The Seventh Sunday after Trinity| Rev. Rolf Preus| July 14, 2013| St. Mark 8:1-9
In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.” Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.” So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away. St. Mark 8:1-9
The miraculous feeding of the four thousand, like the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, was a sign. Jesus did signs to signify who he is and what he is like. Jesus did creative miracles to show that he is the Creator. Seven loaves of bread do not feed four thousand people. Jesus fed four thousand people with seven loaves of bread and had more bread left over than when he started – seven large baskets full. What Jesus did was impossible. But he did it. With God nothing is impossible. Jesus showed himself to be God. Only God can create, that is, make something out of nothing. Jesus created. Therefore, Jesus is God. This is the first thing this sign signifies. Jesus of Nazareth is the Creator God.
There is no point in talking about Jesus, listening to his teaching, seeking his guidance, or trusting in him if we do not first reckon with the fact that he is God in the flesh. Whether it is possible for God to become a man and to remain God is up to God to decide, since God is in the business of doing what for us mere mortals is impossible. That the heretics have attacked the true deity of Christ is simply a commentary on man’s insistence on judging God by the standards of human reason rather than trusting in God as the One who can do the impossible and do it for our benefit. The chief mysteries of our faith are the trinity of God and the deity of Christ. These mysteries belong together.
God is triune. The Holy Trinity is the only God who has ever existed and there never was a time when he did not exist. God is eternal. The Son is begotten of the Father from eternity. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son from eternity. While there are many idols of various names that people worship, the worship of these false gods is idolatry, a sin against the First Commandment. The Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is the only God who exists. Therefore, he is the only God to be worshipped. He is the only God to whom we must give an account. He is the only God who can help us in our need.
The Father directs us to his Son. The Holy Spirit testifies to the Son. The Son reveals the Father. The only way to know the Father is through his Son. He who has the Son of God has life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have life, does not have God, and remains spiritually blind and dead. This is why we need the Holy Spirit who enlightens us so that we may know the Son, and in knowing the Son may know the Father who sent him.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written that we may know the Son of God and knowing him we would know God. The signs that Jesus did not only identified him as God in the flesh – because he did what only God could do – they also revealed to the people what God is like. God doesn’t change with the seasons. What Jesus revealed about God to the first century crowds in Palestine remains the truth about God today and until the end of time.
Jesus did no miracles to hurt people. He created. He didn’t destroy. He didn’t do miracles to punish sinners. He did miracles to heal them, to rescue them from distress of body and soul, and here, in the miracle set before us today, to feed their bodies. You cannot separate Jesus’ teaching and his miracles because they both point to him as the Savior of sinners. Jesus drew the crowds. They were hungry for his teaching. Nobody ever taught God’s law with such exactitude as Jesus. He was no fuzzy headed liberal, mumbling moral irrelevancies that people could use as an excuse not to repent of their sins. Jesus interpreted the law very strictly according to its spirit, and as Jesus taught the law, nobody escaped from its judgment.
This is why, when Jesus taught the gospel of the forgiveness of sins, his teaching had such great authority. He demanded a righteousness greater than that of the holiest saints. But he provided in himself what he demanded. Jesus drew the crowds because he had the words of life that they needed. They followed him, stayed with him, listened to him, and received nourishment for their souls. His words gave them God’s free gift of eternal life.
Why did all those people spend three days with Jesus without first preparing themselves by bringing sufficient food? Shouldn’t they have thought ahead and planned their meals? They shouldn’t have just assumed that somebody would take care of their needs. Some people go through life thinking that they can mooch off of other people. Shouldn’t they be taught to provide for themselves?
It doesn’t appear that this bothered Jesus. He didn’t blame them for their needs. He saw that they were hungry and had compassion on them in their need. They were hungry. He fed them. That is simple, uncomplicated compassion. Christ Jesus cares for those who cannot care for themselves. He feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, visits the sick and imprisoned, and tells us that when we do so for our fellow Christians we are doing it for him.
