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Mark Airey

Matt. 14:13-21

Compassion Incarnate!

Pentecost 11

Focus:  God miraculously feeds those who hunger with compassion.

Function:  That the hearers accept Christ’s compassionate gifts.

Sermon Structure:  Text-Application

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

In our text this morning, we hear that Jesus withdrew from the people.  Withdrew from them.  Isn’t that odd?  Usually we think of God coming to the people, coming for the people, but here Jesus withdrew.  What would cause that and what does that means for us today.  As we look at the account of the feeding of the five thousand in Matthew, Jesus has been traveling quite a bit before arriving in Nazareth.  [DS1] He has been preaching and teaching at a hectic pace.  He had been teaching when he was told of John the Baptist being beheaded.  This has evidently affected Him and He now clearly wants to retreat to be alone.  All that He desires to do is get away from the throngs of people for a little while!  This is not a time of joy and easiness for our savior.  He has just heard of what happened to John, and he “withdrew.”  He takes a boat and goes to a “solitary place.”  The bottom line is plain in His actions; he wants to be alone right now!

Sure enough the crowds follow Him.  They still wanted to be healed or hear more of His teaching.  I can understand wanting to be healed, but can they not see that Jesus wants to be alone at this time.  Can’t you just picture these “followers” selfishly dragging their inflicted afflicted relatives around the shore of the lake chasing after Jesus?  [DS2] They are probably envisioning this as a last opportunity to finally get their poor aunt Harriet healed so that they can have their one room place to themselves!  Then there is Jesus, wanting dearly to be alone, and fleeing on a boat to get away.  Does He depart from these throngs further around the lake?  No, this is not what He does!  This is where we see who Jesus is.  This is where we see what Jesus and His ministry is all about!  This is where our text tells us that, “He had compassion on them.”  He went ahead and healed the sick and ministered to the needs of the people...  This compassion is displayed even at a time when we see Jesus in a reclusive frame of mind.

[DS3] As we’ve seen, Jesus didn’t turn the crowd away.  On the contrary, he welcomed them, loved them, and he served them by healing their sick.  We see examples of His compassion throughout the other gospel accounts of this miracle in the New Testament[DS4] .  Let’s look at these other accounts found in Mark and Luke.  In Mark’s gospel Jesus describes the crowds as “sheep without a shepherd.”  Luke tells us that Jesus started to teach them about the Kingdom of God.  You can see that each of the gospels recognized the compassion that Jesus had on the people.  Jesus’ heart went out to these people, and he truly had compassion upon them.

Then, as evening approached, His love overflowed.  [DS5] The disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”  There was nowhere to get food, for they were in a desolate place.  Even if they could buy food, the price for so many people to eat and be satisfied would have been quite expensive. But Jesus didn’t send the crowd away to find their own food; he had compassion on them and he fed them all by performing a miracle.  [DS6] Jesus requires nothing of the people. He doesn’t require payment or work. Jesus takes care of their needs. He doesn’t require them to go away to someplace else to take care of themselves.  No, Jesus asks that the two fish and the five loaves be brought to Him and he blesses them and, in an act of love, He feeds His people.  It was a miracle so great that our text tells us that they all ate and they were all satisfied and full.  There was even food leftover, even more than they started with!

Jesus also takes this opportunity to compassionately teach His disciples during this same event. [DS7] When they told Jesus that he should send the crowd away to the villages for food he tells them, “They do not need to go away, You give them something to eat!”  “Oh, no,” they must have thought, “now we’ve done it!” “How are we going to feed all these people?” “It’s just impossible!”  Instead of saying, “Yes Jesus, you lead the way and we will follow,” they made excuses – “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish for 5,000 men and all the women and children.”  They lacked faith in Jesus as the provider that He had been all along, and they lacked understanding of who He was and what He was sent to do.  Yet…Jesus had compassion on them.

Jesus gives the disciples the opportunity to display their faith. But do they really understand who he is and the power he commands?  In any case, they bring the meager offering of two fish and five loaves of bread.  Then Jesus teaches them, he includes them in this wonderful miracle. [DS8] That’s what our great God does, he includes us also in this work of love and compassion. Don’t we grumble sometimes when our Lord tells us [DS9] - They do not need to go away – you take care of them?  Don’t we lament and complain that God is asking the impossible. Does God realize just how many hours there are in the day?  I mean how many of you have said or heard, “Hey, that’s not my job,” or “I really don’t have time to help other people anyway,” or “Nothing I can do will really make a difference.”  As you can plainly see, Jesus did show compassion for his disciples even in an apparent time of resistance.  This is a time when they are able to provide for their brothers and sisters through the power of Jesus.  They are made able to display His power through their hands.

I know when I have been able to help others in a time of need I am richly affected[DS10] .  When we used to have a day called “HOP” day, which stood for “Help other People,” I would come away from the event as if it were a mountaintop experience.  How could I know that raking leaves or painting a fence for a shut in would make me feel this incredible high.  I felt as though I had somehow had come closer to Christ through the act of helping others.  This is the purest form of Christian giving that I know of.  I believe He teaches us through these kinds of acts.  When we are able to give our gifts, through the power of Christ, directly to someone in need.  This is a time when Christ is compassionately helping us to understand what He is all about.  This is a time when He is compassionately teaching us of His love for His people.

He has compassion on us as He did for the people that were fed and as He did for the disciples[DS11] .  In his great love he provides daily bread for us just as he fed the crowd of 5,000 and when He compassionately teaches us dispite despite our lack of understanding. Although we sometimes take all of the “things” that we have for granted, Christ continues to truly care for our physical needs. In times of flood, famine, and natural catastrophes, we see how frail and needy we really are.  It is only by His hand that we have all that we need to sustain this life.  For it is God who causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. As the psalmist says in our psalm for today, “God’s love endures forever.”  He does wondrous things, He has created us, He takes care of us, and continues to feed all of His creatures. He does this out of pure love and compassion for His creation.

This compassion that is displayed reminds us of our Old Testament reading in which Isaiah writes: “Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”  We can see that this is a prophecy of the coming of Christ.  We are being told of a provider of waters that will quench our thirst.  Isaiah tells us of a provider of not only physical food, but of spiritual food for His people.  [DS12] We are also being told of a compassionate provider that requires no payment for his thirst quenching sustainance.  This prophecy is fulfilled in Christ the Messiah.  Christ bids all people to come, to be not only physically fed, but, in the case of this miracle, spiritually fed.  Even though they have nothing, they need nothing.  In these words from Isaiah and in this miracle of compassion for the crowd, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the cross.  For He is the one who provides the food of salvation with His very own body and blood.  He is the one to pay the enormous price and to provide the food and the drink in this miraculous banquet.  He will be the one in a desolate place dying for your sins and mine.

Just as the crowds did not need to depart from Jesus out in that lonely place, you need not depart from Him either.  You need to be near your Savior always; as you worship in his church, and stay in His word; as you come to him with repentant hearts and lay your petitions before Him in prayer.  To intentionally stay away from your Lord is deadly.  To be near Him and receive his gifts is life[DS13] .

For Christ is here for you and for me in His church.  He comes to you in His Word and speaks words of compassion and forgiveness to your troubled hearts.  He also comes to you today in the bread and wine at His feast at the altar.  In this meal he has fed millions as he feeds you in this salutary gift that forgives sins and strengthens our faith.

[DS14] You see, Jesus loves you so much and has so much compassion for you that he willingly died for your sins.  He went away from the Father on the cross and became sin for you so that you will never have to go away and be separated from God. As Paul asks the question in our epistle today – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Paul’s answer?  No One! …neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus in his great compassion says you need not ever go away. In His great compassion he wants you to remain with Him always. Through the compassionate love of God we can rejoice in our Savior who has made us heirs of an eternal kingdom.  Amen.


