Sermon from July 18th 2021 – 8th Sunday after Pentecost
I’m going to describe two banquets and you tell me which one sounds best to you.
First one is truly a royal occasion – it takes place in a beautifully decorated palace - all the top leaders in the country are there. And there are all the finest foods – the finest wines – and you can have as much as you want – and there is the best entertainment in the land – provided by the highest paid entertainer in the nation.
The second banquet seems like it’s just the opposite of the first – it’s not in a palace – it’s outdoors in the middle of nowhere – and then there’s huge crowds – thousands of people – and it’s hardly fine dining – just a simple meal.
Which sounds best to you?
Chapter 6 of Mark is an account of two banquets but there’s more. In this whole middle section of Mark Jesus has been showing people that He is the Son of God and the long awaited Jewish Messiah and telling them about the Kingdom of God. He’s healed people, even raised someone from the dead, cast out demons calmed a stormy sea. And Jesus has done this on both the Jewish side and the gentile side of the sea of Galilee. He’s paving the way for the church’s mission to all people – Jew/gentile Male /female young /old rich/ poor slave /free.
Earlier in CH 6 Jesus gives his twelve disciples authority to heal and cast out demons and sends them out two by two to the surrounding villages. As they are sent, they become apostles (apostles means sent ones) And they are sent to call people to repentance.
Then Mark tells us of the first banquet. It was Herod’s birthday party, so he invited all the nobility and leaders of the area along with military commanders. This had to have been a lavish affair with fine foods and fine wines. Not everyone at the palace was at the banquet. John the Baptist was in prison because John had called Herod out for marrying his brother’s wife Herodias. Herodias’ daughter danced for the dinner guests and Herod was so impressed that he offered her anything – up to half of his kingdom. Herodias had her ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
After that Mark tells us of the apostles returning from their mission to the villages in the area. They told Jesus all they had taught and done. They were so busy with ministry that they hardly had time to eat. And so Jesus tells them to go with him to a desolate place and get some rest.
These leads us to the second banquet. Thousands of people saw Jesus and the disciples leaving in a boat and raced ahead to meet them in this desolate place. Jesus has deep compassion on the crowd – the word used means that he felt for them deep in his gut - for they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were hungry for someone to lead them – hungry to be cared for – provided for – hungry for justice and righteousness – hungry for protection and for a shepherd to be with them in dark and scary times – even in the valley of the shadow of death
Jesus satisfies their hunger for righteousness as he teaches them and gives them the very Word of God. And after a long day of nourishing the crowds with his words the disciples want Jesus to send the people away so the crowds can go to neighboring villages and get some food. Jesus tells them you feed them. They had just come back from their mission trip where they had been teaching healing and casting out demons but feeding thousands of people – this was above their paygrade. They replied it would take 200 denari to feed such a crowd (a denari is a day’s wage) so they were saying that to feed 5000 men plus women and children it would take in the neighborhood of $15,000 in today’s money. Jesus says “what do you have?” Five loaves and two fish. You know how it goes Jesus has them sit on green grass in groups of 50 and 100 and takes the fish and loaves blesses it and feeds this whole crowd. Everybody eats their fill – not just a little bit but until they are satisfied. And there is more leftover than when they started – a full basket for each of the 12 disciples - those disciples who had been so busy with ministry that they didn’t even have time to eat.
Do you remember a time in the Old Testament when there was miraculous provision of bread in the wilderness? Manna – and who provided that – God – YHWH
Do you remember when the Old Testament refers to green pastures. Yes our psalm for today Psalm 23 and who’s the Shepherd – the Lord – YHWH – God
Jesus responds with deep compassion to the need of the crowds. And in the process shows once again that He is God in the flesh. And that He is a God of compassion, mercy and grace.
This is a story of two banquets – two kings – King Herod and King Jesus - one banquet is filled with self-indulgence that leads to death. The other is filled with love and service hosted by King Jesus - a king, a shepherd filled with deep compassion. His banquet is life giving.
There is a world filled with hunger – hunger for God – hunger for direction – hunger for healing – hunger for peace - hunger for food – hunger for love - for healthy connections with others – hunger for freedom from things that enslave us –
What are you hungry for this morning?
And in the midst of this world filled with hunger is Christ – Our good Shepherd making us to lie down in green pastures leading us beside still waters restoring our souls. Sometimes, in the midst of pain and suffering we wonder – are you there Lord – do you care Lord? It’s then that we hear the Word of God – reminding us that this is the Lord who’s guts ache for us – who hung on a cross for us - this is the Lord who walks with us even in our deepest darkest hour – and assures us that on account of this Good Shepherd we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This is the Lord who comes to us this morning – giving his very self to us in the bread and the wine.
What are you hungry for this morning – Jesus satisfies.