In that great portion of his Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells us not to worry about the needs of our body, he says: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Why did the crowd stay with Jesus? How did it happen that they spent so much time listening to Jesus teach that they ran out of food? Could it be that they were seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? They cared more about their spiritual needs than their bodily needs. They ignored their bodily needs because they hungered and thirsted for the righteousness that Jesus alone could give them. They were sinners in search of God’s grace. Naturally, they went to Jesus. They were sheep without a shepherd. Naturally, they followed Jesus. He spoke with authority, true evangelical authority, as he claimed the authority on earth to forgive sins and proved his authority by healing the sick, driving out demons, giving sight to the blind, and cleansing the lepers.
Does it pay to go to Jesus? Is it worth it? Many people hear the gospel and reject it. Many hear it and confess it and then walk away from it. Many claim to believe it but mostly ignore it. What about those who listen to God’s word and take it to heart? They faithfully attend a church that holds to the truth of God’s word. They support that church. They confess that truth, whether it is popular or not. They stay with it. They don’t tire of hearing it. They receive Christ’s teaching and they treasure it in their hearts. Of what benefit is this?
That’s really what people want to know, even if they don’t verbalize their questions. What good is it for me? They say that Americans are a very practical people. How does it work? How does it work for me? In many areas of life this may not be a bad approach, but is this any way to approach God? How does he work for me? As if God is a commodity for sale and I’m considering a purchase? I’ll buy a little bit of God for the upcoming operation? See if he gets the job done? It’s as if God is on trial and the religious consumer is the one who is in charge.
Unless God is in charge we don’t have a prayer. We may think that our lives are under our control, that we’ve got things all planned out, that the future is secure. What do we know? We can plan for our retirement and lose our money. We can plan on a secure job and get fired. We can plan on going on a vacation and get sick. We can plan on spending time with the one we love the most and then our beloved is taken away and we are alone.
Here’s what we need to know. We need to know that God is in charge and that he loves us. This is what Jesus teaches us. They came to him for instruction in the truth. He taught them and taught them and taught them. For three days they stayed with him. In confessing him as their greatest good and his words as their greatest need they confessed that he would give them whatever else they needed in life. And he did. He did then and he will do it today.
Jesus had compassion on the crowds. He still does. He was God in the flesh. He still is. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If he fed his Christians then he will feed his Christians today. David writes in Psalm 37,
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:4-5)
Later on in the psalm he writes:
I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread. (Psalm 37:25)
God’s not under our control. Thank God for that. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t on our side. That’s what the four thousand hungry people learned. He’s not going to watch us put our spiritual needs before our bodily needs and then ignore our bodily needs.
Body and soul go together. God made Adam out of the dust of the ground and then he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul. The needs of our souls are far greater than the needs of our bodies. For these bodies will die. We must put on bodies that cannot die. Flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom. Our bodies must be changed from dying bodies to glorified bodies that cannot die.
But our souls will never die. That’s what Jesus said. The bodies in which we live will grow old. They will suffer sickness and weakness. We will forget things. We will lose our ability to do things. God will continue to feed us, but feeding these bodies will not keep them going for very long. Before you know it we will become the topic of sentimental reminiscing at a funeral. Our dead bodies will be displayed for viewing and then discretely covered in a pretty casket. The family will cry, the friends will comfort, and as time passes we will be forgotten. Our memory will be blown away like the wind over the prairie.
So much for those whose god is their own belly! What pathetic lives! To live for the cravings of the body that is dying and to ignore the needs of the immortal soul! That’s the wisdom of a fool and we live in these dying bodies surrounded by fools.
Thank God for the wisdom that comes down from above, from him who was, and is, and is to be, the eternal Son of the Father, full of grace and truth! He is the bread of life. The bread is his flesh and blood, given up on the cross as a sacrifice to Justice, to take away the world’s sin. This is eternal life. This is forgiveness of all our sins. That makes it food for our souls. We eat and are never hungry. We drink and our parched souls are soothed and comforted. No food for the body tastes as good. This food provides eternal life. When we cherish it above all of our bodily needs, the Savior who gave up his life for us all will see to it that we have everything we need in this life. He who taught us to seek his kingdom before all else also taught us to pray for our daily bread. He will not feed our souls and neglect our bodily needs. Amen