            You have done a good job here in revising your sermon.  I can see how you have carefully edited out all references to the people, all of those moral nuggets that broke into the retelling of the story in the other sermon, and allowed us to have a singular focus on the retelling of the story and then a movement into application in our lives.  That’s great.  Also, I can see how you have used a major teaching (God has compassion) to allow you to make the bridge from the text to its application among you people.  That’s good.  That is precisely how you want to handle the text application design.  You allow your retelling of the text to establish a teaching and then you allow that teaching to become the bridge that leads you from the text to your hearers – so good work!  Finally, you have done well here in beginning to become more concrete with your hearers.  I appreciate your use of the HOP day example.  It offers some very concrete reference (in a story of participation) to the goal of the sermon.  Good job. 

            Now, in terms of improving your work, you will want to think about what you do in terms of the ordering of the material in your text and your application and the integration of them together thematically.  In terms of the ordering of the material, in your text section, you are following the narrative flow of the text.  That’s good.  As you do that, you offer us thematic statements that highlight the theme for us.  That is precisely what you want to do.  You retell the story but you also offer enough teaching along with the retelling for us to gain a sense of the major theme.  Unfortuately, however, the story tends to become somewhat disjointed as you reorder the narrative event.  You have Jesus feed the people and then you return to the disciples and focus upon their need to get bread.  For the hearers this will be a little confusing.  You will want to follow the flow of the text in this case.  If you were working with a propositional sermon, you could reorder the event so that we could learn different things from this text but as you are working with text application, you will want to retell the text with an emphasis on the theme and allow the story to flow natrually for us as hearers.  

            In terms of ordering your material in the hearer application section, you seem to jump right into the experience of sanctification in this sermon before you ever proclaim our justification before God.  Notice that you will want to follow the order or justification and then sanctification.  What happens is you allow your movement into application to flow from the last point in the text rather than from the main idea you have communicated through this text.  You will want a stronger transition from the text into application and I would suggest you use a restatement of your major theme about God having compassion.  Once you allow that theme to carry us over, you then move into the proclamation of how this applies to us.  Here, I would start with your idea of God having compassion on us physically and then spiritually.  This will lead you into the gospel proclamation.  After that, you can then move into how his compassion also includes us in compassionate service to others.  In this way, his love overflows.

            In addition to reordering, you will want to think about integrating the ideas you have highlighted in your retelling of the story into your application.  As you tell the story, you select certain details and emphasize them for a reason.  You want us to be able to recall certain things as you move in application to our lives.  This recall does not need to be a one to one correspondence but there should be some remembrance, some echo of what went before.  So, for example, you stress that Jesus withdrew in the opening of the sermon.  As you close the sermon, you may want to point out that now God is no longer withdrawing but going out into the world through us.  You also stress that selfish people come to God and he helps them anyway.  You may want to point out that compassion of God, regardless of our motives, in your section on God’s love in providing physically for all people.  These types of connections will help the hearers recognize how the whole sermon holds together well and be able to remember and reflect on the telling of the story as you enter into application. 

            You have done well in revision to clarify the movement from text to application in this sermon and you are beginning to work effectively with retelling a story so that we are aware of the major theme and also with using concrete examples in your application to the hearers.  Good work.  More work on law/gospel application (the ordering of the application section), the ordering of yoru textual section, and coherence in terms of the various parts of the sermon will strengthen your work. 

Grade:  B

 [DS1]It always seems strange to start a text application sermon with an immediate movement into the text but you are doing it well here.  You just want to start with the text and get the hearers involved in the story of the text.  Now, the one thing that you may want to keep in mind is that interest is often evoked by some sense of conflict or some strangeness that has not been seen before in a text.  Since that is the case, it is usually helpful to begin with some moment of conflict or strangeness as you enter into the story.  That will create interest for the hearers.  For example, you could say something like “In our text this morning, we hear that Jesus withdrew from the people.  Withdrew from them.  Isn’t that odd?  Usually we think of God coming to the people, coming for the people, but here Jesus withdrew.  What would cause that and what does that means for us today.”  This way, you are able to create an interest in this text and slowly take us into its events. 

