Pentecost 9 – July 22, 2018 – “Well Fed!”  Mark 6:30-44

Pentecost 0918 (PR11b) – “Well Fed!”  Mark 6:30-44

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.  The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Gospel account of St Mark, the 6th Chapter:

30The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.  31And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  32And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.  33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.  34When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

35And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late.  36Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”  37But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”  38And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”

39Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.  40So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties.  41And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all.  42And they all ate and were satisfied.  43And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.  44And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

How satisfied are you with your life?  How many of you buy lottery tickets?  How many of you have trouble watching other people seemingly go through life with little or no difficulty, while you apparently have to endure all the difficulty?  How many of you can say you truly understand these words from the 4th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer?

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

What do you think of when you hear this account of Jesus feeding these ten to fifteen thousand people?  Yes, I said ten to fifteen thousand people.  Think for a moment and tell me why I said ten to fifteen thousand people.

No doubt, you look at the amount of food that was distributed to the people.  You think about the five loaves of bread and the two fish that were miraculously multiplied and distributed to the crowd.  As you consider this miracle, you think you understand the fulfillment of the 4th Petition mentioned earlier.  God really gave daily bread that day.

When I thought about this miracle account, the words that stood out were these from the 42nd verse.  Please read them with me.

“And they all ate and were satisfied.”

The people were well fed according to the account.  They had all they could eat and more.  For, after the meal was finished, twelve baskets of bread and fish were collected by the disciples.  That is the essence of being satisfied, is it not?  You eat until your hunger is filled.  You buy what is needed to complete what is lacking.  You go to the place where you can find those things you need to satisfy your heart, mind and body.

That is exactly what the ten to fifteen thousand people did.  They sought out Jesus because he could give them what they wanted.  He had shown earlier that he could take away their trouble and fill their desires.  Looking to other accounts of this same miracle, we will notice that the people came to Jesus because he had healed their physical ailments and had cast out demons.  That is why Mark records the haste with which the crowds raced ahead of Jesus and his disciples to the solitary place along the Sea of Galilee.

Yet, Jesus knew something about the crowd that they did not know about themselves.  Jesus knew that there was a deeper need that must be filled.  A need that is not recognized but is of infinitely greater importance compared to physical affliction or bodily hunger.  That was why Jesus took his disciples off to this solitary place.  Jesus wanted to address this greater need with his disciples.  Jesus wanted to remove them from distractions and give them the one that that truly gives satisfaction.

It would seem that the moment was lost when Jesus landed on what was supposed to be a deserted shoreline.  Yet, Jesus recognized that the waiting crowd of people had this same need.  There was a spiritual emptiness that needed to be filled.  Such emptiness is noted in these words recorded in verse 34.  Read them with me.

“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”

“Like sheep without a shepherd.”  Mark records Jesus thoughts concerning the crowd of people stretched out before him.  They act like sheep wandering away from the one who has charge over them.  We can understand two thoughts here.  The first being, the sheep are wandering around in an aimless walk.  The second being, they had no one to give them guidance.  So the reflection could be on either the sheep or the shepherds.

Indeed, the prophet Jeremiah brings harsh judgment upon the teachers of Israel.  God, speaking through Jeremiah, declares these teachers of Israel to be shepherds who scatter the sheep and care nothing for the sheep.  Such judgment would be correct.  For, if you read through the pages of the OT you find that these leaders first abandoned their God and then abandoned the people of God.

Yet, we must also consider the sheep themselves.  It is the nature of sheep to wander unaware of the direction they travel.  No matter how the shepherd gives guidance with his staff of with his voice, the sheep will wander off and come to harm.  They bring trouble to themselves.

Think about your own families.  Who is the black sheep of your family?  Why is this person called the black sheep of the family?  Such a name is commentary on the family member’s life and actions.  They usually act outside the bounds of the family rules.  Refusing to abide by the rules the person goes their own way.

It can happen in congregations as well.  There are those who go their own way and do not heed the voice of the pastor or their fellow Christians.  When the word of the Lord is applied to their actions, there is refusal to recognize their sin and repent.  Instead of repentance, there is resentment.  Some will leave and find a voice that will not call them to repentance.

The purpose of discipline is always focused on what we read in this passage from St Mark.  There is always a desire to show compassion and to restore what has been lacking.  This our Lord show in both feeding this crowd on the material blessings of this world, but more important with the spiritual blessings that flow from the word of God.

As I was studying this passage, there was a beautiful Psalm the came to mind.  It is a rather peaceful psalm that depicts a lush and quiet place where the weary traveler may have all his or her needs met.  Maybe you can guess which Psalm. It was suggested by these words from verse 39.

“Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.”

         The psalm depicts exactly what is taking place on this green hillside near the calm waters of the Galilean Sea.  Jesus is filling to overflowing not only the bellies of these stumbling sheep, but also the sore and hurting souls of these stumbling sheep.  Such things are spoken of by King David when he writes:

 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul. …

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

We have the same table spread before us today in the soul sustaining word of God and the faith strengthening feast of salvation waiting to be eaten from the Lord’s altar.  These eternal witnesses place before our eyes and hearts the highest act of compassion which Jesus showed to his lost and wandering sheep.  St Paul spoke of this in his epistle to the Ephesians we read earlier.

 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”

The crowds were brought near by the mercy which Jesus showed them.  They had witnessed the healing power of God in the miracles which Jesus performed among them.  They tasted the richness of God’s grace in the multiplied bread and fish which fed their empty stomachs.  They heard of the blessings of the Kingdom of God in the words spoken to them by their Good Shepherd Jesus.  They heard the word, saw miraculous healing and multiplied food and were fully satisfied in all things.

We are brought near by the same mercy and grace shown and given through word and Sacrament.  Truly, Jesus sacrificed his time to meet the needs of the crowd.  Later on he sacrificed his body and poured out his blood to meet the needs of his Father for all people in every age and place.  Now Jesus bids us to eat of this rich heavenly food that alone can satisfy all needs.

Sometimes the meal will not be to our liking.  We may wonder what God is doing or if he really knows what we need.  We may look at our life’s situation and become dissatisfied and say, “God, what are you thinking?”  Our dissatisfaction will reveal itself in anger, frustration, impatience, bitterness, envy, jealousy and a host of other feelings or desires for things that only will make the situation worse.

Yet the Lord reminds us of the richness of his grace and calls us from our sinful rejection to humble reception of His gifts to us.  God desires us to see how fully he meets our needs of body and soul.  With Job we must respond in faith when life is bad as well as when life is good.  He spoke to those who questioned his suffering and loss saying “Shall we receive good from the hand of God and not receive evil?”

Such trials in life prepare us for greater satisfaction which is yet to come.  The Lord of Life, Jesus Christ is preparing us to rejoice in the feast yet to come.  We are given a foretaste of that feast when we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in, with and under the bread and the wine of Holy Communion.  We feast upon the salvation given through Jesus’ body and blood.  In these gifts we have the true satisfaction that calms our hearts and quiets our minds regarding God’s grace and mercy for sinners.  It is a fact to be held by faith.

Where have you eaten lately?  What meals have you received?  What table did you sit at that did not satisfy your needs?  What wants control you life?  What needs do you ignore?  What grace shown did you not recognize?  What encouragement spoken did you not hear?

Come now to the feast of salvation and receive the satisfying grace of God who forgives your sins and addresses your needs of body and soul.  In Jesus Christ your satisfaction is guaranteed.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen