Sunday Next Before Advent, 2016
For the Epistle. Jeremiah 23:5-8
The Gospel. St. John 6:5-14
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
It is always at this time of the year where things have to be thought about carefully. We are in late November, and the New Year is about a month away.
However on the Christian Calendar the New Year is only a week away. If you are using your Prayer Book you will notice that after this Sunday, you turn the page and find not more weeks of Propers, but rather the Holy Days throughout the year instead. A different section all together.
You have to go all the way back to the front portion of the Prayer Book to Advent 1 for next Sunday’s lessons and the beginning of a New Christian Year.
Sometimes called “Stir Up Sunday,” this week’s lessons bring to a close the Church Year and are pulled from specific places in the Bible that are intended to do just that.
Stir us up.
Stir up in us an appreciation for all that we have heard from those same Scriptures all year long.
Stir up in us affection for the message of salvation that is the cornerstone of our faith in Christ.
Stir up in us anticipation for not just a New Year, but for the special celebration of the incarnation at Christmas.
Each time a special Holy Day such as Christmas comes up on the calendar we have this great opportunity to recall the events surrounding whatever is the focus at the time.
We get to place ourselves in first century Judea and step into the shoes (or sandals) of those people who were beginning to feel that something was going to happen very soon.
Our lesson today takes us back even further to the Prophet Jeremiah…living around the mid 600’s BC.
Jeremiah is in the southern area. Judah was still standing but was in bad shape. King Josiah tried to bring about reforms to try and restore the old order of things.
He died trying, and the wickedness of the people grew after his death.
Jeremiah was older in life when the Temple was then destroyed and now this southern kingdom was taken away into captivity.
Jeremiah foresaw how Babylon (the captors) would fall but that a much greater kingdom would rise where there would be righteousness and peace. It is thought that Jeremiah died in Babylon under the captivity.
He prophesied as the nation of Israel was dying. But, through the vision God gave him, he saw far beyond the immediate judgment his people were enduring at the present… to a greater day when the eternal purpose of God would be realized.
There was to be a future Glory of the Kingdom of God. One that would endure forever and never perish.
So right here we can see why we would use such language in our prayer such as “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…”
This is what Jeremiah was seeking to do in his day. Stir up the people to look for a greater country…a greater land…a greater Temple and a greater Kingdom. All coming to fruition in the person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Jeremiah tells the people that God would redeem them in the first 4 verses. Then he moves to what we heard read this morning beginning at verse 5.
He tells them that God would be so favorable to them, and that it would be so amazing and so remarkable and glorious, that the former redemption and return from exile and slavery in Egypt would pale in comparison to the greatness and excellency of this latter redemption.
When the people of Israel were brought out of Egyptian slavery, God testified to his power by the use of many miracles. He did so, in order that His favor toward them would be that much more wonderful. They would be much more appreciative.
The Prophets after that repeatedly reminded the people of God’s salvation from Egypt. If you read through the Old Testament, there is a repetition of retelling the story of the rescue God performed.
Many times this was done when the people had once again gotten themselves into trouble with God.
But today, here in Jeremiah, brings to light this second redemption and compares it to the former one (the one in Egypt)….
and tells how it would be on a grander scale all in order that the people would remember it and talk about it and proclaim the great salvation God had once again won for them.
That is what those two last lines are meaning from today’s lesson. Not only will the people recall God saving them from Egypt, but from where they had been scattered during the Babylonian and Assyrian Captivities.
This is not to cause them to forget the first rescue. Rather it is to go from the lesser to the even greater.
Yes deliverance from Egypt was amazing. NOW, this deliverance is really amazing!
The first redemption was remarkable.
The second redemption would be even more remarkable.
So we now as Christians can find great value in a passage like this, for it can be read with Christian eyes to see how our New Testament, New Covenant redemption in Christ is that much more wonderful than what the ancient Israelites experienced.
Jeremiah is speaking to his people about their return to their own country after being exiled. But this is placed before us today, so that we might see this prophecy as a foretelling of our own redemption in Christ.
