The Seventh Sunday after Trinity
St. Mark 8:1-9
15 July, 2018 A. + D.
Theme: Jesus is Compassionate
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In Eden, Adam and Eve received food from Jesus’ gracious hand apart from any burdensome work. To be sure, Adam was to work the ground and put it to use for himself. But his labor, if it could be called “labor,” would’ve been easy and successful. Any task he would’ve put his hand to, the Lord would have blessed and granted success, causing it to yield a hundredfold. But the fall changed and destroyed that.
Now man would work the ground and his labor would be hard. He would sweat and bleed. He would work his hands raw and have nothing to show for it. The ground was cursed because of him. He himself, taken from the ground, was cursed. He would toil, labor, and, finally, die.
You know this better than you care to admit. Adam’s curse is your curse. St. Paul calls this being a slave to impurity and to lawlessness. That is, a slave to your baser lusts and desires. To do whatever you want whenever you want without a care for anyone else. This is what your flesh thinks is fun, and isn’t that the fun you really want, anyway? Yet the wages of sin is death. Live as a slave to lawlessness all you want, but you will die. Repent.
You aren’t the only one burdened, corrupted, and destroyed by sin. Even the world around you is a mockingly-hollow shell of its former self. This is why you lock yourself away in your home, annoyed if it’s too hot or too cold outside, bothered by the ants and afraid of the spiders that find their way in, suspicious and afraid of whatever the neighbor across the street is doing. You toil and labor with nothing to show for it. Or you toil for year after year only to be fired without so much as a second thought. Or you labor for years, providing for and loving your family, but your spouse deserts you, your children hate you, as others mock and jeer you. And after all this you die, forgotten by all but a few. Repent.
Yet, in spite of this – indeed because of it – Jesus has compassion. Jesus comes into this wild and evil desolate place to restore creation. He comes to right what is wrong. He comes to make it all, even you, once again “very good.” Having compassion on the weary multitudes, Jesus comes renewing the bounty of Eden, freely granting an abundance of bread.
Note well when this happens, for there are no coincidences in the Holy Scriptures. This multitude has fasted – grown hungry, weak, and weary – but on the third day, creation is restored. They are satisfied and rejoice. They’re given rest as their bellies are filled and their hearts made glad. This miracle – as do all of Jesus’ miracles – points to His full restoration of creation in His Passion, death, and resurrection.
He comes in Flesh of your flesh to take up your cause, to labor and toil under your sins. He bears them in the burden of the wood of the Cross laid upon Him as His hands and feet are pierced through. He comes to sweat and to Bleed for you. All your troubles and sins, all the corruption and curse of the earth, is placed upon Him. Jesus dies your death. There is nothing He does not suffer for.
And after three days, creation is restored as Life now reigns. For Jesus who was dead is alive again forevermore. Covered in His righteousness and innocence, Paradise is opened to you once more. Jesus put His hand to the task and it was not in vain. He looks and sees saints made holy and righteous in His own Blood – multitudes upon multitudes, from every tribe, language, and race. He sees even you.
What Jesus did then in feeding the 4,000, He does for you now, today, in a far greater and more wonderful way. You’ve not come to be fed with that which only leaves you hungry again. You have the Word of God, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and the Holy Communion. What you have is eternal and cannot be taken from you.
Indeed, Jesus gives you the Bread come down from Heaven, which never runs out, which feeds thousands upon thousands upon thousands as more yet remains. For as men were once undone by eating from a tree, so now Jesus gives Himself on a Tree to be the Fruit that undoes the curse, that ends captivity and prison, that restores life and immortality, that sets you free. You shall never hunger again.
And He gives as He gave to the 4,000: freely, without any labor or merit on your part. But you receive the greater Gift. Jesus gives Himself, hidden in bread made by the sweat of men’s brows, that men would be in fellowship once again with Him and His Father by the Spirit. And this simply out of His great love and compassion for you.
For His Flesh gives life to the sinful world. His Flesh and Blood bestows eternal life with the Father and the resurrection of the body. What is given you to eat and drink is exactly that which was offered up in death upon the holy Cross and raised again. You who sinned by eating are now called to eat and live.
The compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ is such that it drives Him to offer up His Body and pour out His Blood upon the holy Cross for your sake. It’s a love that causes Him to wash you clean in His righteousness and innocence, placing His own Name upon you. He’s compelled to sacrifice Himself upon the Cross in your place and to now feed you with His sacrificial yet living Body and Blood. And because He loves you, Jesus provides for your needs of both body and soul. His love for you cannot be contained.
So you are set free. No longer a slave to sin, you are a slave to God. Set free by Jesus, you are pleasing to God. The new man in Holy Baptism delights in the Commandments, bears his neighbors’ burdens and prays for him, serves his neighbor in love according to his vocation. This is true freedom – not earned or carried out under threat or compulsion. It’s the fruit of Jesus.
And note well again how St. Paul uses the verbs. The wages of sin is death – that’s what you’ve earned and bring upon yourself. But the fruit of Jesus that is sanctification that leads to eternal life is what you get, what you receive. It comes from outside of you. For this eternal life you receive is not something you’ve earned of yourself, a due you’ve received, or payment for a job well-done. It is the free gift of God given you in Christ.
Thus Jesus feeds His lambs Sunday after Sunday after Sunday with His Body and Blood. He has compassion on you. The week is long, and if He sends you away hungry to your home, you will faint on the streets of daily life. Here and now – in the place of desolation, of temptation, and of death – Jesus provides for you. He feeds you to end the curse. Your cup overflows and the baskets are full of leftovers.
Here is bread, symbol of your toil, corruption, and death. But Our Lord Jesus Christ has taken it, given thanks, broken it, and given it to His disciple to set before you. And what he sets before you is, in fact, the Bread of Life come down from Heaven. Jesus gives you a great Feast which can never be rivaled. He gives not by the sweat of your brow and toil, but by grace – for free and without effort. You are satisfied, never to hunger again.
Behold: today is the third day. Come be filled with the Bread of Life, and receive the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.