Pentecost 10 + July26 & 29, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin
Text: Mark 6:1-15
David was a young Hebrew shepherd. Goliath was a super-sized Philistine soldier. Goliath struck fear into the hearts of Israel’s soldiers. Goliath shamed the Israelite army with his taunting. As the army of Israel faced the Philistine army in the Valley of Elah, Goliath boasted: “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” (I Sam 17:10)
For forty days Israel’s soldiers stood there, frozen in fear. But then young David comes along. He hears Goliath’s challenge. David cannot tolerate this pagan Philistine mocking the God of Israel. So, David tells Saul, king of Israel, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; (I), your servant will go out and fight him,” (I Sam 17:32)
King Saul didn’t think diminutive David stood a chance against gigantic Goliath. But, to give David a fighting chance, King Saul gave David his own armor, helmet, sword, and battle clothes. But Saul’s warrior wear was too big for David. So, instead, David used his slingshot.
You know what happened. David met Goliath in the Valley of Elah. David let his stone fly. That stone sunk into Goliath’s forehead. Goliath fell dead. David chopped off his head. Israel rejoiced. But David gave credit where credit was due. Just before David killed Goliath, he said to him, “It is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s.” (I Sam 17:47)
Fast forward a thousand years and a hundred and twenty miles north from the Valley of Elah to a hillside on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee. A descendant of King David finds himself facing a throng of Israelites. But this Israelite army is not facing threatening taunts from a nine-foot Philistine. This army is facing a much more common enemy. They are hungry. They had come from all the towns in the area to listen to the miracle-worker. It got to be late afternoon. Then they were really hungry.
And just as young King David faced nine-foot Goliath, so this descendant of David faced what seemed like an impossible problem. How do you feed five thousand people when you are out in the middle of nowhere? Some of his friends analyzed the solution. Philip [said], "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" … Andrew… spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" (v 7, 9)
Just like King Saul thought that diminutive David did not stand a chance against gigantic Goliath, so, too, Philip and Andrew thought that there was no chance—there was no way to feed so many people in the middle of nowhere.
But eliminating the giant crowd’s hunger happened the same way David eliminated the giant Goliath. “It is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s.” (I Sam 17:47)
So, just like David did not use Saul’s armor, this descendent of David did not use the ancient Israel version of food trucks, Domino’s delivery, or even Amazon drones to drop food on the crowd. You know what happened. Saint John tells us: "Jesus said, 'Have the people sit down.'...The men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated…. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the pieces that are left over...' So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over." (v 10-13)
Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand. Jesus did not let an impossible problem stop him. Jesus did not listen to the pessimistic prognosis Andrew and Philip gave him. Like his ancestor, King David, King Jesus called on his heavenly Father. In compassion for these five thousand people and using God’s miraculous power, Jesus fed the five thousand.
But many of those five thousand people got a bad idea stuck in their head. Our text says, "After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, 'Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.' Jesus [knew] that they intended to come and make him king by force, [so he] withdrew again to a mountain by himself." (v 14)
The crowd wanted Jesus to be a bread-king. They thought, If Jesus can feed five thousand of us with two small fish and five barely loaves, then Jesus can do anything. He can heal our diseases. He can pay our bills. He can make our problems disappear. He can drive out the Romans. He can make Israel as glorious as it was a thousand years ago under King David.
Well, Jesus came to be a king, but not a bread king. And Jesus did not perform miracles so that he could be Israel’s sugar-daddy. Jesus did not come to set up an elaborate welfare program, meals on wheels, universal health care, social security, and a twenty-five shekel an hour minimum wage. Yes, Jesus performed miracles. But miracles were never Christ’s standard operating procedure. Instead, those miracles displayed Christ’s compassion for his suffering people. Those miracles also demonstrated that Christ had great power—yes, God’s almighty power—to solve problems that humans cannot possibly solve themselves.
So, we have to be careful when we consider how Jesus uses his power for our benefit. For most of our everyday problems, Jesus expects us to use the brain power and skills God gave us. So, do you have a health problem? Well, don’t expect Jesus to cure you instantly. Instead, go to the doctor. Lose weight. Start exercising. Eat better. Quit smoking. Do you have huge debt or other financial problems? Well, don’t expect Jesus to reveal the winning Powerball numbers to you in a dream. Instead, make a budget and stick to it. Stop spending money on foolish, impulsive purchases. Stop living beyond your means. The same is true for family problems, work problems, and almost every normal problem we face. Jesus never promised us a “miracle button” to press whenever we don’t feel like working out our own solutions.
However, there are some problems you can’t solve no matter what you do. You take care of your health but still get that diagnosis of terminal cancer. You love your spouse but your spouse abandons you. You manage your finances wisely but you still end up in bankruptcy. So, why doesn’t Jesus step in to help? Why doesn’t he use his miraculous power to spare your life, save your marriage, or keep you out of the poor house?
Well, Jesus allows problems to overwhelm us because all our unsolvable problems are indicators of our greatest unsolvable problem. It’s a problem more gigantic than a nine-foot Philistine. It’s a problem larger than feeding a hungry crowd. You know this problem. It is the cause of all other problems. That problem is sin and everything sin causes: pain, sorrow, suffering, disease, death, and damnation.
Sin - that’s the real problem Jesus came to solve. And Jesus is the one and only solution to your sin. But Jesus didn’t destroy sin with a sling shot and stone. Jesus destroyed sin with three nails and a wooden cross. Jesus doesn’t destroy sin by miraculously multiplying two small fish and five loaves of barley. Jesus destroys sin by multiplying God’s grace wherever sin flourishes. Jesus doesn’t destroy sin and damnation by letting you live on easy street. Jesus destroys sin once and for all when he takes you to the place where the streets are paved with gold, where the sun never sets, and where "there will be no more crying or mourning or death or pain." (Rev 21:4)
So, for the sake of your life and your salvation, don’t try to force Jesus to be the kind of king you think he should be. Let Jesus be the kind of Savior-King he came to be. This is the truth that comforts you, forgives you, and saves you: Christ rules his church his way (the right way)! When Christ rules his Church with his grace, his forgiveness, and his salvation, then you are blessed for all eternity.