Hmm, Jesus, I Just Don't Know About That

Text:  Mark 8:1-9

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

That day in the wilderness, the disciples had some food. They had seven loaves of bread and a few small fish to be precise. But these seven loaves and a few fish were certainly not enough to feed 4,000 hungry mouths and growling tummies. Jesus, though, had compassion on the large hungry crowd and still wanted to feed them.

Now, setting aside Jesus’ compassion and looking to the crowd of 4,000 people, we can imagine the disciples doing some quick math and shaking their heads. We can imagine them saying to themselves,

“Nope, it isn’t possible Jesus. Seven loaves of bread divided by twelve hungry disciples plus four thousand more hungry people? There is no way that it can happen. Even if everyone took just a nibble, we still wouldn’t have enough food for everyone.” 

I am sure the disciples admired Jesus’ compassion and desire to take care of the hungry crowd, but there simply was not enough food, a fact that Jesus was overlooking.

Now, I do not know about you, but I tend to be a problem solver. I like the challenge. And so, if I were among those disciples that day, I am pretty sure that I would have been thinking of alternative plans to address the 4,000 hungry people.

For example, maybe a couple of disciples could run to the nearest Miracle Mart to fetch some food. Hey Peter and John, you are in good shape. Go! Run! If you go fast enough, you can maybe make it back by morning with enough food to satisfy those who are very irritable as result of hunger. Peter and John, the plan is to at least silence those who are frustrated from hunger – the really crabby ones. In the meantime, Andrew and James, get over here. Go out in front of the people and tell them some jokes so they can laugh and not feel the pain of their hunger. Yes, if we make them laugh and tell them positive, feel-good stories, we might be able to get them to forget the pain of their stomachs. Oh, Thomas and Bartholomew, as Andrew and James are telling jokes and stories, why don’t you work on some happy songs. Maybe you can work up a really catchy melody with a super fun tune that talks about how they are filled and full to the brim. But Thomas and Bartholomew, don’t mention anything about their hunger, we don’t want to remind them of the pain of their hunger. We want them to feel like they are already full so they feel good. Oh, and Jesus, we got this under control since you obviously don’t have a firm grasp on the gravity of this situation. Ready everyone. Huddle together. We’ve got this. 1-2-3-go!

My plan sounds good, doesn’t it?

1)   Grab the situation and find a logical man-centered solution.
2)   Distract the crowd from their problems.
3)   Make them feel good.

There is only one problem with my plan, and that is the fact that it eliminates Jesus. In fact, this is exactly what the disciples were doing when they questioned Jesus’ compassion to feed the hungry mass.  Yes, Jesus was standing right there before the hungry people and the disciples did not understand that Jesus was capable of feeding the crowd, but rather, they focused on the problem of the 4,000 hungry people. That is to say; the disciples should not have been phased by 4,000 hungry people, because Jesus was with them. And Jesus had just gotten done feeding 5,000 people sometime before this. Indeed, they should not have cared how many people were there, and they should not have worried about the people’s predicament of hunger, because Jesus – the solution – was right there in their midst.

Dear friends, before we are too hard on the poor disciples, we must admit that the church isn’t much better. In fact, too many churches in America look out at the vast amount of hurting people, with their problems and trials, and instead of looking to the solution of Jesus, they instead take it upon themselves to do a dog and pony show. In other words, churches and pastors can either become paralyzed by the vast needs of parishioners and people, leading them to bottle up and shut down, or they instead take it upon themselves to try and remedy the hurting and needing people themselves. And since these churches and pastors are not Jesus, their solutions are typically the same. First, they come up with some strategic plan that will solve a portion of the church’s problems and make things supposedly wonderful. Second, they distract people from the fundamental problem, which is not hunger, but ultimately sin. And then finally, they try to make everyone feel good about themselves. As a result, you have pastors and churches that are busy making all sorts of plans that accomplish nothing, while diverting people away from their core problem of sin, while doing their best to make sure everyone feels good and happy and positive. And worst of all, Jesus is not even considered.  He is essentially excommunicated. He is shut out, expelled, and ousted.

Lord have mercy on us!

Dear friends, what the disciples messed up on so badly was that they not only had forgotten Jesus and the fact that He had already fed 5,000, but they had forgotten the history of their nation.

If there was one thing that God knows how to do and to do very well, it was to throw a feast for His people in the middle of nowhere. Remember the manna, the quail, and the water from the rock?

Remember the wilderness wanderings and how time after time God’s people would worry themselves into a tizzy, Remember how their faith would grow weak in God’s promise and power because their eyes shifted away from God to the problems before them? And again and again, God would show them compassion and give them a feast regardless of how bad it was, even when He had to rain it down from heaven.

To the point; when we as a church or as individuals find ourselves in hard, difficult, and impossible moments, these unmanageable moments are not opportunities for us to find out how smart we are at solving them. And they certainly are not intended to paralyze us under pressure. But rather, they teach us to turn our eyes away from the problem to Jesus. In every time of need and trial, the Lord longs to teach us that there is nothing - no problem, no heart-ache, no anxiety - that comes our way that is either too big or too little for Him. He cares about us, body and soul.

That is why the heavenly Father sent His Son into our flesh and blood. That is why Jesus Himself reached out and lifted the entire load of your sin upon Himself. That is why He suffered and died – for you. That is why He rose again – for you.  He did this because He has compassion for you.

Yes, Jesus did all of this to provide you perfect righteousness that will enable you to stand before the Throne of Judgment on the last day and be declared not guilty. And until then, He feeds you with His Word and His Sacrament. These are like food to the soul itself.

But the One who cares about your soul also cares about your body. So He gives you your daily bread. He promises to provide for your temporal needs. And when this old tent, your body, finally wears out and you die, well… He promises to clothe you with a perfect body on the Day of His return.

Dear Baptized Saints, the Lord really does care for you. And so, you do not need a man-centered solution to your problem of sin. You do not need to be paralyzed with fear. You do not need to be distracted. And you certainly do not need an empty motivational pep talk. But rather, you need Jesus. And this day, you have Jesus. You have the solution. No, you have more than a solution. You have the way, the truth, and the life. Yes, you have Jesus who feeds you this day His very body and blood – to forgive you of your sins, fill you with faith, and sustain you in whatever situation you may find yourself in.

In the name of Jesus: Amen. 

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