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Toshiki Toma

Everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord

6. mars 2016

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. -Amen.

Today’s gospel is a very famous miracle story of Jesus. It is called “Jesus’ feeding the 5.000 people”. When Jesus and his disciples went to the Lake of Galilee, many people followed them. Jesus wanted to give them something to eat. In this place there was almost nothing to eat. A boy offered five pieces of bread and two fishes and Jesus made the miracle of “feeding the 5.000 of people”. The people were all satisfied and the left over breadcrumbs filled 12 baskets.

When we read this story, naturally we think about the miracle itself. How did Jesus do this? Is there any rational way to understand this story except believing it as a miracle?

And often we miss the very simple point of the story. The whole story is about people eating a meal and being satisfied. Before thinking about the miracle itself, I think it’s amazing that Jesus saw that the people were getting hungry and he wanted to feed them. Had I been amongst the crowd, I would have thought: “Oh, they will go home to eat if they get hungry. Don’t worry.” Period.

But Jesus was not like that. He wanted them to eat enough. Why? Because it is important to eat a meal.

Eating a meal appears repeatedly all through the Old Testament and the New Testament. God gave certain meaning to eating food.

First of all, God gave food to us human beings as a blessing: “Then God said, ’Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you.’ ”(Gen. 1:29)

When God and Noah reconciled, God said to him: “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.”(Gen. 9:3)

After God gave Moses his Ten Commandments: “Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, … and they saw God, and they ate and drank.”(Exo. 21:9,11)

Therefore when God gives us a blessing, when God reconciles with us, or when God calls us closer to himself, God invites us to a dinner table. We eat in peace and blessing. As its consequence, religious feasts have been generally connected to having dinner together.

Even in our daily life the dining table is to be at the middle of family life. Having a dinner together is a symbol of a happy family life, peace and reconciliation amongst us. So it is important and a blessed thing to eat a meal.

Now I want to go back to today’s text from the Old Testament. It is from Deuteronomy. When Moses was leading the people of Israel in the desert, heading to the Promised land once they faced starvation. They could not get anything to eat. The people complained to Moses, and God gave them something like bread, called “manna”, to eat.

The Bible says: “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”(Deut. 8:3)

This text is the same word that Jesus quoted when he was tempted by Satan in the desert. Do you remember? Satan said to Jesus when he got hungry after the fasting: “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”(Mt. 4:3)

“Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord”. This sentence cannot be understood until we first understand the meaning and importance that is entrusted in the deed “to eat”. To eat a meal is the symbol of blessing from God, peace and prosperity of the family and reconciliation with others. So it is very important.

Nevertheless, “Man does not live by bread alone”. Peace in our family or reconciliation with others is not everything for us. That’s what this word says. But then what is it? Do we need something more than the blessing of God, peace in our family and with others? What does it mean at all: “man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord”?

When Jesus was asked which commandment was most important to follow, he answered: “The foremost is, ‘(… ) you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”(Mk. 12:30-31)

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. This word is from Leviticus in the Old Testament from the time of Moses. The thoughtfulness to other people, not only to people of Israel, but also to foreigners, has been seen in the Bible from the very begining.

God says: “Since you got mercy from me, you should have mercy to the people who are in the same place as you have been”. God doesn’t say: “If you feel happy with your family and thankful for having your dinner in peace, that’s all; you are done.”

Instead God says this through Isaiah: “I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, and I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.” (Isa. 42:6-7)

When we listen to the word of God, we find lots of tasks to do for our neighbors, and for our society. God talks about righteousness, equality and solidarity among us. God encourages us to dedicate ourselves in developing those things in our society.

So if we follow the word of God, we have to pay attention to our neighbors’ situation, how they are feeling, what kind of difficulty they are having or if they are facing some sort of social injustice. If necessary, we need to help them. It is just like Jesus is paying attention to the people who are following him in today’s gospel and let them eat fish and bread.

It requires of us certain efforts. Sometimes it might cause conflicts against our peaceful personal life. We might hesitate to step forward, since we don’t want to lose our personal comfort, we might miss our dinner with our families.
This is the time when we should remember the words: “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord”.

We may not just sit comfortably in our small land and ignore what is happening outside of our territory. Regarding this point, I admire much, for example, those who are engaged in volunteer activities of the Red Cross for refugee people, or spontaneous activists who are supporting asylum seeking people. Some of them are truly throwing themselves into the situation in order to help others.

Their motivations are different and not necessarily the faith in Christ, but what they’re doing and hoping for is righteous and good. Jesus must put a “like” on it, too.

“Love your neighbor like yourself”. This commandment might require endless work and we might get tired, exhausted and sometimes feel weary and miserable. But still we try to follow it, because it’s worth trying, because Jesus wanted us to. It brings surely reward to us.

“But indeed, what can I do? I am a man in a weak position.”: you might ask. But at least each of us can pray for others. We can pray for our society. It makes difference inside of us ourselves to pray for our neighbors. Those that try to love their neighbors, or those that try to exclude their neighbors. Which brings more meaning to our life? The answer is clear.

It is very important for us to appreciate the dinner with our own family in peace and joy, and thank God for it as grace. But we need to remember that it is also important to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we try to love our neighbors and try to share their burdens with ourselves, it will sometimes go well, but sometimes we might get tired and weary.

But don’t worry. Then Jesus invites us to his own dinner table, where we can receive the true grace from his body and blood that bring us reconciliation with God the father and forgiveness of our sins.

And we can strengthen our faith again and fill ourselves with new energy to stand up and love God and our neighbors. We are invited to dinner with Jesus, both when the times are good for us or difficult. Let’s accept this invitation with appreciation from our hearts.

Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Amen.

Text: Deuteronomy 8:2-3

You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you [a]understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.

John 6:1-15

After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples.

Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.

Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

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