Trinity 7, August 3, 2014 – Mark 8:1-9
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Again. This is a word we ought to associate with these miraculous feedings. Again. “In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat…” Didn’t we just have this situation? Wasn’t it back in Lent where the Gospel reading was the feeding of the 5000 from John? Yep. And here today, we have a feeding… again. And you know what – it’s appropriate, because if you look at Mark 6 you will see the feeding of the 5000 – this is Jesus feeing people in chapter 8… again.
When you look at the Scriptures, things are often repetitive. They happen over and over and over again. Once again this week in our Gospel we see a great crowd gathered with nothing to eat. People running off in their excitement about that miracle worker Jesus who had just healed a deaf man (again), but this time right on their door step. And I suppose we can understand the people doing this, I mean, they would have been excited, this would have been new and thrilling, we can get that. But think about Jesus’ disciples for a moment. Jesus sees the crowd, and He announces that He wants to feed them, and then what do we hear from the disciples? “And His disciples answered Him, ‘How can one feed these people with bread in this desolate place?’” Really? Really disciples – just two chapters ago you saw Him turn the five loaves and 2 fish into enough food for well over 5000 people, and you ask that question? I mean, I could see if folks in the crowd would think it, but you’ve been with Jesus all this time? How come you haven’t gotten it yet?
Now to be fair, to the Jewish mindset, seeing wasn’t believing – it was seeing two or three times that was believing. Everything had to be proved by two or three witnesses, so maybe that has something to do with it – but still, wouldn’t we expect the disciples of all people to know what is going to happen? That Jesus will break bread and feed the people there? And yet, for some reason, it just hasn’t set in yet – and the same questioning, the same dumb doubting of Christ’s power kicks in. Of course, to be fair, the entire Scriptures are really a history of people falling into the same traps multiple times, over and over again. Abraham passes off Sarah as his sister and not his wife, twice. The Israelites grumble about water, twice – in fact the second time upsets Moses so much that he smacks the rock instead of just speaking to it like God had said. Last week in bible study (at Zion) starting 1st Samuel, we saw a husband with two wives (Elkanah, and his wives Peninnah and Hannah) – and what happens? The wife who has kids torments Hannah who has none – just like Leah and Rachel. The book of Judges – over and over the people forget God and get themselves into trouble. The prophets – they all lament Israel and Judah falling into idol worship and worse. Over and over, people falling into the same sins, over and over again.
But, of course, let’s be honest. The Scriptures are a brutally honest book, and they don’t hide warts. What if there was a book of the Scriptures based upon your life, or what if you were reading “1st Eric” – how long would it take before you put your face in your hand and said, “I can’t believe he’s doing that… again!” Because that is the vile nature of sin. It is repetitive, it is pervasive. It is habitual, and bad habits are hard to break, and they don’t like to stay broken. And sadly, when we look back upon our lives – whether it’s the end of the day, or thinking back upon the last week because the preacher is carrying on, or an anniversary, or even on the death bed with regrets flying in front of us, over and over, so often it was the same old stupid things, the same weaknesses, the same faults, the same sins. Over and over again.
“In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, He called His disciples to Him and said to them, ‘I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.’” So what is Jesus’ response when He sees the crowd show up again? Disdain? Mockery? I can’t believe these people came to listen to me unprepared again? Nope. None of that. He has compassion. There is no belittling, no complaining about the crowd. No, these people are with me, I have compassion upon them. The Greek there means that His guts were wrenched – I feel what they feel, I have compassion because I am with them and they are with Me.
This is the reality of what it means when we confess that Jesus Christ is both true God and true Man. This is what Christmas means, this is what the incarnation means. Jesus has compassion – Jesus came down from heaven, took on a body like yours, like mine, and He experienced life in this world. All the sorts of things that impact us – whether it is hunger and being faint, as in this text – or being mocked, or hurting, or mourning, being forsaken by friends. All of those things, He experienced, He has compassion. And the beautiful difference – whereas as we will use the things that happen to us to justify our bad behavior – eh, I yelled, but I had had a bad day – not so Christ. With Him, always perfect love. Even to us. Even to the disciples who just utterly drop the ball and can’t even guess that He is going to feed the crowd. Instead, Jesus just does what He needs to do to show care and compassion – And He directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, He broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. There is no berating, no handwringing. Just another miraculous feeding – here you go, take this bread that I have blessed and be filled.
And here we are in this congregation. Gathered once again. The same liturgy. Hymns we’ve sung before. Readings we’ve heard before. All of this, appropriate. Because we here are what we’ve been, poor miserable sinners who struggle with the same sort of junk we’ve been struggling with for the past month, for the past year, for decades, for our entire life. And yet, here is the wonder – week in, week out, again and again, Christ Jesus has compassion upon you. He doesn’t get sick of you, He doesn’t get tired of you. Once again, over and over, He speaks His Word of forgiveness to you. Once again, He takes a flawed disciple and bread is broken, and it is given to you – take and eat, this is My Body, given for you, take and drink, this is My Blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Without fail, the forgiveness and mercy and life that Christ Jesus won for you upon the Cross is given to you here in this place.
Why? Because you are the Baptized. Because in your Baptism, you were joined to Christ Jesus – that was the Epistle last week – you have been baptized into Christ Jesus. And what precisely does that mean? In terms of our Gospel lesson – “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with Me now three days.” That’s you – you’ve been with Jesus, baptized into His death, and of course joined with a resurrection like His. He cannot but have compassion upon you, for He loves you as He loves Himself. And He knows your limitations, knows the war that sin wages upon you, He knows how sin plays upon you and messes with you – but over and over again He comes to you here in this place and says to you that you are no longer, in fact, a slave to sin, but you are bound to Him, that you are a slave to righteousness, that you are forgiven. Your baptism, the forgiveness of your sins, that you are bound to Christ, a slave to righteousness and now sanctified and given eternal life – these are the realities that Christ sees and remembers at all times – and so, when we are worn and weak and weary, He will give them to us again – He will preach them again, He will place forgiveness upon our lips by giving us His own Body and Blood again and again and again. Because He has compassion upon you; because you are His and He will not let you go on your way faint from sin, but always, always forgiven.
“And He sent them away.” Off they went – back to their lives, but having been cared for by Christ, and indeed, still under His continual care. Likewise, you will be sent from here – depart in peace, the Lord lift His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Sent back to your life out there, your homes, your jobs, your family, maybe sent on vacation. Sent back to face the same difficulties and struggles – but sent in peace, as God’s own baptized children, washed and forgiven. Sent, but ready to be welcomed here again next week, to be fed and forgiven again. Because Christ Jesus never becomes bored of forgiving you – it is His delight and joy and purpose of the Church. God be with you all this week, and God see you safely here again next when God will feed you through Seminarian Fischaber. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +