July 29, 2012
9th Weekend after Pentecost
Pastor Don Sutton
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (NIV1984)
Do you ever feel devalued? There’s a lot being said these days about people feeling that they aren’t valued. Unions are feeling devalued because of weakened bargaining rights and decline in membership. Workers are feeling devalued because new technologies negated the need for them. People feel devalued when they accomplish things and contribute to the greater good of the family, the team, the organization or the business, but others don’t seem to notice and appreciate these accomplishments or contributions. Elderly people, whose capabilities and activities have been diminished greatly by age, illness or injury, often feel devalued. When young people are left out of an activity important to them, they often feel devalued. Sometimes we devalue ourselves.
As we focus on today’s gospel reading from Mark 6, a truth and comfort that grab our attention is
… Jesus Highly Values People … his people … other people.
… his people
As part of Jesus’ ministry training program, he paired his disciples – the apostles – and sent them to preach his word and perform miracles. Jesus had told them they could count on his word working with the result that people would take care of them. But he also indicated that there might be those who wouldn’t welcome the disciples or accept their message. He told them to warn them.
When the disciples returned, they had much to tell – of miracles God had made possible, of messages well-received, or of people who welcomed them. But there were likely also some sad stories of doors closed, hearts closed and failures in carrying out Jesus’ mission.
Jesus listened to them all the reports of “all that they had done and taught.” We don’t know how long the disciples were gone. But what if it was a week or two? Twelve disciples times seven to fourteen days times who knows how many events each disciple had to tell … you can do the math. Those of you parents who have been away from the children for a few days, especially if you have a larger family, you know what it’s like when you return home. There are a lot of things to hear. You know how important it is to listen to each child and each story. Jesus shows his disciples how valuable they are to him even though there is a lot to hear and he probably has a lot on his mind. He has received news that King Herod has killed Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, because John had called Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife, ungodly.
Jesus shows how highly he values his people by taking time to listen to his disciples. He also shows this value in another way. He tells the disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Things were busy. Jesus and his team were working over-time with no breaks, no lunch, no time off. Being a good steward of time and health, Jesus saw it was time for a break. In doing so he was telling his disciples, “I care about you. I love you. I value you.”
With this account what is Jesus telling us about how he values and cares for us? This isn’t a case where the day described in this account was the disciple’s lucky day and we, his people of today, are plum out of luck. From today’s Hebrew’s 13 reading recall those words … “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (v.8).” He still values and cares for you, me and all people who believe in him as their Lord and Savior.
But because of our sinful nature sometimes we may devalue one another. Sometimes we may feel devalued not only by people but by our Lord. We may feel we are faithfully living for and serving the Lord. But tough times set in. We may be tempted to think, “This is unfair. Doesn’t God value me? Doesn’t he value how I live for him and how I’m serving him? Does he value at all the sacrifices I make for him?” At times we may struggle in handling circumstances into which the Lord has placed us. We may think, “I can’t do this … I’m failing… I’m all alone.” We may conclude, “The Lord must not think much of me!”
What’s happening? Our sinful nature has put our faith in a choke hold and is trying to cut off the needed air of Jesus’ promises and love to which our faith holds. The devil and the demons are nearby yelling to the sinful nature, “Squeeze!” And to you and me, “Doubt!” The result is that we fall into the sin of devaluing Jesus’ love and high value he places on us. We slowly let Satan and sin choke off the life with Jesus the Holy Spirit has given us. If we don’t break free that life will die. Then, so will we … not only spiritually but also eternally in hell.
How does one break free? First of all, see the deadliness of doubt and devaluing the Lord’s love and value he puts on you. Then think of how Jesus received his disciples after their out-of-town internships. He not only listened to the successes, he also heard the failures – the times the disciples failed to share God’s law with people who needed to hear it, or to tell people of God’s love in Jesus, or to heal, or to trust Jesus’ assurance that people to whom they ministered would care for them. Jesus didn’t fire them. He didn’t fry them in the fires of hell. He forgave them because he was perfectly doing for them what he in his law demanded of them. He was perfectly valuing his people. Jesus forgave them because he would suffer their “hell” for them … in a while … on a cross … at Calvary …to pay for all their sins.
This Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, is the Savior who also says to you, “I highly valued my people for you. I am the payment for your sins, your doubts, and your devaluing me and my word. I forgive you. I highly value you.”
This high value the Lord puts on you and the love for you, gives you the power to give your sinful nature an elbow in the gut and break free from its choke-hold. This value gives power to resist the temptations of the devil. Jesus promises, “I am for you everything you need to be for me; I forgive your sins; and, I highly value you.” Therefore, when tough times come, trust that it’s not because you are of no value or low value to the Lord. Trust that the Lord loves you, values you and is working good in your life. Go to him in prayer. Share with him your cares and struggles. Ask for his guidance. Request his help. As he listened to his disciples, he listens to you.
At the same time value and take care of yourself. Eat well. Exercise well. Rest well. Relax well. Jesus shows how important this is. Also take in the nourishment of God’s word and Holy Communion. There along with a lot of blessings, the Lord says to us, “We are at peace. I highly value you.”
… other people
Jesus and his disciples did get away for some R&R. They took a boat from northwest side of the Sea of Galilee to the northeast side. But their get-away was short-lived. People … many people from the area … saw Jesus’ team set off across the lake. These people, rather than hopping on boats and sailing cross the sea, ran around the north end. Mark’s gospel sounds like the people got to the other side ahead of Jesus. But John’s gospel indicates Jesus and disciples were already on the other side when the crowd came. Since the Greek verb used Mark can mean to “go ahead”, it may be that for a time the crowds were going faster than Jesus and the disciples and got ahead of them. But since the people had farther to go, they arrived later than Jesus and the disciples.
But when Jesus saw them, gone was the R&R. “…He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
What do you know about sheep? I’ve never raised them and no offense to those of you who do. But my understanding is that sheep are needy. Without someone to guide them, they wander and get lost. Without someone to protect them they are vulnerable and prey for wild animals. Without someone to take them to good grazing land when it’s not readily available, they starve and die.
The people whom Jesus saw on the countryside were needy, vulnerable and spiritually starved. Their teachers weren’t spiritually feeding them food and drink that were good for them. They weren’t protecting them. These shepherds were leading these human sheep away from God and toward eternal destruction.
Sizing up the situation, Jesus was deeply concerned for these people. He highly valued them. “So he began teaching them many things (v. 34).” With his attitude and with his actions, Jesus showed these people, probably many of whom were not his people through faith in him, that he still highly valued them.
Here Jesus is challenging us and our attitude – “How do you feel about people who right now are not part of the kingdom of God?” He’s saying to us, “Those whom I highly value, you highly value too.” By example he is emphasizing how important it is that we own and carry out his command to make disciples of all nations.”
In our congregation many do own and strive to carry out Jesus’ Great Commission. I thank God for this. But do all of us? Or do some take the attitude, “We have enough work to do and support just taking care of our St. Paul’s families”? Do some of us feel that evangelism in our community and mission work in the world aren’t important? If so, why? Isn’t it because we devalue the high value Jesus puts on “other people,” those outside the Lord’s family? So we don’t put a high value on “the other people.” As a result we don’t do and support with our prayers and offerings what Jesus wants. Folks, if this is happening, this is rebellion against God. This is damnable.
This is also reason that Jesus not only had to sacrifice R&R for these other people, but also had to sacrifice himself for us and for all people. This same Mark, who recorded this account in his Spirit-inspired Gospel, also recorded the crucifixion of Jesus. Recall that while Jesus was on the cross, he sacrificed the enjoyment of fellowship and peace with his Father as he was going through that period when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (15:34) This sacrifice, combined with Jesus’ perfectly putting a high value on all people, gives God the reason to say through me as you leave church: “Go in peace. I will bless and keep you. I will make my face shine upon you and be gracious to you. I will look upon you with favor and give you peace.”
See your value In the Lord’s eyes. See the value of people in our Lord’s eyes and what it moved him to do. Pray that people who don’t know Jesus come to know him. Tell others of the high value they have in Christ and what it moved Jesus to do for them. Pray for and support our St. Paul’s ministry. Pray for and support the mission efforts we do through our synod. As Jesus says, “I highly value you and all people,” strive to do the same.