Meat pots. I’ve always liked that term from our Old Testament reading this morning. It’s even better in the King James: Fleshpots. The children of Israel longed for the fleshpots of Egypt. You get this picture that in Egypt, the children of Israel sort of lounged around, had food and drink served to them, and that they had everything they wanted. You almost believe in this text that they thought they were doing Moses a favor by coming with him out into the wilderness. “Well, Moses, we have it pretty good here,” they might say, “but since you asked so nicely, we’ll go into the wilderness with you, away from Pharaoh and all of his yummy goodness for us.”
But they didn’t remember. They didn’t remember that what they longed for was terrible and wicked. In the span of days and weeks, they forgot the slavery, they forgot the whips and the pains. They forgot Pharaoh murdering their children, taking what he wanted, and leaving the rest of them to rot in the mud and straw. They forgot it all. All they remembered was the dream of the good times they had, the fantasy that lingered.
The parallel today is striking. When it comes to sin, we are unbelievably forgetful. We simply do not want to believe the promise. We do not want to believe that our sin is that bad. We do not want to believe that we are by nature enslaved to sin and death and the power of the devil.
So we dream. We hope, we wonder, and we dream about what it would be like, to live as we really wanted. How great would it be to act completely selfishly? How great would it be to take what you wanted, to take whomever you wanted, and to pay no attention to the consequences? You have to admit. It sounds pretty good. When it is presented like that, it’s pretty tempting. What would you do if you could do anything you wanted, have absolutely anything, and you never had to worry about how your behavior affects others?
But that is a fantasy. That is not reality. Reality is that sin is heartless and cruel. Reality is that sin always, always hurts you as well as others. The reality is that sin leads to death. Every single time. No good can come from sin. Ever.
But like those children of Israel, we dream, and our twisted memories lie to us about the effects of sin. Just do what you want. Just this once. One more time won’t matter. You know your own sin. Against your spouse. Against your children or your parents. You know your sin against your neighbor. You know your own desires, for they seek to rule you every day of your life.
Sin can’t be reformed. Sin can’t be managed or manipulated. Sin can’t be tolerated in yourself. Once you give sin a foothold, and allow it to go unchecked, it will seek to take over everything. Ask anyone who suffers from an addiction what it’s like. An addiction consumes you. You get to the point where it is all you can think about, the next drink, the next peek, the next pill. That is sin, always. We are addicted to sin. The only thing you can do with sin is kill it. Drown it, to be specific.
So to bring us up to the text for this morning from the Gospel, this is why the disciples are so perplexed by Jesus asking them to feed the five thousand men, plus women and children. Enough. They didn’t have enough. They wanted to have enough bread to feed them. What is the least we can get away with and still get by? That is how we by nature approach faith, if we approach it at all. What is the least that I can do in order to get into heaven? When we look at a problem, be it big or little, serious or not so serious, our solution, if you can call it that, is to assume that it is too great of a problem for God or for us. The sin is too great to be forgiven. The problems are too big. The disease is too bad. There just isn’t enough good to make it work.
But Jesus does not think in terms of enough. He’s not trying to get away with something. He does not sneak things by. He is recreating something. And what He is recreating is nothing less than a new heaven and a new earth. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden, God gave it to them to work it. He didn’t give it to them because it was work or die. He gave it to them so that they might share in His creative work of building and sustaining the world.
So here, in the feeding of the 5000, Jesus sets out to show His disciples, the world, and us that He is the one who feeds us. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word which comes forth from the mouth of God. Every time you eat and are satisfied, that is a sign of Jesus’ continued presence and work in the world.
What’s more, every time you sit down and eat and rejoice at the table, your own table at home, it points you to the One Table. It points you to this table, here, where Christ feeds you with HIs own body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. Here, at this table, God’s mercy shines forth for you every day. The sins which cling to you fall away. Eternal life is your inheritance.
This day God holds a great gift up before you. It is the gift of faith. It is the gift of believing that God is God and you are not. It is the gift of learning how to trust in Him all the days of your life. Whether you live or die, you are the Lord’s. He opens His hand and satisfies the desires of every creature.
Come to the Table and set your unbelief and doubt aside. Come to the Table and believe that God will care for you and your family, body and soul. What’s more, God will carry you to His Home in heaven, where every tear will be wiped clean, every wrong will be set right, and where sin and death have no more dominion over you anymore. Come. It is more than enough. It is Jesus.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
John 6:1-15; Exodus 16