God’s Word Does Everything–Trinity 7 Sermon
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Mark 8:1-9
July 14, 2013
“God’s Word Does Everything”
In the Name of Jesus
God’s Word does everything.
The farmers among us plow, plant, fertilize, and harvest. If they don’t do that, corn won’t fill their silos in the fall. But it isn’t the plowing, planting, and fertilizing that makes the corn grow. It’s God’s Word. He said, Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth. And it was so. (Genesis 1: 11) If you’re a farmer, you could print that verse out on a big poster and hang it up in your barn and your office and look at it every day. That’s the power that keeps you in business and keeps 6 billion people in the world from starving.
Of course, you farmers know very well, I’m sure, that that word of God alone doesn’t guarantee that you won’t lose money that year. You can work as smart and as hard and as long as humanly possible, and everything can still go to pieces. In the 1930’s, lots of people lost their farms. Drought came and wind blew dust across the United States. A little earlier the Southern economy was ruined because an insect called a Boll Weevil came and ate up the cotton farms. These things happen because of God’s Word too. Adam rejected God’s Word and ate the forbidden fruit, and God spoke a curse: Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:17-19)
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. God’s Word created the world and made it so that plants grow from the ground and made it so that if you don’t work, weeds grow instead of the plants you need to eat. God’s Word also made it so that even when you work hard, you aren’t guaranteed success. What you are guaranteed is painful toil and sweat pouring from your face and your work not producing anything that lasts. Mostly you get weeds and boll weevils, bills, one hassle after another interspersed by dangers and tragedies. Women have the painful labor of bearing children, which is not fun but often life-threatening; then they are cursed with Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. (Genesis 3:16)
But God with this curse ensures that we do get some good things. We get some plants from the field to eat mixed in with the thorns and thistles. We don’t get enough to last us forever so that the curse goes away. Just enough to keep on living and working until we return to the dust from which we were made. Because we are dust without God’s Word; that’s it. And since we rejected God’s Word, we get what we asked for—we go back to being dust.
God’s Word does everything. It blesses and curses. It kills and makes alive. It determines how this world will work, and it gives us our place in it and our work in it. So we live under our parents’ authority. Then we grow up and go to work where we are under the authority of our boss or we are the boss, and are responsible to God for this authority. We get married and have children because God’s Word has made most of us unable to be sexually pure outside of marriage—although to some He gives the higher and more difficult gift of living a celibate single life.
Then we work at these things which God has given us to do. Or we disobey and create our own callings and lifestyles that to our minds seem better than what God has created and commanded with His Word.
But if we are Christians, we believe God’s promise to us that He has forgiven our sins and that after we have returned to dust He will raise us again from the dust. So we go live in the callings He has assigned to us and seek to serve Him there in the place He has called us, daily commending ourselves to His forgiveness. And in those callings He gives us our daily bread. But it’s also true that those who believe in Jesus and live in the callings in which God has place them find that there is much hardship, much sweat of the face, many weeds.
Yet the one thing we really need is not for things to be easy. The one thing we really need is not to be happy on this earth. The one thing we really need is the Word of the Lord. It’s the word of the Lord that provides food. It’s the word of the Lord that gives us affliction. And it’s the word of the Lord that delivers us from sin, death, hell, and the curse of sin in this life.
The Word of the Lord makes it so that when you put antiseptic on a wound, it prevents it from getting infected.
But imagine if there was a Word of the Lord that said, “You will never be injured, hurt, or sick, or die, ever again.” That Word of God might not be welcomed by doctors. But it would be welcome to everyone who believed it. Anyone who believed that there was the promise that God would say, “You will never get sick again, never hurt again, never die again,” would do whatever it took to make that promise their own.
That is the Word that Jesus preaches. In fact He is that Word. It is as if God said, “Let all human beings never get hungry, sick, or suffer again. Let them never again be sinners under my wrath. Let them be forgiven of their sins, delivered from hell, and live forever and share my joy eternally.”
That was the Word of God when Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin. Human beings were restored to life and delivered from the curse by God’s Word.
Jesus was conceived in the virgin’s womb to deliver us from every curse—from the torment of hell which will never end, which belonged to us because of sin. And also from the temporary curses of this life. The suffering caused by sickness, hunger, depression—Jesus comes to remove these too.
When the Word became flesh, He was coming to bear all of the curse and bring to us all of God’s blessing.
That was the reason crowds were chasing Jesus around everywhere. He healed them; He relieved their earthly pains and eased the curse.
But He did something greater. He preached the Word of the Lord that changes everything, that gives us a new creation where there is no more death, no more damnation, no more sin, no more grief.
Just as He does among us.
Jesus has compassion on you and me also. He is concerned about the needs of our bodies. He doesn’t want us to faint or be crushed under the curse of sin.
He has compassion, mercy. His heart is moved. Jesus preached to His own people, the Jews. He cast out demons and healed their sick and raised their dead. He made the deaf hear and the mute speak. He did this knowing full well that most would not hear Him, and their rejection of Him would turn into blasphemy, hatred, and crucifixion. Yet He still healed them. And He still went to the cross to bear the wrath of God for them.
And He knew His disciples were hard hearted and slow to believe. This was not the first time He fed people. He fed 5000 a few chapters before. Then He walked on the sea. And St. Mark writes: 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, but their hearts were hardened. (St. Mark 7:51-52)
So when Jesus says, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat” his disciples say, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (St. Mark 8:2, 4)
They are saying something like, “Well, it’s too late now, Jesus. There’s nothing to be done. Maybe they’ll faint or starve, but what do you want us to do about it?” They might have been thinking what we think when we go without as Christians—when we are burdened by sickness or trouble. “If you really are compassionate, why did you wait until they were famished to give them food? If you love us so much, why do you wait until we’ re about to fall apart before helping us?”
