week, Jesus came forth from his tomb as the victor over sin and death. 
He was not conquered by Adam’s sin.  He had no sin of his own.  His death was not what was due him but what was due us—and he stood in our place and received what we deserve-- and he stood in our place and gave to God what he demands of us.
In his perfect sacrifice, justice was served; and the guilty were forgiven and God and man were reconciled.
God accepted this priestly work and this perfect sacrifice and raised his Son from the dead and so Jesus continues to this day as our eternal great high priest.
We, along with the faithful people of God in every place and time, can come to him again and again:  and be instructed in God’s Word-- and follow his holy example-- and find forgiveness in his sacrifice-- because he is our resurrected, ascended, living eternal high priest whose saving work for us continues.  The Bible says that because Jesus is the risen, ascended Lord:
he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
            When our Lord Jesus Christ offered up the perfect sacrifice of his body on the cross- and when our heavenly Father accepted that sacrifice by raising him from the dead- sin was paid for, wrath was taken away, and God and man were reconciled.
Jesus accomplished that priestly work for the sake of the world.  But for us to benefit from it personally and individually each of us must come to faith and continue in faith unto the end if we are to be saved. 
His great high priestly work on our behalf goes on for the sake our salvation-- and in fact-- the purpose of his resurrection was to not only to begin the work of salvation in us-- but bring it to completion in our lives. 
And so at this moment our resurrected, ascended Savior stands at the Father’s right hand interceding for us:  as the Lamb of God who has taken away our sins—as the king of the universe who rules all thing for our eternal good—as our prophet who continues to raise up servants of the church who will speak his word of promise and hope.
What a blessing it is that the same great high priest who sacrificed his life for us, lives for us at this moment and forever, continuing to do all within his powerful love to bring us home.  That is the kind of priest we need!  The Bible says:
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
            I remember reading about Billy Graham that, in all his travels he was never in a hotel with a woman other than his wife.  He lived in the public eye for decades without a scandal on his reputation or a blemish upon his ministry.  That is a remarkable and praiseworthy testimony!
But he never once counted himself anything else than a sinner who needed saving.  So it is for every pastor who has ever served the church.  So it is for every priest who served the Israelites. 
Many of them were faithful in their work and devout in their personal lives but all of them were sinners who needed saving—all of them died under sin’s curse.
But Jesus, our eternal high priest, was not a sinner!  He possessed the holiness that God demands all of us to give and yet we do not.  He was innocent in God’s sight of even the slightest breach of the Law.  He had no sins of his own that stained his soul.  He was brought forth in human flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit and so was different than every other man born of a woman.
In this holiness and righteousness he was the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice.  He was the perfect priest who made one sacrifice that fully atoned for the sins of every person in the whole world and he was the perfect sacrifice whose blood was so powerful that it cleansed every sins that has ever or will ever be committed. 
This was the kind of priest and sacrifice that was necessary to reconcile a world full of sinners to a holy God and he alone is finally and fully sufficient for our salvation.
Every faithful priest among God’s ancient people pointed to this sacrifice to come and every faithful man of God who has ever served the church since preaches this sacrifice accomplished by Jesus.
Our eternal high priest lives at this moment and forever at his Father’s right hand and he has conquered death and the grave for us so that we can join him there one day in the joys of eternal life in heaven.  God grant it for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Jesus Is I Am

John 8:48-59 We live in a world that tells us that it does not matter what we believe—so long as we believe something.  They say that what we Christians really ought to be about as the people of God are:  “deeds not creeds”.  Parts of the church have bought into it.  An old slogan for the World Council of Churches is:  “Doctrine Divides, Service Unites.”  And yet…
Before the sermon we confessed our Christian faith in the words of the Nicene Creed.  With doctrinal precision we confessed our faith in the Triune God as the one true God- and we confessed our faith in Jesus Christ as the God/Man Savior of the world—and we confessed that who Jesus is and what he has done is for our salvation.
