Sermon July 22, 2018

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The Holy Gospel according to St. Mark, the sixth chapter. The apostles returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught. And 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. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 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. And when it grew late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But 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?” And 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.” Then He commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And 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. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

There are those people who do things for others and there are those who want things done for them. There are those who think about what is good for others and there are those who think about what is good for themselves. Where do you fit in, in these two categories?

In our text this morning, we read: The apostles returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught. And 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.

I notice a couple of things here. The apostles had been busy helping others and teaching them. In Luke we read: After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go….. I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. … The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your Name.”

Indeed! they had been very busy carrying out the Lord’s command. They preached the Good News, they cast out demons and most of all, they prepared the way for the Lord. They were indeed thinking about the good of others, both their physical and their spiritual welfare.

Then there is this, “And 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.” Here Jesus is thinking about them. He cares that they had worked so hard. He cared that they didn’t even take time off to rest and to eat something for themselves. “Come away and rest awhile. You deserve it. You need it. I care about you!”

Later on, however, we read: “And when it grew late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” Now the question is: Were they concerned about the people? Were they concerned about themselves? Or were they concerned about Jesus?

At first glance it could be any one of the three but I think this section points to one answer: But 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?” That sounds to me that they were more concerned about themselves than they were about the crowd or about Jesus.

Now we cannot condemn them for feeling this way for they were also the same ones who went out 2×2 and worked so hard for the good of others. That pretty well reminds me of myself. I have my good moments and my bad. Times when I really am concerned about others and times I only worry about myself. There are times when I am selfless and there are times when I am selfish! And I will be so bold as to say I am speaking about you as well.

There are times when we can feel pretty good about ourselves. We have helped others. Perhaps we have done any number of things the way Jesus wanted us to. Like turn the other cheek, bless those who curse us, walked the extra mile.

I recall the last conversation I had with a man who basically hated all pastors, although he was in church every Sunday. His problem was that he came from a family of generations of pastors and his parents expected him to be one too. Instead, he went for the job that paid him a lot of money. Anyway, he had a 50-year history of causing trouble for pastors and he turned on me as well. In that last conversation, he would say something bad about me and I would say something good about him. This went on for an hour and I thought maybe- since he said he knew more about the Bible than I would ever know, that he might catch on. But he didn’t. As we closed the conversation I asked God’s blessings upon him and hung up.

Before I could feel too good about myself, St James reminded me, “If we keep the whole Law but offend in one point, we are guilty of the whole Law.” And Jesus reminded me, “You must be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” My arm didn’t have a chance to pat myself on the back.

Getting back to this miracle, Jesus asked “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then He commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And 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. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

The people were hungry. There were only 5 loaves of bread and two fish so a miracle was needed. Jesus did not just hand out the food but first He offered it to His Father (looking up to heaven) and He blessed it and then handed it out. He was concerned about their physical welfare.

Our text says, “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.” Jesus was concerned about their spiritual welfare.

I am in no position to do much help physically. I am too old to cut the grass or clean windows or patch holes in the plaster of people who are not able to do that for themselves. And I am not rich enough to buy someone a new car or to pay off a mortgage or a lot of other expensive things. I am concerned, but I can’t do much about it.

But I am concerned and can do something about your spiritual welfare. I would like to try to teach you some of the things about God’s Word that possibly you have forgotten or maybe never knew. I brought with me a Bible study that will definitely enrich your understanding of the Bible and how our Church teaches it. And it is my prayer that the services I conduct, and the sermons I deliver will be a help to your spiritual walk with the Lord. But I can only do these things with your participation.

As I said, Jesus was and is concerned about both the physical and the spiritual welfare of His people. I have seen and so have you, the way Lord has blessed us with physical things. He has answered prayers, not always as the way we direct Him (as though we know best!) but in the way that is best for us in the long run. I could spend the whole time of this sermon showing how the Lord has actually answered prayers in ways that were undeniable.

Mostly however He is concerned about our spiritual welfare. That is why He took our sins to the cross and paid for them.That is why He established His Church and watches over it. That is why the Word has been preserved and shared with us. That is why the Sacraments are so effective. Effective especially as we assemble together to hear His Word, to receive His Sacraments and to feel His presence. And yes, He is present everywhere, even at the lake, but especially here. That is why the Bible says, “O Lord I love the habitation Your house, the place where Your glory dwells.” Amen


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