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Seventh Sunday after Trinity
“Jesus Feed Us”
Paul Norris, Seminarian
Genesis 2.7-17; Romans 6.19-23; St. Mark 8.1-9
31 July 2022
Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Many of us here today have served in the armed forces. I remember when I was in Navy boot camp at Great Lakes in July of 1991. My company had 100 young men in it, there were 4 companies in my division, and there were 20 active divisions on the base at that time. That is roughly 8,000 calorie-hungry recruits plus all the staff necessary to support them. I remember being amazed at the amount of food that was available to me at each meal.
However, you learned quickly to not take too much as you only had 10 minutes to eat, and leaving anything on your tray earned you a vicious tongue lashing from the Company Commander! The base had a dining hall that sat 6 companies of recruits at a time and fed them all efficiently. The amount of staff, food, and preparation and logistics to prepare and feed all the recruits was astounding.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus alone feeds four thousand men, plus the women and children who were with them. We see a twofold promise Christ offers to his people. He promises that he will feed them spiritually and physically. Jesus provides food for the souls of those that hear him, and he provides food for their physical needs. All this he accomplishes by his Word and by giving us our daily bread.
In Matthew Chapter 6 our Lord Jesus says, “…do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.” (Matt 6:25) …, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33)
In essence, God is saying, “Do not worry about hunger or earthly possessions, but rather you should primarily be concerned with hearing my Word. I will feed you spiritually and physically with daily bread.” This is the primary lesson to be learned; make God’s Word your chief concern, and having done that be assured the Lord Jesus Christ will also provide for your daily needs.
In the Garden of Eden God provided food for Adam and Eve. He made everything, including Adam and Eve. The Old Testament reading describes the Garden of Eden as a lush and fertile place. Adam no doubt did some garden tending, but it was not sweaty toil. The Garden of Eden was a precious gift given by God. It had everything the first man and woman needed to live, including the presence of God as God walked with Adam in the cool of the day. (Gen 3:8) Everything they needed, God gave them as a gift.
But Adam and Eve did not obey God’s commandment, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen 2:17) Adam and Eve destroyed the relationship they had with God when they coveted took what did not belong to them. Adam and Eve lost the gifts that God had given to them. They were expelled from the Garden and now they were hungry, both physically and spiritually. Along with their sin came sickness, famine, weeds, hard labor in the field, storms, pain in childbirth, and death. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Rom 6:23a) The sin of Adam and Eve brought death, destruction, and separation to all of mankind.
Our lives are no Garden of Eden either. The world seeks to steal and rob others of food and possessions that do not belong to them. We too have to work hard to put food on tables and sustain our families. All of this goes back to Adam and Eve. But we are not the victims in this situation. We are just as culpable as Adam and Eve.
We sin when we go places that God has forbidden us to go. We sin when we desire to take what God has not given to us. We sin when we tell God what to do, and when and how we want him to do it. We sin when God shows us that something we desire is not his good and gracious will, yet we stubbornly persist in dictating to God how things are supposed to be.
Like the Israelites who complained about the manna which God had graciously given them in the wilderness, we complain about what God has graciously given us as our daily bread. We are like a child complaining to his mother, “I didn’t want Sloppy Joes, I wanted steak!” I don’t like what you have prepared for me.This is the most common sin we commit, the essence of all sin, the First Commandment. We do not fear, love, and trust God above all things. We want to be our own God. We worship the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I.
In the Gospel reading, a large crowd has been following Jesus and listening to him preach. After three days of listening to Jesus teach and preach they end up in a desolate place, and they have nothing to eat. And here is the point of the Gospel reading today. This crowd was so focused on the Word of Christ, the Bread of Life, that they either ignored or put off eating just so they could spend one more moment listening to him. Their primary concern at that time was to hear the life-giving Word of Jesus, not physically eating.
However, like many things in life you can only ignore or forget about your physical needs for so long, and then it will become an urgent matter. Think of how when you were a child and you would be outside playing, only to realize after your stomach growled ferociously that you had forgotten to eat lunch. You were so engrossed in the ballgame, or whatever adventure you were on, that you forgot all lunch. But suddenly you realized you needed to eat, and you went home as quickly as possible so you could eat, or maybe your mother said that the kitchen was closed and you’d have to wait until supper. This is the predicament of the crowd.
