“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In all seriousness that could be the whole of our message today because those words “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” sum up and entail the whole truth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Not looking from afar, but coming down from paradise unspoilt, restraining himself that He walk this earth to feel hunger, hurt, earthly judgement, and fear- as seen when in the Garden of Gethsemane before His walk to the cross ask His Father “if there is another way”, yet only to know and feel what must have been a heartbreaking and loneliness greater than any before or after has felt when, on the cross, judged for our sins and in His death throws cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His cry given further poignancy in Psalm 22 with the verse
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?”
Could there have been another way? Probably, but not probable when we consider the Love and compassion of our Triune God. Of God The Father, Of Jesus Christ His Son and of The Holy Spirit. The love as seen in Jesus when on His travels he could not help but cure those hurting who came before Him. The love as seen in Jesus who in seeing the pain of those suffering the loss of a loved one, wept alongside them as Lazarus lay lifeless.
Jesus on His walk felt our joys, and felt our pain because of the compassion of God the Father who said no, there is no other way than for me to send My Son Jesus to not just understand our plight and feel sorry for the broken, but for My Son to sit in the muck and the mud and have our pain as His own.
The compassion we heard of again today to “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
The same compassion for us now in the reality of God-with-us in Christ Jesus. The Shepherd-King Jesus, here, His real presence – with us and ruling in our lives.
That is the Shepherd-King. Yet it is an unusual biblical concept and in a sense it is a paradox because we associate the shepherd with a certain simplicity, humility, gentleness, nurturing nature – and the king with power and authority. And, the truth is, whenever we think ‘king’ we first go to power and authority, though we learned well in David, that God chose the simple, humble, gentle, nurturing shepherd to be king. And yes, we might say, but he defeated Goliath! And so object – only to be corrected that actually David, himself, confidently strode out not to defeat Goliath, but to serve God by trusting that God will be God amongst it all.
It is a paradox.
The paradox of the Shepherd-King doesn’t get simpler when we think of the kingdom. Or does it?
In today’s Gospel – and in this 6th chapter of Mark – Jesus has basically been pushed out of his home town, Nazareth, but he stays – teaching and caring for people, he sends out his followers to do the same thing, he receives the horrific news that his cousin John has been killed, he is hounded by crowds of people in trouble and each time he tries to get away for a bit someone else needs him, he rescues his disciples from a storm to get to the other side of the lake and there he is immediately surrounded by more who are suffering – the ‘King’ is rejected, threatened, hounded – yet the Shepherd remains and, in the middle of all that: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” or, as stated in the actual Gospel reading, “When Jesus … saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
He had compassion on them.
The paradox of the Shepherd King that sees Him do the unthinkable and let people like us, the one’s He came to save from hurt and judgement then take that same message to the “crowds” He sends before us. The people searching for meaning and those knowing but still hurting.
I was working with a young girl with quite severe physical impairment and in discussing I remember her saying that “everyone’s got something it’s just that mines on show for all to see.”
She was right and my mind goes back to our visit to Sydney last week and seeing a homeless beggar on every street. Seemingly nothing in life but the shirt on their back and a few coins put in a hat by passer-by’s. Yet the compassion that saw the first we come across and after a young boy put his last forty dollars in his hat was asked by the recipient, by the one in need if he was sure he could afford to be so generous.
It was a wonderful exchange to see. But an exchange that only lead to hurt fifty metres later when there was another, then another, and then another that saw my heart bleed in the hurt that that boy felt in not having anything left to give.
The poor and homeless are like that girl said, there struggling for all to see and yet not alone in their struggles as seen in the lives of the rich and powerful who though they may wine and dine without need, still search like those words of Neil Diamond in his song I am, I said where he sings
“L.A.’s fine, the sun shines most the time
And the feeling is “lay back”
Palm trees grow and rents are low
But you know I keep thinkin’ about
Making my way back
Well I’m New York City born and raised
I’m lost between two shores
L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home
New York’s home,
But it ain’t mine no more
I am”… I cried “I am”… said I
And I am lost and I can’t
Even say why
Leavin’ me lonely still”
Hurt in this world is not just for one type but cover all collars, creeds and levels of society. It’s not picky and while we should help those in need we know from our own experiences that it’s all patches and fingers in a leaking damn unless the hope leads to Christ.
The hope that leads to Christ to know enjoyment amongst our troubles, and the hope in Christ that leads to simply being able to put one foot in front of the other when all seems lost: like that of the gentleman who approaching for food and while eating said I’ve tried all my life to beat alcohol but I can no longer and have given up the fight and now only ask that Jesus forgive me.
The hope that saw a legendry missionary return and upon being asked of his success remarked “yes many have been saved, but who will save me?”
Real life people who regardless of position and outward appearance need to hear like we do over and over again that: God so loved the world, that God so loves you, that He gave His one and only Son to die.
And so, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the Word of the Lord to you, because the King is on his throne, and the Shepherd has his arms wrapped around you. You can go out today and rest in that; you can go and base your whole life on that, on that foundation. The fact that you can do that is because of the will of God and the act of God. You are the Shepherd’s loved sheep; you are the King’s loved subject… so that, as Luther put it, “I can belong to him, and he can rule over me as my king. I can live under him and serve him, innocent and happy forever, just as he was raised to life, and lives and rules forever.” This is the complete story when it comes to God’s kingdom: he establishes his gracious rule; we live in that grace.