Can there be a greater divide between those who call for “deeds not creeds” and those Christians who confess their faith this way?  And so who is right?  Which of these two parties can claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?  Who is closer to the Spirit of Christ? 
In our Gospel lesson we will see that Jesus was a staunch contender for the Faith because it is ONLY those who know the truth about God and Jesus who can be saved.  The Bible says:
The Jews answered Jesus, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”
            The events of our text take place in the midst of a lengthy conversation—really a confrontation—that Jesus is having with the Pharisees about his identity and their claims to know the truth about God.  During this confrontation…
Jesus proclaimed himself to be the light of the world.  He said that those who do not believe in him will die in their sins and the only way to be free is to be set free by the Son.  He said that he is the one who speaks for the Father and that anyone who claims God as their Father must love the Son and that those who do not love the Son do not know God and are not of God.
            This is why the church contends for the faith that is confessed in the creeds—because Jesus contended for that faith—vigorously and without compromise!
The only hope that man has for salvation is found in knowing the truth about God and the truth about Jesus.  That is not what we believe because we are rigid and hard-headed—it is what we believe because that is what Jesus believed- and taught- and showed-- in his life. 
The response of the world to our contending for the faith is exactly the same as it was in Jesus’ day:  opposition, name-calling, and the questioning of motives. 
The Pharisees said that Jesus was a Samaritan (the worst insult they could think of) and that he was speaking for the devil.  The world around us (and sadly even parts of the visible church) claim that Christians like us who contend for the faith expressed in the creeds are rigid, unloving, and judgmental when we say that what is actually believed and confessed--matters.
And so why don’t we just go along to get along?  Why do we let ourselves be criticized and castigated by the world around us when we refuse to compromise on our confession of faith?  It’s because what is confessed by the church-- is a matter of life and death for the world. 
Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
            This is what’s at stake when it comes to our confession—life and death—because the words of Jesus tell us the truth about God and the truth about salvation and to know and believe what Jesus says is to have eternal life.
Now, because it’s going to come up in just a few moments, I will point out that Jesus is obviously not talking about physical death—Jesus knew that people died, he encountered death throughout his ministry—he knew that he would die—it’s why he came.  But what Jesus is talking about is eternal death—separation from God for eternity.  That fact of the matter is…
This is what death really is—to be separated from God forever—and no one who puts their faith and trust in the promises of Jesus ever has to fear death for we will never be apart from God:  not in the dark times of life—not when we draw our last earthly breath—not in eternity.  That is what Jesus promises-- and we hold fast to his words.
That is where our confidence and life is found—in the words of Jesus—and that is why contending for the faith is so important—because it is the ONLY place where life is found!
Just a few days before these events many of those who had followed Jesus were turning away and he asked his disciples:  Will you leave me too?  And Peter answered for all of them:  Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!
Jesus was sent by his heavenly Father to save the world.  The words he spoke and the works that he did where not his own—but what he was sent into the world to do—and to reject his words and to reject his saving works is finally to reject God because Jesus is God’s Son. 
The Jews said to Jesus, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”
This the question that all of us must answer:  Who is Jesus?  Is he a created being like the Jehovah’s Witnesses tell us?  Is he a great prophet as the Muslims want us to believe?  Is he a wise teacher and moral example as so many in our world believe him to be?  
Everyone has an opinion about Jesus—who he is and what he has done.  But it is eternally important to our salvation that we do not have merely a personal opinion:  but that we confess the objective truth about the person and work of Jesus and then contend for that faith.
We have creeds and confessions because over time this question has been asked and answered in ways that deny the real divinity and humanity of Jesus and his saving work. 
Far, far from abandoning the creeds of the church and the Faith that is confessed in those creeds it is imperative that the church of Jesus Christ be a confessing church which is willing to contend for the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to have a life with the Father.
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.
The one thing that our religiously pluralistic culture cannot tolerate is for Christians to make absolute truth claims not only for themselves but for everyone else in the world besides.  To say with the apostles that “salvation is found in no one but Jesus for there is no other name given to men by which they can be saved” is considered to be intolerable hate speech. 
And so it has become fashionable for Christians who do not want to offend to adopt the language of the culture and say, “Well, this is what’s true for me” as if the person they are speaking to could also have some truth that stands opposed to what they believe and confess.  Even pastors who ought to know better go on TV and cannot bring themselves to say that Jesus is the Son of God and the way of salvation and those who do not know him are lost eternally.
Jesus NEVER suffered from that kind of spiritual cowardice because he knew that eternal souls were at the risk of being lost forever.  Jesus NEVER hesitated to tell the truth about the spiritual condition of those around him because he knew that unless they came to grips with the fact that they were lost without him-- they would be lost forever.
There are countless people around us who do not share our faith in Jesus and yet claim to know God and love God and have a life with God.  Just like the Pharisees, they say:  He is our God.  Is this possible?  Jesus says:  No!  The judgment of JESUS is that they are liars and do not know God BECAUSE they will not glorify the Son he has sent who has always been the only way to the Father. 
Jesus said:  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” It’s not as if Jesus were telling the Pharisees something new about the way to have a life with God.  God promised Abraham that through his offspring all the world would be blessed and when he held little Isaac in his arms he knew that the LORD was the God of kept promises and that he could be trusted for salvation. 
That is the content of saving faith:  the promises of God fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ and there is no other way to salvation.   For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in HIM should not perish but have eternal life. 
These words of John 3:16 are the content of the creeds:  This is the God who loves the world.  This is the Son is who has saved the world.  When we confess our faith in the words of the creeds, we simply say what Jesus has said about himself and about God:  that he is the Son of God and that to know him is to know the Father.
So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
You will note that Jesus did not say:  Before Abraham was—I was—as if Jesus had a beginning before Abraham (as remarkable as that would be!).  No!  He says:  Before Abraham was:  I am.  Just exactly what God said of himself when Moses asked about his identity at the burning bush is what Jesus says of himself right here:  I am!  I simply exist without beginning and end because I am God.  The Pharisees understood Jesus’ claim and they tried to stone him.
That scene takes us back to the beginning of the sermon and the opposition of the world to the confession of the church.  Contending for the Faith takes courage to face the opposition of the world.  It takes clarity about what we believe.  And it takes the conviction that what we confess in the creeds about who God is and what Jesus has done is true:  true for us and true for the world.  Courage.  Clarity.  And conviction.  That is what it means to contend for the faith.  May God grant it for Jesus’ sake!  Amen.

Jesus Is Our Self-Sacrificing High Priest

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Jesus Christ Is Our Self-Sacrificing High Priest

Hebrews 10:5-14 From the moment God clothed Adam and Even with animal skins in the garden, the sacrifice of animals was the chief act of worship for God’s people for thousands of years.  It was built into the worship laws that God gave them on Sinai.  It was the very heart of their religious life.   
These sacrifices went on daily from Adam to the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. and there is no way to know how many tens of millions of animals were sacrificed in those millennia.  But not one of those sacrifices—in and of itself—actually took away sins or reconciled God to man.  The Bible says that:
when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
            When the Bible writer says that God did not desire all of these sacrifices and offerings, he is not saying they were not commanded by God—they were!  There were dozens of rules and laws and regulations given by God at Sinai that guided every aspect of this central act of worship-- and there were sacrifices and offerings for every kind of sin. 
But they were never intended to be an end unto themselves.  They were never supposed to be a merely external act that would somehow remove God’s wrath over man’s sin.  They were never intended by God to be permanent. 
Their only purpose was to literally put flesh and blood on the promise that God had made in the beginning—that he himself would raise up a Savior who undo the works of Satan.  That he was the one who would make right what man’s sin destroyed.
That promise, and its fulfillment, required—not an animal and tens of millions of sacrifices—but instead required the Seed of the Woman—one of us, a real human being with real human flesh who would suffer and die for the sins of the world.  That is what God promised and that is what God delivered.
In the womb of the Virgin this seed of a woman was conceived and was born and entered into the world—one of us in every way except sin—born under the demands of the Law that convicts every one of us because we have failed to do God’s will. 
But this one who bore our flesh would not fail under the law’s demands but would instead fulfill them every way, all his days.  Jesus said about himself:
‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”  When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.”
            Adam and Eve were commanded by God to do just one thing—one act of obedience that would demonstrate their submission to God’s will:  to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which they promptly did anyway. 
From that moment on, in their own immediate family, and in the family of man throughout time—all of their children, including us here today, have done exactly the same thing as they did, ignoring and disobeying God’s will in thought, word and deed—in the things that we do and in the things that we have left undone.
But throughout the Bible, the prophets spoke of one to come who would delight to do God’s will—who would render to the Lord the perfect obedience that God expects of us all. 
Moses spoke of the greater prophet to come and David spoke of the perfect King and Isaiah spoke of the priest who would offer the sacrifice that would truly bring peace and healing.
They looked forward to, and spoke of, Jesus Christ, who in every way, throughout his life desired nothing other than to do his Father’s will.  Jesus said about himself, I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
God demands of all of us that we be holy in exactly the same way that he is holy-- and yet all of us—from the very beginning have failed to do that. 
Jesus didn’t fail.  He did his Father’s will.  He spoke his Father’s words.  He accomplished his Father’s mission.  Jesus says,
this is my Father’s will, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.
The Good News for us is that God counts Jesus’ holy obedience as our own obedience through faith in him and credits that holiness as our own righteousness in his sight.  This is what thousands of priests and millions of sacrifices could never do.  The Bible says that Jesus:
does away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
            There was one purpose for the Old Testament priests and sacrifices and that was to point to Jesus Christ—to paint a portrait of what the Savior would do-- and who the Savior would be.
And when he entered into our flesh- and bore our sins- and sacrificed himself on the cross- that purpose was fulfilled for all people in every time and place.
When Jesus commended himself into the hands of his Father, and gave up his Spirit, and died on the cross-- the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom signifying that the old distance between God and man no longer existed because the bloody sacrifice of Jesus on the cross had paid for the sins of the world and bridged the distance between God and man.
The Old Covenant came to an end, not because Jesus sinfully set aside the very commands of God regarding the worship life of his people, but because he fulfilled it perfectly—as both priest and sacrifice. 
That was a sacrifice that had never happened before-- and would never happen again –and need never happen again--and through faith in Jesus we are holy in God’s sight.
That is what the Bible writer is talking about when he says that we are “sanctified” through the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Our sins were laid upon Jesus as the Lamb of God and like the scapegoat in the Old Testament he has carried them away.  He is the sin offering whose blood has atoned for our failure to do the Father’s will. 
And through faith in him we are holy in God’s sight and set apart as his children who will one day join him at the Father’s right hand.  The Bible says that:
when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
            In the Old Testament, when the priest had finished their work day in the temple, they rested that night, but they got up in the morning to do the whole thing all over again. 
Day after day after day, the smell of the sacrifices never left their nostrils, and the blood on their hands was never really washed away, because the sinning of the people was never done-- with and the sacrifices necessary to remove those sins were never complete.
But when Jesus our great high priest offered up the sacrifice of his sinless body upon the cross, he said “It is finished!” and it was.  The proof of that finished work was given when Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven.
The restoration and renewal that God has promised in the beginning through the Seed of the Woman was accomplished by Jesus Christ so that now we can once again count ourselves God’s son and daughters and live in perfect fellowship with him as did Adam and Eve in the beginning and we count on the end of the devil and his works and ways.  The Bible says that Jesus is: 
waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
            The fall of man in the Garden of Eden was not just the story of man’s sin, it was also the story of the devil’s deception.  Satan rebelled against almost from the beginning and his assault upon the ways of God manifested itself on Adam and Eve and their spiritual destruction.
