The Extent of God's Love
8th Sunday after Trinity Ephesians 3:14-21 John 6: 1-21
The average person in the street seems to know little of the content on the Bible these days, but those who do will quote the feeding of the 5000 as one of the miracles they know. It was an amazing story of five small rolls and a couple of sardines. Amazing that a small boy had not eaten his lunch by the time it was needed, and that he was willing to hand it over.
It was also a test of the disciple’s faith, as they had to begin to hand out this minute quantity of food to thousands of people. But this morning I want to look at the why of the miracle and set it in the context of that wonderful reading from Ephesians.
Jesus fed the people simply because he loved them and saw their need. The disciples were all for sending them away – but Jesus’ love for them could not let him do that. This miracle shows us a God who cares for each individual need.
A God who cares about community – and people caring for each other, and a God who gives, not just what we need but abundantly – notice there were 12 baskets of food left over. One for each of the disciples.
This the God Paul talks about in the prayer in his letter to the church at Ephesus and now for us here. What did he pray for us?
‘I pray that you may have the power to grasp how broad and long and high and deep is the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge and that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.’
So how broad is the love of Christ?
Well certainly broader than any broadband and it doesn’t need to be requested by a minimum of 200 people before it can be installed.
His love is not like elastic that if overstretched will snap, His love is more like the spider’s web, which if you watch the spider spinning is an extension of his very being. If the thin strand of a spiders web is magnified to represent our size the thread would be stronger than steel.
It is as broad or wide as the oceans that lap at the edge of the world. It is the rainbow that stretches over black and white, Arab and Jew. This love never judges or measures by appearances. It can reach into every place, desert, jungle, cave or sea and sky. It can reach into the depths of the human heart to comfort the lonely, and walk with the afraid, it can help the downtrodden to stand up and the cantankerous to be calm.
How broad is the love of Christ?
It is boundless, it is limitless, for he is God’s Son – and love’s door is open wide to everyone.
Let every one who is thirsty come.
How long is the love of Christ?
Longer than life insurance and there is no small print.
It is from everlasting to everlasting because Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
His long love brings healing to our past hurts, help to our present needs, and hope for our future both here and into eternity,
Right from the start, at that moment of conception, when we were being made in secret, Jesus was there.
He knows all about our lives with all the highs and the lows. He feels the wounds, the deep regrets, the guilt, the loss, all that baggage we try to leave at the airport, but they will keep sending it on.
On the cross his love was released to heal and free us so that we can live this present moment, held in the love of God, which is new every morning.
And it gets better: what is more wonderful is that nothing can separate us from that love. Let that sink in for a moment. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
And what of the future?
Jesus says ‘don’t be afraid for there is nowhere you can go where I will not be there with you.'
How high is the love of Christ?
Do you remember writing to Santa Claus? I wrote :
23 Jersey Street
Brighton, Sussex, England, the World, the Universe, just in case he couldn’t find my address – well higher than that.
God says :- For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways of love higher than yours.
If you were creating the world would you have thought of making buttercups – or ladybirds, thought of painting the sky a different colour each day. Would you have made sunsets that make your eyes almost ache to look at – or would you just have turned out the light?
God our creator, Jesus our redeemer did it all for love.
How deep is the love of Christ?
As the old Negro spiritual says, ‘nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen’ - and it is true nobody knows the pain, the exhaustion, the grief, the loneliness, the prison, the utter desolation, the screaming voices, the black choking silence, the smooth-sided walled pit that some are in, and where the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.
But the love of God can reach even there, David wrote ‘he drew me out of the desolate pit and set my feet upon a rock.’
God in Christ came down from heaven to earth, down to the cross, down to the tomb, down and down to that place of utter Godless darkness, so that we can be raised up from our dark place.
Just as the disciples took the bread and fish from Jesus and with wavering faith began to give it out, so we take the bread, broken for us and the wine outpoured as a symbol of the love of God in Christ and we feed on his love by faith. The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy says: ‘The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms;’
We may not always feel God’s love for us, until the moment we fall into those arms. God is love and he loves us to the uttermost.
May God help each one of us to grasp something of the love of God for us.