 [DS2]Here, you desire to emphasize the selfish nature of the followers of Jesus.  The point, I assume, is that Jesus has compassion on us regardless of whether or not we are coming to him for the right reasons.  Now, if you are going to spend time developing this idea, you will also want to make sure that there is some use of this idea later in the sermon in application.  Part of the art of text/application is making sure that the points you highlight in the text are also highlighted in the application later on in the sermon.  That is, you are careful in how you retell the story so that you can later use the things you have caused us to think about in application of the significance of the story to the people. 

 [DS3]Nice, good job here.  Here, you are able to clarify the point you are trying to make for us and you carefully explain it. 

 [DS4]I am still not sure of why you need this reference to the other accounts.  You seem to have made your point and I am wondering what you think this reference adds to the sermon. 

 [DS5]Great!  Here, you allow us to see a transition into the next portion of the story by emphasizing an increasing love of Jesus.  What you are doing here is allowing your theme (God’s compassion) to form the main idea of the retelling of the story and to help us progress forward in the movement of the narrative.  Good work.

 [DS6]Here is where I think you will want to move your later material about Jesus’ interaction with the disciples.  Help us see his compassion on the disciples, involving them in his miracle, and then close with the vision of his overflowing love.  That way, the narrative itself will remain strong as we make our way through the sermon.  Otherwise, we have this strange matter of the story being told and then you going back and adding more details to the story so that the narrative events are all out of order. 

 [DS7]This is the material you will want to move forward.  If you were using a propositional sermon and offering us three teachings about Jesus having compassion, then you would be able to do this since the movement of the sermon would be on the basis of the three kinds of compassion we have.  But since this is text/application, the movement should be the flow of the story. 

 [DS8]It seems to me that you will want to close the story at this point and then make a clear transition into the application portion of the sermon.  The way to close the story is to offer us a statement of the main theme that you have emphasized through your retelling of the story and then allow that theme to be the bridge that brings you from the story to us today. 

 [DS9]This seems like an odd place to begin your application.  Here, you begin your application not with what God does for us but what we are doing for God and, in this case, how we grumble about it.  Instead, you will want to start with your application of the idea that God has compassion to us.  This, obviously, will involve the law/gospel proclamation and it may be that here is where you can offer your connection to selfishness and selfish people.  We have a God who comes among us and shares his love regardless of how sinful we have been.  He calls all of us to repentance and shares upon all of us his love. 

 [DS10]Good, here you offer us a concrete example of the type of sharing in compassion that you are seeking to use in your application.  Concrete examples are great and you do well here to offer us a story of participation.  Good job.  The only problem, at this point, is that this comes before the gospel proclamation rather than after.  It would be nice to have sanctification flow from justification in the sermon (Walther, Thesis 7).

 [DS11]Mark, notice here how this is actually the transition that you will want to use earlier in the sermon when you move from the story into application.  Here you summarize the main point of the story and now make a movement to your hearers. 

 [DS12]Good, here you are at least using this prophecy to help bring us from the physical care you preach about in the last paragraph to the spiritual care that is the proclamation of the gospel.  Otherwise, the jump into Isaiah seems rather odd. 

 [DS13]Here, notice how you may want to allow this encouragement to be in church to flow from the gospel rather than be a warning flowing from the law.  To do this, think about making God the subject and his invitation and his desire for us to be what we hear.  That is, we hear at this point how God desires to care for us and therefore invites us to come to him every day in our private prayers and on Sundays in the community of faith.  Here, you may want to think about helping us see the contrast here with the God who withdrew in the lesson, otherwise you may have people wondering if God ever gets tired of us and wants to just withdraw from us.  Notice how this will help you begin to link the way you told the story to the application you offer. 

 [DS14]It is here, after the proclamation of the gospel, and before the concluding summary of the sermon on the gospel, that you will want to offer us the proclamation that deals with our sanctification ( your story of HOP day). 

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