Seventh Sunday after Trinity
Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 10:22
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Twice in Jesus’ ministry, he fed a great crowd with only a few loaves of bread. In Mark chapter 6, Jesus fed five-thousand with five loaves and two fish. Here in chapter 8, Jesus feeds another great crowd of four-thousand men, plus women and children, with seven loaves and a few fish. The miracles appear to be so similar that some unbelieving scholars have tried to claim that it was a single event, retold as two different accounts. They’re wrong, of course, and Jesus’ words later in the chapter prove it. He said to the disciples, “When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven” (Mk 8:19–20). These are two different miracles, and when we look past the obvious similarities, we see that much is different.
The first crowd was only interested in food. Jesus said to them the next day, “You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (Jn 6:27). The second crowd came, not for the bread, but to hear Jesus’ words. How do we know this? Jesus said to his disciples, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat” (Mk 8:2). Here we find a people filled with zeal for God’s Word, such as is never again pictured in the Gospels. They had flocked to Christ, some even from a great distance. They had taken a difficult journey into the desolate, mountainous region in the heat of summer. They brought their little children along. They gladly heard the Word of eternal life. The evening came, but no one wanted to go home. In order to hear Christ again on the next day, they all were content to sleep on the hard ground under the open sky. Yet, even on the second day, they could not leave Jesus. They held out until the third day, and then their provisions had run out.
These people are an example to us. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt 6:33). How many Christians today are so eager to be near Christ? How many of us are willing to sacrifice our comfort or our time to hear and study the Word of God? Perhaps we are willing to give up one hour a week – if there is nothing else more important to do, and if we don’t have to travel too far, and if there is air conditioning. Many Christians want to serve Christ as long as they can do it without sacrificing their time, money, rest, comfort, honor, and other earthly things.
Once I got into an argument with another seminary student because he said that some people have a good excuse for not going to church. “If there are no faithful churches in the area, what can they do?” “They can move,” I said. “You can’t ask people to move!” Why not? What is more important than hearing God’s Word? A career? Living in the right neighborhood? A larger paycheck? These may be fine things, but nothing is more important than being where Jesus is. Nothing is more important for you, or for your children or grandchildren. Follow the godly example of this crowd. They heard where Jesus was and they went. Some of them came from afar. They came with their wives and children. They came to hear Jesus’ words, because that is all that truly matters. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these other things will be added to you.
But what about these other things? We have to eat. We need clothes to wear and a place to sleep. Does God care about these things too? Indeed he does. Jesus says, “Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt 6:8). And everything that we truly need, in this life and the next, God provides to his children. We confess in the explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “God gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this he does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.” You love your children. How much more does God love you. You want to give good gifts to your children. How much more does God delight to give good gifts to you.
So here we have a crowd of people who thought it more important to fill their hearts with the Word of God than their bellies with bread. But three days it began to be a problem. Oh, that our churches had this problem today. What a wonderful problem to have. Why? Because our God is the God who never sends the hungry away empty. Never. He lifts the poor out of the dung heap. He exalts the humble and raises up those of low estate. He fills the hungry with good things.
Jesus saw the crowd and had compassion. The disciples asked, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place? (Mk 8:4). The disciples were sometimes slow learners, but at least this time around no one was saying that it was impossible. They had seen Jesus do it before. He took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, the first pastors. And they set the bread before the people, and they all ate and were satisfied. How did Jesus do it? How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place? Oh, we still don’t know how. We only know that our Lord does it every time.
Today, we have gathered in a desolate place to hear the words of Jesus. If you’re over thirty, you know by now that the world is a desolate place. Just read the latest headline in the news. We live in a barren wilderness. We need Jesus. “I am the Bread of Life,” he says. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Come to me, all who are thirsty, and drink freely from the fountain of life. Eat of the bread of life and never die.
How does Jesus feed us with bread here in this desolate place? How can this bread and wine truly be his Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins? We don’t know how. We don’t need to. Instead, we believe. Here at our Lord’s table, your heavenly Father who cares for every need of body and soul, provides for your greatest need. Come, eat, and live forever. Amen.