God moved King Cyrus to allow the Israelites to return to their own country. But this prophecy includes much more. Their return was just a prelude to a future perfect redemption.
It speaks to the greater return to the heavenly country we look forward to, which has been secured for us in the resurrection of Christ.
The prophets all had this hidden and greater meaning behind their more immediate prophecies.
So this is the setting…the feeling….the anticipation carrying over right into the first century Jewish mind.
There was a “Stirred up” anticipation that God was about to do something big.
So here we are about 5 or 6 weeks from Christmas and we are stirred up in anticipation of the coming of the Christ Child in late December.
We can see now that we have this all recorded for us, how the presence and teaching and miracle working of Jesus would have certainly contributed to the stirring up of the people of His day.
The writings of Prophets like Jeremiah would have been recalled to mind probably as Jesus was present with them and working miracles….healing people…feeding people as He does in today’s Gospel lesson.
Jesus, of course as the author of all Scripture and of all Prophecy would have been well aware of what His presence meant in the eyes of those he was feeding and healing and teaching.
was there precisely to stir up the people to repentance and faith. Repent for the Kingdom is at hand!
Words like these ….to these people would have caused much anticipation in them.
Could this really be God’s Messiah?
Could God truly be bringing us salvation through this man?
Could what Jeremiah and the others said now are starting to be fulfilled?
The answer, as we know was yes.
Today’s Feeding of the 5000 is Jesus foreshadowing this event of salvation in the Heavenly Country that all of God’s people have been looking for.
Jesus lifts us His eyes and sees a large crowd coming toward Him. These are the people He is to die for.
He has pity on them. He knows they are not just physically hungry, but spiritually as well. He has come to satisfy not just temporal hunger, but spiritual hunger and to satisfy it forever.
He asks Philip where they might find bread so that the people may eat. Philip says that he had no idea since the crowd was so large and the funds they had would not even come close.
The real answer was to be, “Oh Lord you know.” ….like Ezekiel said to the Lord in the Valley of Dry Bones.
Philip’s answer, were he to have had a greater faith, should have been, “Oh Lord, you are the bread of life. You are the One who feeds us not only physically but spiritually. You have the power to do what is necessary at this time.”
But he was being much more literal, considering how much money he and the others had in their pockets at the time.
So Jesus moves forward, seeing that Philip did not see yet. He has the people sit down.
Andrew tells Jesus that there is a young boy who had 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish, but immediately he says….but what are they among so many?
Also having very little faith and not seeing the potential of the situation.
Jesus takes the loaves, gives thanks to God for them, and distributes the bread to those sitting around Him. He does the same with the fish…as much as the people wanted.
Then He tells them to gather up the fragments so that none is lost. And as they gather them up, they fill 12 baskets with the fragments.
A miracle! Bread kept coming somehow. Every time they looked somewhere else, more bread fragments.
Upon reflecting on this miraculous event later, they and we see the greater implications….the greater meaning.
This story of these events today tells us the Good News that Jesus and only Jesus is the savior of mankind.
Only in Him are we led to sit down eternally in the lush green grass in the Heavenly Kingdom.
Only in Him are we fed the Bread of Heaven, for He feeds us with His very Body and Blood.
Only in Him is our salvation secured.
When Jesus did this and people started to understand just what was going on, it is reported here today that they said, “This indeed is the Prophet who it to come into the world!”
And they were right. They were probably still thinking of the Prophet who would come who was like Moses who would once again bring bread to His people. So they were probably not fully grasping what Jesus meant and who Jesus was by doing this miracle. But they were close.
We have the benefit of those who wrote this down for us and have clarified what it TRULY meant and still means.
We are stirred up today because we know that Jesus is the Prophet who both proclaims His Kingdom and fulfills all that was said of Him by the Prophets.
So as we close the Trinity Season and enter the Advent season and the Incarnation draws closer, all that we have heard this past year and all that we celebrate this Christmas season, should stir up in us an anticipation of our final leaving behind of all that ails us and our entrance into His Eternal Kingdom.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.