And so when God confronted them all in the garden he promised that he would save mankind but he would destroy the devil by the promised Savior.  And so he has. 
The Bible says that the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  And so from Jesus’ victory over Satan in the wilderness-- to every time he cast out devils-- to his death and resurrection, Jesus defeated Satan every step of the way.
And yet, he still prowls around like a roaring lion looking for those he can destroy.  But only for a time. 
When our Lord returns he will judge all of those who have walked with the devil and he will punish them in the fires of hell and along with them the devil himself will be cast into the lake of fire where he will never again afflict the children of men. 
Until that day we can be confident that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, into which we are baptized, and by which we are fed, and through which we are brought to faith and declared to be God’s children, is fully sufficient to make us holy and set us apart as God’s people forever.  Amen.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Jesus Abundantly Meets Our Needs

John 6:1-15 Over the course of our lives all of us will be confronted by situations that seem hopeless.  Out of nowhere a deadly disease will strike down a loved one.  A couple that we know and love will make some very bad decisions and get a divorce.  A friend will bring misery upon themselves and their family through some addiction. 
            That’s when the misery of the world becomes our own.  Most of us will make an effort to help.  But when we see the poverty of our own resources we are tempted to throw up our hands in despair and give up–and lose hope.
            That is why it is so important for us to know that, when we are confronted by situations that seem hopeless, God is not asleep at the wheel, he is not nodding in his rocking chair, and he has not abandoned us. 
            In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus steps right into the middle of this broken, needy world and assures us that there is help for us in these situations no matter how hopeless it seems and no matter how meager our own resources are.  The Bible says that:
After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.  And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the sings he was doing on the sick.  Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.  Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews was at hand.  Lifting up his eyes, then, and saw that a large crowd was coming toward him
      The Good News for us today is that no matter what we are facing, no matter how difficult and overwhelming, Jesus knows about it and cares.  With the same eyes that saw the needs of the people that day Jesus sees our needs today.  Not only are our spiritual needs his concern--but our physical needs as well are a part of his loving concern for us. 
            What drew the crowd to Jesus were those miracles that met physical needs and relieved physical burdens in hopeless situations.  He healed the sick and raised the dead and drove out demons.
            In every situation Jesus showed that where our resources and efforts are insufficient–when the situation seems hopeless--he is more than able to lovingly provide for the needs of his people—just like he did that day.
            He was not just a disinterested observer of the world’s misery (as we sometimes are) and he didn’t turn his back on those in need (as we sometimes do).  He saw their need, had compassion on them, and brought the mercy and power of Almighty God into their lives to provide for their needs. 
            So it is with us who gather around Jesus today in this place.  He sees your needs and the needs of those you love and promises to provide.
            Because Jesus is with us, we are not alone- and the situations that trouble us are not hopeless.  Whether it is an illness or a marriage in trouble or an addiction or a financial disaster that threatens us, we can be confident that Jesus sees our needs, has compassion on us, and will act in perfect love and wisdom to provide for those needs just like he did that day.  The Bible says that:
Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people might eat?”  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 
            The second point I want to make is that we are not merely at the mercy of forces beyond our control but that God uses difficult situations–even the seemingly hopeless situations that are troubling us right now-- for our good.  They have a meaning and a purpose that is rooted in the eternal, loving will of God for our lives. 
            Often times, just like with Phillip, they are a test of our faith—God lovingly using difficult times to make our faith stronger.  The Bible says that we are to:
Consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds, because we know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance. 
            We know about this kind of testing don’t we?  We can look back at moments of testing when we went through hard times and how with God’s help we became stronger Christians because of it. 
With Christ by our side, we can be joyful even in the midst of trials because we know that he is strengthening and sustaining and purifying our faith.  That’s what Jesus was doing that day with Phillip.
            Jesus wanted Phillip to recognize two things.  He wanted him to recognize his own insufficiency to meet the needs of the people of that day–Phillip passed that part of the test.  He said:  Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.  Phillip knew that he and the other disciples didn’t have the resources to meet those needs. 
            But more importantly, Jesus wanted Phillip to recognize that there was One there with him who was more than able to provide for the needs of the people in such a hopeless situation and it was Jesus. 
Jesus who had calmed the sea, Jesus who had healed the sick, Jesus who had raised the dead was more than able to feed the multitude---but Phillip was so focused on what he didn’t have that he forgot about the one standing next to him. 
            We do the same thing.  When we are confronted by the impossible and the hopeless we forget that it is that Jesus is with us every step of the way!  He wants us to lift up our eyes from what we don’t have to who we do have-- and see in him the provision for our needs of body and soul.  The Bible says that: 
One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?
            Phillip gets some bad press in this account but Andrew didn’t do much better.  He suggested five barley loaves and two small fish but recognized that it wasn’t much.  He too forgot about who it was that was with them–the only one who could provide for that multitude of people.
            But there was another disciple there who was following Jesus.  He doesn’t have a name in the story but he was a follower of Jesus–a believer--a little boy who brought his little lunch along–barley loaves and fish, the food of the poor and he placed his lunch in Jesus’ hands with confidence and faith in Jesus’ power. 
            We can do the same.  We all have resources that Jesus has provided to us to give to someone in need.  A shoulder to cry on–a compassionate ear to listen to their worries–physical resources to meet their needs. 
Like Andrew, too often we see how little we have to give--and so we give nothing—but the little disciple in our text reminds us that though we may have little to give, if it is given in child-like faith, simply entrusting it into the hands of Jesus, it can meet the needs of others beyond our wildest imaginations.  Jesus told his disciples:
“Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.
            We have heard the miracle of the loaves and fishes so many times over the years of Sunday school and church and I’m afraid because of that we don’t hear it anew.  But just imagine with me for a moment how the people must have experienced it that day. 
            You are seated in the midst of a crowd, people as far as you can see, and one guy way down in front lifts up the food to heaven, gives thanks to God for it, and begins to hand it out. 
            And then a miracle takes place.  Rather than being depleted by the distribution to the crowd, the food grows and grows and grows.  And by the time the meal is finished, with everyone holding their stomachs and groaning with satisfaction, there is more left over than what they started with. 
You can imagine how the murmurs of amazement in the crowd must have grown into shouts of joy and delight as they saw what was happening. A miracle!  A sign from heaven pointing directly to Jesus as the one whose open, outstretched hand provides for every living thing. 
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”  Perceiving then that they were to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountains by himself.
            Scripture had foretold of the prophet to come who would do greater miracles than Moses.  That is who the people knew Jesus to be and so they set out to make him king.  But Jesus would have none of it.  He knew what was in people’s hearts.  They wanted a “bread king”--someone who would always satisfy their physical needs. 
            We fall into the same temptation of wanting Jesus’ help for our needs but rejecting the salvation he offers and his lordship over our lives.  We too want to make him into a “bread king”.  But Jesus will not let that happen because he knows that “bread kings” ultimately destroy people’s souls—giving the people what they want instead of what they need.
            Jesus knows that we have a need that is greater than food and clothing and shelter—and that is the need for salvation.  Our own resources of good works and right intentions and serious resolutions to try harder are insufficient to meet that need.
Nothing that WE can do or we can say to God is going to change his verdict of guilty for our sins of hopelessness and materialism and doubt.  But God does provide a way of rescue in his Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus came into the world NOT JUST to provide healing and food for a time for a few-- but to provide forgiveness and salvation for eternity for all. 
            He lived a holy life in our place, always loving and caring for people and providing for people and he suffered the punishment for our selfishness and doubts and hopelessness on the cross.  His life’s blood was and is God’s perfection provision for our salvation. 
God invites us today to look up from our insufficiencies and failures, to turn our backs on hopelessness and despair, and to trust in Christ alone for our salvation. 
No sin of yours or mine or the entire world is enough to deplete the love and mercy of God that is bestowed upon us through in the crucified and risen body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.