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Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Augustana, 2012

Mark 6:30-44

Click here for mp3 audio 43 Sermon for Pent 8.mp3


Grace and peace to your from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is the Gospel reading for today.

Retreats are a very familiar fixture in the life of the church.  Retreats offer opportunities to go and rest, rest the mind, rest the body, even rest and refresh the spirit.   The women in our congregation are preparing to participate in an annual retreat at Camp Linn Haven, which is coming up soon. The Higher Things gathering which the youth just returned from, is a retreat of sorts, although I don’t know how much rest the young people got.  Retreats are typically very good things.   In fact, even the whole purpose of the Sabbath Day, is not obligation.  God gives Sabbath day not as Law so much as it is gift, a weekly, mini-retreat to rest, focus on God’s Word, and return to to work strengthened for it.  Retreats, breaks, the Lord’s Day find their basis here in God’s gracious provision for His people.

Jesus, back in Mark chapter 3, sent out the twelve apostles to preach and teach and heal.  And at the beginning of our reading for today they had returned from their apostolic work and were giving Jesus the report of what they had done.  Jesus greets them before their debriefing says, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”  The Lord gave them work to do and He gave them rest from it.  Jesus is not merely a self-help guru who advocates mini-vacations at your desk.  There is something far more profound in the rest Jesus gives His people.

Now we are certainly proud of work.  We lift up as heroes men those whose true stories of their lives that include things like the story of Antonio de Sousa who when “his car broke down on the way to work, calling a tow truck didn’t enter his mind.  Instead, he left the car beside the highway and ran five miles through downtown Tampa, Fla., to get to his job as a doorman at the Hyatt Regency hotel. ‘I was all sweaty, but I made it on time, at exactly 3 o’clock,’ he says. That sprint years ago kept him on track toward his current record: 26 years of perfect attendance.”[1]  I ran across an old article in a 1958, Montreal Gazette.  This is the headline: “Never Missed Day in 48 Years, DOT Man Retires.” [2] You’ve heard stories like this all your lives.  We are brought up to admire people like this.  Maybe you even are like this.  But the fact remains that work and rest are to be held in balance.  Even the Lord God himself rested after His six days of work in creating the universe and all that is in it.  Busy-ness, work fo rhte sake of more work, is sinful.  Treating each day as a day for more work with no rest for oneself and not allowing rest for one’s employees goes against the order of creation, and the order of the Creator.  We can be too proud of work.  If you’re caught up in the rat race, repent and rest the rest that the Lord of creation gives you out of His great mercy for you.  After all, you’re not a rat.

So the apostles were all set to rest a while except that the work they had done was too good.  All the people were coming out to see them and to see Jesus.  Last Friday was absolutely crazy.  It was Krispy Kreme’s 75th Anniversary and if you bought a dozen donuts, they were selling another dozen for 75 cents.  The line of cars was backed up all the way around here.  On top of that Chic-Fil-A was having Cow Day and they were giving away food if you came in dressed like a cow.  It was a madhouse at this intersection here.  It was worse on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee that day.  If you consider that at the time the nearby villages of Capernaum and Nazareth may have only had a thousand to fifteen hundred people in them, here were five thousand men, not to mention women and children seeking out Jesus and the apostles.  And Jesus sees them all there and He has compassion on them.  This is not ordinary compassion.  Those of you who have been in Bible class with me know that word is special used only of God, splanchnidzomai.  Jesus was moved in His guts for the sake of these folks.  He had gut-wrenching pity on them.  And this word is only used of God the Father or Jesus in the New Testament.  Jesus had compassion on them, “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

These poor people, the people of Israel who responded to the preaching and teaching of the apostles Jesus had sent out, these folks who had traveled by foot out into the surrounding countryside miles from their villages, Jesus looked on them with compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  That phrase, “like sheep without a shepherd” is very common throughout the OT.  It’s not just in our reading from Jeremiah today but also in Numbers (27:17), 1Kings (22:17), Zechariah (10:2), and Ezekiel (34:5) and Isaiah, (40:11).  Mark is telling us that Jesus is bringing that passage and the others to fulfillment in His ministry by bringing about the kingdom of God.

We heard last week that John the Baptist was beheaded at Herod’s great dinner where all the great men of Galilee were gathered at one of Herod’s palaces and he fed them.  We are to hear this passage today as a great counterbalance to that meal with that king, where Jesus calls His people as king and He feeds His people and cares for them like a true king cares for His people.  I’m certain that we’re supposed to read this that Herod is not being a true shepherd as dines sumptuously with the great men of Galilee while his people wander aimlessly like sheep without a shepherd in the wilderness.  Jesus is the true shepherd who does not lead astray.

If Jesus is the true shepherd, why do follow all sorts of other shepherds.  Our problem, of course is not that we don’t have a shepherd; it’s that we have as many shepherds as we have zucchini right now:  we have them by the bushel basket.  Maybe you like your sphered on TV, whether he’s a TV preacher or a TV talking head.  And if you don’t think that they see themselves as shepherds, just think back to Walter Kronkite years ago.  What did he say?   “And that’s the way it is,” he would say day after day.  They shape public opinion day in and day out and they get a minimum of an hour every night to do it.  But no matter how much red, white, and blue they have on the screen in front of a shepherd, they all point us to kingdoms that will ultimately fail.  Jesus is the only true shepherd who does not lead astray, who truly cares for us and not just wants us long enough for our vote but He is one who has compassion on us.

I mentioned last week that it’s ordination season in the church and it’s interesting that in the installation rite, congregations are asked if they will “show [the pastor] that love, honor, and obedience in the Lord that [they] owe to the shepherd and teacher placed over [them] by [the] Lord Jesus Christ…” [3]  And at after they’re installed pastors are dismissed with this:  “Go, therefore, and be a shepherd of the Good Shepherd’s flock.  Preach the Word of God; administer the holy Sacraments; offer prayer for all the faithful; instruct, watch over, and guide the flock among which the Holy Spirit has placed you.” [4]  The people of Israel knew that Herod was not a proper shepherd, He was the one God’s had sent to care for His people. How can you be sure if you have a shepherd here sent from God?  Here’s a good litmus test for a shepherd: does he point you into yourself or even away from Him?  Who is pointing people to Jesus and who is pointing people toward the agendas of men?  It’s only Jesus who is worth following.

Jesus sees His people like sheep without a shepherd and has compassion on them and what does He do?  Mark says, “And he began to teach them many things.”  Why is it that there is such a resistance among you to the teaching of Jesus?  It’s not just here, of course; it’s across the synod.   A church our size on average maybe 20 in Bible class.  Do you think you have it all sorted out?  Do you think you have already learned everything that’s worth learning about the whole of the Scriptures?  This is sin, dear friends, a violation of the third commandment, to honor the Sabbath Day and to keep it holy to hear the Word of God gladly and keep it.  So let the expectation in this congregation and every congregation of the Lord’s Church, let it be clear: the people of God are gathered around the Shepherd to hear Him teach us what it is we need.  This is how Jesus has compassion on us.  This is not Law.  That bit about it being sin is Law, but Jesus gives it for Gospel. Jesus has compassion on you. He teaches you His Word.  Jesus sees your confusion, your lack of clear thought and knowledge of His Word and the world all around us and He teaches and He sends the apostles and the pastors in the line after them to teach His people, to teach you.

But Jesus saves the best for last.  “Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.”  There’s probably a whole other sermon in that one sentence from Jesus to His apostles, “You give them something to eat.”  But I want to focus on this: Jesus had compassion on the people and taught them and fed them.  He took, blessed, broke, and gave.  Those verbs should sound very familiar.  If there’s supposed to be a great a juxtaposition between Herod’s wicked feast from last week and this one today on the green hills in Galilee, then it’s not about what they ate.  It’s about who provides it.  God provides.  Jesus provides for His people.  Jesus is here truly providing for the real needs of His people.  It is the sheer joy of Jesus, of the heart of God, to give to you what you need.  We call our service in the Lutheran Church, we call it the Divine Service when we gather around the gifts of God and we receive them.  What does that mean, the Divine Service?  I can tell you what it doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t mean that the Baptists have pretty good service and the Methodists are okay too but our service truly divine.[5]  No.  It means that Jesus is the one who is here serving you, feeding you, looking upon you with compassion as you are sheep without a shepherd and tending to you and teaching you in His Word and feeding you with the very body and blood that He gave to be broken and given for you.  Our understanding of the worship service is different from all other churches.  Maybe it’s even different from what you think church might be.  The people came out in droves to find Jesus.  And what did Jesus do?  He did not say, “You better go find me a throne because I’m going to sit here and be worshipped because that’s what is due to me.”  Now Jesus is certainly worthy of all worship and praise.  But our gathering together is not to come here and give God something He needs.  It’s completely the opposite.  Jesus comes here in His name, in His Word, read and preached.  He comes in His Word to teach His people and to feed them, to tend to their needs.  It is His action even now for us.  Jesus is truly providing for the needs of His people.  He locates Himself where He can be found.  He doesn’t locate Himself in our hearts where we might have hearts of anger or envy or lust.  He locates Himself in water and Word and bread and wine out of His great compassion for you.  And Jesus sends those whom He sends to go and to preach and to teach the people and then the people gladly seek them out and hear them because Jesus sees them coming and He has compassion on them.  This is Jesus giving His gracious provision to the people of God.

Jesus is one who leads the new Israel like Moses who had a great concern for the people.  Jesus is leading them in new exodus out of sin and death and hell and here out in the wild, out on the green hills of Galilee Jesus is shepherding his people.  In the person and mission of Jesus, the Lord God Himself is present and active among His people.  This is Jesus.

Jesus leads you with great compassion.  Jesus leads you out of a life of fear and sinfulness into one where He drowns your enemies of sin, death and dell in Holy Baptism. Here in this place, Jesus teaches you and shepherds you by His Word and feeding you at His table.  In the person and mission of Jesus, the Lord God Himself is present and active to bring you God’s great provision for you.  Amen.

Let us pray:

Lord, thank You for providing so abundantly and for graciously sustaining our bodies and souls. Teach us to turn to You first in every want and need. Amen.[6]


The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

[3] LSB Agenda, p. 180.

[4] LSB Agenda, p. 181.

[6] Edward A. Engelbrecht, The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 1668.

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