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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Seventh Sunday after Trinity.
Mark 8:1-9

By Norma Boeckler



The Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 2012


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn #9            O Day of Rest                        1:89  
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #237            All Glory Be                     1:12 

Nothing but Faith

The Communion Hymn #308                            1.63
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 261     Lord Keep Us Steadfast                   1:93 

KJV Romans 6:19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

KJV Mark 8:1 In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, 2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: 3 And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far. 4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? 5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. 6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. 7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. 8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. 9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.

SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

Lord God, heavenly Father, who in the wilderness didst by Thy Son abundantly feed four thousand men besides women and children with seven loaves and a few small fishes: We beseech Thee, graciously abide among us with Thy blessing, and keep us from covetousness and the cares of this life, that we may seek first Thy kingdom and Thy righteousness, and in all things needful for body and soul, experience Thine ever-present help; through Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Nothing But Faith

First Luther Sermon on This Text


Lenski:
The [GJ – liberal]  critics regard the two miracles by which multitudes were fed as one despite the differences in time, place, numbers fed, numbers of bread-cakes and of fishes and of baskets full left over. Matthew and Peter (Mark’s source) were present in person at both miracles and are reliable authorities. The inner difference between the two miracles is not discussed by the critics. The feeding of the 5,000 intends to reveal Jesus as the Bread of Life as John 6:26–65 show in extenso; the feeding of the 4,000 does not go beyond showing the care of Jesus for our bodily needs.
In the case of the 5,000 Jesus broached the question of feeding them to Philip alone as soon as Jesus saw the crowd assembling; see the commentary on John 6:5–7. Here three days elapse before Jesus speaks. In the other miracle the disciples become worried about the multitude and come to Jesus toward evening and urge him to send them away. Here the disciples remain unworried for three days, and it is Jesus who finally speaks to them about feeding the crowds before he sends them away and himself leaves the locality.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Mark's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 314.

The so-called problems of the New Testament are ancient, because men of great learning were the ones entrusted with teaching the Gospel. Augustine, Jerome, and Ambrose were leaders of their age, so these matters were addressed. Even today one can find people raising issues that were discussed 1500 years ago, and the newcomers act shocked that such a “problem” could occur.

The difference today is having the liberal critics within the visible church and also dominating the academic scene. Thus it is almost impossible to have anything but a rationalistic interpretation of the Feedings of the Multitude. There were two feedings, as Lenski wrote. One emphasizes Jesus as the Bread of Life. This one concentrates on God providing for our daily needs.

Successful battles are seldom frontal attacks. The liberal critics do not begin by saying, “We reject the divinity of Christ.” If they did, anything that followed would make sense as their bias and it would be dismissed.

Instead, by merging two miracles they imply that the Biblical witness is not reliable. The demand for multiple witnesses disappears, to be replaced by having problems with multiple witnesses. The apostles saw these miracles being performed – and even greater ones.

To believe that the disciples got this all mixed up would mean:
  1. Very concise writers (the Evangelists) did not allow for the fact they were repeating themselves with two different miraculous feedings.
  2. Or, they did not know how to deal with various accounts, so they put them both down.

Naturally, this also implies that the Scriptures were not inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the plain meaning of the Word is ignored for fanciful and creative interpretations to be applied. Human reason is always offended by the mysteries of God, so one offense leads to another until faith is extinguished and human reason triumphs.

This is not a new problem, but an ancient one. God reveals His Word - and every possible objection is raised.



KJV Mark 8:1 In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, 2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat:

To prepare His disciples and followers for the events to come, Jesus showed them in various ways what God could do and would do in the future, especially in terms of their daily needs.

In the future the apostles would go out across the Roman Empire, teaching the Word instead of making a living the way they did before. Fishermen would no longer be close to the sea, where they were comfortable with their work, but out among many others who would shelter them, feed them, and provide for their needs.

Many people who are comfortable in their vocations would never get up in front of others and teach them that skill. Most people would rather not leave their jobs for something entirely new. The disciples would soon be on their own, without the physical presence of Jesus, relying on Him nevertheless in doing something entirely new – for which they had no previous experience before Jesus began to teach them.

