Not By Bread Alone

by the Rev. Mark Buetow

Our Old Testament reading tells of Adam and the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. One of the questions people like to ask pastors is: If God knew Adam and Eve would sin, why did He put the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden? Why did God make something they were forbidden to eat? Why did He do that? It's like He's playing games or something. Testing them to see if they slip up. No, that is not why.

This is the reason the Lord put the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden: God put the tree in the Garden and gave His command to Adam so that even in paradise, even before sin, when all things were good and perfect, Adam was to learn that the most important thing, the one thing that truly gives life, is God's Word. Adam's Father gave Him all things and put them under his dominion and rule. Everything God made was a gift for Adam and all people. But the most precious gift the Lord gives to Adam is His Word, which protects Him from death and a fate like the devil's. In short, the Tree and command God gave was to show even Adam, even in paradise, that man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word which comes from God's mouth. And when Adam gave up that word, he lost all that God had given him and fell into sin and death and fear and worry and burdensome work.

The Lord teaches us that first and foremost is His Word. But our heavenly Father also promises to give us all that we need for our body and life. We are to trust Him, because He gives us his Word of life and that same Word of life gives us salvation and tells us that the Lord will provide for us in this life. Adam taught his wife differently and that sin has been with us ever since. Rather than having God's Word first, we run around trying to grab all the stuff of this life. Rather that having God's Word as our highest treasure, we think the most important things in our life are the things we can buy. The Devil loves to tell us the lie: "Well, you can't eat God's Word. You can't make your car run by stuffing pages of the Bible in your gas tank. You can't power your house with God's Word. God's Word doesn't give you anything. It's just words and talk. That can't keep you belly full and a roof over your head." And we believe the Devil! We listen to that! We really do think like that! The Lord says, "I will give you everything you need. Just believe and trust in my Word and make that the most important thing in your lives." No way! Too much chance there. Can't be sure I'll have a full tummy! Do you know what that makes us when we think like that? Do you know what we are when we doubt the Lord will take care of us?

We are Jesus' disciples. Because they did the same thing! "Lord, seven loaves and a few fishes? Where are we going to find food for all these people?" I'm sure Jesus' disciples were all excited to hear Him preach and teach too, until their tummies started rumbling. The Word of God is great until you've been with Jesus three days and you're starving. Then what? Jesus feeds them. It doesn't matter how much bread or fish there is, Jesus makes it enough. Because that's what Jesus does. Jesus comes into this world for unbelieving, worrying, ungrateful, idolaters who think they don't need God's Word but they need lots of stuff. For our worry, for our idolatry, for our coveting, for our unbelief, for all our sin, Jesus hangs on Calvary, giving His body into death so that now our sins are His sins, our death is His death, our curse is His curse. And His life is ours. Stop and ponder this, dear Christians, over and over Jesus gave up any hope of earthly treasure in order to do just this one thing: redeem us from our sins. No palaces for this king, no feasts. Not even a golf cart to zoom him around like the Higher Things pastors had. Nothing for Jesus but the cup of suffering, the ashes and dust of our sins to chew on. Yet Jesus, above all, believed and trusted in His Father's Word and that sustained Him. Even through death. Even in the grave. And He rose, according to that Word, and lives to give us salvation and all that we need for this body and life.

That's why He feeds the 4,000. Why were the 4,000 there? They had been listening to His Word. Their first concern was His Word. Because His Word saves them. His Word is true food. His Word is life. But just because His Word is life, doesn't mean daily bread is not important. So Jesus, to show that He is true God whose Word gives life but who also provides all that we need for our body and life, feeds the 4,000.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is such a temptation for us to think that God's Word and gifts are not the most important thing. Such a temptation to make sure we've got all we want out there in the world. Gas prices go up. That means food prices go up. The price of everything is going up. With that comes a huge temptation to worry that we won't have enough for what we need. Why? Jesus fed four thousand with seven loaves of bread. Do you think He can't feed just a few people on what you make? Do you think He won't provide for you what you need? I don't. I don't believe it. You know what I'm talking about: the days that next paycheck seems so far away. Yet did you go hungry? Did you have no place to live? The Lord has made you His own, do you think He'll let you starve? And even if He did, do you not still have forgiveness and eternal life and all things? Because you have His Word. Repent with me, brothers and sisters, of wondering, as the disciples did, whether Jesus will take care of us.

And when you doubt. When you worry. When you are filled with unbelief. Come and see Jesus feed the 4,000. It's no random detail that St. Mark throws in when he writes that Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and broke it and distributed it. That ought to remind us of the Lord's Supper. And here is the truth that the Lord's Supper teaches us: that Jesus is our Lord not just for eternal life but for now. He doesn't just give us forgiveness of sins, our "get out of jail" card for later, He provides for and cares for us now. God is not just our God someday but today, not just for heaven but for earth, not just for spiritual things, but for bodily gifts as well. When we eat and drink the Lord's body and blood, the bread and wine feed our bodies. The body and blood forgive our sins and keep us in Him unto eternal life. Just as Jesus is true God and true man, so He would teach us that just as He dies for our sins and makes us God's children, so He provides for us all that we need to live in this life. Come and receive Jesus' body and blood because it takes away your sins. His body, the bread of Life, His blood, shed for you, wipe out your worrying, your coveting, making idols out of your stuff, all of your sins. It is His promise of life and salvation, that He who has given His own Son will also with Him graciously give you all things.

Man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God. From the Words that make you His own at the font to the words that feed you with His own body and blood, Jesus is your Lord for this life and for the life to come. That's why He put that Tree in the Garden, to teach that to Adam. Adam didn't live by that Word but after the Fall learned to live by that Word given in the promise of the Savior. Jesus comes so that there will be One who really does live by God's Word. And that living done by Jesus now counts for you.

And know this: the most precious, important food and gift you have is God's Word. Do you have that Word? Is it yours? Your Baptism says, "Yes!" Absolution says, "Yes!" In the Supper you hear and eat the Word Himself in His body and blood. So yes, that Word is yours. That's what gives you life. Food, clothing, and shelter? No problem for a Lord who can die and rise again and take away your sins! After all, you've got Jesus Himself and that means you have everything. Amen.

 

Pastor Buetow is Internet Services Executive for Higher Things. He is also one of the catechists at the Amen Higher Things Conferences.

 

Created: July 9th, 2008