Since I'm at the Synod convention, Pastor Timothy Landskroener from Chester graciously filled the pulpits at St. Peter in Campbell Hill and Bethel in Du Quoin, Illinois. With his permission, here is his sermon. Thank you, Pastor Landskroener.
In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 "I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 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." (Mark 8:1-3 ESV)
In the name of Jesus, the only Savior of the world...
In these grey and later days, what we need most our dear Lord Jesus gives in great abundance for He is patient with us beyond imagination. He desires that we give up all trust in ourselves and our abilities and works, and that we learn evermore to trust in Him - most certainly for forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation, and also for everything we need to support *this* body and life.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [that is, earthly necessities like food, drink and clothing] shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). In today’s Gospel we see that play out. A large crowd had followed Jesus away from the cities and villages and out into the wilderness, the deserted place, a place of scarcity, danger and death. They had evidently given no thought as to how long they would be there and had not brought adequate provisions. And we have no record of Jesus telling them to come prepared for a lengthy stay.
So, why would those people give up the comforts of home to follow Jesus out into the wilderness? Quite simply, because they wanted to hear what He had to say. The One who feeds the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, had purposely drawn them out and opened the glories of heaven and the wonders of God’s love to them like they had never heard before, or even imagined. And His gracious words caused them to forget all other things.
So now was the third day of their listening to Him preach. Imagine that! Listening to a sermon for three days. Who would do that? Those people did, because they wanted to hear the gracious words which flowed from Jesus’ lips. They had left all, and now they were hungry, though it’s important to notice that they don’t say anything. They were intent on listening to Jesus and hearing everything He had to say. They kept their eyes on Him. After all, “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut. 8:3). His Word was their life.
So, they don’t say anything about their hunger, but Jesus does. “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.” Yes, Jesus has compassion on them. He knows what they need even before they ask, and He’s ready to provide. You see, His compassion is a real concern for the ongoing reality and eternal fate of mankind. His compassion brought these people out and put them into such dire straits. He has them right where He wants them. For the reality is that they would be just as helpless if they were home snuggly tucked away in their beds with full bellies and full cupboards - but they might well not know it. They might think they were in control. But there in the desert with growling bellies and too far to return, they’re helpless. The hunger that gnaws at the 4,000 is the mark of death, the wages of sin. They must eat or they will die. There is no place for them to turn. They cannot provide for themselves. They are helpless.
And what was the result of their helplessness? Jesus provides all that they need. He fed them with the Bread of Life, and now He would provide earthly bread as well. As on the earlier occasion when He miraculously fed 5,000 people, He consults with His disciples. He declares His compassion and concern for the crowd. But the disciples seemed to have forgotten that other event. They ask, “How can one feed [or satisfy] these people with bread here in this desolate place?” Once again, they looked at the situation with the eyes of reason and concluded that it was impossible to provide food for all these people.
Once again, Jesus demonstrates His great love and compassion for the people and for His disciples. He has the people sit down. Then He takes the seven loaves from the disciples, gave thanks, broke them, gave them to the disciples “to set before the people.” Then He did the same with the fish. Again, the people ate and were satisfied. They had no more hunger. Their needs were fully met. Furthermore, the disciples gathered seven large baskets of leftovers. Jesus didn’t simply meet the need, He provided an abundance. With Jesus, there is always more.
Now, most certainly, this Gospel is for us as well. Jesus would have us follow Him and listen to Him. He would have us leave everything to hunger and thirst for righteousness. For we too need to see our helplessness, even as we feel the hunger pangs of sin and death. We need to realize the fullness and the depth of our sin. We too must give up control, and learn that we have nothing to give, and that there is nothing we can do to change our sorry state. We too must learn to hang on Jesus’ every Word so that we may live.
Indeed, this is what we learn from the crowd – to live from Jesus’ compassion. And this, not because we have earned it or deserve it, but only because Jesus Himself declares, "I have compassion." Only in the gifts Christ freely gives can we be filled and have genuine satisfaction. Everything else we seek and lust for in this world leaves us cold, empty, full of regret. Our efforts in this world end in futility. This is what lies behind the disciples' words of unbelief: "How can one satisfy these people?"
Yet, in Jesus’ great compassion, He doesn’t scold them for their unbelief. He uses them to serve the crowd. From their hands Jesus feeds the crowd with bread and fish.
Now, of course, this miracle points toward a greater miracle, where our Lord again takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it to His disciples, the Holy Apostles, those first ministers of the Gospel. Still today they give out the Gifts to you, that multitude that has come to the realization that the things of the world cannot, by themselves, satisfy.
Yes, Jesus does have compassion on you. For you, the very Son of God was made Man. He had compassion on you and for you suffered rebuke, humiliation, and hatred. He had compassion on you and endured the lash, the spear, the thorny crown. He had compassion on you and suffered the bitter agonies of death and the Father's wrath. He had compassion on you and allowed His side to be opened by the thrust of the spear. He had compassion on you and brought your flesh out of the grave triumphantly. He had compassion on you and entered into the heavenly places with your flesh, my flesh, human flesh. Know then that your Lord still has compassion on you, forgives your selfish pride, forgets what you have done and been, and invites you yet again to simply receive His gifts, all by grace. So let these words of your Lord sink down deep into your ears: "I have compassion on the crowd." To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.
The peace of God, which passing all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.