Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 6:30-44
Dear people who have come to be fed: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus was taking the apostles out to a solitary place to rest a while. They had just come back from their first mission trip of preaching God’s Word, and they were tired. The crowds came continually, not even giving the apostles opportunity to eat, so Jesus planned a retreat for them. Jesus and the disciples left in a boat to a desolate place by themselves for some rest.
The crowds, however, had something else in mind. They saw Jesus and the apostles leave in the boat and they ran on foot from all the towns and got to the destination ahead of them. So much for their retreat. But Jesus does ensure the apostles have something to eat – and not just the apostles, but also the crowds. The crowds who didn’t even give the apostles an opportunity to eat were fed miraculously by Jesus out there in the dessert.
We see that God does care for our physical needs. He cares and He provides what we need. Thus we confess in the meaning of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.”
God created us, but He also continues to provide for us. He makes all creation help provide the benefits and necessities of life. God has even blessed us with government that allows us to live in peace and security and to gather for Divine Service without danger.
God gives life, and God sustains life. This means that none of us has life or anything else from ourselves, nor can we ourselves preserve anything that we have. God gives, and God sustains.
The meaning of the First Article continues. “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”
Because everything we possess, and everything in heaven and on earth is daily given, sustained, and protected by God, it inevitably follows that we are duty bound to love, praise, and thank Him without ceasing, and, in short, to devote all these things to His service, as He has required and commanded. [LC II.19]
Luther writes in the Large Catechism, “Here much could be said if we were to describe how few people believe this article. We all pass over it; we hear it and recite it, but we neither see nor think about what the words command us to do. For if we believed it with our whole heart, we would also act accordingly, and not swagger about and boast and brag as if we had life, riches, power, honour, and such things of ourselves, as if we ourselves were to be feared and served. This is the way the wretched, perverse world acts, drowned in its blindness, misusing all the blessings and gifts of God solely for its own pride, greed, pleasure, and enjoyment, and never once turning to God to thank Him or acknowledge Him as Lord and Creator.” [LC II.20-21]
As Christians, we are to thank and praise God for what He gives. We are also to recognize that God gives and sustains only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us. We do not deserve what He gives to us, but He gives it to us anyway out of His great love for us. This, in turn, warms our hearts with gratitude to God and gives us a desire to use all of these blessings to His glory and praise.
Notice, however, that even more important than providing physical blessings, is God’s provision of spiritual blessings. When Jesus arrived ashore to the place where He was to rest with the apostles, He saw the great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things (v. 34).
Despite fatigue, Jesus saw the spiritual needs of the crowds, so He taught them. Jesus preached God’s Word to them because that is what they needed more than anything else.
Sheep without shepherds are helpless. They make easy prey for wolves and other predators. They have trouble finding water and food. So Jesus had compassion on the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd. No one was spiritually feeding them God’s Word. No one was defending them from the false shepherds who sought to lead them astray and benefit at the expense of the sheep. They were not being nourished by the Word of Life.
The text says Jesus taught them “many things”. Not just a quick sermonette or parable, but He taught them many things. He taught them so long that the hour became late and the crowds got hungry. Then Jesus also fed them physically. Jesus continued to show compassion to the crowds.
Jesus also has compassion on you. Yes, He richly and daily provides you with all that you need to support this body and life. But more than that, He gave His life for you. The Good Shepherd gave His life for sheep that love to wander. Jesus’ death on the cross was for us, for our sins, for our breaking of God’s Law. Jesus’ death was for our thoughts that we have what we have only by our own doing, and for our thanklessness and ingratitude. Jesus’ death earned forgiveness for you, and He has not stopped and will not stop feeding you.
Jesus has made sure that you are not like sheep without a shepherd. He is your Good Shepherd, and He continually feeds you and nourishes you through His Word and His own body and blood. Every Sunday He calls you to be nourished by His Word and Sacrament. Every day He calls you to be nourished through His Word whether alone or with your family. Don’t starve yourself because Jesus wants to richly feed you.
And don’t get caught up in physical blessings in favour of the spiritual blessings. John tells us that the crowds were following Jesus because they had seen Him heal many who were sick (Jn. 6:2). The crowds were seeking physical relief and physical blessings. But what did Jesus do? He taught them. He nourished them spiritually.
Sometimes God even allows us to suffer physically so that we would spiritually benefit. God does care for our physical needs, but He cares much more for our spiritual needs. Sometimes we suffer loss. Sometimes God takes away physical blessings in order to give us spiritual blessings. Sometimes we need a reminder that all we have has been given to us by God and is sustained by Him. But God will never withhold His spiritual blessings and nourishment from us. In our sin we may despise His nourishment and avoid His spiritual blessings and chase after physical blessings instead. But He continues to offer His Word and Sacrament to us in order to nourish us and bless us. He continues to be our Shepherd and calls us to hear His voice. Jesus continues to have compassion on us. He continues to give us what we need for our physical needs, and especially what we need for our spiritual needs. So come, receive the spiritual nourishment of Jesus’ true body and blood. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.