Pentecost 9b

Preached: August 2, 2009

The Shepherd's Heart Goes Out to You
Mark 6:30-34

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit reveals our Savior, Jesus Christ is Mark 6

The Apostles come together to Jesus and reported all to him as many things as they had done and as many things as they had taught. He says to them, “Come, you, yourselves alone, to a secluded place and rest a little.” For the comers and goers were many, and there was no suitable time even to eat. They went away by boat to a secluded place by themselves.

Many saw them going and knew [what was happening]. They raced together there on foot from all the towns and came to them. Coming out, he saw a large crowd and his heart went out to them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. And he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:30-34)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4 NIV). Jesus began one of his parables with those words. At another time he said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep . . . I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:11, 14 NIV).

In today's text, Jesus is not telling a story about a shepherd. He is not calling himself a shepherd either. Rather we see him acting as the Shepherd he truly is. The Holy Spirit through the words Mark wrote reveals to us our Savior's shepherd heart. His shepherd heart goes out to the sheep, sheep that are shepherdless without him. They are his first concern. He gives them real life and real food as he teaches them. For his voice calls out to them.

And dear friends, his heart goes out to each of you as well. That's the theme to meditate on this week: The Shepherd's heart goes out to you. He makes you his first concern. That's part one. And he takes care of you as his voice teaches you. That's part two. He is your shepherd. You, dear friend, are his sheep.

A. He makes you his first concern

1. How were we like shepherdless sheep?

As we join Jesus in the text, the disciples are returning from the mission trips he had sent them on. He had sent them out two by two to the towns of Galilee to preach repentance and help the sick and demon possessed. We talked about that last week. Now the Apostles report to Jesus all these things. But there's no time to rest. People keep coming and going. Just finding time to eat doesn't work out.

So Jesus tells them to come away with him to a quiet, secluded spot where they shouldn't be bothered. There they can rest, and he can teach them privately. They get in the boat to cross over the Sea of Galilee to the shores less populated. But the people see them and realize where they're headed. They race along the shoreline, the crowd growing as they pass each town.

They arrive to where Jesus and his disciples landed. What is Jesus to do when he sees them? Tell them to come back another time when he has an opening in his day-planner? Simply ignore them? Give them a quick word and send them on their way? Jesus would have none of those options. Rather, moved in tender compassion, his heart goes out to them. For they are like sheep without a shepherd.

How pitiful shepherdless sheep are! Shepherdless sheep become easy prey for wolves, coyotes, and other predators. They can't outrun them. They can't outfight them. And what wolf would be scared off by a bleating: baaa? Sheep are left torn and bloodied and dead without a shepherd. In addition, shepherdless sheep can overgraze a pasture eating the grass down to the dirt so that it can't grow back. If that's the pasture they know, they won't move on to another. If they survive the predators, how easily they could waste away starving to death without a shepherd! Thirdly, shepherdless sheep can even die due to their own filth. In many places today sheep need their rears regularly sheared. It's called crutching. Otherwise manure sticks to the wool. Blowflies lay eggs in these dags, and within a day the maggots begin burrowing into the sheep's skin. A fly-blown sheep is a sickening sight. How pitiful shepherdless sheep are!

So Jesus' heart goes out to these people, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. More important now than more rest, more important than a longer time for himself, was to shepherd these people. The Shepherd's heart goes out to them. He makes them his first concern, before himself.

And his shepherd's heart goes out to you, dear friend, to you. For without him we are shepherdless sheep. Without him we fall easy prey to that ravenous wolf named Satan. His teeth tear us to shreds with his lies and deceptions. We need our Shepherd! Without him we spiritually starve to death unable to find the green pastures that restore our soul. Like the dusty dirt of overgrazed land, the empty promises and senseless pleasures of this world cannot bring true nourishment or life. We need our Shepherd! Without him the filth of our own sin clings to us breeding the maggots of guilt that burrow deep into our conscience. We need our Shepherd!

2. How great is Jesus concern for you?

What great good news that his heart goes out to you! You, dear listener, no matter who you are or what you've done, you are his first concern. He doesn't send you away until a more convenient time. He doesn't wait for you to meet his standards. His heart goes out to you as you are, no matter how torn or starved or fly-blown with guilt. His heart goes out to you, dear listener. His heart goes out to you to make you his sheep and keep you in his flock His heart goes out to you to change you to be more and more like him, your Shepherd. You are his first concern.

