As we hear about Jesus feeding the five thousand, our thoughts turn to daily bread. It’s only natural. The crowd following Jesus, eager to hear His preaching, had no food. They were several days into the wilderness. No food could be purchased, even if the disciples had enough money to do so. Sermon applications for this Gospel Reading quite naturally turn to the things needed for daily life: food, money, and shelter. God will provide you food. Don’t be anxious about it. Trust Him.
As is typical of the disciples, they have a good idea, but get off track in its execution. In the case of tonight’s Gospel, they understood that physical problems are the result of sin. There was no blindness, lameness, deafness, cancer, homelessness, or death in Eden. They were right—the blind man had sinned, as had his parents, all the way back to his first parents. They were right—the man was blind because of sin. But they weren’t right about his blindness being the result of a specific personal sin, a punishment visited upon him for a transgression, an external mark of an internal uncleanness.
Rejoice! In the midst of the Muller report, in the midst of knowing that another election cycle is about to begin; in the midst of measles outbreaks; in the midst of legislation targeting the most vulnerable, rejoice! In the midst of the season of repentance and fasting, in this violet season, rejoice! Today you are given a glimpse of a brighter color; the violet is lightened to rose. This is a reminder that, for you, dear Christian, heaven is not far off, for God is with you. The light pierces the darkness. This world and its troubles will soon pass away. The God who is in control of it all sees to all of your earthly needs. He teaches you this through simple bread and fish, earthly food with a greater implication, that if He takes care of something as mundane as food, how much more will He take care of that which really matters?
There is a common thread in today’s Readings. Each reading highlights a various change wrought in us by the Lord. Ezekiel alluded to Baptism, that by it God separates us from the world, gives us a new heart, and gives us His Holy Spirit. Isaiah called us to a Christian life, to doing good works that are pleasing in God’s eyes. However, he reminded us that when we fail, God forgives us. Finally, in the Gospel Jesus healed the man born blind and was hated for it. But for the man who was healed, the Word of Jesus created faith in him and brought him from spiritual darkness into the light.
Our sinful flesh is never satisfied. The more of anything we get, the more it becomes expected, and the less we appreciate what we have. This is nothing new. Even a quick glance through Holy Scripture shows that this condition has plagued men from the Garden of Eden, Israel in the wilderness, and to this very day.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.