Saturday, July 18, 2015

Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Romans 6:19-23 * Mark 8:1-9

I want to proclaim lessons to be learned from today’s Gospel reading.

1. That the Lord provides
2. That Jesus was the prophet like unto Moses
3. That Jesus Christ is our spiritual food and drink to eternal life.

This was one of two similar miracles that Jesus did. On the other occasion He fed five thousand families with five loaves and two fishes. Here He feeds four thousand – either individuals or families – with seven loaves and “a few small fishes.” From both miracles we can learn the following things.

The Lord provides
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day.” – Matthew 6:24-34

First, let us consider something very practical about our needs in this life, including our material needs. In Genesis chapter 22, Abraham, after God provided the ram in the thicket, called God by the name “Jehovah-Jirah,” which means the LORD will provide. If we are believers who seek to do the will of God, to the best of our understanding, then we have a promise that we will have whatever we need. Maybe we will not have whatever we desire; but we will have our needs provided for, even when times seem impossible.
          Without minding too much the things of the world, or laying up for ourselves treasures on earth (as the Lord warns against in the same passage), we live with the constant awareness of our weakness and our needs. Without water and food and sleep and housing and clothing, we would be in severe depravation. We depend on having all these things just to get by each day. Jesus’ command not to be anxious is only part of what He said. He also made a promise concerning even earthly things. Worry and anxiety about the things of this world can lead to bad health, and even worse, to sin and erosion of faith.
          I have often considered what makes people greedy. Covetousness is a sin against the commandment to love thy neighbor. Greed is the perpetual state of being covetous enough to deprive others of their needs and their basic rights. But what causes greed to arise in the human heart? With some the seeds of greediness are sown in simple selfish covetousness. But beware of another cause, namely the very anxiety against which Jesus teaches us here.
          The felt need to acquire wealth in this world can stem from unbelief, that lack of faith that God will provide. So warns St. Paul:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.  ” – I Timothy 6:6-11

The best way to avoid those dangers is to be content with what God has given you, and not to lust for wealth with the desperation of unbelievers. Live in contentment and in faith, not in anxiety; and be at peace.

A prophet like unto Moses
“And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” - Deuteronomy 18:17-19

Much in the life of Moses foreshadows the life of Christ on earth, beginning with the attempt of a worldly ruler to have Him put to death, and going after several of His fellows in the attempt to kill Him. It was true of Moses that Pharaoh ordered the deaths of the Hebrew male babies, and that he was saved by his family. His sister Miriam placed him in an ark of bulrushes and floated him on the river. When Christ was born into this world the mad king Herod ordered the deaths of all the male children born in Bethlehem who were under the age of two. Another similarity is that Christ went up into a mount to teach the true meaning of the Law.
          Here in the eight chapter of Mark, the people have followed Jesus into the wilderness, a desert wilderness. Just as the Israelites who came out of Egypt, they had nothing to eat in this desert place. So God gives them bread. Jesus feeds them with bread just as Moses fed the people with manna. This too was a miracle. And, this miracle also points to something even more that is relevant to each and everyone of us, which we shall see in a moment.
          First, consider well the warning, “whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” Think of the words with which Jesus closed the Sermon on the Mount:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:21-27

Jesus is the One whose words we cannot afford to ignore, forget or disobey. He is the Wisdom of God that is to be prized above all earthly riches. Without His words to guide us, we wander off lost. This is God’s beloved Son: Hear Him. Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.
          And we know what He has said, teaching as one who has authority.

Jesus Christ is our spiritual food and drink to eternal life.
          In the desert wilderness this multitude had nothing to eat. They were not able to keep themselves alive. Spiritually and physically, that is true of everyone born into this world. Even if you live as long as Methuselah himself, one day thou shalt surely die. Life in this world will come to an end. Furthermore, in terms of what we read last week in the sixth chapter of Romans, by our own power we could not be dead to sin and alive unto God.
          That desert wilderness is much like this fallen world. Everyone born in trespasses and sins, which includes each of us (indeed everyone but Jesus Christ Himself who is from above) has nothing to eat. That is, this fallen world offers no true nutrition such as can keep our souls alive. The people of the world are dead to God, alive only to sin, and destined to die physically. We too are destined to physical death; but in Christ we are alive unto God by grace. And our life unto God is eternal.
          If we fall asleep in Christ today, we shall remain in the presence of God. And, even then we would have something to hope for, according to the clear teaching of Scripture, namely, to be clothed again in the resurrection on the Last Day. Christ, who died for our sins as the perfect offering to God, rose from the dead to make us like Him. And, as we know, “Death hath no more dominion over Him.”
          In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, following the miracle so similar to this one, Jesus told the people that Moses gave them not that true bread from heaven. He said, “I am that true bread which comes from heaven. I am the bread of life.” He told us that His flesh and blood are the food and drink of eternal life.
          And he tied it in with believing in Him. Please do not reduce feeding on Christ only to the outward sign. Christ is our very life. We live in Him, in Him dead to sin and alive unto God. When eating the sacrament today of His Body and Blood, realize that you must believe. This partaking, this Communion, is for those who know hearty repentance and true faith. When you partake it ought to be the expression of your whole life, your daily life, your life in God, and all of what you believe, hope for and live for. It is not a “religious duty” to please God and somehow appease Him. It is fellowship with God and with His Son Jesus Christ, and with all the Body of Christ. You declare by this action, in the presence of men and of angels, that you live by Jesus Christ.

The Lord provides. Be not anxious.

Jesus was the prophet like unto Moses. Hear and obey Him.

Jesus Christ is our spiritual food and drink to eternal life. Eat, drink, and be filled.


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