Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sermon -- 7th Sunday after Trinity (August 3, 2014)

MARK 8:1-9

In the name + of Jesus.

     St. Mark recorded, “In those days, …a great crowd had gathered….” (Mark 8:1)  What we do not learn until later in this account is that they had gathered together in a desolate place.  There were no fruit trees, no grain fields, and no markets.  It was grassland, and the grass was not something they could consume.  They were so eager to follow Jesus that no one had thought ahead to pack food for the journey.  After three days, Jesus called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.  And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way.  And some of them have come from far away.” (Mark 8:1-3) 
     It was not God’s design that people should suffer from hunger or faint from lack of strength.  The world in which God had placed Adam was filled with all kinds of trees and plants that supplied food.  There were not large segments of the world which were uninhabitable or unproductive.   There was no wasteland.  But sin changed the world, bringing a curse not just on people, but also upon the earth.  The curse of sin causes the world to bring forth thorns and thistles.  It means that man’s food will have to come by the sweat of his brow.  The ground must be plowed.  Seeds must be sown.  Crops must be harvested.  Plants must be prepared and cooked and baked.  There is a good deal of toil that goes into each meal, whether you are doing the prep work for it or you are paying someone to do it for you.
     But the crowds were far removed from any kitchen or market.  The people had gone three days without food, and they were hungry.  The disciples seemed to find the predicament of the crowd annoying: “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”  And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”  They said, “Seven.” (Mark 8:4-5)   The disciples had food for themselves.  But what good would sharing it do among the thousands who were there? 
     The people had a need, and Jesus satisfied it.  Jesus took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.  And they had a few small fish.  And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them.  And they ate and were satisfied. (Mark 8:6-8)  Jesus satisfied all who hungered.
     We all hunger.  We all crave to find satisfaction or contentment or peace or joy.  But we are often like people who are starving and we will try to fill ourselves with anything.  Lonely people crave a friend.  Dejected girls crave a boyfriend, and lust-driven boys crave using those girls.  Sick people crave a cure.  People who crave prestige hunger for a promotion.  We crave what is newer and bigger and faster because we hunger for a better life..  And we expect all of our labors to provide some satisfaction and peace in our lives.  But our hunger is never satisfied.  The cravings are still there.
     The crowds in the wilderness went three days since their last meal.  Jesus wanted them to feel that hunger.  He wanted them to truly recognize their need before he met it.  In the same way, Jesus wants you to hunger for peace, for joy, and for rest.  He wants you to feel the guilt of your sin.  He wants you to know the fear of death and judgment.  He wants to you know that you are never really satisfied by your latest purchase, your latest accomplishment, or even your last family reunion.  All the world has to offer you will finally leave you empty.  It is like gorging yourself on Twinkies and cotton candy.  You enjoy the sugary sweetness for a moment.  But it is only air and sugar; it cannot sustain you, strengthen you, or satisfy you.  All the world has to offer you is air and sugar.  All its treasures are without substance.  Therefore, you still hunger for something more.  Your heart still longs to be satisfied.  You crave a lasting peace, an indestructible joy, and a permanent rest.   Jesus satisfies all who hunger.
     The Lord Jesus Christ sets out his grace before you.  He does not ask you to chip in and toil with him.  Rather, Jesus labors by himself to do all the work to supply everything that truly satisfies your hungry heart.  Jesus prayed and sweated over the sacrifice he would make for you.  He gave his back to the scourge.  He gave his hands and feet to the nails.  And he spent his very life on you.  Jesus’ life was enough to satisfy God’s demand for holy obedience.  Jesus’ death was enough to satisfy the Father’s wrath against sinful disobedience such as our discontent and misplaced cravings.  Jesus has made complete satisfaction for our sins.  Therefore, the Father raised Jesus from the dead to declare that your sins are, indeed, forgiven. 
     Jesus satisfies all who hunger.  But he does not magically fill you up out of think air.    In the wilderness, Jesus did not rain manna from heaven, and he did not magically think the people full.  Jesus used material things to do what they were created to do—to satisfy the hungry.  Jesus took what had already been grown, harvested, processed, and baked.  He blessed the seven loaves, multiplied them, and placed them before the people.  They did nothing for this meal.  They did not harvest or bake or even place their order.  Jesus had it placed before them, and they gladly received it.  They did not have to think about what to do with this blessed food.  Their hunger pangs told them that they needed to consume it so that they could live and gain strength and make their way home.  So they ate and were satisfied. (Mark 8:8)  Jesus satisfies all who hunger.
     Just as Jesus used natural things to satisfy the people in the wilderness, so also Jesus attaches his blessing to natural things to day.  He attaches his words to the bread and wine.  He blesses these elements, and in them he supplies his body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and for the soothing of your conscience.  Jesus does not ask you to toil or sweat for his blessings in the Lord’s Supper.  He blesses it and spreads it out before you.  And he does not have to convince you to come and eat and drink.  If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you will feast and you will be satisfied. 
     Jesus satisfies all who hunger.  Granted, you will need to come back and partake again of the feast Jesus supplies.  It is not because Jesus fails to satisfy you; it is that you are still sinners.  Your flesh will always crave air and sugar.  Your conscience will always prick your heart.  And nothing the world has to offer will ever satisfy you, sustain you, or strengthen you.  Only Jesus supplies what does that.  He provides all you need in the word and sacraments.  Through these, Jesus fills you with life-giving, faith-sustaining, soul-saving goods.  Through these, Jesus puts an end to every craving for peace, joy, and rest.  For, Jesus supplies peace with God.  Jesus points you to the joys of everlasting life.  And Jesus has toiled for all you need so that you can have rest for your souls.  If these are what you crave, Jesus supplies what you need.  He satisfies all who hunger.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.