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Mark 8:1-9 | “Fed by Jesus”
The Seventh Sunday after the Feast of the Trinity | 10 July 2016

Dear Saints,

Jesus takes care of us, both according to our bodies, and according to our souls. He takes care of our body and our earthly life mostly through the institutions of creation. He sees to it that the crops grow, that there are animals to eat. He has instituted the family and the state to produce and protect life.

And Jesus has instituted the church to preach His Word and give out His sacraments, and through these, as through means, the Holy Spirit creates and sustains faith. He gives out the forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation.

Now this first care is indicated in the text by the fact that the 4000 people were with Jesus in the wilderness, and had been for three days, and they had not eaten anything. Well, what was this huge crowd of people doing with Jesus in the wilderness with no food? No doubt they were listening to Him and His preaching and teaching. They were the ones who has sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And this morning they are our example.

The Scriptures are always reminding us that the Lord’s Word is our greatest treasure, it is our life, our salvation, and our joy. When the devil was tempting Jesus in the wilderness he took a stone, and told Jesus to turn it into bread. Jesus was hungry. He could have done it. But instead He says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Later, when Jesus had been teaching some difficult things, and most of the people had left, Jesus turns to the disciples and asks, “Are you also going to leave?” and Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Paul teaches the same in His letter to the Corinthians, “I pleased God, through the foolishness of the Word preached to save those who would believe.”

When the devil wants to kill and destroy, he attacks the Word. His first temptation to Adam and Eve is really his only temptation, “Did God really say?” Because doubt in God’s Word, doubt in His command and promise, is death.

So Jesus has instituted, for our eternal life, the preaching of the Word. He has established His church, so that we would hear His Word, and so that the world would hear His Word. But the world doesn’t want to hear it.

We are, dear friends, in a time of great social upheaval. The church has endured these things before, so that’s no problem. But we haven’t seen so many social, moral, and political changes, most of us, in our life-times. When you are telling me about this you say, “Pastor, things aren’t like they used to be.”

There is a gap growing between the preaching of the Word in the church and the idea of what is good in the world, and this is getting tense. I’ve got a picture for it.

Imagine that Jesus is standing on the shore of a lake, and he is surrounded with a little band of followers, the people who believe in Him. And there, a little was off the shore, is a boat full of all the people who don’t believe in Jesus. And Jesus is preaching to them. He’s letting them know that their boat is sinking, but that He will save and rescue them. You look up, and you see that Jesus is smiling at them, that His hands are raised to bless them, that His words are true and good and life giving.

And the people on the boat can see this. They don’t believe His words, so they stay on the boat, but they think Jesus is a nice guy. But the boat is floating away, getting farther and farther from the shore. Now, Jesus doesn’t change. He doesn’t move. He keeps talking, blessing, smiling, but the farther the boat gets, the less the people on it can see Jesus. At some point they can no longer see that Jesus is smiling, and they start talking about how He has a scowl on His face. A little further away and they can no longer understand the words that Jesus is saying, and some people think He is mumbling foolishness, while others think He is cursing them and yelling at them. A little further, and they cannot tell that Jesus’ hands are raised in blessings, but, they sort out amongst themselves, Jesus must be afflicting them, even causing the boat to sink, and some of them want to paddle away even faster. You know the devil is in that boat pouring lies into the ears of the people, hardening their hearts and minds to Jesus and His kindness.

And the more obscure Jesus becomes, the farther the boat gets from the shore, the more the people on the boat becomes angry with Him. They start throwing things at Jesus, rotten fish and stones and spears and anything they can get their hands on. And these things not only hit Jesus, but all the people on the shore with Him.

Now imagine that you are there, and you look at the rage and anger and hatred of the people in the boat, and you think, is Jesus different? Did He change? Is He mean? And you look up, and you see that He is still smiling, still blessing, He still has the wounds of the cross where He died for your sins and the sins of everyone on the boat. And you look out at the boat, and you see the people yelling at Jesus and you, cursing Him, hurling venom at Him, and you look back at Jesus, and you see the love and concern on His face, you hear His preaching about the sinking boat, and you look out at the people, and you see as the boat sinks lower in the water they become angrier and angrier with Jesus.

