Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (B—Proper 11)

July 19, 2015
Text: Mark 6:30-44; Ps. 23

            “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34; ESV).  In the feeding of the 5,000, our Lord Jesus fulfills the 23rd Psalm.  Christ Jesus is the Good Shepherd who satisfies the wants and needs of His precious lambs.  The shepherding, the pastoring, had been busy for Jesus and the Apostles, and He had called them away for a time, to a desolate place across the Sea, to rest and to eat and to be refreshed by their Lord.  Even pastors need a vacation now and then, and we’re very thankful when our congregations allow us that luxury.  In His compassion, the Lord Jesus reminds His ministers in this text that quiet time away from the demands of ministry is important.  But then again, it doesn’t always work that way.  Vacations are made to be interrupted.  If it’s true that there is no rest for the weary, there is certainly no rest for the Savior.  The people see where Jesus and the disciples are going in the boat.  And they beat them there!  They run around the shore!  If only every congregation were so eager to hear a sermon!  And as Jesus disembarks, there is probably that moment of disappointment as He realizes there will be no solitude.  But at that same moment His pastoral heart is moved.  He has compassion on them.  The Greek word for “compassion” literally means He feels it in His gut.  Even the English word “compassion” literally means “with suffering.”  What causes Jesus to be moved with compassion, to suffer in His guts for these people?  They are like sheep without a shepherd.  They are like a congregation without a pastor.  The word “pastor” means “shepherd.”  The chief priests, the scribes, the Pharisees, they had failed to shepherd these people.  They were starved for the Gospel.  They were hungry for the preaching.  They had been torn to pieces by wolves in sheep’s clothing.  They were very much in want.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Good Pastor, cannot let that stand.  So from that moment, until late into the night, He gathers them together into His fold and He opens His mouth and teaches them many things.
            Remember, this is a desolate place, and the disciples have a very practical concern.  The people haven’t eaten.  It’s way past supper time.  The shops in the villages are closing.  Time to send them away while they can still catch a morsel.  But Jesus has other plans.  “You give them something to eat” (v. 37).  You see, the Divine Service isn’t over yet.  We’ve had the Service of the Word: Jesus teaching His people His Word of life.  But now it’s time to gather round the Lord so Jesus can feed us by the hand of His called and ordained servants.  Jesus is teaching us how it works when He gathers His flock together, when He congregates them.  Now, the disciples are confused, as pastors often are.  They doubt the Lord’s ability to provide for the needs of these people.  Granted, we have here five loaves of bread and two fish.  But what are these among so many?  Jesus commands them to sit down in groups on the green grass.  “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:2; all quotes of Ps. 23 from KJV).  The word for “groups” in Greek is “symposia,” that is, drinking parties.  It indicates this will be a feast!  Five loaves, two fish, and you know what happens next.  Everyone eats.  Everyone is satisfied.  The disciples take up twelve baskets full of leftovers, a basket for each man.  And then we find out that the number 5,000 only includes the men.  Counting women and children, there may have been ten, twenty thousand people there.  The disciples are amazed.  Pastors always are when the Lord’s gifts actually work.  Remember, one of the Lord’s favorite pet names for the Twelve (and I imagine for the pastors who follow after them) is “O ye of little faith.” 
            The Lord Jesus teaches His people, His sheep, and He feeds them.  “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake… Thou preparest a table before me” (vv. 3, 5).  That’s how He does it, Words and Food, Preaching and Supper (and the still waters [v. 2] of Holy Baptism, of course).  And it works!  The people are fed, spiritually and physically.  And as it turns out, there is no better rest or renewal for the Lord’s undershepherds than to feed His sheep the Means of Grace the Lord commands, and watch Him do miraculous things with what doesn’t look like much: words and water, bread and wine… five loaves and two fish.
            Jesus has gathered us together here this morning because of His compassion for us.  We are like sheep without a shepherd.  There is, of course, no lack of would-be shepherds calling us to follow them here, there, and everywhere.  Politicians, professors, entertainers, preachers of false gospels.  What happens in the chaos of competing voices is the division of the flock.  We’ve talked a lot about sheep and how dumb they are.  That’s not a veiled insult… It’s simply what the Lord calls us.  We just don’t know how to keep ourselves out of danger, and we’re always wandering off on our own, away from the flock, away from the Shepherd and the safety of the sheepfold.  The Good Shepherd constantly has to come find us, save us, wash us, heal our wounds from the dirty, dangerous, deadly places where we’re trapped.  It is no wonder when He sees us He is moved with compassion, He suffers in His guts for us.  That same compassion will lead Him to His Passion and death for us on the cross.  His whole body will suffer.  His entire soul will be in agony.  For us.  For our salvation.  His hands and feet pierced.  His sacred head crowned with thorns.  The insults and mockery and spit.  The scattered sheep.  The Blood outpoured.  The Spirit given up.  The water and blood of His riven side.  “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).  This Shepherd is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).  Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opens not His mouth (Is. 53:7).  He dies.  For you.  For me.  For the world. 
            The greatest peril for sheep who go their own way is the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4).  If a sheep gets lost alone in that valley, there is no hope.  Notice what the Good Shepherd does.  He goes after the sheep.  He goes into the valley.  That is what He is doing on the cross.  He is dying our death.  He is paying for our sins.  He goes right down into it to bring us out again.  He knows the way.  He is the way.  He leads us out of the tomb and into life eternal.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  And with His rod and His staff, He comforts us (v. 4) and leads us out.  You need not fear this valley full of death’s dark shadow.  You need fear no evil.  Because on the Last Day you’ll emerge from it into the light of day.  Jesus Christ will raise you from the dead.  And you will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (v. 6).
            In the meantime, Jesus gathers you here into the sheepfold of His Church to pour out His compassion upon you.  He teaches you many things: His Word, Law and Gospel, convicting you of your sins, bringing you to repentance, forgiving you, enlivening you by His Spirit spoken into you, speaking Himself into your ears, and showing you what it means that you are a child of His heavenly Father.  And then it’s time to eat.  He commands His minister to give you something to eat.  It doesn’t look like much.  Bread and wine, a wafer and a sip.  But do not doubt.  This bread, and this wine, are in the hands of the Lord who fed 5,000 men plus women and children from five loaves and two fish.  These are the hands of the God who spoke the universe into existence, who made something, everything, out of nothing.  So you come, group by group, symposia by symposia, drinking party by drinking party, for the joyous Feast.  And your Good Shepherd gives you to eat, not just bread, but bread that is His Body, given for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  Wine to drink, yet not just wine, but wine that is His Blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  That’s what He does.  The Lord Jesus teaches His people, His sheep, and He feeds them.  And your soul is restored.  The Lord gives Sabbath rest to pastor and people in the green grass of His pasture.  He does it out of His compassion.

            We all too often take the feeding of the 5,000 as a neat little story about how we don’t have to worry, because God will provide us with daily bread for our bodies.  That is true, of course, but we miss the greater gift for all our fascination of the lesser.  If, in His compassion, He feeds us His Body and Blood and gives us eternal life, He will also feed our bodies with bread.  If He gives the greater gift, He will not fail to give the lesser.  This feeding is about so much more than bread.  This is about the Divine Service.  This is about Jesus Christ present for you here and now, in the flesh, and in great compassion.  This is about Jesus teaching you with His own Word.  This is about Jesus feeding you with His own Body and His own Blood.  This is about Jesus, your Good Shepherd.  With the Lord as your Shepherd, you have no want.  He has prepared the Table before you.  Time to Feast.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.            

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