8th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 11) LSB #’s 901, 736, 709
Text – Mark 6:38a-b
And [Jesus] said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go & see.”
GO & SEE!
While I was in the Navy, & stationed in California, Yosemite National Park was one of my places to Go & See! The Golden Gate National Recreation Area was another place that I loved to Go & See! If you enjoy traveling &exploring, one of the things you love to do is tell people about it & you often end by saying, “You should go & see!”
However, there are times you try someplace new & end up totally disappointed by what you find. What you don’t do then is tell other people, “Hey, you got to go & see this!” But that is sort of what’s going on in the Gospel reading today.
Mark wrote that, when the apostles came back from their mission so many people were coming to see them that the apostles had no leisure even to eat. So Jesus calls them into a desolate place of wilderness that they might get away from it all & rest. That God provides rest for His people within the wilderness is a recurring theme in the Bible.
In fact, the literal rest of the wilderness generation, led by Moses & Joshua, becomes the prototype for the final rest promised to the people of God that we refer to as heaven. So the ancient hope of rest of in the wilderness will be fulfilled in a small way as Jesus gathers His disciples to a desolate wilderness place that they might be by themselves.
However, since the multitudes anticipate where Jesus is taking His disciples they beat them to the punch & are waiting for them when they arrive. Seeing the crowd, Jesus has compassion on them because He knows their leaders have failed them. They are like sheep without a shepherd – doomed to die.
After teaching them many things it had grown late. There were 5000 men there & most
likely, with women & children, another one or two people for each of the men. Leading up to this, the disciples barely had found time for themselves to eat. Now, this situation is looking desperate & the disciples are getting worried:
“…when it grew late, His disciples came to [Jesus] & said, ‘This is a desolate place, & the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside & villages & buy themselves something to eat.’” (Mark 6:35-36 ESV) That’s when Jesus replied, “How many loaves do you have? Go & see.”
And when they had found out, they said, “Five, & two fish.” (Mark 6:38c ESV) If things were desperate before, this is where it gets really depressing. Why would Jesus bother telling them to go & see? It may feel like Jesus is just setting them up to experience even more frustration & despair. That is one way of looking at it.
The summer Olympics are coming, & if you’ve watched any of that over the years you’ve seen the touching stories of athletes who have overcome incredible odds to become champions. Human beings truly are capable of overcoming tremendous obstacles, & not just in sports but in every human endeavor. And that not only can be, but it is very misleading.
Though sinful human beings like to think that we can leave our mark on the world if only we get the right breaks & apply ourselves well enough, the truth is “even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags” compared to the foolishness of God. Though we are capable of overcoming tremendous odds, not a one of us can overcome our own sinful nature.
Only Jesus Christ can grant us the new life that we receive already here, in part, & that we receive in heaven in full.
In the Gospel reading last Sunday Mark revealed what life is like outside the reign & rule of God, under the fallen & resistful reign & rule of men. Herod had the head of John the Baptist delivered on a platter because of his wife’s hatred for the man. The Gospel lesson for today reveals what life is like inside the reign & rule of a loving King instead of a self-centered king. Jesus brings food & joy to a wilderness that is normally severely lacking in either one. And not only that, but Jesus also brings food & joy to their spiritual lives.
When you or I tell someone to go & see this place or that, it’s because we believe it’s a fantastic place, not an inadequate one. Jesus tells His disciples to Go & See so that they know for certain that they are inadequate to the task because they are living in the Old Creation rather than in the New! Jesus wants them to realize that they need Him in order to have life.
As Jeremiah said in the OT lesson, the earthly shepherds that God had sent to give His people life were not doing the job. Yet, our true life here on earth, & our eternal life in paradise, depend upon our knowing the Truth. The Bible makes it clear that knowing the truth is nothing other than knowing Jesus, who Himself is the Truth.
Last Sunday, King Herod was throwing a party, a massive banquet & feast with entertaining dancers & who knows what else. This Sunday, Jesus hosts a feast in the wilderness with nothing but five loaves of bread & two fish. Which banquet would you have attended? Once we discover that we are inadequate, we need to find a solution.
Jesus offers life, but often it is hidden under the appearance of this broken world. Satan offers death, but he disguises it as life. Being a child of God is not easy. We do not live in a safe world, even though we are safe as long as we remain under God’s wings. That safety is something our saintly nature loves to experience, & also loves to tell others to Go & See. Amen.
Consider how the birds above feed day by day with carefree ease – does God not keep them in His love? Are we not worth much more than these? Set not your heart on food or drink, nor be weighed down by worldly care; about such things the godless think, yet never thank the Lord in prayer. Be not afraid to suffer loss of all the things for which you pray, for He who faced for you the cross will give you strength to live each day. Seek first God’s reign, His boundless grace, and His holy name in all you do: Christ first & last in every place; all else will be given you. Amen. LSB 736:1, 3, 5-6.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet