Gen. 9:8-17; Ps. 136:1-9 (ant. v. 26); Eph. 3:14-21; Mark 6:45-56.
Knees, “… I bow my knees before the Father …” (v. 14).
Man is body and spirit whom God feeds with bread and meat (Ps. 145:15, 16); demonstrated at last Sunday’s miraculous feeding of 5,000. In addition to food for bellies our question in the Resurrection is; how do we understand the church’s eucharistic feeding of body and soul?
Certainly, it is well to employ Scripture as common table prayer. At daily meals we sit with hands folded; but not so, prayer-posture at Liturgy. St. Paul describes his leading, “… I bow my knees before the Father …”
By the fourth century A.D., liturgical prayer became regularized; generally, the congregation stood as expression of Resurrection joy; but knelt to receive the Sacrament, acknowledging Jesus’ Real Presence in, with, and under the Sacrament’s bread-Flesh and wine-Blood; priestly submission before the King of kings and Lord of lords.
It is no accident that most Lutheran congregations do not install pew-kneelers; but do provide them at the Communion rail.
How, does this survey of prayer-posture inform our Gospel of Jesus’ pre-dawn walk over the sea? St. Mark suggests the connection, in that the disciples thought him an apparition, “for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (Mk. 6:49, 51, 52).
The implication is that what Jesus intended feeding the 5,000 to inform was rejected by the Apostles, bordering on willful blindness; a redux of YHWH’s OT exodus feedings; danger lurking there!
Following the feeding, Jesus directed his Apostles into their boat, each carrying the evidence of their participation in the meal; Jewish food shared in communal ranks with Samaritan half-breed heretics and Gentile “dogs” (cf. Mk. 7:27).
Jesus sent the disgruntled disciples on-ahead, toward a Gentile destination, presumably to introduce another even more outrageous shared meal.
However, an adverse wind halted apostolic progress. From land Jesus perceived his Apostles’ inability to purchase traction over the chaotic water to match their lack of understanding and hardness of heart.
Jesus entered the deep intending to “pass-by” his disciples for revelation of his glory, much as YHWH passed-by Moses during Israel’s wilderness feedings (Ex. 33:17—34:8) suggesting Jesus’ identity from his multiplication of loaves.
But the disciples, seeing Jesus’ rule over rude waters, failed to comprehend God in the man Jesus; instead, they believed him a ghost. One might say, The Twelve were the first theologians of Christ’s “real absence” with his church.
The disciples, were so distressed by the demonstration of divine power that Jesus interrupted his “by-pass” to assuage their unbelieving fear. Jesus rising into the boat returned order at his assurance of abiding presence and concern for their welfare, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mk. 6:50).
Although The Twelve possessed baskets of bread and fish emblematic of apostolic distribution, they were not yet comprehending ministers of “the bread of angels” (Ps. 78:25). Further teaching of the loaves was required; Jesus re-directed the boat to the western shore, to the land of Jews and the synagogue at Capernaum.
During the coming three Sundays the church is also redirected, to St. John’s Gospel supplying us with what the Apostles missed about the “loaves”; the Resurrection teaching that Jesus is the church’s Bread of Life out of heaven (Jn. 6:35); not a ghost, but the man in whose flesh all the fullness of the Godhead is bodily present (Col. 2:9, 10).
When after death, Jesus on Easter morning appeared to his disciples, again they thought him a “ghost” until he ate their fish. At the 5,000, Jesus alone distributed the fish (Mk. 6:41b; Lk. 24:37) as his church’s “Ichthus”
Let’s fast-forward to the Middle Ages, King Henry VIII heading the Anglican communion; in the matter of the Eucharist Henry faithfully held the catholic faith concerning Christ’s Real Presence; accordingly, the Book of Common Prayer, instructed kneeling for reception of the Sacrament of the Altar.
After Henry’s death, Protestant influences insinuated the infamous “Black Rubric”: “Lest … kneeling … be thought … otherwise, we … declare that it is not meant … that any adoration is done … either unto the Sacramental bread or wine … bodily received, or unto any real and essential presence … of Christ’s natural flesh and blood … As concerning the natural body and blood of … Christ, they are in heaven and not here.”
O Lutheran, if anyone calls you, a “Protestant”, understand what is entailed. M. Luther puts a fine point on the matter, “[He] would rather drink blood with the Pope than wine with the Reformed.”
This Sermon does not explicate denominational shortcomings; rather identifying what Protestantism has in common: a documented history, in one varity or another, of proclaiming the “real absence of Christ” with his church, apart from Scripture; as the Reformed say, “He is not here.”
Jesus warned his church of infidelity to his word. Three days following institution of the Holy Supper, Thomas was informed by brother Apostles that Jesus was visibly present; yet Thomas asserted, “I will not believe” (Jn. 20:25c).
On the next Resurrection Day Jesus was again visibly present, admonishing faithless worship, “do not be faithless, but faithful”; at which Thomas was baptized, into Jesus’ wounds, confessed the church’s eucharistic Real Presence faith, “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:27, 28).
But you, who believe Jesus, “this is my body” (Mk. 14:22-24) discern his present glory, before whom every knee must bow (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11), crucified, resurrected, and ascended for his church’s faith-life and new creation against all threats from the devilish abyss.
For faithfulness Jesus bestows his eucharistic touch for wholeness and promise, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn. 20:29b). Thus, the church boat advances with Jesus according to faith’s prayer-posture. Amen.