Seventh Sunday after Trinity
LORD of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things; Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Collect for today rightly acknowledges that the Lord is the “Author and Giver of all good things” – including LOVE. The prayer appeals for a grafting into our hearts a love for “Thy Name” as well as a natural practice of “true religion” – not that false and apostate religion that passes for Christianity in most mainline churches. The term ‘Graft’ is used because the love of God and true religion do not naturally exist in our hearts, but must be imparted by Grace, through faith, by Him who is an Author of Love and the Finisher of our faith who ‘grafted our names by the point of a nail’ into His hands, feet and side at Calvary. Whatever good is imparted to our hearts must be constantly nourished by His Word and Love.
The Gospel for Holy Communion for this Sunday:
“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.” (Mark 8:1-9)
I have often preached from this text and find new meaning in each reading. The mystical power, and practical application, of god’s Word is truly amazing to human reasoning and logic. In this case of the feeding of 4,000 our Lord was to the gentile peoples of Decapolis as opposed to the feeding of the 5,000 of the Hebrew peoples. It demonstrates the love of God for people of all flocks which feed upon His hills and valleys.
The text from mark today follows in every important detail the same event described in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chap 15, verses 29-39. Each Gospel sheds a variant of beauty to the occasion. The setting is both serene and majestic – a mountain overlooking the pristine waters of Galilee. The crowds have flocked to hear Jesus, far more hungry for the Word of God than for the physical bread required to nourish their own bodies. The miracle of Jesus in feeding so many souls from meager crumbs is preview for that Last supper which He served the night of His betrayal. It is to be observed that these thousands of soul-hungry souls represent our own souls if we have thirsted for that matchless grace and love of Christ. This is the second such miraculous feeding of the multitudes. In this act are represented two perspectives: 1) that of the crowd (you and me); and 2) the perspective of our Lord in dealing with the multitudes.
Though I have preached from this text many times, the Word of God lends itself to variant colors of brilliant light when held up to the sun, as a diamond with many facets, and turned about to view those complementary colors of stark gold, blue, green, and blue – each represented a single component of that white light of the Sun of Righteousness.
Let us first observe the nature of the MULTITUDES that followed Christ:
1) The hunger was great in those days to hear the Word: “In those days the multitude being very great.” Why is it not so in our own day? Those attending churches that adhere to the Word of God have dwindled significantly due to the self-righteous nature of modern man. They come in dozens to worship in true reverence today rather than by the thousands in those days in which travel was difficult.
2) These thousands did not come to satisfy the physical, but spiritual, senses: “they have now been with me three days.” It is a great accomplishment in our day to hear a minister preach longer than 20 or 25 minutes, but an even greater accomplishment to witness worshippers willing to sit through a sermon that is as long as the Holy Ghost would have it to be. These multitudes came to hear the Word until it was finished being spoken. They did not mind their physical needs during the preaching of the Word.
3) Their sustenance was not physical, but spiritual: “have nothing to eat.” There is no record of any glances often at their watches, or running to and fro for water or other nourishment. They were fixed on the Lord, and nothing else mattered in their hearts.
4) Though they were actually famished for bread, they had not murmured or complained of it: “. . if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way.” The soul is always satisfied when coming into the Presence of the Lord, but faints in His absence. In our partaking of the Supper of the Lord, do our hearts not burn in our breast when the meaning of the elements of Bread and Wine are contemplated?
5) Many of the multitudes did not take a casual stroll to hear Jesus. Most had traveled from far villages and lands to hear the Words of Jesus. How far, friend, did you travel to hear this Word, and how far are you willing to travel if necessary? “. . for divers of them came from far.” How far will we go in questioning the power of God? “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” A mere man cannot satisfy, but a man who is the Son of God can, indeed, feed all who are hungry.
6) The multitudes came not only to hear the Word, but to obey it as well: “. . he commanded the people to sit down on the ground.” They obeyed not even knowing what to expect later. Is our own obedience so prompt and unquestioning? After standing to hear the Gospel for three days, why would they now sit upon the ground? They didn’t know the reason, but they obeyed any way.
7) The multitudes were filled both spiritually and, now, physically, at the hearing of the Word. “So they did eat, and were filled.” We are always filled when it is the Lord that feeds us: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) I will add that the Bread which came down from Heaven is also the Word (from beginning to end). (John 1:1) Do we hunger and thirst for that Bread (Word) daily, or do we presume ourselves well-fed upon the bread of our own unworthiness?