Likewise the early believers, who became the core of the Christian Church, had to continue in an atmosphere of persecution and non-approval. For a time they would be able to use the synagogues, but that led to their excommunication. That is not always a bad thing, but no one likes to be kicked out of previous associations, especially when it is done with malice and teachery.

Jesus was preparing apostles and followers to feel bereft of Him and yet carry on. That did not require lessons in self-esteem, but faith in Him.

The first thing we see in this lesson is Jesus’ concern for His followers, taking care of them before they even ask. There is no demand for food, not even anticipation from the disciples. Jesus Himself raises the issue of food, and explains why in the next section.

This shows us that God is preparing for our material needs before we even ask. Even in our blunders and mistakes, God clears the way for our daily needs. That is especially true when we concern ourselves with the spiritual needs of others. God blesses those efforts in many different ways. When people say, “I would do the right thing, but that would cost my daily comforts and the esteem of unbelievers,” they are really saying – “I do not trust God. I do not rely on God. I speak the words of the Bible but do not believe them.”

There is always that gap, between the revealed Word and our trust in the Promises. Our trust grows with experience, with being tested. Someone said, “Start an independent congregation in New Ulm. I will support that.” And he sent one small check (out of a fortune) and followed with a letter railing against us for what I was doing – what he encouraged. Nevertheless, many good things happened, in spite of the most unlikely events, such as a man selling us his property and renting it back from us so he could still live there.

 “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Some say that combines a Jewish definition (assurance of things hoped for) with a Greek definition (a conviction of things not seen).

It is not faith to see, touch, and have those things in advance. In that regard we should listen to the birds every morning. They wake up and begin singing, according to God’s plan, a reminder that they do not have savings, Social Security, insurance, or a pension, not even a fridge for their food. They do not know where the next meal is coming from. In the spring they have to feed their children as well. But they sing and take off to find the food, whether fixed on trees and bushes or wiggling in the soil or growing on plants. There is only one time where birds are truly needy for food and desperate – when sleet covers the trees, because winter food comes from the larvae stuck onto trees and bushes by expectant parent bugs who prepare Creation for the next spring. And when that spring thaw arrives, baby birds need the baby bugs that survived the winter.

God programs all His creatures with a plan for surviving and thriving, without worry and anxiety. He provides for us too, but we worry and have concerns about many things.

3 And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.

This explains why Jesus was already concerned about the multitude, before anyone asked. He realized that they could not survive the desert heat if they headed home without food. They would collapse along the way because the body demands as much in calories from the heat and it does from the cold.

In this drought we have all experienced that malaise that comes from too much heat, too little hydration, and the power of the burning sun. I used to say to visitors to Arizona – “Never stand in the sun when there is shade.”

The message of this Gospel lesson is clear – God loves and cares for our material needs. He provides before we ask.

KJV Isaiah 65:24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.








4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?

Luther observed – If the disciples had seen piles of money or tables full of bread they would have happy and known the answer. But they saw nothing and had doubts.

If the crowd had not trusted in this preacher who instilled faith in them, they would have dispersed to feed their stomachs. Isn’t that why so many fade away today - after speaking brave words? They fear consequences, which include threats against their material well-being. In other words, they lack faith. The opposite of faith is fear rather than courage.

To teach his disciples self-confidence, Tony Robbins had a large group of them walk over heated coals. This is an old trick that works if done exactly right. However, in this case, over 20 people had to be treated for painful burns. The bigger problem is – does walking over ash-covered coals make someone a better salesman, teacher, pianist, milkman, or mail carrier? Will it turn a housewife into the head of marketing for Herbal Life?

Anyone can guess the reasoning of the disciples. There was not enough money and even a large amount would not be good when so far away from others in the desert area. One time I ordered about 30 burgers from a fast-food place. They were quite exasperated with me for not giving them a warning. As I mentioned before, the whole clan was in a van as we got lower and lower on gas in Arizona, without a town in sight. When one finally appeared we hoped the vapors would keep the vehicle going until we rolled up to a stop. It did.

