Pastor Simek The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville 7/22/18 “The Satisfying Shepherd” Sermon Text: Mark 6:30-44
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
We are almost done with July now, just today and one more Sunday left, and I am still yet to preach a sermon I had actually planned. Last week, my plan was changed by an Elders meeting, the week before, by the Higher Things Conference, and the week before I was not here. But today, I am getting back to my plan, which probably needs a little context. In the month of July, our Gospel readings have been a continuous reading from the second half of Mark chapter 5 straight through chapter 6, in order, without missing one verse. We will finish next week, the last Sunday of July, with the last verses of Mark chapter 6. This wasn’t by my design, but is the layout of the lectionary, the appointed readings for each Sunday. And as this is a continuous reading through Mark’s Gospel, we have seen Jesus and the Gospel continuously and consistently face opposition. The first Sunday, it was almost an opposition of being too popular where a crowd surrounded him so that he was not able to reach the girl, Jairus’ daughter, before she died. Then Jesus went home where the Gospel and Jesus as a prophet was without honor. He was seen as nothing special so there was no respect or honor for him or for the Gospel just as the Gospel and its proclamation is without honor in the world today. Actually, we draw nearer and nearer to being in the shoes of John the Baptist. When he preached the Gospel, it was not simply without honor, but it was met with reluctance, even hostility and punishment which resulted in his beheading. At every turn, the Gospel has faced opposition, yet it is opposition that it has, can, and will overcome. And so it is today and next Sunday, that the Gospel continues to meet more opposition. Today, the opposition of the Gospel comes not from others, but from ourselves and our own needs, yet…
OUR SHEPHERD SATISFIES OUR NEEDS
(I. The Gospel is threatened by the needs and desires of this life.)
(II. Jesus satisfies all our needs.)
If I hadn’t been looking at this Gospel reading with the build-up and context of the opposition of the Gospel, I’m not sure I would have thought about this feeding of the 5,000 as opposition to the Gospel. There are so many other things in this reading that are absolute gold, many of them I won’t elaborate on in an attempt to stay focused, but these golden nuggets also can distract us from the context of this opposition to the Gospel. Have you ever considered that the Gospel was in danger, it was on the verge of being silenced and not preached because of the hunger of these people?
I hadn’t, so I had a sort of “Aha!” moment, which are always fun. But the Gospel almost didn’t reach the ears of these 5,000 men (plus the additional women and children), because of their hunger. The disciples were ready to dismiss the crowd. They were ready to end the service, call it a day, go get dinner, and settle down for the night. These people were about to be deprived of hearing the word of God preached by the Word of God, being fed the Word, because of their bellies needed to be fed.
And so often today, the Gospel is opposed or threatened in the very same way. By the needs of our body and our desires, the proclamation of the Gospel, even the faithful reception of the Gospel and God’s gifts are stopped. Church cannot last forever (despite my best efforts). At some point, I will have to stop preaching for today, you will have to be dismissed from here to fill your belly with food.
It’s not your fault, it is not a sin to get hungry. That is a result of our frail, weak, human flesh and a result of the fall into sin. It is not because of your particular sin of this or that, but because we are conceived and born sinful in a fallen sinful world that our bodies will hunger and die if we do not feed them. And while this is the most common and widely shared experience and feeling by all of us, it is not the only frailty of the body that opposes the Gospel and prevents its faithful reception.
There are several people, people you probably know, who cannot be here because of the frailness and weakness of their bodies. There are people, our members, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who cannot get out of their homes, or sometimes even their bed or wheelchair without the help of others. There are some that cannot sit in those hard, uncomfortable pews for an hour. There are some that can get here, but cannot get from their pew, up these steps, to the altar to receive the Gospel, the body and blood of Christ. Again, this is not their fault, not because they are a greater or lesser sinner than any of us, but the reality is that our own frail flesh can be an obstacle for the Gospel. Many of these people actually desire to do these things and try to do them even at the further expense of their bodies.
The Gospel is opposed by forces outside and inside of ourselves because while there are some that are willing and even desire to suffer the pain and struggle of getting here to receive God’s gifts, there are just as many if not more of us who are able to be here, whose bodies are not weak, but capable, yet despise or neglect these very gifts because we are hungry, because we are too busy, because we didn’t get enough sleep last night, because we have other, higher priorities than receiving the higher things of God.
Yet as much opposition as the Gospel faces, as much self-centeredness (like keeping Jesus from a dying girl), as much humiliation (like preaching a Gospel without honor), as much punishment or threat of consequences (like being beheaded for the Gospel), as much weakness of the flesh (like starving, broken bodies, and hardness of heart), the Gospel does not stop.
Jesus raises the girl even though she dies. Jesus preaches, heals, and sends his disciples though their message is without honor. John continues to point to the ministry and work of Jesus even in his death. The service in this desolate place does not end, but Jesus becomes their shepherd, sitting them down in green pastures and providing, creating, food for them that the Gospel may prevail and its proclamation continue. The Gospel, Jesus, continues and nothing can stop him.
Even when he faces his end, even when he dies and his frail, weak, human body dies, he continues. Even the opposition of death itself, the ultimate sign of our mortal, fallen bodies, cannot stop Jesus. He continues to deliver his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, won as he conquered mortality.
And so he continues to deliver those gifts. He provides for you, in this very service, the food and drink of his body and blood. He reaches out to those who cannot come up these steps. He reaches out to those who cannot sit in these pews. He reaches out to those who cannot leave their homes. He reaches out to those who cannot leave their beds. He reaches out to those who cannot hold a cup because their fingers shake or do not work. He reaches out to those who cannot remember their names. He is their Good Shepherd, laying them in green pastures, leading them to still waters, restoring their soul with his body and blood and every word that comes from the mouth of God. “This is my body for you.” “This is my blood for you.” “This is my Son for you.” “Your sins are forgiven.”
So no matter how broken your body or your mind becomes you are still a child of the crucified and risen God. You are still a sheep of the Shepherd who satisfies our needs and gives eternal life in glory. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.