Summary: Pentecost 7B/Proper 11 preached 7/19/2009 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Audubon, Iowa. Some material is from Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 19, No. 3. This sermon talks about how Christ meets the phyiscal and spiritial needs of the crowd in the re
In the 4th petition of The Lord’s Prayer, we are taught to pray the words “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our Gospel reading for this morning is a great illustration of how our Lord goes about answering this petition. And while we usually focus on how Jesus miraculously meets the physical need of hunger by feeding several thousand people, this reading also shows us how our Lord and Savior is our Good Shepherd, in that He provides for not just our physical needs, but how He provides for our spiritual needs as well.
The first thing we recognize this morning is the simple fact that we all have basic needs. First, we have our physical needs, and we’re reminded of that as see two of them in the Gospel reading. You’ll remember in our Gospel reading a couple of weeks back, Jesus sent the disciples out two by two into surrounding towns and villages, where they “went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” (Mark 6:12-13) As our reading for today opens, they have returned to Jesus from their missionary journeys, and they are telling Him everything they did and taught. Needless to say, as exciting as all that activity was, they had to have been exhausted after their journey, so Jesus, knowing that they needed rest, says to them “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (v. 31) In fact, we’re told so many people were coming and going that these guys didn’t even have time to sit down and eat! So they get into a boat with Jesus, and head off to a remote place where they can get away from it all and rest.
Just as the disciples needed a time of rest, we need that too. Especially today, with as busy as our schedules are, and how people are trying to fit in more and more into each day, going from work, to this activity, to this commitment, and so on. This kind of a lifestyle takes its toll on us and we need and treasure our time of rest and renewal. It’s a basic human need.
The other basic need we see comes up once Jesus and the disciples get to their destination, and the crowds they were trying to get away from had anticipated their next move and met them on shore. While Jesus is teaching this crowd, it’s getting late in the day, and they turn to Jesus and say “This is a desolate place and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (v. 35-36) Everyone needs to eat, right? The disciples see the situation, thousands of people, out in the middle of nowhere, it’s getting close to suppertime, and there’s no restaurants or catering services available. Their question is, essentially, “how are we going to feed these people, Jesus? They have to eat!” Or to put it in language similar to that of the 4th petition of The Lord’s Prayer: “These people need their daily bread. How are we going to supply it?” And, that’s a question we face on a daily basis, too, isn’t it? Especially when we lose our source of income, we wonder “how are we going to eat, have a roof over our heads, and clothes on our back, basic stuff we need to support this body and life?
While we all have physical needs, and they are very important, our text reminds us we have spiritual needs as well. Those crowds that were following Jesus and the disciples were described as “Sheep without a shepherd.” (v. 34). And left on our own, we’re the same way, spiritually speaking. But why does Mark use this image to describe the people who were following Jesus and the disciples in our reading, and us today? Well, think about sheep for a moment. They’re pretty needy animals. To start with, they’re not very bright. Not only that, they have absolutely no sense of direction, they need someone to direct them into the safe way they need to go, or they face danger or death. If you leave sheep on their own, they are going to wander off, and be a sitting target for a hungry wolf to snatch them up and eat them.
From a spiritual standpoint, our sinful nature leaves us like wandering sheep, just waiting to be devoured. In John 14, Jesus says of Himself: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). In other words, spiritually speaking we have to confess that left to our own, apart from our Savior, Jesus Christ, we’re sheep without a shepherd. We’re not very bright, spiritually speaking. What we do know is saturated with sin, and inclined toward evil. Jesus himself even said “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matt. 15:19) David reminds us in the 51st Psalm “surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” If you think you are somehow exempt in all of this, just to give you a common example, in Confirmation class, you learned the following about the 8th commandment from the Small Catechism: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.” Yet, how many times at coffee, or with friends, do we hear a rumor about someone, and assume it’s true, and don’t even offer to defend that person’s reputation? Or hear a piece of gossip about someone, and then pass it along, without checking out the facts first to find out if there is any truth to it, or try to undo the damage done to that person’s reputation once you found out what you had been passing along is false? How many times when we have a problem with someone, instead of following Matthew 18, do we instead go to someone else, talk behind that person’s back, and expect that this third party will fix the problem for us? I know this kind of stuff goes on quite frequently, especially in smaller communities; in fact, there’s probably people you know that you just excuse that type of behavior as “they way that person is.” And that’s just with one commandment, folks, and we haven’t even talked about the other 9.