Interestingly, I read that The kingdom of the Shepherd-King is not, as has crept into the language of the church with great popularity something that we help to build. You will hear the phrase ‘build God’s kingdom’ quite a bit and the intention is good, but there is also the danger that it starts to shape our thinking about the nature of God’s kingdom because in itself it is not a biblical concept because though the New Testament is full of references to God’s kingdom, there is never anything remotely like a suggestion that you and I have anything to do with building that kingdom, or establishing that kingdom, or preserving that kingdom, or protecting that kingdom.
We ‘inherit’ it – as a gift; we ‘receive’ it – as a gift; we are ‘brought into’ it – as the work of God; we ‘enter’ it through the gift of baptism; we ‘serve’ when we are already in it, because we’ve been brought into it; we ‘see’ it because we are in it. But nowhere does the New Testament suggest we build it, grow it, maintain it or prosper it.
God’s kingdom comes, God’s will is done because God is God. The creator made us and claims us and rules over us; in the gracious life, death and resurrection of Jesus. A claim, A kingdom, A reality that is reiterated and emphasized! And a truth that lets us pray, that this might also be done among us – that the reality might also be evident in our lives, seen by us, recognized by us and lived by us.
Nearing the end of our seminary a Pastor and qualified lecturer in the field of the subject being, that being essentially three months of group and individual psyche type tests. Well two months he said “well you’re done and though I’ve cannot fully understand you or you seem to cope, it does seem you do, so we can either finish up today or do whatever you want.” I replied “that we might as well still meet because I enjoyed his company and so we talked about sport, the world and such stuff. But then one day after remarking that he had been in the church and its work all his life, asked me of what it’s like in “the real world?”
I replied that I’ve had just as much help in times of need from those outside the church as those within and I gave him a scenario that I had been part of.
There was this man who slept out the front of the seminary at night times and I made it my quest to befriend him, bring him a coffee and a snack and eventfully talk about our Lord and eventually I did get the courage up to give him a bible. To which he responded “well I might just throw it in the bin”. To which I responded “well at least use it as a pillow.” Low and behold next day he told me two things, the first that he was baptised and the second, that the bible I gave him had some long words to which then lead me to discover that the bible I had grabbed off the pile was an old King James version.
Anyway, not long after a very good friend was visiting me and staying the night. Well not to be distracted I asked to be excused so that I could visit the bench fellow. “To which he said “no worries, I’ll come with you”.
I used to stay for about ten minutes. But not this night as from the start to finish did my friend show nothing of being intimidated or uncomfortable, but instead talked of farming, of cattle and sheep due to the bench man’s previous occupation of a butcher and all manner of stuff over the next hour or so.
And so there we are, the other two talking as if they had known each other for years, and me enjoying it but also sought of wanting to move on and get back to our own party so to speak.
And with this in mind I realized about the nature of how the kingdom comes and how the kingdom is in the world around us – not as something we have to define and put in place, but as something that exists because of what the Creator and Saviour has declared and shown as Shepherd-King, then this immediately places us not outside, apart from, separated from people all around us in our community, but in their midst – we live in the middle of God’s kingdom of grace established in his world, by his love for the world.
God’s kingdom said of so well in this story we read in bible study at Gil.
A man was visiting a very poor area in a foreign country when he saw a little girl playing in the rubbish. She had no shoes and her face was fifthly. Someone commented, “How is it possible for her mother to let her live that way? It is deplorable. The leader of the group, who came from the neighbourhood, said, “That little girl is dearly loved by her mother, but her mother has no knowledge of or love for soap. You have knowledge of and love of soap, but no love for the little girl. Until love for soap and love for the little girl come together in the same person, she is likely to stay as she is.”
Yes, many have been saved, but who will save me.
There is only one and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus who sees the drug addict feeding his habit through lies, stealing and deception but remembers the little boy he once was.
Jesus who sees the heart of a rich man return to the lonely confines of his searching and lonely heart.
Jesus who sees what has driven a man to live on a park bench and understand. And Jesus who saw the honest heart of my friend Steve, here today with us as he was with that man on that bench.
And Jesus Christ your Savior, who asks that you here today-regardless of creed, colour, race or societies standards, asks, begs and pleads that you here today understand as best you can that while He sees and knows our sins and shortfalls, He chooses to see the heart of the Father that sent Him, that the Father see the heart of Jesus, that though breaking in compassion for those of us and others hurting in our world, will never break under any circumstances His oath, His promise and His reason for “being”, that all, that you-be we of seemingly great faith or seemingly little, that before Him all faith in Christ is equal as are all that come to be fed on the shores of His Kingdom and enter into the waters of His grace.
And so “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”
His grace that we can also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
His grace that has set you free even though the shadows still follow.
His grace that sets you free to serve in His Kingdom even though we may not be able to serve ourselves.
His grace that asks “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
His grace that brought a man to write and know that because
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
he had already come;
’Twas grace hath brought him safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
His grace brought to you, that you too know in full certainty, that the same grace that has carried you through many dangers, toils and snares, is the same grace that will take you home
And His grace, that He ask we take to those before us, that they too He may lead home.
And yes, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.