Lost and Found
7th after Trinity
Mark 6 30-34, 53 – end
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Lost and Found
The lectionary compilers have really given me a test this morning – the verses chosen from Mark 6 leave out two really important stories relating to Jesus' life that are relatively easy to preach on and left me with the outsides, like stealing the filling from the sandwich.
They stop just before the feeding of the 5,000 and start again after Jesus walking on the water. So we had better look and see what are we left with. The exhausted disciples returning from being sent out on their mission to heal the sick and set the oppressed free and Jesus teaching the crowds and healing.
But of course there is always more than first meets the eye buried within scripture. There has to be a reason why Mark thought it important enough to write about.
First of all the disciples come back from their mission and they were desperate to tell Jesus every last detail. They were spilling over with excitement for people had been healed, delivered from evil spirits, lives had been transformed in the name of Jesus. They had been so busy they had not even taken time to eat and sleep properly. Jesus immediately recognises their need and takes them to a deserted place for food and rest. Here is the balance of the Christian life; if we are to reach out to others, we need to make sure that we spend time with God. We cannot minister in any depth from an empty tank. As individuals and as a church/Benefice we need to beware of the danger of constant activity. Fundraising and church activities are a part of church life but not at the expense of worship, bible study, prayer and fellowship, just being together as the people of God.
Back to the text. The people had seen them leave and were following as fast as they could. Any ordinary man would have been intensely annoyed at this hounding, the rest Jesus and his disciples so desired and deserved was going to be denied again. His privacy was going to be invaded once more. Any ordinary man would have resented it all, but Jesus was moved with pity when he saw the crowd. He looked at them; they were so desperate to get to him, they wanted so much what he alone could give them: It would have been easy to get angry and frustrated but Jesus sees them as sheep without a shepherd. What did he mean?
Sheep without a shepherd cannot find their way and left to ourselves we can get lost in life. Sheep without a shepherd cannot always find good pasture and left to our own devises we often lack the strength and inspiration to keep going.
Sheep without a shepherd have no natural defence against dangers which threaten them. If life has taught us one thing it must be that we cannot live the Christian life alone. Oh we can try. We can try to live a pure sinless life, we can try to resist temptation, but only in the company of Jesus can we truly walk in the world and be free and cleansed from our sin.
God has always chosen shepherds to care for his people. David was a shepherd king, now Jesus is the good Shepherd.
Shepherds in the east knew how to care for their flock, how to leave the ninety-nine and search for the lost. They defended from wild animals, cured ticks and foot rot, and lead them into green pastures. Without the shepherd there was no security, no healing, no food, no drink, and no direction; sheep without a shepherd are lost and will die. You may think what about all the sheep on the Welsh mountains or roaming wild in Scotland. They seem to be managing. But of course there are always shepherds we don’t see. They and their dogs out in all winds and weather moving sheep to better pasture and rescuing those who have been injured.
The people came, flocking from near and far to Jesus and the disciples, like sheep without shepherds, jostling for position, crowding in. Jesus and the disciples were exhausted; we would probably have sent the crowds packing. But seeing their need, Jesus drew on his resources from God, and taught them, fed them and healed them, for here was the good shepherd giving his life for his sheep.
The final verses of our reading follow on from the account of Jesus walking on the water. No sooner had Jesus landed on the other side of the lake than once again the crowds surrounded him. Just sometimes he must have looked on the crowds with certain wistfulness, because there was hardly a person who had not come to get something from him. They came to get healed, they came to hear stories, they came to see miracles, and they came to be fed. In a way it was only natural , for there we so many things that he alone could and can give –if we are not careful taking can become part of our human nature.
Some children take their parents for granted, using the home as a place to cater for their comfort and their convenience, where they eat, sleep and get things done for them. Some people make use of their friends, the people we never hear from until they need something. Some people make use of the church, to baptise their children, marry their young people and bury their dead. Some make use of God, never remembering Him until a crisis occurs. Their only prayers are requests or demands.
Some people are like sheep without a shepherd, hungry, lost and dying.
Still the people come flocking from near and far, not to Jesus, but to the shops, garden centres, Music Festivals, the Internet, bingo, pornography, alcohol, drugs and gambling. But they find no healing, no security, and no direction and there isn’t even safety in numbers.
Sheep without a shepherd, filling their lives with things to do, filling their lives with things that blot out reality. What about us? Isaiah wrote ‘We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.’ Our own blind alley, our own desert. I am sure many of us can identify with some of the descriptions, but there is a difference, for some of us have been found. Found by Jesus the good Shepherd and in Jesus we have found our healing, our direction and meaning in life. The most well-known Psalm 23 gives us the complete picture. With God/Jesus as our shepherd we will not want for anything. We will be led to good pasture, and still waters, he will restore our soul, and lead us in right paths. We may well walk through some dark valleys, and some will walk in the shadow of death, but if there is a shadow there has to be some sun. There has to be some light and we know that the darkness will never overcome the light. We will have the healing oil of the Holy Spirit and our cup will surely overflow with thankfulness and praise, for goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, like two sheepdogs at our heals and if all that wasn’t enough we will go to be with God forever in eternity.
In the final verses we read – ‘Then the people brought their hurting friends to Jesus, and all who touched him were healed.’ Do you know any hurting people? Are you hurting? Do you feel lost? Will we do the same? Bring our friends or our needs to Jesus the good shepherd for they haven’t met him yet, they need someone to bring them.
For all who come; all who touch Him will be healed. Not always a physical healing, but definitely a healing of the soul. As the hymn puts it so well. Ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven, who like we His praise should sing.
We may still have our illness our aches and pains, but if we reach out and touch Jesus he will make us whole, he will forgive us, He will make us clean on the inside, make us right with God.
When we come to the altar, the Holy table, a place to reach out and touch Jesus, we find the place where we will be made whole, our place of rest and our place of refreshment. When we come to our time of prayer we pray for the Church, the World and the needs of Gods people, but we also come for ourselves, to reach out and touch Jesus. May our time of prayer today be special for each one of us today as we come for ourselves and as we come for our friends holding them in our hearts before God. This is the place to receive from Him and it is also the place to give. The place where we can rejoice the heart of Jesus, as we offer him our love, our worship our service, our devotion – as we offer Him ourselves.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Amen