Give them some food yourselves

This is the fourth and final week of our series with a message from the words of Jesus, “Give them some food yourselves.” We have been looking at the post resurrection time in the life of the church where, Jesus returns to the Father, sends the Holy Spirit for the Apostles, and we see the beginning of the community of believers forming to bring the mission of Jesus to the “ends of the world.” In this message series we have looked at the gifts that God has provided and focused on the use of those gifts to bring about a better community.

We discovered that we are enlightened with the gift of the Spirit. We receive the gift of the Spirit for some benefit and focused on the message of hope God wants for us and all his children. Finally we are going to tie it together this week with Jesus message that we are meant to help one another, what we receive we should be ready to share. So while these post-resurrection stories are informative and show the beginning of the community, there is also a deep pattern of receiving from God and acting upon what we have received to share with others. If we just listen to the stories and are not moved to do something than we are not very good Christians.

Three weeks ago we looked at the story of Jesus being lifted up to heaven and the Holy Spirit provided to those who were Jesus’ disciples. It was an Ascension message which pointed out that Jesus had to go so we could receive the Spirit. The Spirit is God in us who will give us many gifts to help us bring about the community of believers. The gift we focused on was enlightenment.

Two weeks ago the readings focused on the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples. We read the stories of the Spirit coming to the disciples as tongues of fire and breath from Jesus. The Spirit is breath, the breath of the church that brings life to the body of Christ. The disciples are sent by Jesus to proclaim the message of the gospel as Jesus was sent by the Father. Through the gifts of the Spirit to benefit the work of the Spirit the message is spread and the body of Christ comes to life. The Spirit gives for the benefit of the work and directs the success of the message of God.

Last week we looked at the communion of God in love. We see a message of a Father who loves so much he sends his Son to restore humanity’s relationship with God. And a Son who loves so much he reveals truth and then sends the Spirit of Truth so we will have hope and strength in knowing the message of God. We read about God who delights in humanity, and a Spirit that works to bring us closer toward the eternal communion of one God with three persons. All of this is hopeful as Paul tells us. We have confidence and by receiving the Spirit and accepting grace we too will share in the glory of Christ.

This Week

This week we take all we have received from the God, Jesus and the Spirit and we learn that we are meant to share. We are not here to live for our own success at the expense of others. As Christians we are meant to share what we have and give our life so others may live. Jesus this week acts as he wants us to act by feeding five thousand who had come to hear him speak. His words when the disciples suggested he dismiss the crowd so they could go find food are, “Give them some food yourselves.” Jesus sets the example; we are to share, we are not to dismiss the need and expect it to be solved somewhere else.

For the last three weeks we have looked at the gifts we have received from God through the Spirit. We didn’t receive these gifts to be ignored, they are for our use in serving the children of God. We discussed that we have an enlightened heart, it is a light that lets us see the light of the world, to know good from evil, right from wrong. We recognized that we have received gifts for the benefit of the work of the Holy Spirit, so we are compelled to share our gifts as well. Finally we discussed that we receive hope of the glory that Jesus received at is resurrection. We too have hope of glory, so we should be sure to share this hope as much as possible. We cannot think that glory is for the few. God intends glory to be shared far and wide. So now it is up to us.

The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Holy Body and Blood of Christ; Genesis 14:18-20; Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17. The readings guide us toward giving and living for others, to be Christ to those who don’t know Christ.

This first reading from the book of Genesis speaks about thanking God for success in battle and life. Inter-tribal wars had been breaking out in the North Country and fighting seemed a consistent activity. Lot had been living near Sodom where battle occurred and he became victim when the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah lost soon after going out to battle and their people had run off to the hill country. Without protection the victors seized Lot and all his possessions. Having received news from a survivor, Abram the kinsman of Lot went in pursuit of those who had taken Lot and all he had. Abram defeated them at night recovering all the possessions and Lot and all his people. For Abram responding to God’s call involves being concerned about other people. Abram was able to give of himself devoting all that he had to the safety and security of others. It is a generous task on the part of Abram that benefits of all. Returning from victory Abram meets Melchizedek, king of Salem and a priest who offers blessing and thanksgiving to God for delivering Abram and his people from their foes. Again in a generous gesture Abram offers a tenth of everything to Melchizedek as a way of giving to God in thanks. We call this today a tithe, the first ten percent of all we earn as an offering back to God for all we have received. This reading set the path of our theme that we are to give for others, share even our own life for others and in so doing recognize the helping hand of God in our success.

For Abram responding to God’s call involves being concerned about other people. Abram was able to give of himself devoting all that he had to the safety and security of others. Click To Tweet

In the second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul shares the message of Jesus last meal with his disciples on the night he was handed over for conviction. Paul speaks the words that Jesus shared, “This is my body that is for you.” And “This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood.” Paul declares that as often as we eat the bread and drink the cup we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Of course this is a significant message for the celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ, the churches solemnity to remember Jesus institution of the Eucharist. But, we also see an example of giving. Jesus is giving us all that he has left to give, his Body and Blood, so that we may live. Jesus’ life is for others to live. It is a constancy in the life of Jesus, our life is not our own but for us to give so others may have life. Jesus leaves us this reminder, this significant act, that we reenact so that we are reminded what Jesus gave for us, so we must also give for others. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus does this first and although we may not be expected to die as Jesus for others, we should be ready to give our life for others. We are called as Christians to live for other before ourselves.

Jesus is giving us all that he has left to give, his Body and Blood, so that we may live. Jesus’ life is for others to live. Click To Tweet

In the gospel reading from Luke we have the story of Jesus feeding five thousand, a miracle of abundance. It begins with doubt, the disciples telling Jesus to let the people be dismissed so they could go to the local villages an find something to eat. But Jesus has something else in mind. Besides a miracle of abundance Jesus is teaching a lesson about sharing and living for others. When the disciples suggest Jesus dismiss the crowd he responds by saying, “Give them some food yourselves.” Jesus doesn’t send the hungry away hungry, he doesn’t leave the ill without healing, he doesn’t interact with people without making their life a little more improved. Jesus takes responsibility for others. Caring is his life’s call and he takes it very seriously. We are to learn from Jesus example. We should act on behalf of others. The miracle is wonderful but the love that Jesus shows is a very big part of the story. The people are surprised by the amount of food left over after everyone has eaten. We should also take note of the fact that Jesus acted for others and did not leave them on their own. As Christians we are called to do the same.

Jesus doesn’t send the hungry away hungry, he doesn’t leave the ill without healing, he doesn’t interact with people without making their life a little more improved. Click To Tweet

We have seen over these four weeks that the Spirit is working in or lives to give us gifts. The gifts we receive are not to be hidden or used for ourselves, but to be shared and used to benefit others. This is the message we are extracting from these reading this week. Abram was generous in caring for Lot and his people, he was generous in thanking God for their success. Paul shared that Jesus gives us this reminder that he has given his body and blood for others, given his life so others may live. Finally we see that Jesus again acts on behalf of others, not with concern for his own well-being. As disciples we are challenged to give our life for others, to put others first; thus they may have life, receive the gifts we have received and live better lives.

The gifts we receive are not to be hidden or used for ourselves, but to be shared and used to benefit others. Click To Tweet

Give them some food yourselves

We live in a culture, particularly here in the United States where we admire success and those who have the most “stuff”. We think success is a climb to the top of the corporate ladder, to be the most popular at what we do, or to quietly accumulate more wealth that some small countries. Unfortunately, since we seem to be more influenced by our culture than our church we naturally fall into this same kind of success as Christians, even though the message of Jesus is many times quite the opposite. The best Christian is the one who gives the most in the offering basket, goes most often to service, prays the most prayers and votes for the best pro-life candidate.

Jesus cares more about others than himself. Jesus wants us to love others telling us, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) And in case we don’t know how to love ourselves very well Jesus also says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have love you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)  We seem to make in complicated, making rules about church, adding tradition to what we have learned in the scriptures, and put more credibility into sacraments than in people. Jesus left no doubt, it is people who are most important to him.

