Greetings in the name of Jesus!
To add to the excitement, a few weeks ago my five year old high tech furnace had a major breakdown and we were forced to turn to our wood burning stove to heat the house until we could come up with the money to pay for repairs. Fortunately, we have a good supply of fire wood the weather was mild - until this weekend.
I'm not writing of this to complain but to praise God who can bring good out of every turn of events. I had planned to be very busy running around this weekend, but the cold weather forced me to stay home and the whole family actually spent the weekend working together, it was wonderful, a blessing from God. One night we all slept together in sleeping bags on the living room floor around the wood burner to keep warm. Even though the furnace repair and the car situation are not yet resolved and getting everything up and running again is going to be a problem, I will treasure the experience and the memory of this weekend.
Since Chapter six, when the Apostles returned from their first solo preaching tour, Jesus has been seeking a place of quiet and rest where they all could refresh themselves from their labors. They soon discovered that it was impossible to avoid drawing crowds of people in Palestine because the success of their preaching had brought the knowledge of Jesus to everyone.
In addition to this, the Pharisees, who have been seeking to kill Jesus since Chapter three, try to destroy his reputation by denouncing His Apostles as defiled because they didn't observe the traditional washings of the Elders. After publicly rejecting these traditions, Jesus declared an earth shaking truth, that people are defiled by sin alone, not how or what they eat.
The pronouncement of this teaching did away with the distinctions between the clean and unclean that were based on physical and ceremonial regulations and reopened (see Ex15, Nu12), Gods Kingdom to the Gentiles.
Jesus led the Apostles out of Palestine to the Gentile city of Tyre. While there, Jesus, to the astonishment of the Apostles received a Gentile woman, and granted her request for Jesus to exorcise her daughter.
Mark has been developing this theme of Gentiles and The Kingdom since Chapter five, where the story of the healing of the demon possessed man is told, this took place in Decapolis, a largely Gentile, Greek speaking people. The presence of swine, an unclean animal according to The Law of Moses, suggests that this casting out took place among the Gentile population as well.
Last week we saw Jesus and His Apostles returning to Decapolis. This time due to the testimony of the former demoniac that Jesus had healed, He is greeted by crowds of people eager to hear his teaching and receive healing at his hand. In Chapter seven, Jesus heals a Jewish man who is a deaf mute. In today's reading we see Jesus continue to minister to a large crowd that has gathered in a remote place, a crowd made up mainly, of Greek speaking Gentiles.
Father, help us to look upon all people with eyes of compassion, seeing their need for Christ no matter what their circumstances or race, and Lord give us the love and grace to meet their needs, both physical and spiritual.......................Amen.
Let's open our Bibles now to Mark Chapter 8, and read verses 1-10. Read it through several times so that you are familiar with the details of the text.
When Jesus fed the 5000 back in chapter 6, it was the Apostles who brought up the issue of the people's hunger. Here we see that it is Jesus who brings the problem to the Apostles. It seems that they were out of touch with the needs of the people. It is part of our human nature to be concerned about the ones we love and to disregard the needs of those for whom we have no affection. We, however must not be led by our human nature, but by The Spirit. God calls us to love and care for all, even our enemies......Lu. 6:35
"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked", and He set the standard when he died on the cross for our salvation even though we are by nature children of wrath.....
1 John 4:9-10
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
How could the Apostles so soon forget the feeding of the 5000? I don't believe they did. The problem here is not one of memory but one of affection. It was natural for the Apostles to be concerned about the hunger of their brother Jews, and they knew that God would feed His chosen people, even if it took a miracle, but these people weren't Jews, they were mostly Greek speaking Gentiles, commonly referred to as dogs, who were pagan, defiled, carnal, and hated of God, - right?
Certainly God didn't care about their hunger as he would the hunger of his own people, did He? These people were on their own, it is enough that Jesus had preached the Word to them and healed their sick. Maybe some would eventually become Proselyte Jews, learn The Law of Moses, and turn away from their pagan ways, but for now they must feed themselves.
Does this sound familiar? Does your Church help only it's members, or those who are "good prospects", or does it reach out into the "pagan" community, to the helpless and hungry, even to those who have no desire to know God, consider the words of Jesus:
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners' do that."verse 5
I believe that the light went on when Jesus spoke these words. Not only would God feed these Gentiles, but He would start with the Apostles own bread.
Jesus first turns to God in thanksgiving, then distributes the food to the Apostles who then gave it to the people. It must have been uncomfortable for the Apostles to both serve and eat with the Gentiles, yet they knew that only God Himself could perform the miracle they were experiencing. To them it must have been a tough theological problem, "How do the Laws of Separation fit in here?"
I have often considered the questions of unity and fellowship in the Church. It troubles me that in America the Church is divided by over 600 denomination and cults, all claiming to be the only true Church. God calls us to have a living relationship with Him, to seek him and serve him as he showed us in His word.
This means we must demonstrate the Love of God to All. Love is greater than wisdom, knowledge, and even faith, (1Cor13), yet we often set it aside to demonstrate these lesser things. What are we thinking when we do this? Christianity is a relationship with The Living God! Do we define our relationship with our earthly fathers on the basis of wisdom, knowledge, and faith? I don't think so. If these things were necessary there would be no relationship until the children learned to talk and went to school. Our relationship with our Spiritual father is based on the simple facts laid out in The Gospels and our faith in them. Scripture shows that that message could be communicated in a very few hours (see Acts 8:26-40), yet we argue, dispute, and divide in our great wisdom, knowledge, and faith, and we neglect demonstrating The Love of God.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. It is wonderful to know that CCM has bridged many denominational barriers. Our membership is a diverse one, yet I have received few letters that are argumentative. In a small way I hope that this ministry is demonstrating The Love of God.