Today we live in abject luxury and opulence compared to the people of Jesus’ day, yet we have no time to
drive a few minutes to Church on the Lord’s Day, or to take 15 minutes only from our leisure to read into the depths of the Sea of God’s Word. Shameful! We need not traverse desert and mountain to hear Christ – His Word is conveniently at our finger tips. We cannot even sit patiently in worship until the Holy Spirit has spoken His Word to us. We are a people in a hurry to go nowhere. We dare not deprive our souls of any desire compared to our duties to God. We ask for short, simple sermons, fast food style worship services, and a prompt release to go about our worldly pursuits. We are not like those people who hungered for the Word of god, traveled great distances by foot to hear it, lingered for three days without food, and left filled with both the Bread of Heaven and the bread of sustenance. Those who came at personal effort went away filled, and so will we if we approach worship in the right disposition of mind, body, and soul.
We will now examine the manner in which our Lord viewed the multitudes:
1) Jesus recognized the need of the multitudes. He not only resolves to satisfy their needs, but also allows his disciples (you and I) to assist in satisfying His works of Mercy and compassion: “In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him.” Jesus takes note of our personal needs, and points out to us the needs of others.
2) Jesus has COMPASSION on those who have grave needs. Compassion is not sympathy only, but the kind of sympathy that evokes ACTION to satisfy. Compassion means to feel the pain of the sufferer as that one one’s own pain, and to take action to remedy the need or pain. Jesus ALWAYS had compassion on the sick, the crippled, the blind and deaf. And He demonstrated His greatest compassion for the sinner in His last act of mercy at Calvary in dying in our stead. “. . . because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.”
3) Jesus asks us to serve Him with whatever resources we have, and those resources will always be enough. “And he asked them, How many loaves have ye?” Truly, there were scarce resources, in the eyes of man, to suffice; but God needs only our small resources combined with a mighty faith in Him. “…And they said, Seven.”
4) “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.” Jesus asks us to rest in Him when He works because it is only by His works, and not our own, that we are benefitted. Moreover, though He was God in the flesh, He still gave thanks to His Father for every blessing. He also allows His people to participate in serving others the Bread of Heaven and of life. He allows His ministers to serve as servants to the people. Jesus not only used the small supply of bread, but added variety to the feast by multiply the few small fish that were there. “7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.”
5) Jesus ALWAYS provides a full meal. “8 So they did eat, and were filled:” All of the thousands present were filled and satisfied. Numbers matter not to the Lord, it is abiding faith that He expects of us.
6) Jesus does not desire that we waste aught of any blessings He showers upon us. “and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.” They did not leave the scraps in the field, but took up all that remained and, interestingly, that which remained was many times the amount with which they began. God takes the meager mites of the widow woman and multiplies those thousands and millions of times.
7) It would be such a joy to fest with the Lord always, but there is also a component of service that must be satisfied by the disciple. Not only are we fed, we must seek others to be fed as well. “9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.” We must leave the mountain of our daily feats and go into the valleys and meadows to spread the good news of the mercy and grace of the Lord.
Were we not present in that mountainside multitude to be fed by the Lord? Have not the multitudes of Christians since that time fed of the same Bread and drank of the same Cup? Have we become more like that Bread of Heaven by consuming it through God’s Word….so much so that we, too, have compassion on the multitudes and are moved to take action? These are questions no other man can answer for us. It is directed to the heart of every Christian.
The sequel to that text above follows in the subsequent verses of Mark 8:
“Mark 8:10-21 (KJV)
10 And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha. 11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. 13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side. 14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. 15 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. 16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread. 17 And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? 18 Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?
19 When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. 20 And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. 21 And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?
There is a more detailed explanation from Matthew on the principle which Christ was imparting:
“5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Matthew 16:5-12 (KJV)
Our Lord is describing a condition of the Jewish Church of His day as well as one that is disappointing present in to great a number in our Church today – false ministers who preach for money and power. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the big-time preachers of their day who constantly led the people to bear burdens that they would not touch with their little finger. It was illustrated in the leaven. Leaven represents sin and false doctrine. That is why we use unleavened bread in our Holy Communion Service.
Our Lord gives us a stark example of the modern apostasy of the Church in Matthew 13:33 – “Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” As we have pointed out before, anytime the Word of God in prophecy uses womanhood as an example, He is referring to some kind of religious establishment such as the woman that rides the beast (Rev 17:3), or the woman “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet” of Rev. 12. The modern Church has so diluted the Word of God with the leavening of the own making that it is no longer the Word of God. The woman of Matthew 13:33 represents the modern Church which has added Leaven to the Word which represents false doctrine.
Beware, my brothers and sisters, of these shysters who will say or do anything so long as the crowd throws them coins of the realm.