And you and I are confused.

What Jesus is saying and what the people in the boat are hearing don’t match up.

I think this is how we are to think of these days. The church doesn’t change. For 63 years the same Scriptures have been read in this congregation, the same hymns have been sung, the same Gospel has been preached, the same baptism, the same body and blood, the same creed, the same prayers. And this sameness is much more than that this, we have the same doctrine of the church for the last 2000 years and more, the same confession, the same truth, the same Word and preaching.

There have been different preachers and different hearers, it was our grandparents and their grandparents before us, but always the same doctrine and faith. There is a brick out in the east tower that has etched on it U.A.C. 1530, that stands for the “Unaltered Augsburg Confession” which was confessed in 1530, 486 years ago, and still we are teaching and confessing these words.

So we are here on the shore, not going anywhere. But we leave here (and go home and read the news and watch t.v. and talk with our neighbors) and we realize that everything is changing, that the world is adrift, and moving farther and farther out to see. We realize that the world can no longer recognize the smile on Jesus face, or hear the kindness in His Words, or receive the blessing of His raised hands. And they hate Him. And they hate you. And the devil rejoices.

Now, a few more things on this analogy, and I hope you’ll think a bit on it and let me know if it is a helpful way to see what’s happening in the world. Of course, at some point, every analogy breaks down. With this one we should know that, in fact, the world has always hated Jesus, and it always will. But this hatred takes different shapes at different times, and is sometimes hotter than others.

Some people might say, “It’s not the smile and kindness of Jesus that troubles us, it’s that He’s always telling us how to fix the boat.” There are, in fact, ten rules to keep the boat floating, and Jesus preaches these. And as the people in the boat are pulling planks off the side of the boat to make more comfortable furniture, Jesus says, “That’s not going to go well.”

I suppose this is why the church has to preach so often about marriage, about life, about whatever social things we’ve approved that is tearing the ship apart. Jesus says, “Hey, that’s a life boat, not a hot tub” or “That’s gasoline, not a cocktail drink” and the devil says, “See, look at how mean that guy is. He hates you.” And again we are confused about what is being said and what is being heard.

And this situation is even more difficult, because all of us have people we love on that ship, our family and our friends. We get our news, broadcast from the ship, the BBC, Boat Broadcasting Corp. And here is where this analogy begins to break down, because our jobs are on that boat, our houses are on the boat, our flesh lives on that boat, and we are being pulled away with everyone else. We are tempted to think that it is the church that has changed, that it is Jesus that has changed, or that life on the boat isn’t that bad, or whatever. You know how the devil preaches to you.

Whatever lies we hear, whatever violence is thrown at us from the boat, however bad or good things look, we stand there on the shore, and look up at Jesus and see His hands raised in blessing, we see His smile, we hear His voice, and we believe. This is how Jesus takes care of our eternal life.

But there is a second part to the text, and it gives us the confidence that Jesus not only takes care of our soul, but also our bodies. This, in fact, is the point of the feeding of the 4000 with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Jesus can take care of people. Jesus can take care of you. He has taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” because He loves to hear that prayer and loves to answer it.

Luther, preaching on this text, says, “Never has it been seen or heard that a Christian died for want of bread.” They might, says Luther, be thrown in prison, martyred, or put to death in some way, but they will not starve to death. I think, in the last 500 years, this is still true. Jesus will not let you starve. If He has to multiply seven loaves, if He has to rain bread from heaven, He will provide for you.

This does not mean that you might not have times of hunger and suffering. The 4000 in the wilderness went three days without any food. It might be that Jesus drags us through all sorts of trouble, hunger, sickness, sorrow, but He promises to be with us. Not does this mean that Jesus will give us all that our heart desires, and make us rich. This is not a lavish meal that the people have in the wilderness, but it sustains them on their way to heaven. So with you. You have this promise. Jesus will feed you. He will feed your eternal life with His Words and promises, and He will feed your body, and give you your daily bread. And all of this is because He loves you.

The peace of God which passes all understanding guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO
from Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora CO, Podcast