Sermon for Trinity 7
Jeremiah 31:23-25 + Romans 6:19-23 + Mark 8:1-9
You heard God make a promise today through the prophet Jeremiah: “For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.” That was a promise, God’s promise of grace and providence for the people of Judah. They would see times of sorrow and want because of their sins; they would go into captivity in Babylon for their idolatry. But then God promised to bring them back, to satiate the weary soul, to replenish every sorrowful soul, to have mercy on them, to provide for their needs as a loving Father.
God’s promises are as solid as a rock and as immovable as a mountain. But even God’s people, even Christians are slow to believe His promises, because our weak, fleshly eyes don’t like promises. They like to see. Our weak, fleshly reason doesn’t like to trust. It likes to understand: Why do I suffer want? What can I do to fix it? How will God provide? When will God provide? And for our human reason, it’s never soon enough.
Jesus once said to His disciples: Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. There He goes again, making promises. In today’s Gospel we learn about faith; we learn to trust in those promises as we see the merciful and compassionate Jesus keeping His promise for those 4,000 men, plus women and children, who had followed Him out into the wilderness, who had placed their trust in Him. Of course He gave them bread! It’s what He had promised to do.
Some time before our Gospel took place, Jesus had already fed the 5,000 by miraculously multiplying five loaves of bread and two small fish. The 5,000 had spent the day with Jesus, and they weren’t far away from the villages where they could have bought food for themselves, but Jesus had wanted to provide bread for them as a sign that they should also look to Him for more than bread, for forgiveness and eternal life. Most of the 5,000 ended up abandoning Jesus.
The 4,000 were a different crowd. They had spent three days with Jesus, following Him, listening to Him, yearning to be where He was. They followed Him out into the wilderness, far away from their homes. They hadn’t thought about food. They hadn’t worried about their jobs, or their homes, or their other needs. They simply sought after the “one thing needful,” the Word of Christ. The kingdom of God. They were doing the very thing Jesus had told His disciples to do: Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
And Jesus remembered the promise He had attached to that saying: … and all these things shall be added to you. All the things that you need for your body and life, your “daily bread,” as we call it in the Lord’s Prayer. He remembered His promise to provide for His people, not as if He were an employer paying out wages to those who had worked hard, but as a kind and compassionate Father feeds His children.
Hear the words of Jesus: 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.
See the compassion of Jesus for these people—all of them, no matter who they were or what kind of people they were, or what they had done or not done. The only thing all these people had in common was that they were there where Jesus was, trusting in Jesus to take care of them.
And that’s what faith does. It trusts in a Father who is merciful for Christ’s sake and faithful to His promises, who has demonstrated His faithfulness over and over again since the beginning of the world. To have faith is to know that God is not lying to you. So when He promises to add to you all these things that you need for your body and life, faith doesn’t need to see how or when or why. Faith simply replies, “Yes He will.” And if He has to move mountains to do it or, as Luther said, send His angels to dig bread out of the depths of the earth so that you have what you need, He will do it.
Unbelief says, “No He won’t,” or, “I’m not sure He will.” And understand that it’s not only unbeliever’s who disbelieve God. Every baptized believer in Christ still carries around this unbelieving flesh, so that part of you trusts in God, even while the old man in you grumbles and screams, “You can’t trust Him!” That’s the daily struggle of the Christian, aided powerfully by the Holy Spirit, to beat down the old man and his unbelief and tell him to shove off. One man put this struggle into words as he came to Jesus for help one day, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!”
You see an example of fleshly unbelief even in Jesus’ believing disciples as they challenge His desire to feed all these people: His disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” It’s as if they hadn’t been there just months before when Jesus fed 5,000 men, plus women and children, with five loaves of bread and two fish. It’s as if Jesus were suddenly impotent and powerless to help.
But that’s what happens when human reason takes over and pushes faith aside. Human reason says, “You have to provide for yourself. You have to fix yourself. And if you can’t, then you will die of starvation or of heartache. Because God will do nothing. God doesn’t care.”
So again, God tells human reason to go jump in a lake. See what Jesus does in this Gospel. He takes seven loaves of bread and a few small fish, praises His Father in heaven for this food, and then hands it out, not directly to the people, but to His chosen disciples, whom He instructs to hand it out to the people. And in their hands, the food is multiplied so that there are seven baskets-full left over after all 4,000 had had enough to eat.
For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.
God fulfilled that promise for Judah when he brought her back from captivity in Babylon. He fulfilled that promise for the 4,000 when they ate bread in the desert. And He fulfills that promise every day He puts daily bread on your table, and clothes on your back, and the people in your life that you need, when you need them. What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like. God promises, in love and compassion, to give you daily bread. And His promises cannot fail.
For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.
That’s true of your bodily needs. But, of course, God also fulfills that promise richly and daily for your soul. Jesus calls out, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
A friend of mine put on his Facebook page this morning, “TGIS!” Thank God it’s Sunday. Why? Because today, you get to see Jesus, in His Word and in His Sacrament. Today you get to hear of the love and compassion of Jesus toward the multitudes who followed Him, remembering that the Jesus of 2,000 years ago is the very same Jesus who lives still today. As the writer to the Hebrews says, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Here is the teaching of truth. Here is dependable love. Here are faithful promises that cannot be broken. Here is the body and blood of Jesus that He gave into death for love of you, for the forgiveness of your sins. Every other day of the week you’re out in the world seeing this world crumble around you, struggling to survive and experiencing the heartache of sin and grief and loss. But TGIS. Because here in God’s house, on the Lord’s Resurrection Day, together with God’s people, you come to Jesus—maybe rejoicing!, but often enough weary and frail and hurting and grieving, maybe just hanging on by a thread, but trusting—maybe barely trusting in His promises, looking for help, and He gives it every time.
He gives it, just as He gave it in our Gospel, through the hands of His called servants. You don’t need Jesus standing here in the flesh in order to receive bread and mercy and forgiveness from Him. He speaks to you through me. He shows Himself to you in the preaching of His Gospel, in all His love and compassion. He gives you bread and wine and His body and blood by my hand, with a promise attached: “for the forgiveness of sins.”
There’s even some of Christ’s mercy and providence left over, so that you can go out into your daily life with something to give to your neighbor in need—whether it’s bread or mercy or time or hard work at your job or selfless love shown toward your family at home or your family at church.
For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. Whatever you need in your life, your Father knows your need, and promises to supply it. He has already fulfilled that promise over and over again, and He will continue to fulfill it. Of course He will! He’s made you a promise. So trust Him; seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you, for the sake of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.