Consider a new mother home alone with her baby. Suddenly she's awakened by the smell of smoke. The house is on fire. Her only thought is for her baby. She races down the smoke-filled hall without a thought for her own safety. She grabs him in her arms, shields his face from the flames with her hands, unmindful of the pain and the sting and the flames. Her baby is her first concern.

You, dear friend, you are Jesus' first concern. His shepherd heart goes out to you. He left the brightness of his Father's side for you to come into this world filled with the smoke of our sin. He came to rescue you. On the cross he endured the fires of our hell, those hopeless, god-forsaken griefs and pains and terrors -- all unimaginable. He endured it willingly for you. For you are his first concern.

You, dear Christian, you are no longer a shepherdless sheep. Jesus is your shepherd. He laid down is life for you. Yes! For you! And he has taken it up again. As your living Shepherd, he takes care of you. He takes care of you as his voice teaches you, which brings us to our second part today.

B. He takes care of you as his voice teaches you

1. What words of comfort and care does his voice speak to us?

Consider Jesus action as his shepherd heart goes out to the people. Mark writes, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things”(Mark 6:34 NIV). Did you note his action? He taught them. That's how he takes care of his sheep. By teaching them his word. That's how he takes care of you. His shepherd voice teaches you his word of truth. What comfort and care his voice brings! What comfort and care his word brings to you, dear Christian! Listen to his voice. Listen to his voice calling out to you from the Scriptures, teaching you his word of truth. Listen to his shepherd voice, for he cares for you.

He cut away the filth that we had soiled ourselves with, and he pulls out the maggots of guilt from your conscience as his voice assures you: “I, Jesus, your Shepherd, have taken away all your sins and washed you clean in my blood. For I laid down my life for you, my sheep. You are fully forgiven. Be of good cheer.” Listen to his voice, for only his word brings you this good news.

For you he faced down Satan, that ravenous wolf and prowling lion, and with his truth he continues to protect you from Satan's lies and deceptions. His voice calls to you, “Fear not, little lamb, only hold on to my word of truth. It will not fail, for I, your Shepherd, have taken up my life again in victory. Follow me and shut your ears to Satan's seductive purring. Listen to my voice, for my word of truth protects you.”

And he feeds you, dear Christian, with the green pastures of his word. He brings you life and nourishment through his teaching. His voice invites you, “Come, all who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Come, drink the living water flowing from the Scriptures. Come, feast on this life-giving food that alone truly satisfies. Come and be filled.” Yes, dear friend, listen to your Shepherd's voice.

2. What happens to us as we feed on his Word?

As you inwardly digest his Word -- thinking about it, meditating on it, making it a part of you -- you are changed. Yes, his shepherd's heart went out to you in the pitiful condition you were in as a shepherdless sheep, but he doesn't keep you like that. He changes you. His word transforms us. His word changes our natural wants, so that we more and more truly want what our Shepherd wants. His word changes us so that rather than following our own ways thinking that will make us happy, we find true happiness in following our Shepherd and listening to his word. He says to you:“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life.” (John 10:27, 28 NIV). And we respond: “Who so happy as I am, Even now the shepherd's lamb?” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, “I Am Jesus' Little Lamb,” 432:3)

3. In what intimate and tender way does he speak to you today?

And today, his voice speaks to you in the most intimate and tender way he has given us in this earthly life. And maybe we should consider offering it more than just once a month. Today his voice speaks to you through his body and blood in the Lord's Supper. How intimate and tender is his voice in this Supper! You might deceive yourself into thinking that his voice calling from the Scriptures is calling to others, but not to you. But in the Lord's Supper you, dear Christian, you are the one who eats. You are the one who drinks. He is speaking to you, to you alone. His voice whispers his gentle forgiveness into your ear. “You, my dear little lamb, you are mine. Here is my body given into death for you. Here is my blood shed on the cross to ransom you. You are my little lamb, and I am your shepherd.” The Shepherd's heart goes out to you. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and mind sin Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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