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Pentecost 8

St Mark 6:45-56

Pastor Dean M. Bell

8th S. a. Pentecost
Unknown Location  

Sun, Jul 26, 2009
8th S. a. Pentecost

Standard LSB B Readings:
First: Genesis 9:8-17
Epistle: Ephesians 3:14-21
Gospel: Mark 6:45-56
Psalm: Psalm 136:1-9 26


+In Nomine Iesu+

+In Nomine Iesu+

Pentecost 8

St Mark 6:45-56

26 July 2009

How much do we know?  Really "know?" We pride ourselves on being quite knowledgeable.  There is a great deal we have learned.  We've learned to communicate - speak, write - things like that.  We've learned the skills needed in our various vocations.  We have the accumulated wisdom of a life lived.  Useful little bits and pieces picked up over time, and tucked away.  Shortcuts.  Ways of thinking, reasoning.  We might easily conclude that we are far more knowledgeable than our parents or grandparents were.  That we have greater understanding than they.  After all, they didn't have the advantages we have, did they?  Twenty-four-hour-a-day-TV.  Books too numerous to count.  The internet. 


But then come those times when we are brought up short.  Brought up short, and rather roughly at that.  We are reminded of our lack of knowledge - our lack of understanding.  We find one of those instances in the Gospel this morning.  We think we know what's going on here.  After all, nothing in this text is really new to us.  We've got this Jesus stuff pretty well figured out.  The events in this text we've heard many times before.  You don't come to church Sunday-after-Sunday for a lifetime without hearing - absorbing - a good deal of Scripture.


But then we come to verses 51 and 52 in our text.  Mark 6:51,52.  And here we begin to scratch our heads.  At first glance we don't have a clue.  What on earth could this be about?  The verses read like this: "And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.  And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, because their hearts were hardened."


Now we have questions.  How does Mark know they didn't understand?  How does he know their hearts were hardened?  He wasn't there, was he?  Remember, we have four gospels in the New Testament.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Four compilations of the life of Jesus.  But only two of those were written by actual disciples of Jesus.  Only two of the writers qualify as eyewitnesses.  Matthew and John.  Luke wasn't a disciple of Jesus.  He was a companion of Paul.  Thus he begins his gospel by mentioning the meticulous research he did before he began to write.  And Mark?  Mark was a disciple of Peter.  In a manner of speaking, Mark's gospel records the reminiscences of Peter concerning Jesus and His words - His deeds.  We get a sense of that here.  Really, what we find in verse 52 of Mark 6 can be described as Peter's confession.  After all, Peter WAS there in the boat that night.  "They did not understand about the loaves, because their hearts were hardened."  It is as if Peter has admitted to Mark, "That's how it was.  We were there all right, but we didn't understand.  We didn't get it."


And us?  We're no better than Peter.  Very often we don't get it either.  It isn't a matter of unbelief, really.  Rather it's about not comprehending the full significance of what we're seeing in Scripture.  What does it mean that Jesus feeds 5000 with five loaves and two fish?  Is it simply that Jesus can be depended upon for a nice meal?  That He can be counted on to put food on our table?  Or is there something greater - something more profound in that miracle?  Is it perhaps that Jesus - the Jesus who proclaims Himself to be the Bread of Life - that this Jesus gives Himself as food?  That He will feed not only the physical life which needs to be maintained, but also that He will feed our spiritual life?  That by His dwelling in you He will make you strong in saving faith.  I think the answer is obvious.  All of that is included here.  You see, our eyes see one thing, but our heart - attuned to the ways of Jesus - sees more.  Much more.


Remember the words you hear at the beginning of every sermon?  "Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  Those aren't words that I make up.  Those are the words of St Paul.  It is the greeting he uses as he writes his letters.  To the church in Rome.  To the church in Corinth.  In Galatia.  In Ephesus.  In Philippi.  Etc.  You get the point.  To his readers Paul wishes grace.  In other words, the complete and unmerited - undeserved - favor of God.  And peace.  That peace which God, our Father, has declared toward us.  Remember the angel's words at Bethlehem?  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace."  God has declared peace.  God has declared himself to be at peace with the world.  With you.  And all of this comes to you through Jesus Christ, who is your Savior from sin, death, and the devil.  Do we really comprehend that?  When Peter says - through his disciple Mark - that their hearts were hardened, he is admitting that that evening, in that boat, he didn't really, fully understand.  And the other disciples didn't either.


But Jesus doesn't leave His disciples to wrestle with their lack of understanding - their lack of faith.  As they were fighting their way across the Sea of Galilee that night Jesus came walking on the water.  He made as though He would simply pass by.  But He didn't.  Why?  We read, "And He saw that they were making headway painfully."  That's our life, too, isn't it?  Our lives are often painful.  Not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.  Making headway in life is hard.  Living the life God has called us to live is difficult.  We endure the pain that sin inflicts.  It's hard, life is.  We hurt.  We've been hurt by others.  And we've hurt ourselves.  Sin has its effect on us.  Life as a Christian brings pain and disappointment.  Left to ourselves we would be destroyed.  But Jesus comes to us just as He came to those first-century disciples.


"Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them."  That's what Jesus promises.  He's speaking of the Church, gathered in His name.  That night, on the sea, the Church convened in a boat because that's where Jesus joined His disciples.  We take note of that in our symbolism.  The Church - to this day - is pictured as a boat, a ship.  This morning the Church has convened here.  Here is the boat.  Right here on the storm-tossed sea of life in the world.  And right here we have called upon God - upon Jesus.  That's one reason the Divine Service always begins with the Invocation.  "In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  That's calling upon God.  That's calling on God's name.  It's done purposefully.  "You've promised," we're saying.  "You've promised that where two or three are gathered in your name you'll be there.  Well, there's more than two or three here this morning.  We expect You to come."  And, so, He does.  God shows up.


And whenever Jesus shows up He brings along all His gifts.  He brings grace - His favor toward us.  He brings mercy - His pity toward our weakness.  He brings forgiveness - the antidote to our sins.  He brings peace between us and our Heavenly Father.  He brings Himself - His Body and Blood to be shared among His people.  He brings forgiveness, and life, and salvation.  Will we always get it?  Will we always understand it all?  Probably not.  If Peter and the other disciples didn't, there's really no reason to think we'll be any brighter - any quicker on the up-take.  But even with this "hardness of heart" on our part Jesus has patience.  That's why the Holy Spirit is sent to us.  He brings to our remembrance all that Jesus has done, and said, and promised.  And most importantly, the Holy Spirit reminds us that all of Jesus' activity has been for us.  For our forgiveness.  Our salvation.  Our eternal life.  You.  Me.  And so it is again this morning.  You have called upon God to come.  Come, and hear, and act.  You have confessed your sins.  And, you have been absolved.  Forgiven.  That's one of the promises, isn't it?  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1) And so it is.  There you have it.  Today once again Jesus has come.  He has come to you, for you.  And that "for you" of Jesus is eternal.  Forever.


+Soli Deo Gloria+

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