Mark 6:45-56 – Underestimating the Goodness of God”

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Mark 6:45-56

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. Jesus Walking on Water 148 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

God’s steadfast love endures forever. The goodness of God knows no limits. His steadfast love endures forever. His love and His mercy are endless. His steadfast love endures forever. The steadfast love of the Lord extends to the heavens. His steadfast love endures forever.  His faithfulness to the clouds. His steadfast love endures forever. His righteousness is like the mighty mountains. His steadfast love endures forever (Ps. 136, 36:5-6).

Today’s Psalm (136) makes that abundantly clear. If you don’t get it the first time, that Gospel refrain repeats in each of the 26 verses. In more places than Ps. 136, Scripture makes it very plain that the steadfast love of God endures forever. Scripture says it, and it is true. However, how often do we forget it?

When we have troubles, we question God’s love for us. When we face difficulty, we begin to search for some specific sin that maybe we forgot about and left unconfessed. When we feel the weight of this world pressing down upon us, we begin to wonder if God is so loving after all. We look at our lives that are filled with all sorts of pain and varying degrees of death, and we begin to doubt God’s goodness, mercy, and love.

Now, God’s goodness and mercy toward us doesn’t mean that our lives are perfect. Too often, we buy into the lie that Christianity is about having our best life now. We think that once Jesus is in our lives, everything is going to be peaches and cream. Because we believe these lies, we put on an act that everything is good and life is hunky-dory. The worst is when we believe that our story as Christians is that we are good people who are getting better every day. But that is not what Christianity is about.

Crying to GodChristianity is about bad people being told they have failed to be good. Christianity says, “You are a sinner. You deserve pain. You deserve punishment. You deserve God to stand there and watch as you perish with all the other sinners in the ditch of death.” That’s the Law. But Christianity also says that Jesus takes your place, and the place of all sinners. Christ took your pain and punishment and death. Christianity says that God leaves Jesus in the ditch of death right alongside of you and all sinners.

Because of God’s enduring, eternal steadfast love, God doesn’t just reach down into your pain, into your suffering, into your doubt, and into your death. Instead, God takes your very nature. He becomes flesh and blood, just like you, and Jesus enters into the midst of suffering and death with you and with all sinners.

Neither you nor anybody else can know what God thinks about you based on your experience in the past, present, or future. The only place that reveals what God thinks about you is the cross. The cross, where Jesus interceded for you. The cross, where Jesus steps in to the mess you and I have made of this world. The cross, where Jesus not just takes the brunt of God’s wrath, but drinks the cup of God’s wrath against your down the the dregs (Is. 51:22, Jn. 18:11). That is where you see God’s love. God fully reveals His enduring, eternal steadfast love in Jesus who comes into the midst of your suffering, conflict, and pain.

Today’s text picks up right where we left off last week. Jesus had brought the disciples to a to a place of suffering – to a desolate, desert place (Mk. 6:31-32, 35). The disciples didn’t think that the five loaves and two fish would be enough to feed the crowd. They think that Jesus has to remove the crowd from that place of suffering and desolation in order to provide for them. But Jesus reveals that because He is there, even in the midst of pain and desolation, that He can provide for His people. Because Jesus is there in the midst of pain, the five loaves and two fish became a banquet that filled the stomachs of the 5,000 men plus women and children. Not only that, but there were twelve baskets full of leftovers. Yes, because Jesus was there in the midst of suffering, there was more food left over than there was for the original meal.

Now, the disciples are separated from Jesus, and notice who causes that separation. Jesus sends them off in the boat while He dismisses the crowds. Jesus is the one who sends the disciples off in the boat and, eventually, into the storm to struggle against the wind and the waves without Him. But notice the disciples aren’t scared of the storm. They have been in this place before. They think that this trouble and turmoil that they are in is something they can deal with on their own. They have dealt with this type of trouble before, and they will do it again. So they are not scared of the wind and the waves. What scares them is Jesus showing up. Right there, in the midst of their troubles, is Man who is God. And they are terrified.

Jesus came to them in their hardship. The text says that Jesus “intended to pass by them.” Jesus Walking on WaterThis is the same language that is used when God “passed before” Moses and revealed His glory (Ex. 33:18-34:9). Remember how God places Moses in the cleft of the rock and defined His name, “Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious. Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Well, here is Jesus was revealing His divine glory to the disciples. But seeing the divine in the midst of their troubles, knowing that God was present in the midst of their suffering, creates terror because their hearts were hardened and they did not understand the nature of Jesus even after the banquet earlier that day. Seeing Jesus’ reveal His divinity by walking on the water (see Job 9:8, Ps. 77:19, Is. 43:16) sends the disciples into a frenzied fear.

But Jesus doesn’t leave them in their fear. Instead, in His mercy, Jesus speaks to calm their terror, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. Here I am with you in your suffering. Here I am delivering you with My words. Here I am to be with you. I am still your God. I am still in control of the situation.”

