Nourished for the Journey

Mark 6:30-34

July 18th & 19th, 2009


            Proper fuel for your vehicle truly makes it run longer and more efficiently, and so also with our bodies.    This almost goes without saying, but often we learn the hard way or shall I say relearn again the hard way.    A few days of eating poorly, sleeping little, can make one sluggish and irritable.  Why?  We do not have the proper nourishment.   Some time back I remember accidently putting my oil/gas mixture into my gas powered mower.  Soon the improper fuel manifested itself in a shut down engine.     Some times in our walk with Christ we go without the proper nourishment or we get the wrong kind of fuel for the journey.  Yet, we are here today to distinguishing the good nourishment needed for our Christian journey from that which is not helpful and even harmful in our walk with Christ.

            The disciples had just returned from preaching, healing, and casting out demons.   Jesus had just heard that his cousin John had been martyred.    The crowds had been expanding, and our text says they didn’t even have time to eat.   They were physically and mentally exhausted, and Jesus invites them to a mini retreat of sorts.  “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”   Yet, like a Hollywood star trying to get away from the crowds, the paparazzi find them.  The crowds   catch up to them before their boat hits the other side of the lake.   One can imagine that the disciples were ready to get back in the boat and go the other way.  Yet, Jesus looks over the vast crowds and the Bible says “He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd”.   Translation, they needed to be lead, to be helped, to be nourished in every which way, but as for now they are wandering like a sheep without a clue.    This compassion Jesus had was not just a momentary emotional response.  Rather it was, quite literally a deep gut wrenching compassion that goes to the depths of his being.   It is the same kind of compassion the Samaritan man had when he ran across the robber who was half dead on the road.   Ironically another leaderless group are the priests and religious leaders of the day, as it says in the scripture he had a deep compassion on them too.  It is that same word that the Father has when he sees his periodical son coming home from a distance, he had a deep compassion on them.

               During a two-day period in New York City, a homeless man, a train maintenance worker, and a dog were killed on the subway tracks.  Ninety people telephoned the transit authority to express concern about the dog, three called about the worker, and no one inquired about the homeless man.   To be sheep without a shepherd means to have priorites all out of wack.  To be sheep without a shepherd is to have a people who say they love Jesus, but don’t seem to think they need to hear from him in the context of the body of Christ on a regular basis. We see people all the time who are leaderless, making very poor choices, mixing up priorities, living lives of taking rather than giving.  Our tendency, my tendency, is not to help but to run away and to “leave them to their own devices”.  It is hard enough caring for a few let alone a whole crowd of people.  Yet, what does Jesus do, he has a deep compassion for them, and this leads to something.

            First what does he do?   He teaches them many things.  Yes, Jesus heals the sick, casts out demons, and as we see today, physically feeds the masses, but he is also in the business of teaching about the kingdom of God.   Now it doesn’t say here exactly what the content was of his preaching.  I suppose one could go to his Sermon on the Mount found elsewhere in scripture. In this particular teaching Jesus may have tightened up their view of the law.  Maybe he said you have heard it said you should not kill, but I am here to tell you that even if you hate your brother you are guilty of taking his life.   Maybe he said something to the effect that he was the good shepherd, and that a good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  Maybe he said “I am the way , the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the father but by me”.   While we don’t know exactly what he said, he used words to proclaim the Kingdom of God.  His words convicted them in their sin, but also brought them closer to their Lord.

            Yet, this sermon took place outdoors, and no one brought their own dishes for a pot luck.  Rather than send these people away Jesus tells his disciples “You give them something to eat”.  They respond as anyone would, are we to eight months wages and go buy everyone food.   Jesus then says in effect take what you have got, five loaves and two fishes, and watch what I can do.    We know that Jesus completely covers our sins on Calvary’s cross, and that his any good we are allowed to do, he gets the glory.   Yet, he uses human intermediaries to deliver his care to the world, and to do what he does.  For example, in the Old Testament he says I am giving you the Promised Land, but I’m not going to keep you from battling for it.    Oh, and by the way, when you win, it ultimately is not you that win, but I who am the victor.   You see Jesus takes what we have, even if it seems quite small, and multiplies its use.    That seemingly insignificant compliment said years ago, but was so meaningful to the individual it was spoken to.  The money given in the offering plate, God uses to bring the gospel to bear on people’s lives in ways you would not have dreamed.   That Sunday school lesson spoken many years ago, one that no one seemed to have been paying attention too, is recalled and treasured in the future.   The point is, God is in the business of multiplying our seemingly small gifts, and bringing many leftovers.   He is still doing the work and he is the one who gets the credit, but he does use   intermediaries.   Ephesians  2:20 says “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”  In Romans 5 we see these words “If , when we were God’s enemies , we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”  I had a teacher who once said, “The gospel is always more”.    There is more forgiveness then we have sins to commit, there is more love then there is hate, there is more life than there is death.  From those small fish and loaves of bread came 12 basketfuls left over plus a full and satisfied crowd.

            Jesus is the bread of life, and he is the fuel for our journey.   His high octane forgiveness purchased on Calvary not only gets us where we need to go, but takes us further then we can ever imagine.  To be sheep without a shepherd is to think that the fuel of life is lived without the compassion of Jesus.  It is a life lived by our own resources, thoughts and strengths, and not feeding on the bread of life.   On this day, I don’t know what burdens you?  What I do know though is that your shepherd has a deep compassion for you, and he gives beyond your imagination and comprehension.    To this compassionate shepherd goes all praise and glory both now and forevermore.  Amen.