Gospel: Mark 6:30-44 (Pentecost 8: Series B)

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.


INTRODUCTION

  • His name was George. He grew up in a small town, but always had big dreams. 
  1. oLife had different plans, and through a series of events he found himself taking over his Father’s business in the town he so desperately wanted to get away from.

 

  1. oYet, he had a good life there, making a home with his family and
  2. oUntil one day, thanks to an irresponsible employee, he lost a large sum of money which belonged to his business and would soon face serious jail time for embezzling
  3. oAbsolutely desperate, that night he found himself in the local bar, crying out to God: “God, oh God, dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man but if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way oh God.” 
  4. oMaybe this story sounds somewhat familiar to you—“It’s a Wonderful Life.” 

When we are desperate in life, exhausted and done, Jesus comes to us with new life.


PART ONE

When we look at the end of this reading we see something that doesn’t seem to make sense. Mark shows us the disciples cleaning up after Jesus. Usually, cleanup is a job that we either put off or give to someone else. This is how it works: You have a gathering in your home that goes late into the evening. You could clean up before you go to bed, or find someone else to do this job, but you decide to put it off until morning. But when you find yourself cleaning up after Jesus it’s all different. It’s not a job at all. It is though, a moment of exhausted, holy wonder.

We see the disciples, wandering around on a hillside, picking up bits of bread. Evening has come, the crowds have gone home, and in the dusk they bend over to pick up the broken pieces of bread. They didn’t come with Jesus to pick up bread after him, but that’s what they find themselves doing. We hear that they had come a long ways to get away from the crowds who came needing healing (verse 31): 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

They did care for the sick. They had spent a long time serving and offering healing (verses 12-13): 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. But sooner or later, there comes a time when you just need to take time for yourself, to get away for some rest and recuperation. And so this is what Jesus does. He took His disciples by boat to a desolate place for rest (verse 32): 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. They desperately needed a moment to be by themselves and get something to eat.


PART TWO

But there is a problem. The sick and those who are ill will always know where to look for healing. Their bodies might be dying, but their hearts know where there is healing, and so they followed Jesus, who was on the sea of Galilee by walking and carrying their sick along the shoreline (verse 33): 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When the disciples get there, there were over 5,000 people who had shown up. The disciples noticed that dusk was coming and asked Jesus to tell them to go home.

He said, “Feed them” (verses 35-37): 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” The disciples turned to their common sense of reality and knew it was impossible. And He said, “Tell them to be seated” (verses 38-39): 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. Now, as dusk approaches, here are these men, tired and in need of rest, picking up bread and putting it in baskets.

Why?


PART THREE

Her name was Dorothy. During the first day of speech class, the teacher was going around the room, having the students introduce themselves. Each student was to respond to the questions "What do I like about myself?" and "What don't I like about myself?"

Nearly hiding at the back of the room was Dorothy. Her long, red hair hung down around her face, almost obscuring it from view. When it was Dorothy's turn to introduce herself, there was only silence in the room. Thinking perhaps she had not heard the question, the teacher moved his chair over near hers and gently repeated the question. Again, there was only silence.

Finally, with a deep sigh, Dorothy sat up in her chair, pulled back her hair, and in the process revealed her face. Covering nearly all of one side of her face was a large, irregularly shaped birthmark - nearly as red as her hair. "That," she said, "should show you what I don't like about myself."

Here was a young lady devastated by her hideous birthmark. She was desperate for meaningful touch.

Here, at the end of the day, at the end of all their strength, at the end of what made sense, and at the end of what they had, Jesus has brought the beginning of life. Life which goes way beyond their way of living. Life which goes way beyond their imagination. We see the disciples bowing down to gather up every single crumb of bread. Why? Because they know they are walking on holy ground. Holy ground? A desolate place of sickness and hunger? Yes. Because Jesus turns desolate, dying places into holy places of life.


PART FOUR

Our Christian life is filled with places of dying where Jesus brings holy places of life. You cannot plan out how you will serve your LORD. You cannot go out into the world and plan everything you will come across so that you are always serving to only those which you approve of. Jesus will put you in situations which are beyond your understanding. And you will wonder how you could ever do this. You care for your mom who has increasing dementia. You raise a child with developmental disabilities. You find yourself down at the police station picking up your son who has his second DUI. You don’t know what to say or what to do. God’s work is like that. But in these dying places, our Lord brings life.

Jesus Christ has come to bring life. Not just for those who are well, but He has come for the sick and the dying. When Mark describes the crucifixion of Jesus, he tells us the name of the place: Golgotha. He even translates it: “Which means Place of a Skull” (15:22): 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull).

Christ comes into desperation, sickness, and death because He knows it leads to life. He takes on the curse of death and then He rises from the dead to bring us the blessing of life. Abundant life. Life that goes beyond our strength, beyond our reason, beyond our resources. Life that covers our desperation with the leftover crumbs of blessings and leaves us picking up the pieces, holding on to moments of wonder we never knew could happen.


CONCLUSION

A seminarian tells of a time when he was in a drug-dependency unit with a fourteen-year-old boy... fourteen years old... and in a drug dependency unit. With tears in his eyes, the seminarian says, “There I was. I didn’t know what to say, so I just told him the story of Jesus... and you know, I thought, this is crazy... I’m just a farmer out here!” He had come to the seminary from a farm in Iowa and God brought him into a drug dependency unit to be with a fourteen-year-old boy. Yes, he is just a farmer. But he has a faithful God, a God who takes His disciples into places of dying so they might experience the wonder of life.

No place, no person, no life situation is so desolate that Jesus cannot break bread there, leaving crumbs for us to pick up at the end of the day. So, with humble hearts filled with a holy awe, we enter the desolate places of this world. We don’t ignore those who are sick or hungry or in need of rest. Instead, we enter these places to serve these people, knowing that, at the end of the day, we will be on holy ground. You will find us wandering the hillside, as the day draws to a close, picking up the pieces, bowing in exhausted holy wonder, as we clean up after Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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