Jesus is here for you now, and He is with you in the midst of all your suffering and pain. You do not ever suffer alone. You do not die alone. There is Jesus right beside you, bringing you, safely through pain and death. Scripture does not teach that Jesus saves you from all suffering and death. God has never promised to do that. Rather, Scripture teaches that Jesus pulls you through all your suffering and death safely to the other side. So in the midst of your suffering don’t underestimate the goodness of God. Always remember that God would rather destroy His own Son than destroy you.

Christ will pull you through the mess you have made of your life, through the pain of this sinful world, through the death that you rightly deserve. He pulls you through all of that to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Mark 6:30-44 – He Makes Me Lie Down in Green Pastures

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Mark 6:30-44

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.

34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Jesus feeds the 5000 1In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus is going to take care of you. Everything that you need for this life and for the next, Jesus has, is, and will continue to provide. As I was preparing this sermon, I asked my wife the other day, “What does God care about more, your body or your soul?” She responded well, she said, “I think this is a trick question.” She said she wanted to answer that God cares about her soul more, but she knew that God cares for both. As her pastor, I was proud of her.

We are all tempted to think that God cares more about our soul than our body. But the God who created your soul also created your body. Jesus death on the cross saves you from your sins, but your sins don’t just effect your soul. They also destroy your body. But Jesus came to die on the cross for you – all of you, soul and body. And in this text today, we see Jesus proving that He cares about all of you – soul and body.

The disciples needed a break. Jesus had sent (lit. ‘apostled’) them with authority over unclean spirits. In the power of Jesus, they preach Jesus’ message of repentance and faith. They cast out many demons and healed many who were sick. Now, they are back excitedly telling Jesus everything they had done and taught. Jesus decides that it is time for them to have a break. Jesus says that He is going to make them rest,  “You guys have been working so hard lately, you haven’t even had time to eat. Come away by yourselves to a desert place and rest a while.” Time for a vacay!

Jesus and the disciples hop into the boat and head to their hot, sandy getaway. However, the people noticed. The frenzied fans see where they are going and leg it to the same place. By the time Jesus and the disciples arrive, the red carpet is ready to receive them. You can imagine the disciples’ disappointment. Their vacation in desolation has been ruined. But notice Jesus’ response. He steps out of the boat, sees the crowd, and has gut-wrenching compassion on them. These crowds were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, sees this pitiful crowd and doesn’t tell them to wait. He doesn’t dismiss them even for a measly hour while He and the disciples grab a bite. Instead, He immediately begins to teach them. He feeds their souls.

Small Catechism - Third Commandment IconTo every person in that crowd, Jesus gave exactly what was needed. Whether they had problems with their marriage, fights with their kids, struggles to make ends meet, death in the family, or fear of what the future might hold, Jesus knew their need. He taught them, and His words fed their souls. When Jesus teaches, He isn’t merely giving facts, not just describing God, not giving steps to a better life, a better marriage, or better relationships with others. Instead, when Jesus teaches, He gives the words of life. In other words, when Jesus teaches the Word of God, He gives Himself. Jesus gives the Law to expose sin for what it is, and He gives the Gospel – the full and complete release of sin. Jesus steps in as Shepherd, and the lost sheep are made into a flock. But Jesus still isn’t done. He is going to take care of their bodies too.

The day is coming to a close, and the disciples are impatient. All that stuff that Jesus had said about getting away has been interrupted. So they say to Jesus, “Hey Jesus, we’re here in this desert. Do You remember why You had us come here? Send the people away. It’s getting late, and this crowd needs to go get something to eat. Tell the people to go and get some food for themselves.”

Recognize that Jesus is going to feed this crowd no matter what. Even if Jesus had sent the crowd away to spend their hard-earned money on food, He still would have been providing for them. The food they could have bought in the markets came from bakers who get their ingredients from farmers whose crops grew because of God’s gracious provision. The fish in that market were brought there by fishermen who caught those fish from the sea that God sustains. Everyone’s food comes from God.

Jesus will feed you today too. Your food doesn’t come from the fridge or the waitress. Your food doesn’t even come from the grocery store or the farm. Your food finally and ultimately comes from God. But God is happy to use middle-men to provide the needs of your body.

Jesus will feed this crowd no matter what. But here He decides cut out the middle man. Jesus commands the crowd to sit down in the green grass. Hear that echo of Ps. 23, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, makes them “lie down in green pastures.” Even though Jesus, the disciples, and the crowd are in a desert place, there is green grass. Don’t miss that part of the miracle. Birds in a nestJesus gives thanks, maybe from Ps. 145:15-16, “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.” Jesus hands the bread and fish out to the disciples who, in turn, serve that crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children. They feast. There in the desert wilderness is a banquet prepared by Jesus Himself. He is their shepherd, and they do not lack anything good. And neither do you.

The God who daily provides abundantly for all the needs of your life also provides for all the needs of your soul. God gives you everything you need for this life and the next. He provides for all your bodily needs as well as for all your soul’s needs.

