Rooted and Grounded in Love
8 Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 6:45-56 & Ephesians 3:14-21
Rev. S. D. Spencer - Pastor
Grace, peace and mercy from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ! Amen
I think we’re all quite familiar with the Gospel account of Jesus walking on water. Usually we read the account in the Book of Matthew. Matthew’s focus seems to be on Peter. It was Peter who walked on water, it was Peter who sank, and it was to Peter whom the Lord said: "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" But in St. Mark’s Gospel there’s no Peter walking on water, no Peter sinking and the words concerning the lack of faith Lord seem to be directed to all the disciples. But I get ahead of myself. Let’s put all this in context. Because there are several things that lead up to our text and all of them are in chapter 6. I’m sure you’ll remember some of them.
In verse 1 Jesus returns to His home town. There on the Sabbath Day He goes to the Synagogue and teaches publically. This was His custom. The people were amazed at His wisdom but mocked Him saying: "What is this wisdom that has been given Him, that He even does miracles! Is this not just the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?" And they were offended at Him.” This is where Jesus states that great truth that maybe some of you have even experienced. "A prophet has no honor in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house."
It was in Jesus home town, that He was only able to do a few miracles and so the people tried to throw Him off a cliff. They demanded miracles and He finally gave them one, He disappeared from their sight. There His family, friends and neighbors lacked faith! But Jesus didn’t give up on His homeland; instead it says in verse 6 He left that place and went on to other villages to teach. He didn’t stop because of obstacles. And in verse 7 He calls the disciples to Himself and commissions them to go out two by two to share the news, to cast out demons, to preach repentance. This was a high speed tour. Take little with you, stay where welcomed dust off your feet where you are not welcomed. Spread the word, the message is repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
And the disciples did it, many were healed, many were set free from demons many listened and repented. This was exciting work but it also was hard work. So Jesus in verse 31 says to the disciples: “Come by yourselves to a deserted place and rest for a while.” For there were many people coming and going, and the disciples had not even had time to eat. So they went with Jesus away by boat to a deserted place. But the crowds saw them depart and running by foot went to the deserted place ahead of them.
The disciples had hoped for having some quiet time with Jesus. This was a time to be away from the crowds, away from all that work. Imagine how the disciples felt when they saw the crowd of people. Verse 36 tells us: The disciples went to Jesus and said “Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat." That was the disciples’ attitude; no compassion, they wanted time alone with Jesus. But Jesus attitude is different as we see in verse 34: “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.”
The disciples had one thing right, how could they feed such a crowd with 200 denarii? Consider what a denarii was worth at the time of Jesus. It would buy ¼ a bottle of beer, ½ an ounce of mincemeat, 1/12 a pound of venison or ½ a bath. 200 denarii wouldn’t even come close to feeding this crowd. Yet Jesus in verse 37 says: “You give them something to eat.” Go count the loaves, tell me what you find. 5 loaves and 2 fish are what the disciples find. 5 loaves 2 fish – 200 denarii either way its not going to work.
Jesus tells the crowd to sit down in groups or as some translations put it ranks. This was the way formal groups ate, sitting in a circles or squares as if a table was present. He blesses the loaves and fish and then gives them to the disciples to distribute to the people. The disciples who had not even had time to eat are now playing busboys and waiters to masses. Imagine what was going through the heads of the disciples. Tired, hungry, suppose to have time alone with Jesus and now they’re feeding the same hoards that they were suppose to get away from.
Verse 42 says all ate and were filled. The word filled in Greek means satisfied as in being gorged or fattened. Not in want, no room left for dessert. That’s full! Now the disciples are to pick up the leftovers. 12 baskets of bread and fish, man what a miracle! 5000 men (not including the women and children) ate that day on 5 loaves and 2 fish and 12 baskets of leftovers. That brings us up to our text today.
“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.” The disciples were now in their element. All the things that had been happening in their lives over the past weeks were foreign to them. But sailing a boat, reading the seas and the skies, this was their element. This is what most of them knew best. We’re familiar with what happened next. The wind turned against them. The seas began to churn; the disciples used all their skills and talents to move ahead but were just getting nowhere. Jesus in the midst of the storm came to them, walking on water intending to pass them by but they saw Him and thought He was a ghost. They were frightened and cried out. By the way, the Greek word used to denote crying out can also be translated scream. The disciples screamed in fear. Jesus calmed them by saying: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” He got into the boat and the tempest ceased and they were amazed. I want to read verse 52 to you because you may have never noticed this before. “For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” Did you catch that? The disciples’ hearts were hardened. When I think of a hardened heart I think of someone like the pharaoh or a Sadducee or Pharisee, but not a disciple.
