Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen! Our text for this morning’s (evening’s) sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the 6th (Mark 6:30-44) chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
The disciples returned to Jesus and reported to Him all that they had done and taught. Two by two they went out and preached the nearness of the Kingdom of God. They taught in the villages. They anointed the sick and healed them. They cast out demons and set captives free. One can only imagine the excitement they felt as they brought the good news to the people and were received by the people! One can only imagine the eagerness in their hearts as they saw their Savior’s face once again! They had much to tell their Lord! However, the sweetness of their joy was tempered by the sour news of John’s death. Not everyone was pleased to hear the Word. And so, Jesus leads his flock to a desolate place that they may rest “for many were coming and going and they had no time to eat.”
The 12, needed time to rest. Jesus knows this. He knows His own. He knows what His beloved needs, and He acts to deliver. He knows you. He knows what you need. And He loves you and He acts to deliver you. The 12 followed Jesus to a deserted place in order to rest. You also, are called to follow Him. You are called away from your homes, away from your leisure, away from your labors, away from your worries, away from your anxieties, away from your life in the world, away from your sins and to draw near the Savior in a deserted place, a place that transcends time and space, a place where the Savior can see you, hear you, love you, forgive your sins and bind up your wounds. You are called to the Church, the gathering of the baptized around the Savior’s Word and Sacraments.
It’s no accident beloved that the book of Revelation depicts the Holy Church as a peasant woman fleeing to the wilderness, a desolate and deserted place, to be fed and nourished, preserved and protected by her Lord. Thus as the 12 follow Jesus in order to find rest, so we do today.
The crowds of Capernaum saw them depart and followed along the beach. They too wanted the Savior’s gifts. They had heard the good news. They knew that wherever Jesus goes there goes God’s blessings. They knew they wanted to be wherever Jesus was. And you can almost see them in your mind’s eye making their way along the beach, wondering when He’ll come ashore, where He’ll land, keeping one eye on the sea, one eye on the road, and one eye on the kids, making sure they are there when Jesus is there. Would to God that we had so many souls pressing around their pastors for the ministry of the Word!!!
And upon His landing, upon stepping from the boat our text says that Jesus, seeing the crowds, “was moved with compassion.” He saw not the masses but their spiritual condition. The Greek text says that Jesus’ splanxna was turned within Himself. The seat and depths of His emotions were moved, not away from the crowds. He didn’t say, “Oh I can’t believe they found me. Don’t they know that I and my 12 need some rest.” No beloved, that’s not how Jesus is moved. Seeing the true condition of man, Jesus is always moved towards the people, not away from them, always towards you and for you, not away from you nor against you.
And He is moved because the crowds are like sheep without a shepherd. There again, beloved, we see ourselves. Sheep without a shepherd are pursued day in and day out by the dragon of Revelation. Sheep without a shepherd are frightened, wearied, and worn. Their lives are torn by the world’s wolves. Needing drink they partake of poisoned wells, drawing near the doctrines of men. Needing nourishment they devour one another; growing cold in their heart and caring only for self. Needing refuge they hide behind their granaries, confident that their treasures will preserve them. Needing love they love themselves and bolster their self esteem and neglect their neighbor. Sheep without a shepherd wander into sin. For sheep without a shepherd attempt to meet all of these needs themselves and doing so leads them into false doctrine, self righteousness, neglect of the poor, greed, adultery, malice, etc. Sheep without a shepherd can’t rest with such a burdened heart. They can only worry, despair, and grow anxious as their securities begin to fail, as all worldly certainties are bound to do. And so, again beloved, we see ourselves. We see the truth of life, the truth of our life.
Seeing the truth of our life we would expect Jesus to behold the crowds, to see the multitudes of sheep without a shepherd and turn around and get back into the boat. After all, isn’t that the way the world is? Isn’t that how we are at times? That’s the way of man – unless of course someone can make a buck, unless there’s a profit to be made.
Jesus doesn’t get back into the boat. And He certainly doesn’t turn within Himself in order to fleece the sheep. He’s not thinking of Himself. He’s caring for His own flesh and blood. He’s drawn near to them in order to save them. And drawing near what does Jesus do? How does He love these poor souls? How does He love you? Does He break out the band and provide a few hours of entertainment; you know a free show by “Jesus and Jordanaires”? NO! Does He set up a theater, and have Peter’s Players present a play written and directed by Jesus the Messiah? NO! What does Jesus do? How does He love sheep without a shepherd? He teaches them the Word. Sheep without a shepherd don’t need entertaining music. Sheep without a shepherd don’t need dramatic renditions of their life experiences. Sheep without a shepherd need God’s Word.
You need God’s Word! Jesus is moved toward you to speak to you. He’s turned within Himself, from the depths of His emotional seat, to move outside of Himself and bring to your heart God’s divine and holy Word. This can only be a most heavenly love. For while we were still sinners, while our lives were lost, beaten, burdened, anxious and despairing, God sent forth His Son to bring a kind and gracious Word to sheep like us. Through the Word Jesus casts out demons, cleanses leprous flesh, opens stopped up ears, loosens bound tongues, and comforts wounded hearts. Every aspect of Jesus’ ministry is accompanied with a Word. The Son has come to speak his Word. He speaks to the crowds. He speaks to the 12. He speaks to Herod and to Pilate, to the Sanhedrin and to the thief on the cross. He speaks even while He works. Thus His Works are informed by His Words.
His preferred Word to the 12, the crowds, and to you and me is the Word of Forgiveness. And that Word is a blood bought Word. The forgiving Word is a cross filled word, an empty tomb Word, an ascension Word. The forgiving Word spoken over you is nothing short of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus given into your heart.
Through that Word Jesus shepherds His people. Through the Word He provides for our deepest needs. Mercy and forgiveness are poured over our hearts like ointment on wounded flesh. The Word of God serves as the well of our salvation. We can drink deeply and truly be satisfied. With a mere sprinkling the Pure teaching of God’s Word transforms hearts of stone into beating hearts of flesh. The Word is our bread from heaven. We can eat and have our fill. Every Word that proceeds from the Mouth of God is for our preservation. Our hearts hang on the lips of Jesus and we listen to what He says. This Word warms our cold hearts and moves us to do works of mercy towards and for our neighbors and our enemies, fellow sheep and even the wolves. The Word alone becomes our refuge and our strength, our high tower, & our greatest treasure.
It isn’t found in granaries or garages, in bank accounts or trust funds. It isn’t found in self-help books nor the writings or musings of television talk show hosts. Politics cannot govern it. Men cannot “dress it up” for the masses. It isn’t for your entertainment. It isn’t for show. You don’t find it in a whisper in the wind. Nor do you feel it in your heart. The Word that saves, the Word that delivers God’s good gifts comes to you only through the preaching of the cross of Christ and giving out of His Word made visible in the sacraments.
Therefore beloved, come out into this seemingly desolate place. Come to Christ’s Divine Service and find rest for your weary soul. Come and listen to the voice of your Shepherd as He guides you along safe pathways, roads of righteousness with His Law and comforts you with His Gospel and the forgiveness of all your sins. Come and receive from His lips a joyful conscience and the heart of your gracious God. Come, and leave your burdens, leave your worries, leave your anxieties, leave your sins. Come and rest in Christ Jesus who loves you and is moved towards you, even to feed you with a Holy Supper. Come and believe – He is for you, today! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI