By Norma Boeckler.
The Seventh Sunday after Trinity
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 Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
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
Faith instead of Reason
The Communion Hymn #341 Crown Him 1:70
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.
Faith Instead of Reason
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.
This Gospel teaches us many things about Christ and how He deals with us. The central lesson contrasts faith in God with human reason.
First we see that the crowds following Christ trusted and loved Him. They followed Him out into the desert to hear Him teach. When we see the term “wilderness” we think of dark forests and timberwolves, but the word used means “dry place,” which is another kind of wilderness.
Many parts of the US are now in a massive heat wave. It was 105 and humid here yesterday. Our dog Sassy Sue lost her usual bounce outside and slowly trotted back in after the birds were fed.
Jesus’ followers were with Him days, providing us implied details that defeat the rationalists, who try to wiggle out from under this miracle. They would love to have the people sharing their hidden food, shamed by the little boy who offered his. That would allow for everyone fed. But after three days, unless they had Army trucks following them, they would have no food left at all.
Desert living people know that calories are needed just as much in the heat as in the cold. Heating and cooling are both major tasks of the blood circulation system. When people hike into the hot Grand Canyon, they neglect food to sustain them. One man got down but could not climb up again. It was cool in the night but too dangerous to climb. He could see in the daytime but could not negotiate the trail up (one mile vertical in height) without food. He rested by a stream until people found him.
Nothing is said here about water for the crowd. They would not stop, rest, and eat in the blazing sun, but at an oasis. People think of the desert as blowing hills of sand, but there are always water sources here and there. One housing development was going up in Phoenix because they had a large aquifer present, part of an old ranch. No one could build new homes unless water was also provided in abundance and ground water replaced if removed by wells.
We know that these people believed in Christ or they would have turned back early, knowing their food supplies were limited and running out.
First Jesus expressed His compassion for the crowd, before anyone thought to ask Him about their perilous state.
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.
Jesus expressed His love and concern for those who loved His Word so much that they followed Him into the wilds to hear Him.
This reveals the nature of Christ, to show concern before anyone expressed a need. His disciples needed to know this, so it was said to them and brought to their remembrance later, recorded in Mark and Matthew.
God provides for us in two ways. First, He provides the necessities of life – food, clothing, and shelter. Secondlhy, he provides the spiritual necessities – forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. People worry about the first far more than the second, even though God provides for believers and unbelievers alike. The sun rises on the good and the evil, the just and the unjust (those justified by faith and the unbelievers).
KJV Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Jesus posed the question to expose the disciples’ attitude, and they responded with human reason.
Mark 8:4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?
The disciples responded, “Impossible.”
Therefore, this Gospel miracle clearly exposes the contrast between faith and human reason. Those who rely on human reason repudiate faith, even when they mix faith and reason. True trust in God’s Word means we must repudiate human wisdom and not rely on that or experience – not even on our emotions.
They have called the 18th Century the Age of Reason, but ours is the Age of Emotion. All emotions are valid, the gurus tell us, and we must act on them and on our impulses. Impulses are sacred, sacramental even, they claim. To ignore our emotions and impulses will cause great illness and unhappiness. Thus the Old Adam is trained by the Old Adam to remain in its blind state, trusting man and fearing God.
God is so great and powerful that His Word sets aside all rules, reason, and human experience. An unbeliever fears God. A believer loves God, because He sees (in the Word) how this power is expressed in mercy and love rather than in judgment and condemnation.
I ask people, “Please read Luther’s sermons, to get away from your toxic past, where people taught Law and condemnation only to provide more Law and condemnation as a remedy. Luther teaches the true Gospel, receiving forgiveness through faith alone, apart from the works of the Law.”
This great contrast, which Jesus showed the disciples, was intended to reveal to them their shortcomings in understanding the difference between faith and reason. Another example was the miraculous catch of fish.
God does not teach us in giant steps but in small steps, leading us to a sincere faith in His Word, yet providing for our fallen state, our weaknesses and sinful nature. The Gospel is a leaven which slowly takes over the batch of dough, replacing trust in ourselves with trust in God.
People can summarize the horrible state of Christianity in this country with one word – reason. The wolves say, “We have statistics. We have examples. We have marketing studies. Trust us to reach people who have never before been reached.” All that is human reason, tickled by human emotion. It must be good because it appeals to so many people. How can they all be wrong?
God reveals what human wisdom and experience cannot. There are no stores to buy enough food in this wild area. When people drive into unpopulated areas today, the same experience is repeated, especially on holidays. Some roads seem to go on and on, without any signs of human habitation. I was driving the van, loaded with Team Jackson, as the tank registered empty. We saw the distant town (easy in the desert) and everyone hoped the E was an exaggeration. I spent 20 minutes thinking, “Every minute I am closer to a rescue, AAA, and a can of gasoline.” We made it.
“Who is a better farmer, miller, and baker than God?” Luther asked. No one can grow grain faster, turn it into four faster, or bake it into bread faster than God. Jesus showed that.
Mark 8:5 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.
Faster than anyone could see, God took the loaves and fishes and fed 4,000 families with them. This was a massive feeding and yet the leftovers were equally impressive. Given the same statistics today, even with enormous quantities of food, the leftovers would have been sparse because of the famished state of 12,000 people or more.
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.
Our Old Adam dismisses faith in God and says, “Let me figure this out.” The Gospel is clearly teaching us that God has compassion on us before we even begin to solve a problem.
Human thinking is not dismissed, because God has given us the ability to fight disease, build bridges, and run human affairs. However, human reason must be subordinated to the Word of God, which judges everything.
For instance, there are two responses to this world-wide Depression, brought on by greed and human wisdom.