Most of the time, we tend to think of a person with a hard heart as being someone who is in rebellion toward God. It’s true a person like that does have a hardened heart. But in this case, the disciples' hearts are being hardened because, "they were utterly astounded" at Jesus walking on the water.
The word "hardened" as used here, means "to make calloused, to be unyielding or cold in spirit, or insensitive to." The disciples were not God haters, but rather they had become so receptive to the natural world and their own abilities and all those limitations that they were overwhelmed to see Jesus supersede these laws. Therefore, they had hardened hearts.
So we see that in this case, a hardened heart is simply being more receptive to or dominated by natural thinking than by supernatural thinking. If we use this Bible definition of what a hardened heart is, then all of us have areas where we are hardened or unreceptive to God. Maybe areas where we would never ask God to help.
Our hearts become hardened or unreceptive when we consider, that is to think upon, study, ponder, deliberate, or meditate on anything other than God and His ways. In this case, the disciples weren't thinking on things that were sinful such as murder, adultery or theft. Their thinking was totally occupied with the storm and how they could save their own lives. They were only considering the natural ways of deliverance. They could, they should, have been considering a miraculous deliverance since they were out on the sea in direct obedience to Jesus' command.
If they had kept their thinking centered on the miracle they had just seen Jesus perform, the feeding of the five thousand, then they wouldn't have been utterly astounded to see Jesus walking on the water toward them. After all, He had compelled them to get into the boat and was therefore responsible for them. He also was just a short distance away from them and was in the same storm they were so they knew He was aware of their situation. They should have been expecting Jesus to come and save them, even if He had to walk on the water to do it. Certainly anyone who could feed five thousand men not including the women and children with five loaves and two fish and have leftovers could walk on water.
But their hardened hearts kept them from perceiving spiritual truths and kept them dominated only by natural thought which was completely inadequate to solve their problem. This is the reason that many people today, people who know what the Word says, still don't see it work in their lives. They are more receptive to fear and doubt of the flesh than they are to the truths of God's Word. Simply because they have spent more time meditating or filling their minds on things that create fear and doubt.
According to The Neilson Company, that company that rates TV shows. The average American watches more than 4 hours of TV per day, 28 per week or 2 months TV per year. By age 65 the average person will have spent more than 9 years glued to the TV, according to Neilson. What about church? How much time is given to church? According to the Barna Research Group only 43% of all Americans go to church weekly. Those attending will be there and average of 78 minutes. And of that group only 54% will read the Bible weekly.
My question for you is this. What forms you as a person, the world and its media machine or God and His Word? Listen carefully to what St. Paul wrote in our Epistle lesson. “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Notice that, “rooted and grounded in love.” How are you rooted and grounded in love? Through faith! Christ dwelling in your hearts through faith so that you are rooted and grounded in love. How are you filled with faith? Romans 10:17 “Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of Christ.” How do you get faith? Through the Word of Christ: Through the Word spoken into your ears – through the Word read and studied - through the Word combined with the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper - through the Word combined with the water in baptism. Through Jesus you are able to have strength to comprehend with all the saints. Comprehend what, “The love of Christ which surpasses human knowledge.” To what end? “So that you may be filled with the fullness of God.” Not the fullness of the world or its empty promises, but the fullness of God.
Left to our own devices we could never ask enough of God. God loves to give and to give what is best. St. Paul continues with these words: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Notice those words “according to the power at work within us.” God wants so much more for us than we ask. The day has come for us to lean not to our own understanding but to let go of and trust God. Proverbs 3:5 says: Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.
By remaining in God’s Word God grows faith in us. And may that Word grant us faith to believe and trust in Him alone so that our hearts may not become hardened! So that He might accomplish much for us and through us. For to God alone belongs all glory and honor, In Jesus name, amen and amen!
P: The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. C: Amen
Please rise for the offertory.