Jesus the Good Shepherd 1Yahweh is your Shepherd. You lack nothing. He makes you lie down in green pastures. He leads you beside still waters. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, He restores your soul. He leads you in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you fear no evil because you are already delivered from death. God is with you. His rod and staff comfort you. Even in the midst of your enemies, He prepares a banqueting table before you. He anoints your head with oil, and your cup overflows. God’s goodness and mercy pursue you all the days of your life. And because Christ’s death is your death and His resurrection is your resurrection, you will dwell in His house forever. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Mark 6:14-29 – Killing John the Baptizer

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Mark 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” Beheading of John the Baptizer24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Herod the Tetrach doesn’t really know what to think. He is hearing reports about this Jesus fellow. The man is wandering the countryside preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the reign of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.” This Jesus is wandering through the country, casting out demons, healing the sick, calming the storms, even raising the dead. This dude is now sending others out to the towns and villages to do the same thing. Many come to the conclusion that John the Baptizer was raised from the dead with divine, miraculous powers. Herod is worried. He believes with dismay, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

Herod had had an interesting relationship with John. Herod knew that John was a righteous and holy man. But his new wife, well, she had a grudge against John. Here’s the situation:

Herod the Great, the ruler when Jesus was born, the one who had all the infant boys in Bethlehem under age two killed, had several sons. One of those sons was named Phillip. Phillip was Herodias’s husband. Herodias was Herod the Great’s granddaughter. In other words, Herodias married her uncle Phillip. The Herod of our text was another one of Herod the Great’s sons and the half-brother of Phillip. This Herod convinced Herodias to divorce Phillip and marry him. To do so, Herod had to divorce his wife. Herodias didn’t like the fact that John the Baptizer told them that this wasn’t exactly kosher. So, Herodias convinced Herod, her second uncle-husband, to arrest John. But it seems that Herod was keeping John safe from death. He even liked to talk with John even though he didn’t quite understand him.

But there was that fateful night of Herod’s birthday bash. Herod had invited all his noblemen and commanders came to his birthday party, and things got a little out of hand. Too much drinking, and maybe a few too many drugs were passed around. However it happened, Herod called in Herodias’s daughter. (If you are keeping track, this girl would have been Herod’s great-niece according to his father, niece according to his brother, and stepdaughter according to his wife.) He had her brought into this all male party. Now, women were not allowed at parties like this (notice she has to leave the party to talk to her mother). The only women at this type of party were a particular type of woman. Now, some legalists will use this text as proof that dancing in and of itself is sinful. But this was not some normal wedding reception or prom dance. This was the type of dance that would happen at a particular place with a pole and a lot of dollar bills. This dance “pleased” Herod and his guests. That most likely means they were more than they were just entertained – in all likelihood, they were “satisfied.”

John's Head on a PlatterSo Herod, this intoxicated idiot, offers her whatever she wishes up to half his kingdom. The girl goes out to talk to her mother, and her mother suggests asking for the head of John the Baptizer. But this girl adds a sadistic little twist of her own. It is a dinner party after all. So she tells Herod to give her the head of John on a platter. Herod was more worried about keeping up appearances with his guests than doing the right, honorable thing. So he sends the executioner to John’s cell. And John becomes a head shorter.

This story is so despicable, so disgusting, what are we to do with it?

Remember that Herod didn’t know who this Jesus was. His seared conscience led him to believe that the man who had been preaching against him and his wife was raised from the dead. Herod couldn’t erase that night out of his head. He was worried because he didn’t want to hear any more sermons calling him to repent, especially after this little incident.

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the wolrdBut you know who Jesus really is. He isn’t John the Baptizer raised from the dead. He is the Savior of the world. Yes, even the Savior of Herod. Jesus died for Herod’s sick, twisted immorality just as He died for all your sick, twisted, and wicked ways as well. Jesus has come to save sinners – even ones as bad as us here at Christ the King. We know, deep down we know, that we are no better than Herod. And so we are here, gathered together in Jesus’ name, to find shelter in the blood that Christ shed for all our sins.

Jesus’ blood has washed you clean in your baptism. Jesus gives you the new birth that you need. No sin is so great that it escapes Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Hear that again. No sin is too big to escape Jesus’ forgiveness. Not one sin has been missed by His blood. So, don’t hold any of your sins outside of Jesus’ forgiveness. If you do, you have to atone for it yourself, and you never will be able to. Instead, Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, now owns your sin. He dumped all your sin into the black hole of His empty tomb.

You can live knowing that there are worse things than being maligned for believing the Scriptures. There are worse things than being called “old fashioned” and “backwards” for opposing what the world wants to define as “normal.” There are even worse things than having your head lopped off. The worst thing of all is unbelief. Unbelief will cause you to imagine that, somehow, your sin escapes the all-encompassing grace and mercy of God which is found in the cross and empty tomb of Jesus. Holding on to your sin will buy you a one-way ticket straight to hell.

Confess Jesus as your Savior, and let the world do what it will do. Confess Jesus as your Savior, and let the world say what it will say. Confess Jesus as your Savior, and come what may. As the Epistle text said (Eph. 1:3-14), you have been chosen by God from before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless. You are God’s own beloved child. You have heard the Scriptures, the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. You have been sealed with the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of your inheritance until you acquire possession of it. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.