Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26, 2009 7th Sunday after Trinity Mark 8:1-9

In those days, again a great crowd came to be, and they did not have anything to eat, He called to Himself the disciples; He says to them, "I am gut-wrenched upon the crowd because already three days they have remained with Me and they do not have anything to eat; and if ever I dismiss them fasting into their house, they are going to faint on the way; and some of them, a great way, have come." And answered to Him, His disciples, that, "From where is someone here to be able to satisfy these of loaves in the wilderness?" And He was asking them, "How many loaves have you?" And they said, "Seven." And He directs the crowd to recline upon the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks, broke, and began giving to His disciples in order that they place before, and they placed before the crowd. Also, they had a few small fish; and having blessed them He said also these were to be set before. And they ate and they were satisfied, and they picked up an abundance of pieces, seven baskets. And there were about 4000, and He sent them away.

Today's Gospel reveals a couple truths about Jesus. The first: He must have really loved fish-wiches! He multiplies bread and fishes to feed the 5000 two chapters earlier, and now he feeds the 4000 with the same food again. The second: Jesus had true compassion for these hungry folk. He is literally gut-wrenched over their hunger and need for food. But His compassion is not just for their bellies. He cares also for their hearts, for their spirits, for their eternal souls, as this story reveals.

Now, I know what you are thinking: "Really Pastor? It sure seems that this is a story only about food. There's no preaching or teaching, no miraculous healings, no signs and wonders other than Jesus creating extra bread & fishes. Then He just sends them home." Now, I know that on the surface this looks like it is only a simple stomach-filling story...but it is really much, much more, if you only take the time to look at it carefully. For there are a few things here beyond the bulging bellies!

St.Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians that it's the enemies of Christ who are concerned most with filling their stomachs. Such people set their mind only on earthly things and make their bellies into their god. So if you are tempted to think that your satisfied stomach is the most important thing, think again. For those who care most about such worldly things end in destruction. But not so for you. You have been freed from such slavery to sins like gluttony, to belong now to God.

No, Jesus' gut-wrenching compassion is not just about satisfying your earthly hunger. Oh, He does that too, by providing your daily bread today and throughout your lifetime. But He does so much more, as this story reveals. Jesus doesn't just provide food for the 4000, but provides an over abundance–an *additional* 7 large baskets full! What is this all about? It certainly is not for Jesus and His disciples to take home to their refrigerators for a late night snack that evening.

You know that you have a Savior Who does much more than simply meet your normal needs. In addition to filling your physical bodies, He fills your heart as well. He has cleansed your heart by the waters and words of baptism, but He does not leave it empty after that. In blessed exchange, He takes His Holy perfection from the cross, and in exchange for your unrighteousness of sin, which He becomes in death, He fills your heart with His righteousness, to make you worthy of heaven!

Jesus also fills your spirit with a nourishment it can consume by the gift of faith. His very body which He gave up as the wages of your sin in death at the cross is given to you in the bread of the Eucharist. In a few moments your pastor speaks of Jesus "giving thanks," and "breaking bread", and placing it before you to eat for your salvation. Then He will likewise bless something else, not fishes this time, but the cup of the new testament in Jesus blood for the remission of your sins.

Christ also fills your soul today with the life-giving nourishment of His Word. Not only do you read your bible, mark it up, and learn from it, but you also *inwardly digest* it as its word is proclaimed to you from the pulpit, or whenever you need to hear it from your pastor as from God Himself in the sacrament of Holy Absolution. This word of Gospel love from your sole-caring Pastor is life for your soul, each and every time it God's Strong Word bespeaks you righteous for the sake of Christ Jesus.

So what happened to those 7 baskets of extras? God doesn't say–on purpose. For the sign is in the number seven, the number of how God (represented by the number 3 )deals with the world (represented by the number 4), loving it in such abundance you may not parish, but that you may feast also, one day, on the tree of life in heaven above, to abundant life–everlasting!


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