Sermon for Sunday July 22nd, 2018, the Eighth Sunday after Trinity

 

The Lessons: Psalm 23; Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The Text: Mark 6:30-34

The Topic: Living with Jesus Christ as Lord

INTRODUCTION

The Allied soldiers gathered many hungry, homeless children after World War II and placed them in large camps. The children were abundantly fed and cared for. However, at night they did not sleep well; they seemed restless and afraid.

Finally, a psychologist offered a solution. After the children were put to bed, they each received a slice of bread. If they wanted more to eat, they could have it, but this particular slice was not to be eaten — it was just to hold.

The slice of bread produced marvelous results. The child would go to sleep, subconsciously feeling there was something to eat tomorrow. That calmed the child.

In Psalm 23 David says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Instinctively, the sheep knows the shepherd has made plans for its grazing. He knows the shepherd has made ample provision, so he will lie down in peace, with the piece of bread in his hand.

— Charles L. Allen,
God’s Psychiatry (Revell, 1988) [1]

SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD

When the twelve Apostles return to Jesus after their mission to the villages and towns of Israel, He immediately calls them apart to a desert place, so that they may rest a while. But the crowds, seeing him and his disciples leaving by ship, run ahead of him on foot to his destination. Instead of being annoyed at the crowds for leaving him and his disciples no space or time to rest, the Lord Jesus is moved with compassion at the sight of them, “because they were as sheep not having a shepherd” (Mark 6:34b).

How is it that the crowds were as sheep without a shepherd? They were leaderless, spiritually. Their secular rulers were no spiritual guides, and their religious leaders were increasing their burden by adding so many rules and laws to their daily living. This lack of leadership had been a long standing issue in ancient Israel, since even the prophet Jeremiah had declared, “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:1). In the quotation from Jeremiah, the Lord is addressing the kings, the elders, the priests, and leaders of Israel. There had been a dearth of godly and righteous leaders who cared for the people.

In the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, the Lord Jesus Christ himself assesses the situation in detail in these words:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

(John 10:7-11, KJV)

In declaring that He was both the door of the sheep and the good shepherd, Jesus showed the world that He is the only shepherd who gives salvation and life to people, and the only one who has their eternal salvation and life at heart. The phrase “thieves and robbers” describes all the leaders that ever came before Jesus, since none of them ever was completely unselfish, completely altruistic as He alone is, and all of them had some purpose to benefit materially from those whom they led. The history of ancient Israel and Judah under the kings that reigned from the time of Rehoboam and Jeroboam to Jehoiachin and Zedekiah testifies eloquently to their rebellion against God’s laws and the failure of these kings to exemplify true loyalty to God.

Now how did Jesus’ compassion on these multitudes translate into action? We read that He started teaching them many things (Mark 6:34). After his teaching, Jesus miraculously fed these thousands that had sought him out. He blessed five loaves and two fishes, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to give to the people. Thereby he revealed himself as the Life-giver and Good Shepherd who cares for his people. But his action of teaching the crowds many things is the main thing that begins to bring them out of their leaderless state of being like sheep without a shepherd. By teaching them many things, Jesus begins to give them the wisdom and knowledge they need to live life under God’s rule and guidance.

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD

Not everyone among those multitudes could say with King David, “The Lord is my Shepherd” Psalm 23:1), which is really admitting that the Lord is one’s King, or Ruler, or Supreme Guide.

Many people in those days, as do many today, prefer to live their lives as they please, rather than under the sovereignty, or rule, of the Lord. Sheep must hear the voice of their shepherd calling them one way or the other, or be chased and rounded up by sheepdogs. At other times, sheep must graze quietly, and not wander away willfully from the flock, and put their lives in danger.

How, then, shall we live under Christ’s leadership, as sheep led by the Good Shepherd?

We must know and hear his voice, his call, to prayer, and to the study of the Bible. We must follow where his Spirit leads us, and do whatever he calls us to do, living a life of obedience to God. A reading of Psalm 23 will help us appreciate a Christian way of life under Christ’s lordship. The essence of such a life is to place ourselves in the Lord’s hands, trusting him, obeying him, and being led by him. The Lord does all the rest: fulfills our needs, causes us to lie in green pastures, gives us rest beside still waters, restores our soul, and leads us in righteous ways for his name’s sake, accompanying us in all trials, prepares a richly supplied table for us in the presence of our enemies, causing goodness and mercy to follow us all our lives, and establishing us in His house forever (Ps. 23:1-6).

CONCLUSION

If we are living such a life under the lordship of Jesus Christ, abiding in his presence, we shall be well equipped to begin to lead others to the point of turning away from a futile, sinful and selfish way of life to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and to the newness of life under his dominion.



[1] p. 463, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

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