One is – statistics show that eventually the economy will turn around as things get sorted out and ownership reverts to people with cash.
Another is from Psalm 37:25 - KJV Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
The first answer can cause even more anxiety because reason says, “This time it is different,” or “FDR kept the Depression going for 10 years, blaming Hoover the whole time.”
The second answer promotes and nurtures faith in God. I used to think, as a child, “But no one is righteous.” That would be just like saying, from the New Testament, “No one is a saint.” In both cases it means “believer.” Someone could translate the Psalm verse as:
I have been young and now am old, but I have never seen someone who is justified by faith abandoned by God, nor have I seen his children begging for food. (Jackson Living Bible)
When I first heard that verse again, during a time of need, the Word inspired faith in God. That is the purpose of every Gospel passage in the Bible, where we can find hundreds of blessings and promises in addition to message of salvation in Christ.
The miraculous feeding is also reflected in the following action – I share this verse with hundreds of students. Most of my students are younger and going through various financial trials. At one school, many (but not all) students are Christians. I also post this hymn for each class at that school:
"Commit Whatever Grieves Thee" by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676
1. Commit whatever grieves thee
Into the gracious hands
Of Him who never leaves thee,
Who heaven and earth commands.
Who points the clouds their courses,
Whom winds and waves obey,
He will direct thy footsteps
And find for thee a way.
2. On Him place thy reliance
If thou wouldst be secure;
His work thou must consider
If thine is to endure.
By anxious sighs and grieving
And self-tormenting care
God is not moved to giving;
All must be gained by prayer.
3. Thy truth and grace, O Father,
Most surely see and know
Both what is good and evil
For mortal man below.
According to Thy counsel
Thou wilt Thy work pursue;
And what Thy wisdom chooseth
Thy might will always do.
4. Thy hand is never shortened,
All things must serve Thy might;
Thine every act is blessing,
Thy path is purest light.
Thy work no man can hinder,
Thy purpose none can stay,
Since Thou to bless Thy children
Wilt always find a way.
5. Though all the powers of evil
The will of God oppose,
His purpose will not falter,
His pleasure onward goes.
Whate'er God's will resolveth,
Whatever He intends.
Will always be accomplished
True to His aims and ends.
6. Then hope, my feeble spirit,
And be thou undismayed;
God helps in every trial
And makes thee unafraid.
Await His time with patience,
Then shall thine eyes behold
The sun of joy and gladness
His brightest beams unfold.
7. Arise, my soul, and banish
Thy anguish and thy care.
Away with thoughts that sadden
And heart and mind ensnare!
Thou art not lord and master
Of thine own destiny;
Enthroned in highest heaven,
God rules in equity.
8. Leave all to His direction;
In wisdom He doth reign,
And in a way most wondrous
His course He will maintain.
Soon He, His promise keeping,
With wonder-working skill,
Shall put away the sorrows
That now thy spirit fill.
9. A while His consolation
He may to thee deny,
And seem as though in trial
He far from thee would fly;
A while distress and anguish
May compass thee around,
Nor to thy supplication
An answering voice be found.
10. But if thou perseverest,
Thou shalt deliverance find.
Behold, all unexpected
He will thy soul unbind
And from the heavy burden
Thy heart will soon set free;
And thou wilt see the blessing
He had in mind for thee.
11. O faithful child of heaven,
How blessed shalt thou be!
With songs of glad thanksgiving
A crown awaiteth thee.
Into thy hand thy Maker
Will give the victor's palm.
And thou to thy Deliverer
Shalt sing a joyous psalm.
12. Give, Lord, this consummation
To all our heart's distress;
Our hands, our feet, e'er strengthen,
In death our spirits bless.
Thy truth and Thy protection
Grant evermore, we pray,
And in celestial glory
Shall end our destined way.
Faith in God’s Word is faith in God. The Holy Spirit opens our hearts to the Gospel and dwells in us, helping us all our spiritual struggles. This miracle shows us how God provides before we even think to ask, that compassion is central to the divine will.
God allows us to fall into uncertainty and perplexity because we would otherwise fall into completely apathy, if not hostility toward God. Before the Flood, the entire planet was like paradise. The fossil remains of the Flood show a Florida-like atmosphere and natural growth in Siberia and everywhere else. The reason was the mist that watered the planet until the seasons began after the global inundation.
We know that jewels and metals were out in the open and available in recent times. One man started a fire in America and lit the cliff on fire. The overhang was pure coal. In Jerome, Arizona, Indians picked up lumps of copper from the surface of Mingus Mountain. Yet when mankind had everything within arm’s reach, they became utterly godless and evil.
The struggles we endure are good for our spiritual strength, because they drive us to the Word of God and to faithful authors.
Mark 8:8 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.
The baskets were even larger than the “coffin-baskets” which were man-sized. Two terms were used, to distinguish them.
Everyone was completely full—and perhaps stuffing some extras in the pockets—but seven baskets were left. When people have been famished, they can eat a lot. This shows us the miraculous abundance provided by God.
This abundance is revealed in the Scriptures in the Means of God, which offends many clergy. The Gospel conveys Christ to us in the preached and taught Word, in the Sacraments of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and Absolution. When we speak the Gospel to brothers (NNIV and sisters) in Christ, that is also God’s grace. So we have enough and to share as well.
The same is true of our material needs. God gives us enough and plenty to share as well. We should look for opportunities to share with our neighbor, never expecting anything in return.
"Since God has connected His most gracious promise of forgiveness with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, these also are true and efficacious means of grace, namely, by virtue of the divine promises that are attached to them."
John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p. 444.
"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 supported 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 farmers, 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