But this is a miracle that defies human reason – even though rationalists have supplied one. Theirs is simple but wrong – everyone repented and shared. So a miracle is turned into a moralistic tale – everyone should share. Problem solved.

5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. 6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. 7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.

The details are quite precise. They had only seven loaves and a few small fish. If the fish had not been described, someone might have guessed very large fish and a potentially satisfying feast. But a few small fish would have been insufficient for the disciples, let alone the 4,000 families.

Jesus spoke the Word when He blessed the food, showing the efficacy of God’s Word. This efficacy and power is constantly expressed throughout the Scriptures, from Genesis 1 to the end. The Word that created the universe could also multiply the food.

This showed the followers and disciples that God would provide their material needs because they sought the Kingdom and its righteousness first. Those who seek material needs first and neglect the Word may (or for a brief period of time) receive what they desire, but they will not have the Kingdom, not will they have the contentment that comes with it.

The two miracles of feeding also showed the disciples and followers that Holy Communion was possible through God’s Word.

Jesus taught them about the power of the Word in many ways:
  1. Stilling the storm.
  2. Answering prayers.
  3. Turning water into wine.
  4. Healing the sick.
  5. Raising the dead.
  6. Multiplying the loaves and fish.
  7. Forgiving sin.
  8. Rising from the dead.

One could emphasize the miraculous – and that is true. But the method is always with the Word. Throughout the Bible, for example, when we are encouraged to pray, it is an admonition combined with the Promises of God. He instills faith through the Promises of love and mercy, then He urges us to pray in faith.

Likewise, forgiveness of sin is received in faith and never without faith.

8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. 9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.

Lenski:
The number of the people fed on this occasion was “about four thousand.” Matthew adds that this number were men, leaving the women and the children uncounted. What a host to be fed with a little bread and a few fishes! In both miracles the numbers are merely historical; all efforts to give them a symbolical or allegorical meaning are beside the point. We also say that the effort to find a Gentile unity or even a gradation between the three miracles recorded in 7:24–8:10 is futile. How do we know that the deaf-mute was a Gentile? If there were Gentiles present among the 4,000, Mark does not even note the fact, much less attach peculiar significance to it.
When all were fully fed and the pieces gathered up, Jesus dismissed them, which means that he himself was leaving. Only three days did Jesus remain in this neighborhood. Only the dismissal is recorded, nothing is said about the effect produced upon the people, which certainly must have been profound.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Mark's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 319.

This is a profound climax to the miracle. The disciples began with “not enough bread here in the desert” and ended with more bread and fish fragments than they began with. Both bread and fish are satisfying. If there had been any trace of hunger left in this multitude, the fragments would have been gone. They knew enough about traveling in the desert heat and blazing sun to have enough to eat before going home.

This is a miracle of the efficacious Word, and a miracle of abundance. We can apply this without effort to Holy Communion, if we have faith. Those offended by this miracle are also offended by Holy Communion. God gives us an abundance of forgiveness through the Gospel, each and every day, for all who believe in Him.


11. We have said enough concerning faith through which we entrust the stomach to God for his care, and believe that he will not allow us to come to distress because of the lack of temporal things. Now concerning spiritual blessings, when we are about to die, I wish also to say: then we will find and see before our eyes very death, and yet we would gladly wish to live; then we will see before us very hell, and yet we would gladly wish to possess heaven; then we will see God’s judgment, and yet we would gladly see his grace. In brief, we will not see a single one of the things we would like to have. No created thing can help us in the presence of death, hell and the judgment of God; and if I believe, I will say: Yes, faith is the fundamental principle by which I secure what I do not see; hence, if I believe, nothing can harm me. Although I see nothing now but death, hell and the judgment of God before my eyes, yet I must not look at them; but fully trust that God, by virtue of the power of his promise, not because of my worthiness, will give me life, salvation and grace. That is cleaving to God by faith in the right way.

12. This is here beautifully painted in the visible picture of the four thousand men who hang on God alone through the faith that says: yes, God will indeed feed us. Had they judged according to reason, they would have said’ Oh, we are so many, we are here in the desert, we have empty and hungry stomachs; nothing can help our condition. There was nothing of which they could speak; but they had a good refuge without any human disputing with God, they commended themselves to him and freely laid all their need upon him. Then Christ comes, before they have any care and before they ask him to come, and takes all more to heart than they do themselves, and says to his disciples: “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days and have nothing to eat; and if I send them away fasting to their homes, they will faint on the way.”

 

Quotations

"Both Baptism and the Lord's Supper qualify as Means of Grace because of the simple fact that they are visible forms of the essential Gospel message announcing the forgiveness of sins."
Martin W. Lutz, "God the HS Acts Through the Lord's Supper," God The Holy Spirit Acts, ed., Eugene P. Kaulfield, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1972, p. 117. 

"Today's Gospel paints to us the Lord in a way that we may fully know how we should esteem Him, namely, that He is merciful, meek and loving; that He gladly helps everybody and freely associates and deals with all people. And such a picture as this, faith really craves." 
 Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1983, IV, p. 203.           

"Therefore the Scriptures present to us a double picture; one is that of fear or the overpowering picture of the severe wrath of God, before which no one can stand; but must despair unless he has faith. In contrast with this the picture of grace is presented to us in order that faith may behold it and obtain for itself an agreeable and comforting refuge in God with the hope that man cannot expect so much from God, that there is not still much more to be had from Him."  
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1983, IV, p. 203.       

"Today's Gospel treats of the temporal and bodily blessings, teaches us the faith of the child, and it is a picture for the weak, in that they should look to God for everything good, and that they might thus later learn to trust God and depend on Him for spiritual blessings. For if we are instructed in the Gospel, how Christ feeds our stomachs, we can then conclude that He will also feed and clothe our souls. For if I cannot trust a person to sustain my body, much less can I trust him to sustain my soul forever."  
Sermons of Martin Luther , IV, p. 204.       

"Therefore Christ asked His disciples that everyone might learn to know by experience what reason is, and acknowledge how reason and faith in no way agree. Here we learn to blindfold reason, when we begin to believe, and then give reason a permanent furlough."  
Sermons of Martin Luther, IV, p. 205.          

"O God, I am Thy creature and Thy handiwork and Thou hast from the beginning created me. I will depend entirely on You who cares more for me, how I shall be sustained, then I do myself; Thou wilt indeed nourish me, feed, clothe and help me, where and when You know best."  
Sermons of Martin Luther IV, p. 206.          

"But when one inquires of reason for counsel it soon says: It is not possible. Yes, you must wait a long time until roasted ducks fly into your mouth, for reason sees nothing, grasps nothing, and nothing is present. Just so the apostles do also here who thought: Yes, who will provide food for so many, no one is able to do that; but had they seen a great pile of money and in addition tables laden with bread and meat, they would soon have discovered good counsel and been able to give good consolation; that would have gone to their thinking very reasonably."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1983, IV, p. 206.      

"Therefore, beloved friends, let us once make a beginning to believe; for unbelief is the cause of all sin and vice, which now have taken the upper hand in all stations of life. How does it come to pass that everywhere there are so many foolish women and rogues, so many rank imposters, thieves, robbers, userers, murderers and sellers of indulgences? It all comes from unbelief."
  Sermons of Martin Luther, IV, p. 208.         

"Just so it is also at present: Where true pastors and preachers are so poorly supoorted that no one donates anything to them, and moreover what they have is snatched out of their mouths by a shameless and unthankful world, by princes, noblemen, townsmen and famers, so that they with their poor wives and children must suffer need, and when they die leave behind them pitiable, rejected widows and orphans. By this very many good-hearted and very clever people are more and more discouraged from becoming pastors and preachers."
             Sermons of Martin Luther,IV, p. 214.       

"How does it happen that although all of us are certainly Christians, or at least want to be such, we do not take this attitude of unconcern and neither comfort ourselves with abundance and surplus nor are frightened by want and by worrying about it? For if we faithfully and devotedly cling to God's Word, there shall be no want. Christ takes care of us, and from this it must follow that we shall have something to eat."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 436. Mark 8:1-9          

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