Trinity 7: Christians Are Willing to Sacrifice the Temporal to Obtain the Spiritual

Lessons: Genesis 2:7-17, Romans 6:19-23, Mark 8:1-9
Hymns: LSB 616, 819, 642, 536, 561

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      In today’s Gospel, the multitude listened intently to Jesus for three days and, being so interested in hearing Him, they didn’t realize they ran out of food. Have you ever been in a situation like this? Have you ever been so preoccupied with listening to someone that you forgot how long you have been away, that you are far from home, and that you now have no food? I must say that I have never been in anything quite like that. Sometimes many hours have gone by quickly in a good conversation, but that has never lasted days. And plus, a conversation is far different than hearing one person preach for three days.

      The multitude was so busy listening to Jesus, they forgot about food. When they were running out of food, they didn’t stop to think about where their next meal would come from.

      Who does that? Aren’t we always thinking about our next meal?

      Perhaps today’s Gospel is describing more than one miracle. Of course, Jesus performs a wonderful miracle by feeding the 4,000. But it’s also a miracle that a crowd of this size would be so engrossed in Jesus’ preaching that they stay with Him for such a long time and even allow their provisions to run out.

      It really is amazing, isn’t it? Could you imagine church lasting three days—watching people grow steadfastly in the doctrine of Christ—gladly hearing the Word of God and keeping it?

      Sadly, many people find themselves getting antsy when services last five minutes past an hour. Many are tempted to tune out after the sermon has gone on for more than ten or fifteen minutes.

      I think this account shows something. The crowd recognized that Jesus’ preaching was important. They were willing to sacrifice temporal things in order to obtain spiritual things. They were willing to sacrifice their time and their meals, just so they could be with Jesus and hear His Word. Their primary concern was indeed the Word of God. They heard our Lord’s Word for it is spirit and life.

      Now consider yourself. Would you do what they did? Would you rejoice in hearing the Word proclaimed to you for days on end? If so, can you find more than ten minutes each day by reading the Bible?

      When we just want to get in and get out—get the whole church thing over with—we are demonstrating misplaced priorities. It shows how little we want to obtain spiritual things and how little we’re willing to sacrifice temporal things to obtain God’s eternal gifts.

      Now some will probably argue, “If Jesus were the One preaching to me, then I would give Him more time. I’d even spend three days listening to Him!” The trouble is, that normally didn’t even happen at the time of Christ. There are several examples in which the people could no longer tolerate our Lord’s preaching and they left Him.

      And plus, you have Jesus. Right here. He is present in His Word—the Scripture lessons which were read, the sermon which you’re now hearing, the liturgy which are mostly words of Scripture, the Lord’s Supper in which you may also feast on our Lord’s Body and Blood.

      If you don’t take up these wonderful opportunities, then you probably wouldn’t listen to Him much if He were physically present.

      We really do have Jesus. And that is a blessing. Jesus in Word and Sacrament. He’s here! So listen to Him and receive His gifts—especially His forgiveness earned for you on the cross.

      It is amazing how void of Jesus many other churches are. So many of them do not emphasize Jesus very much. If you go to a wedding and do not hear how marriage is a reflection of Christ and His Bride, the Church, that wedding missed Jesus in the most important way. If you go to a funeral and do not hear the resurrection of Christ, that funeral missed Jesus in the most important way. At some churches, you hardly hear anything about Jesus’ birth at Christmas or His Resurrection at Easter. Many TV preachers preach more about you and themselves than they will Jesus.

      For that is the easy way. But not here. “But we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). After all, Jesus alone can save you. He alone atoned for your sins. He alone died on the cross for you. He alone rose from the grave for your justification. He comes to you today in Word and Sacrament to forgive you and declare you to be a son of God!

      These are important matters. Christ is the way of your salvation. This is why we should be willing to listen to Jesus for days on end.

      Yet, we tend to turn it all upside-down. We tend to just assume that we’re all going to Heaven, so we ignore our actual spiritual needs and focus on our physical needs. But when we ignore our spiritual needs, our soul does not get fed. And when our soul is not fed by Word and Sacrament, it is bound to die. That is, when we are not concerning ourselves with matters of faith, we will lose our faith.

      We need to guard ourselves so that we do not get so wrapped up with the goings-on of this world, that we forget about the one thing needful—the Word, which Mary gladly listened to.

      I must admit that I am quite concerned about our country when it comes to our priorities. And I’m not only concerned about our country, but also those who want to be Christian. Our society is incredibly secular. Very little discussion about God’s Word takes place outside Church. Our priorities are normally on earthly things, rather than spiritual.

      And contrast this with Christians who are being persecuted in Muslim and Communist countries. Christians are dying on account of their faith! And then we sit in our easy chairs, finding little time to meditate on God’s Word, or pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. We may even find ourselves complaining that God hasn’t been generous enough to us. Repent.

      In Matthew 16:26, Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” That is the question we need to ask ourselves. “What do we really gain when we gain earthly things?” In the end, very little. And contrast that with, “What do we gain when we gain spiritual things?” In the end, eternal life. Salvation! While earthly things are nice, spiritual things are eternal.

      My friends in Christ, this is what we need to consider: If we gain earthly things and if those earthly gains bring about a loss to spiritual things, then we must consider those earthly gains as losses.

      But if we gain spiritually and endure earthly losses, then it is actually a gain.

      Let me illustrate. Say you get a great job promotion. Your pay rises dramatically. But you must relocate to a place where there are no solid churches. You take the job. You quit going to church or you attend a church that’s as shallow as those TV preachers. This scenario means you are losing spiritual things. You have lost the pure Word and the faithful administration of the sacraments. Your earthly gain with this job promotion is actually a loss.

      You could say the same if you take a job that requires you to work Sunday after Sunday. Or you could say the same at seedtime and harvest if your priorities are out in the field, rather than the ark of Christ’s Church.

      But if you gain spiritually and endure earthly losses, that is actually a gain. If you gave up a job so that you could attend the Divine Service, you are actually gaining. If you are generous with your giving to ensure that the Gospel will be preached to you, you are gaining. Or if you are generous with your giving to ensure that the Gospel will be preached to others, you are helping others gain.

      In today’s Gospel, we see the people suffering earthly losses. They ran out of food. But they were gaining spiritually. They were hearing the Word of God.

      And today’s Gospel shows that God truly takes care of those who make the Word of God their primary concern. Through His miracle, Jesus fed the 4,000. He had compassion on them. He performed an amazing miracle! Jesus simply had seven loaves of bread and a few fish. He blessed this food, and the disciples distributed it to everyone. Each person ate as much as he needed. Seven large baskets were left over.

      Jesus feeds you, too. He sees to it that you have enough food on the dinner table. Granted the food may not always fancy and nice. Sometimes you may be forced to eat beans. But you have food, which comes from our Lord’s bountiful goodness.

      God uses your labors so that you have what you need to support your bodies and lives. In fact, our work is a blessing from God, and the results of our labors are gifts from God.

      Not only does God feed your body, but He also feeds your soul. As Jesus says in John 6, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (v. 47-51). Jesus feeds your soul so that both your body and soul can live to life eternal. For by feeding you the Word of God and by feeding you our Lord’s Body and Blood, God is giving you spiritual food which strengthens your faith and prepares you to be with Him forever. By feeding you, He takes your sins away and declares you acceptable for Heaven. In Him, we have life. Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen