The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Mark 6:30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves. 33 The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35 When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they *said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?” 38 And He *said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. 44 There were five thousand men who ate the loaves. (NASB)
Life was getting busy for Jesus and His disciples. In last week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus sent out the disciples two-by-two to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to the people around Galilee. This morning’s Gospel begins with their return (v. 30). “The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught.” Between six groups of disciples and Jesus Himself, Jesus and His disciples had collected a large following. The text says, “For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.”
These days it is hard for us to imagine the excitement over a religious figure. But Jesus and the disciples had created such a stir of excitement with their preaching, doctrine, and miracle working that people from all around the Sea of Galilee had to see and hear Jesus for themselves.
The crowd just kept getting bigger and with it, the number of demands. The people were competing for Jesus’s and the disciple’s attention and it was all starting to get a little overwhelming. So it was time for a break. So 32 “they went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.” The plan was to sail across the Sea of Galilee and go where people wouldn’t follow so they could all get a rest. But the crowds figured out where Jesus was heading.
They made a mad dash for the other side of the lake. As they went others wondered what was going on and were told. As the word spread more people rushed to join the crowd.
As soon as Jesus and the disciples arrived at the other side of the lake, they were surrounded by a large crowd, 5,000 men, plus women and children. 34 “When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”
The Greek uses a special word here that means that Jesus had a compassion that came from the depths of His soul. As the Good Shepherd, He saw His people as sheep who need to be cared for and protect. When we think of ourselves don’t like the image of sheep. It conjures up imagines like the masses. Just a group of native hapless people mindlessly being lead around by the nose. We don’t like to been seen in that way. But the truth is, sinners are helpless when it comes to sin and righteousness, error and truth. Jesus is particularly concerned because the people were not being properly taught and cared for the under-shepherds of Israel. By and large, teachers and religious leaders of the day were themselves ignorant of the good news of the promised Messiah. All they knew was the law, rules, and regulations. All they understood was the establishment religion that feed their own version of the deep state.
When Jesus looked at His people He saw a people in need of the Gospel and its forgiving and healing benefits. Jesus doesn’t see His people as people who need a vacation. He doesn’t see them as a congregation gathering together to do something for Him. He doesn’t see them as an army of do-gooders. He sees them a people who need to be taught the Law and the Gospel and their proper uses. “He began to teach them many things.”
That’s the part of the Christian faith that we don’t much care for. The 21st century Christian, Lutherans included are ignorant of Christian doctrine. But doctrine is what Jesus gives the people first. They hadn’t been taught the Gospel. They didn’t know what it meant to live in God’s grace and love. They had been taught that they had to live under the law.
Between the miracles they had heard about and Jesus’ strange doctrine, the crowds were in such a hurry to hear what Jesus was teaching and so excited over the reported miracles, they hadn’t made provision for being out in the middle of middle of nowhere. They hadn’t brought any food.
The disciples, on the other hand, were very aware of the limited resources they had and their direr circumstances. They were in a desolate place, just a few fish and loaves of bread, and thousands of people surrounded them. No one would have expected Jesus and the disciples to have had made arrangements to feed so many people on the fly. Jesus and the disciples went to that desolate place to be alone and get some rest. They didn’t send out even one dinner invitation, let alone 5,000 of them.
They faced an impossible situation. 35 “When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, ‘This place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ 37 But He answered them, ‘You give them something to eat!’”
These same disciples had just returned from a mission where they preached the Law and Gospel, cured the sick, and exorcized demons were now being told to feed the people with food they didn’t have. They had seen several miracles, great and small already. Yet, the find the order unreasonable. The right answer would have been something like, “Master, what do You have in mind for us to do?”
Instead, the disciples began explaining why it would be impossible for them to feed such a massive crowd. “They said to Him, ‘Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?’ 38 And He said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have? Go look!’ And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” What does Jesus do with these material facts? He blesses the food and divides the five loaves and two fish and feeds every man, woman, and child and all are satisfied.
Who is this man who tells us to feed these thousands with just a few crumbs? Time and time again Jesus answers that question, Who is this? by doing the impossible. He commands the very elements of nature. He multiplies bread and fish.
The feeding of the 5,000 is yet another proof of who Jesus is and what kind of God He is. He preaches. He teaches. He forgives His people. He provides for their daily bread. The feeding of the 5,000 also shows how Christ works in and through the Church.
Notice that the feeding of the 5,000 takes place in the context of Jesus teaching, preaching, forgiving, and giving to His people. Second, this story shows from beginning to end that Jesus is all about serving His people, like a shepherd who has compassion for his sheep, Jesus did not walk up to every person and hand them their daily bread one at a time. He did not serve the meal to the people. Instead, He blessed the food and then gave the food to His disciples and commanded them to give to the people. This is the way the Lord does things. He does the miracle, then distributes His gifts through His disciples to the people.
So also in the church. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are the giver all churchly gifts. The pastor is just God’s butler – he is just a servant. If he is faithful he does what has been given for him to do, just like the disciples who last week were sent to town and villages to preach the kingdom of God. This week, they were given the task of feeding the multitude with Christ’s gifts.
In verse 39 “Jesus commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.” Once in groups of fifties and hundreds do you think anyone of the members of those groups cared a lick about which of the 12 disciples brought them their dinner? They were hungry and happy to receive what Jesus was giving. Do you think any of them said anything life, “Hey John looks a lot younger than the rest. I bet he will get along with my kids better than the old guy who’s serving us now. Let’s switch groups.” Or “Hey that other guys seems funnier, let’s go join his group he’s more entertaining.”
Sitting at the end of the day in a desolate place, miles from home, I suspect they were simply happy, pleasantly surprised that they were being cared for by Jesus and His disciples.
Just as the fish and bread that came from the hands of James, John, Peter, and even Judas was just as healthy and nutritious as when it left Jesus’ hand, so also the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation are valid even though your pastor who daily sins in big and small ways.
It is Jesus who prepares the meal. It is Jesus who was baptized in the Jordan and made water holy when it is administered with His word according to His command. It is Jesus who earned forgiveness for us and gives the words of forgiveness to the pastor to give to you. It is Jesus who gave His doctrine to the prophets and apostles so that the pastor could teach them to you. It is Jesus who shed His blood on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins and administers that same blood to you by mouth as the pastor gives you the wine of the sacrament.
Think about it: God, in the flesh, His baptism on your skin, His absolution and preaching in your ears, and His true body and blood in your mouth – His gifts for you.
Many people forget that. Many people forget the true reason for going to church – to meet Christ there and receive His gifts. The gifts of God depend on the promise of Jesus Christ and nothing else … not the holiness of your pastor … not your holiness … not your faith … or your pastor’s faith. It is the promise of Christ alone that makes these gifts perfect. Your pastor is simply the waiter who serves these gifts according to Christ’s command. He is the ordained servant of Christ.
It is Jesus who gave His teachings to the prophets and apostles so that the pastor can give them to you. Eph. 2:19 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”
And this morning, Jesus feeds you His Word. Your sins are forgiven you.
MAY THE PEACE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEART AND MIND IN CHRIST JESUS. AMEN.