Jesus left no doubt, it is people who are most important to him. Click To Tweet

@Andy_Stanley recently gave a message series entitled Brand New and in the message spoke about a “Temple Model” vs Jesus “Brand New” way. In the Temple Model, which was the way of life before Jesus arrived on the scene, there is a Sacred Place, Sacred Text, Sacred Men and Sincere Followers. We see this model described around the temple, priest, scriptures and those who felt themselves righteous. The Temple Model was built around a standard only the elite could meet. It required followers to come make peace with God and it was nation specific. It was a system that would seem to fit well into our cultural model of climbing to the top and be the best at what we do. It is a meritocracy system that rewards those who know the rules and play the game the best.

Jesus gave us a Brand New way, with a New Covenant, New Command, New Ethic and called it a New Movement. It was something different from the Temple Model. Jesus was trying to move us away from the Temple Model with its structure, law and meritocracy. He came along and created a new standard that no one could meet, offering himself as sacrifice for the sins of the entire world.  Jesus said to go and make peace with your brother or sister, before coming to God to ask for peace. Rather than being nation specific Jesus said this is for all the nations. Jesus’ idea is when you think you are standing on sacred space look to the person on your left or right, they are more sacred than the space you are standing on.

Jesus’ idea is when you think you are standing on sacred space look to the person on your left or right, they are more sacred than the space you are standing on. Click To Tweet

In the beginning of the new movement things were difficult. It was difficult for the first followers who were all mostly Jewish to give up all the structure, law and practice of the temple model. They were comfortable with the temple model and didn’t want to change. But eventually the church did change and abandoned the need to follow Jewish law to become Christian.

After this the community of followers got off to a good start. The focus of Jesus was around the new commandment, a commandment that could encompass all other commandants. The new commandment is to love one another. If we get this commandment right than every other commandment will naturally fall into place. By following this commandment Jesus said everyone will know we are his disciples, if we love one another.

The new commandment is to love one another. If we get this commandment right than every other commandment will naturally fall into place. Click To Tweet

Andy gives a beautiful question we can always ask ourselves, to test ourselves against this new commandment. What does love require of me? Love is how we know that we should give our lives for others, that we should give others some food ourselves, that we should cross the road to help the victim of a crime, that we should clothe the naked, heal the ill, visit the prisoner. Love is the reason we should act as Jesus acted when he was acting among us.

What does love require of me? Click To Tweet

We can’t call ourselves a good Christian if we have plenty and our neighbor is starving. We have extra and our neighbor has none. We feel safe and secure and our neighbor fears for of theirs and their family’s life. Christians are meant to give their life so that others may live. It doesn’t mean die, it means share. It means care for the other as much as we care for ourselves, or even more than we care for ourselves.

Love is the reason we should act as Jesus acted when he was acting among us. Click To Tweet

Jesus’ challenge to us has always been can we love his children as much as he loves his children. We can’t love someone if we aren’t empathetic to their needs. We can’t love someone if we don’t reach out a hand of helping. We can’t love someone if they ask for help and we refuse or ignore them.

Jesus' challenge to us has always been can we love his children as much as he loves his children. Click To Tweet

Society allows us to make excuses for why we can’t help someone else. Society gives our conscious protection and cover. But, Jesus would stand out in society as something brand new, and as followers of Jesus we should stand out as well. Jesus tells us to give them some food ourselves, or clothing, or shelter, or healing, or time. We need to be counter cultural to be Christian. Otherwise don’t be Christian.

We need to be counter cultural to be Christian. Otherwise don’t be Christian. Click To Tweet

Gifted to give them some food ourselves 

We have received many gift as followers of Jesus. We have received much form the Holy Spirit. These are not gifts to benefit our own success but to benefit all of Jesus’ children. We are given gifts so that we may share with others, to bring others into the community of followers and they may receive the gifts we have received. Jesus’ example is to give them some food ourselves. We should always make this our first reaction when confronted with someone of need.

Jesus’ example is to give them some food ourselves Click To Tweet

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