But the disciples should have known better. They had seen Jesus feed a crowd before.
Jesus is not lacking in compassion. He has more compassion than we can comprehend. And He teaches us compassion, too. In this feeding He’s teaching His disciples not to throw up their hands so quickly and assume that just because it is beyond their power there’s nothing to be done.
But Jesus knows very well that human beings don’t generally hear God’s Word very well on a full belly.
These people were in the wilderness listening to Jesus teach and preach for three days. They were in a desert. They went without food to the point that they were in danger of passing out or dying on the walk home.
Can you imagine that? Such hunger for God’s Word! Where can we find it in our day?
But the Word Jesus gave them was better than bread. It gives more than temporary alleviation of hunger or pain. It takes it away forever.
If you have Jesus’ Word, you have everything. Your daily bread comes with it.
But we think we need the bread more than we need God’s Word. So, we get to church if we’re not doing something else. We squeeze catechesis in around all the other activities we have our kids in; we neglect to teach them God’s Word ourselves. And the kids look and see that the adults aren’t all that hungry for God’s Word. In fact at times they resent it and think it is fanatical to expect people to have the catechism memorized, or to come pray.
Jesus says, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” We can live with pain, and hunger, and sorrow. We can live even when we die. But we can’t live without God’s Word, unless the rich man who walked by poor Lazarus every day was living. It looked like he was, with his purple clothes and fine food, but things were more clear after he died and began his eternity in the fire wishing for a drop of water. The collect for this Sunday says it well: “we pray that you would put away all things hurtful to us and give us all things that are profitable for our salvation.” So often what is hurtful to us is the very thing that we are told in America is what life is all about. We want to be “healthy”, and happy, and we think a successful, contented life is the goal of existence. All too often that American dream is the very thing we don’t need. And because Jesus loves us He gives us what is profitable for our salvation—hunger. Suffering. Weakness. Consciousness of sin. That is the only way to make us hungry enough to eat the bread of life. If our stomachs are full we figure we have all we need.
Jesus makes full everyone who comes to Him hungering and thirsting for life and salvation. It’s impossible that you come to Him looking for everlasting life and He leaves you without what you need for this life.
They were right to be out in the desert for three days just for the sake of the Word. But that didn’t save them or make Jesus compassionate.
Jesus is compassionate. The Word is His compassion. Even if you have suffering with it—people leave the church, people in the church hurt you, your family, work, is chaotic.
You have Jesus, and you have in Him the spiritual bread that gives life. You have recreation which He gives you in His body and blood the same way he gave the bread to the 4000. He says it, and even though no one sees any change, the Word makes 7 little loaves feed five thousand. Jesus says it, and He feeds us with His body and blood in which our sins are taken away and our wounds are healed.
He is the fountain of life. Those who are His want to be with Him, even in the wilderness, even nailed to the cross. With Him is life, healing, truth, redemption. We come to Him and He strengthens our weak faith. He replaces our selfishness with His compassion.
Now in addition to the grave mess that the Church appears to be in, we have a grave mess in this neighborhood and in this country. Like the disciples we say, “Yep, too bad. There’s nothing to be done.”
And in a sense they were right and so are we. Jesus is not going to make all the pain in this world go away in this life time. And most people are not going to believe in Him. We may bring them to Him and more often than not they will be offended by the weakness and sin they find in His church.
It’s easy to throw up your hands about this. The disciples probably wished that impressive, powerful people would come to Jesus, but by and large it was the poor. It was cripples. It was demon possessed people. Ignorant people. People with needs.
That’s no different than we have it.
But Jesus was glad when they came. He fed them with the priceless bread of life, His Word, which He would have gladly given to anyone. But then like now, for most people comfort is more important than the Word which gives forgiveness of sins.
Despite all this, the disciples should have known. Jesus is always compassionate and Jesus always wants to help. He always wants what’s best. And if there are needs, if you have nothing else you can do, you have one exceedingly powerful thing. You can bring those needs to Jesus, along with the little that you have. Your loaves, yourself with all your sins.
And Jesus may not feed the 4000 or convert the United States again. He may not keep this congregation around another 10 years. We don’t know what’s best. Oftentimes the hunger and pain we feel we think is bad, when it is really the best by far for us.
But we know that Jesus knows what’s best, has compassion, and when we pray, He will join our prayers with His prayers and provide what is best. “The Lord will give what is good, and the earth will yield its harvest.” He will give what is best—His body into death for our sins; His body and blood into our mouth that we might live in Him and He in us. And that life cannot exist in us without us also receiving the cross—suffering, weakness, and death. Hunger, poverty, and shame. They must come to us when Christ the crucified, the Word made flesh, dwells in us.
In Him God’s wrath is removed and we have His favor. He gave thanks for the little that they brought to Him because He knew that His heavenly Father is good and wills to have compassion and is able to have compassion. He wills to have compassion, and therefore He sent His Son in the flesh to be offered up and broken for our sins, to be the food and drink that sustains our souls for eternity. Jesus died for you, with your hardness of heart and your lack of compassion, and He has removed all the Father’s wrath from You.
He has compassion on the crowds in our families and in the neighborhood who are not here. And it is not our job to save the world. But He wants us to bring them to Him in our prayers, and to give us His bodies so that He may Himself come to them through us.