Seventh Sunday after Trinity
“A Great King”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. Mark 8.1-9; Introit, Psalm 47
26 July 2020
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne. (Introit; Psalm 47)
A great king over all the earth, says today’s Introit which we sang while processing to the altar. The Introit invites you to make a connection with today’s Gospel: Jesus is the King of all the earth, all the nations are under Him, God and man sits on the holy throne – and shows His rule and dominion in the way that Jesus always shows His rule and authority: not in coming to be served, but to serve, and to give. And give some more. And some more after that. Until everyone was fed, and there were seven baskets full of leftover bread and fish. He just kept serving and giving. From His own hand, at His own word of blessing.
In the other great feeding miracle, as recorded by the evangelist John, after the feeding, the five thousand fed by five loaves and two fish come at Jesus in order to make Him their earthly king by force. (Jn. 6.14-15) “He must be an excellent king,” said the five thousand to themselves, “whom we would like to have.” (Luther) Because He leads a crowd of people into the open country and provides for them, He makes it seem like He can always reach into the basket or into His pocket – sort of your doting grandfather always with money in his pocket – and abundantly feed the whole crowd and pay for it. A bread king.
Indeed, Jesus “shows forcefully that He is a rich and powerful Lord and manager, even a rich miller and baker, better than anyone who has learned well his trade on earth… He accomplishes many trades all at once, and without anyone’s help He plows, harvests, threshes, grinds, and bakes in only a moment. It is a miracle incomprehensible to reason to feed so many thousand men, without counting women and children, with seven loaves, so that they were altogether filled, and still some was left over… For so many thousand people and still more, everything was ground, baked, and prepared.” (Luther, AE v.78, Sermon on Trinity 7, p. 257) Who wouldn’t like an earthly king who could pull that off?
We do make such demands of our earthly kings today! What would most people today say makes for a great king, a great leader? In our country, he who wins the election is he who makes the most attractive and believable promises about what he can make happen for the voters – and he wins who makes the case that his opponent is going to be lacking in the ability to carry off those same promises. Very little of voting today has to do with the moral character of the candidates.
Marie Antoinette said for the masses to eat their cake, disdainfully, and she lost her head for it to the French mob. The last czar of Russia lost his life to the Communists as they took over with their plans to collectively provide bread for everyone from the state – which before a hundred years had failed miserably and the once mighty Soviet iron curtain is long gone. Today, even under a democratic republic form of government in this country, our presidents, the congress, our governors, all of them have long been at the game of how to redistribute wealth using taxing and spending. That’s been true in the democracies of Europe and Canada to an even greater extent.
Now, under the current crisis, our current kings and princes are tripping over themselves to put “bread” in more people’s pockets. It sounds like yet another “stimulus” payment is coming and there’s no end in sight to the national debt. And to top it all off, we expect our current kings and princes to also heal the sick, prevent death, and conjure up cures and vaccines to stave off pandemic.
But that’s what people expect of their earthly kings and princes! Bread for all! Health and a good life for all today! Give and give some more, even when we really don’t have it to give. Make everyone happy today, in the here and now.
How is Jesus and His kingdom different? Sure sounds like He was giving bread, miracle bread, and fulfilling people’s basic needs! He certainly healed the sick, raised the dead, drove out demons even! What kind of king is Jesus?
Our earthly kings and princes today give with strings attached. There are no free rides. By giving freely from the public coffers, there’s always a price to be paid – the one who controls the purse strings has the power. By how the earthly king taxes, by how he gives away the riches of the state, and to whom, and when he chooses to give, the earthly king exudes power and authority, gains the acclaim and popularity of his subjects, and gains their service to him.
Yet not so with the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve already hinted at the words of our Lord Jesus Christ from Mark chapter ten, this is the king He came from heaven to be:
And Jesus called [the disciples] to Him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (St. Mark 10.42-45; ESV)
Now when Jesus comes to the great crowd and turns into the farmer, the miller, the baker all in one, and feeds continually until all are satisfied, He does so not to be an earthly king so that He might gain something back from the people at their expense. He does so out of His great and perfect goodness, mercy, and compassion for the people. He comes from heaven to serve you, not to be served, and to give to the people in the wilderness in such a way that tells one and all that He will give not just bread for the stomach, not just bread that somehow makes a paradise on this old, corrupt earth. He will give a bread that has eternal significance, and is therefore a King and has a kingdom that will last forever.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (St. John 6.48-51; ESV)
Jesus Christ came from heaven as our King, and He rules not by being served, but by serving and giving His life – His flesh and blood, body and soul – as the ransom for many. His crown is not gold, but one of thorns, His subjects mock Him, His throne the cruel cross, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Indeed. The one who gives, and gives, and gives some more. And gave to the last drop of blood, the last breath. And He gave up His spirit, and died. And yet, there is more where that came from.
For death could not hold or contain this King, all things, even death are subject to Him, for He gave His holy, precious body and blood in an innocent suffering and death, that we might be His own, and live under Him in His Kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
This eternal, heavenly King makes this promise to you, His baptized, believing subjects: You feed on Him, on His flesh and blood, you look to Him with the eyes of faith born of the Holy Spirit, and you too will not die: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and by blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in Him.” (St. John 6.54-56; ESV)
Now this Man, who rules us by freely giving Himself for the life of the world, the eternal life of all men who believe in Him, who gave Himself unto death and rose again, who ascended to the right hand of the Father, and who rules over us in love for us that we might live with Him eternally in heaven’s joy, there, friends is the most excellent King, whom we should like to have.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +