In those days again, when there was a great multitude and they had nothing to eat, He called His disciples and said to them, "I feel compassion for the multitude because they have remained with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and if I send them away hungry to their home, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a distance." And His disciples answered Him, "Where will anyone be able to find enough to satisfy these men with bread here in a desolate place?"
And He was asking them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven."
And He directed the multitude to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the multitude. They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well. And they ate and were satisfied; and they picked up seven large baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces. And about four thousand were there; and He sent them away.
Sermon for Seventh Sunday After Trinity 07/18/21
Compassion and Supply
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
We live today in what was described just a few years ago as a dystopian vision of America - the America of strife and civil war, of riots and lawlessness, unlike anything we could have imagined just a few years ago. We don't really understand where it has come from and we are frightened to imagine where it is headed.
The almost automatic reaction to all of this is to wonder where and when it will all stop. When will we be safe? When can we stop worrying about all of this Antifa and BLM and Islamic terrorism stuff?
There are two answers; one is theological and the other practical and more politically-realistic. The second - the practical answer is "Never." Islamo-fascism is here to stay. The war they are fighting has been going on for at least 1400 years. Luther mentions it in his writings. As long as Islam exists, and other religions survive, their war against the infidel will continue. The rising tide of riots and burning of cities in America is the form Marxism has taken for the last few years, and it shows no signs of growing less fanatical or committed. This is the war between the forces of paganism and Christianity, and it will outlive us all - particularly as long as our leaders find it a useful political weapon and refuse to recognize it for what it is.
The first answer, the theological one, is that we can stop worrying right now. It is in the hands of God. The victory is already ours in Jesus Christ. Nothing will happen - either to us or to our nation - except what God permits in order to accomplish His good and gracious will.
We live today in what was described just few years ago as a dystopian vision of America - the America of strife and civil war, of riots and lawlessness, unlike anything we could have imagined just a few years ago. We don't really understand where it has come from and we are frightened to imagine where it is headed.t is the message of our Gospel this morning. So, let us consider the Gospel with the theme, Compassion and Supply.
The Gospel doesn't start with anything nearly as urgent or frightening as the riots in America's big cities. Jesus has been teaching the multitude - which, in this case, means about four thousand people. Mark calls it a "great multitude." This crowd has gathered to listen to Jesus and has been together for three days. Jesus notes that they have nothing to eat. This doesn't mean that no one has had anything for three days - but their food has run out. Jesus recognizes the reality of the situation: they have been with Him now for three days, they have nothing to eat, and some of them have come from quite a distance. Some of them may not have eaten for several days, and Jesus is worried because some of them will collapse on their way home if He doesn't feed them.
Seeing their need, Jesus feels compassion for them. They didn’t need great things. They weren’t in any great danger - just hunger. It was a common, physical need, but Jesus felt compassion for them in their need, and supplied them with what they needed. Hence our theme, compassion and supply. Jesus has compassion and He has the Supply.
And what a supply! Jesus starts with seven loaves of bread – although "loaves" is a misnomer. Their bread was probably those little flat pancakes of bread, an inch thick, or so, and probably six or eight inches across. It wasn't slicing bread, it was hardtack and tear-off-a-hunk sort of bread. The word for "loaves" in Greek means literally, "bread", and nothing more. So Jesus starts with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish, and He distributes the bread and the fish to His disciples, and they start handing them out to the crowd, as they sit on the ground. The miracle is that they never seem to run out of bread or fish until everyone has some, and everyone has had enough.
One of the comments I read about this was that Jesus gave all of the food to His disciples. He didn't keep any for Himself. He gave them everything and they distributed it. Whatever Jesus may have needed for Himself to eat was apparently shared with Him by His disciples from their abundance, which He gave to them. I don't know if that is true because the Bible doesn't go into those details, so it wouldn't be fair of me to preach on them as though it were absolutely sure and settled and so it means something. But it is an interesting thought. Jesus gives us all that we need, indeed all that we possess, and then whatever He needs to work in the world today, He gathers from the sharing of His disciples today with Him. It is our offerings and stewardship and serving one another and meeting the needs of the ministry among us that echoes this sharing of the bread and the fish by those first disciples. He serves us and then waits for us to serve Him back.
Then Jesus asks His disciples to gather up the leftover fragments. When they gather them, they fill seven large baskets with the left-over bread. These seven baskets together are more than the leftovers in the twelve smaller baskets when Jesus fed the five thousand. We know that by the names of the baskets in Greek. The point of this detail is simply that they had much more leftover than they began with. Jesus provided abundantly! He had the supply!
The whole thing is sort of like God feeding the people of Israel in the wilderness during the Exodus with the Manna.
One lesson we can take away from our Gospel this morning is that food is no problem. We never need to worry about that because God can feed us when there is little or nothing at hand. We have trouble believing that, most of the time, because we trust our eyes and our judgment too much and trust God too little. But supply is never a problem - and Jesus demonstrated that He is compassionate. He has compassion even in regard to those things we need only for our physical comfort and well-being. Physical supply is no problem - and there is no shortage of compassion either. Compassion and Supply.
Now, that is the meaning of this miracle. All of the commentators say so. I could end the sermon right here.
But what would be the fun of that? We can take this miracle as an illustration of a greater principle, too. We have a need. We are sinners, and we are justly under the sentence of death for our sins if we look at things without Christ. We are hungry for what Jesus alone can give - forgiveness and life and resurrection from the dead. Is that what this miracle means? No. But what I just said about our need is true.
And Jesus has compassion. If He is compassionate about physical hunger, we know - because He has revealed it to us - that He is genuinely concerned about our greater and more urgent need. He is so concerned that He took on our human nature and flesh and blood and bore the burden of the law for us so that He could die in our place. He did not need to do any of it, but He felt compassion on us. So He bore the burden of the Law and then bore the burden of the wrath of God over against our sins.
That is what the Gospel is about. Jesus died for us to bear the justice of God over sin and to bring us what we really need - salvation! He has compassion and He has the supply - forgiveness, life, and salvation!
If we want to take it a step farther, we can look at the miraculous meal, and see there a sign pointing our hearts to our own miraculous meal, provided by Christ, who gives to His servants the food which He has blessed, and makes it sufficient to feed them all - us - with His body and blood to refresh us so that we do not faint on the way.
It all of this part of the meaning of the feeding of the four thousand? No. Not really. But every bit of it is true - He has had compassion on us, and He has supplied us with everything we need and feeds us with a meal the likes of which no one else could feed us. He gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink for our blessing, our forgiveness, our refreshment, and our salvation. It is just as it was back there, only better.
But the miracle teaches us that we need never fear need or lack of anything. Jesus knows our every need, and He has compassion, and He will supply all that we need. His willingness to do this for strangers just because they took a few days off and listened to Him should embolden us. He does this for strangers! What will He be willing to do for His own people, chosen and precious, adopted into His household as brothers and sisters?
We have no need that He cannot see, and will not fill. We might have to wait for it - like these people waited three days for the feast - but He will provide what we need. All that is left for us is to be faithful. Trust Him. Learn from the example of the feeding of the four thousand, and live in the moments you are given to live in as though it is true, and Jesus can and will provide. Live as though it is true because it is!
What we face today is not a lack of groceries, but a world of Islamic terrorists and a culture increasingly hostile to our confession. Nevertheless, we still have all that we need to do what Christ would have us to do. We simply need to be faithful, and trust Him - and now and then offer to Him from the abundance He has given us whatever He may need to accomplish His work in the world around us.
Compassion and supply. That is our Lord and Savior - and we are His beloved people.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)