But Jesus does not neglect them. Jesus has compassion for the crowd and wants to feed them because he knows physically some of them may not make the journey home before they can eat. The Gospel text in English says that Jesus had compassion for the crowd. Today we might say something like, “My heart goes out to them”. This is a fair but perhaps weak translation of the Greek work σπλαγχνίζομαι (splagchnizomai). Σπλαγχνίζομα means: to be moved in the inward parts, to be moved in the guts! This is not just typical American sympathy like one might see in commercials that pulls on your heart strings to get you to donate money to a cause. Our Savior experienced sickening, gut-wrenching compassion for the crowd that had faithfully followed him and listened to him. He wanted to feed them.
“…And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.” (Mark 8:6) Jesus teaches us that we should use what God gives us, no matter what it is, or how little it is, and accept it with thanksgiving. He also teaches us that He wants to bless it so that it may prosper and suffice, and even grow under our hands.
Jesus, filled with compassion for the crowd, takes seven loaves and a few fish and feeds the great multitude. This is a miracle as we know seven loaves and a few fishes have hardly fed 20 men. Yet as Jesus gives the seemingly meager supply of food to the disciples to distribute and all were fed, and they all were satisfied. No one was left hungry.
This miraculous feeding shows Jesus’ great compassion for mankind. Jesus has compassion for the crowd that was following him, and he has compassion for you. Jesus’ greatest act of compassion is demonstrated on the cross. We have a problem that we cannot fix ourselves. Sin’s price is only one demand – it demands our death. But, Jesus in his great compassion for mankind willingly went to the cross, suffered, and died on your behalf. So much does Jesus care about you and moved to save you, that he became your sin on the cross and paid the ransom price for your soul. By his resurrection on the third day, Jesus defeated sin, death, and the Devil once and for all.
Just like God gave Adam and Eve the gifts of his creation in the garden, God freely gives to you the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) You cannot earn it. You cannot be righteous outside of Christ. Yet, in his great compassion for you, Jesus freely gives to you forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus’ compassion goes out to all people.
God’s Word is our life source. God’s Word gives us comfort and peace. It nurtures and sustains us, creates faith in us, and brings us to salvation. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4 / Deut 8:3) Indeed daily bread is necessary for our temporal lives, but God’s Word is necessary for our Spiritual lives. The more you neglect God’s food the hungrier and spiritually weaker you become. Seek after the life-giving Word of God. When you seek after the Word of God, God promises to give you your daily bread.
We echo St. Peter as we say, “… Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:68) Only Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Savior has the Words of eternal life. Jesus feeds you his Word as you learn and study together in Bible study. Jesus feeds you his Word as the pastor preaches the sermon. Jesus feeds you his Word as you listen to the Scriptures read in the Divine Service. Jesus feeds you his Word as he baptizes at the font. Jesus feeds you his word as you hear the absolution of your sins by his servant the pastor who acts in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus. You hear his Word as you sing hymns and chant the liturgy together. And Jesus, your manna from heaven, feeds you his Word at the altar where you receive his true body and blood at the sacrament of the altar for the forgiveness of your sins.
Jesus is with you here in the desert of your earthly lives. You follow him and you seek to hear his Word. Just as the fishes and loaves fed the hungry people, so also God promises to provide you with your daily bread. There is not one god who takes care of your spiritual needs and another god who takes care of your earthly needs. There is only One God who takes care of all your needs of body and soul.
Jesus showed compassion to the four thousand hungry people and the Holy Spirit caused St. Mark to record this for us so that we might learn to see Jesus as our Creator and God who provides us with all our needs of body and soul. The compassion of Christ is not primarily seen in the feeding of the four thousand but in his death on the cross and His resurrection. Jesus suffered for you. Jesus took away your sins and made you free. Jesus is your God and Lord who brings you your daily bread and secures your future. Jesus’ compassion for you is boundless and he knows and supplies your every need of body and soul. Seek the food which endures to everlasting life. For you do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.