Sunday, July 18, 2010

Trinity 7 Sermon

Trinity 7 – Mark 8:1-9 – July 18th, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
So today in our Gospel lesson we see the feeding of the 4000. Why? Why does Jesus feed these people? This seems like a simple question, and in reality it is. It’s a simple question – but it is a vitally important question, and a question that false teachers and false prophets will twist and turn and tie into knots in order to try to manipulate you and lead you astray. So what we will do this morning is look in detail at the answer to this question – Why does Jesus feed these 4000 people – and then we will see how this applies to us.

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, He [that is, Jesus] called His disciples together 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.” Why does Jesus feed these 4000 people? One word – compassion. Jesus has compassion – that word “compassion” in English means to share the passion, to share the feeling, to share the suffering – commiseration. The Greek word here is “Splagchnizomai” – literally feeling in one’s guts – Jesus sees the crowd in their hunger and it is gut-wrenching. Jesus looked upon the crowd, He saw their need, saw their hungry faces, and He felt it, and He knew He had to act. Or in other words, Jesus loved them. Jesus loved that crowd, and as He loved them, when He saw them in need He felt compassion. And so He calls His disciples to Him, and He teaches them. Do you want to know who your Master is, oh Disciples? Then look out on that crowd, that dusty, dirty crowd – your Master is one who sees them not with revulsion, not with disdain, but with compassion. Jesus teaches the disciples one very important thing – He looks upon people with compassion, with love.

I’m sure you here all know that – I’m sure that none of you are shocked at this. But let me warn you – here is the twist, here is where some preachers will teach falsely. Why does Jesus have compassion upon these people, why does He love them? Some false teachers will say – “Well, because they were there following Him – look at how hard these people worked to follow Jesus, look how much they sacrificed for Him, of course Jesus is going to pay them back.” And you can guess what will follow – some sort of guilt trip or sales pitch – now you need to do this or that, and then God will have compassion and bless you. Put some more money into the plate, into my pocket, and then God will bless you. All Law. But that’s not what Jesus is teaching here – Jesus doesn’t say, “Oh, I owe these people something because of their devotion” – He says, “I have compassion”. When you have compassion, it’s because you’ve seen something bad, something horrid, something rough, and you feel sorry for someone. Do you think Jesus feels sorry for these people because they’ve listened to His preaching for three days? I mean, do you really think that Jesus is sitting there thinking, “Oh, it’s so horrid that these people are actually paying attention and listening to the Word of God being preached – I wish they never would have come”? No – He has compassion upon them because they are hungry. Because they are weak – they are so hungry that if He sends them home they will faint and pass out on the way.

This is the thing – Jesus has compassion upon these people not because they are strong, not because they are such good, dedicated people, not because He owes them something. He has compassion upon them because they are weak – and Jesus can’t stand to see them suffer. Jesus says, “Look at them suffering – I can’t stand it – it is gut wrenching. I must do something, I must act.” And the first response Jesus gets is sort of lousy – And His disciples answered Him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” Well, yeah Jesus, we get that things are tough, but what can ya do? We’re out here in the middle of a big old dry area and there’s no bread to be found here. We can’t do anything – oh well. Even the disciples are weak – they can’t do anything to help out.

And so what does Jesus do – He takes the bread that the disciples have – 7 loaves, and then, “And He took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, He broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before the people.” Does the same thing with some fish – and what do you know, everyone eats. Jesus can’t stand seeing those hungry people – so He acts – He acts purely out of His great love for them, and He cares for them.

So what does this mean? What does this teach us? Dear friends, this is the exact same reason why Jesus Christ came down from heaven, was born of the Virgin Mary, why He went to the Cross and suffered and died. Because He had compassion. There in heaven, our LORD saw the suffering of sin – saw what happened to His creation after Adam and Eve fell, saw their pain, saw their sorrow – even saw that they brought it upon themselves by their own foolishness. He saw your sin, your pain, your sorrow. And He had compassion. He said, “I must do something, I must help, I must save” Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven – and it is this compassion, this love that Jesus shows most fully in going to the Cross. There He literally has compassion, there He literally feels what we feel, as all the weight, all the burden of our sin is placed upon Him. There he feels what we fear most – death. He shares in it with us – He has compassion, because He must. Jesus’ compassion tells us about Him. Jesus goes to the cross because we need Him to, because if He doesn’t we are damned forever and there’s nothing we can do about it – but our Lord has compassion upon us – and He is nailed to the cross and He dies.

The Cross - that is the sign of Christ’s love for you – love that He gives freely. It’s not something you earn, it’s not something you have to work for, it’s not something that you get only if you are a strong enough Christian, if you are a good enough Christian. Which is good, because you aren’t. You are weak. Of yourself, you are nothing but a poor, miserable sinner. Every one of us here is – and there’s not a thing any of us can do to earn God’s love, to earn His respect. And we don’t need to, whatever the false prophets out there in the world say. His salvation is simply out of His love for you, it is as Paul proclaims His free gift to you – and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. It all starts with Christ’s love – it’s what we learned when we were little – Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak. . . but He is strong. There upon the Cross, when the world thinks Christ is at His weakest, there He is strong for you, there He takes upon Himself the stripes and chastisements that your sin had earned, there He takes up the wages of your sin. Because He has compassion. And on the third day, your Lord strides from the tomb, He bursts open the bonds of death – He says the wages of sin are no more because I have conquered them and destroyed them for you – and now He gives you His life to share.

But I don’t want you to think, dear friends, that this is just some story about something that happened 2000 years ago, far, far from you. Do you not know that Christ Jesus sees you and has compassion upon you? Right now, today? You ought to – how often do we sing “Lord have Mercy” in this service? It would be right stupid to call out to God for mercy if He wasn’t going to do anything about it, if we thought His time of showing love was just something in the past. No, Christ Jesus your Lord knows the trials and burdens and struggles with sin that you face – the ways in which Satan smacked you around this week – and I know Satan smacked you around this week, because life in this world is harsh, is coarse, and Satan loves to toss His weight around, loves to fling temptations one after another at us and wear us down. Christ Jesus sees these struggles you face, and He has compassion on you. How could He not – for you have been Baptized, you have been joined to Christ. Last week we had that wonderful passage from Romans – Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? How can Christ not have compassion upon you – He’s joined Himself to you in Baptism. Indeed, He has made you to share in the benefits of His death and resurrection. You’ve been with Him 3 days, the three days of His death and His resurrection. But the simple fact is that in this world, we still get kicked in the teeth – and until the Last Day when we are all raised to new and perfected life, Satan will keep kicking. And life here will be hard, and without Christ’s constant support, we will grow faint. Hmmm, so what did Jesus do when those people there in the text who had been with Him three days were going to grow faint and weary? And He took the 7 loaves, and having given thanks He broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before the people. That language isn’t an accident – what does God do for us, in fact, what’s going to happen here in just a few minutes? Christ Jesus will take bread, give thanks, break it – and then through that bread, in with and under it, He will give Himself, His life, His salvation, His righteousness to you – He makes His disciples, His servants, His pastors do that for His people even to this day, even in this small, rural place. He does this to make you to live with His forgiveness, to keep you strong and firm in your faith and trust of Him – to keep you strong until you reach your true home – the New Heavens and the New Earth of the resurrection.

And all this, all this which Christ does for you is free – it is His love, it is His compassion which He has for you. Let no one steal this love away from you, let no one twist you with false teachings, let no one make you think for a second you must earn this. Christ Jesus our Lord has compassion upon you, and He gives you Himself so that you may have life everlasting with Him. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

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