'If we would try to put into other words what it means to say that Jesus had compassion, we might say something like ‘his heart was moved for them.’ What the Greek really means is more like ‘his guts churned for them.’ A little bit more graphic, but haven’t you ever seen something happening to someone else and it just turned your stomach because it was so awful? Maybe that’s what it means to have compassion, or in Latin to suffer with somebody. To see someone else’s trouble and to somehow be affected by it, to the point where you cannot help make it part of your own life, not turning away and saying, this doesn’t apply to me.'
Rev. Maurice C. Frontz III
Gospel reading: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ.
‘As Jesus 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.’
If we would try to put into other words what it means to say
that Jesus had compassion, we might say something like ‘his heart was
moved for them.’ What the Greek really means is more like ‘his guts churned for
them.’ A little bit more graphic, but haven’t you ever seen something happening
to someone else and it just turned your stomach because it was so awful? Maybe
that’s what it means to have compassion, or in Latin to suffer with somebody.
To see someone else’s trouble and to somehow be affected by it, to the point
where you cannot help make it part of your own life, not turning away and saying,
this doesn’t apply to me.
Jesus is so compassionate, our Gospel says, that he began
to teach the crowd many things. One might not immediately think that it is
the most compassionate thing for Jesus to give the crowds a lecture. But what
does it mean to be sheep without a shepherd?
Psalm 23 tells us what it means to have a good shepherd: He
restores my soul; he leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. A
shepherd leads a sheep upon a safe path, so that no one sheep strays and gets
lost, far from help. Similarly, for the people to have a shepherd, they must
have someone to show them the way. But if there is no shepherd, they can easily
become lost in a world that sends us so many mixed messages. And if they have a
bad shepherd, one who leads us, not for their benefit but to be exploited, they
are even more in need.
Seeing the crowds as sheep without a shepherd, Jesus has compassion
– he sees them and his guts churn for them, burning in indignation and
sorrow for what is happening to them. And so he brings the people together and
tells them who they are and whose they are. The needy crowds are in need of teaching,
to be formed as people of God, not to be left alone to grope for their own
meaning in life or to believe the lies other people tell them that they are
subordinate humans, to be used up for those others’ benefit.
Now it is true that most of us are not used to thinking of
ourselves as needy in any way. But even those who are (relatively) well off,
who eat three meals a day, who can get medical care if they need it, who have
running water and electricity and who can take a vacation every now and then, we
too need a shepherd, we too can wander off into paths of unrighteousness.
Look at all the rich people in the world who have no purpose
in life other than to get and spend, spend and get! Look at those who are so
sated with pleasure that they become desensitized to everything else, to other
people’s suffering! Perhaps we do not picture ourselves as these people. But if
it is true that the more material comforts we have, the less able we are to
have our guts moved by others, then we at least run the danger of forgetting
who we are and whose we are. We need the teaching, to remind us of what
our money is good for and what it is not good for. And, of course, there will
be times when despite the creature comforts that most of us enjoy, life still
not make sense. We suffer, we see others suffer; we don’t understand the world;
we don’t understand ourselves. It is then we understand our need; for
Jesus to be our shepherd and to reorient our lives, to make us more than
numbers and consumers and potential voters.
And so when Jesus sees the people in need, he teaches them.
But a sound body and a sound mind go together. He teaches them, but he also heals
them in their bodies, so that this may not only make them healthy enough to
think and pray and act but as an additional sign confirming the efficacy and
meaning of the teaching.
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; you
anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. The anointing with oil, redolent of
healing, is the sign we used in church and will use again soon to communicate
the healing power of God.
Because Jesus is present in his Church by the power of the
Holy Spirit, it is by his power that the Church extends itself in healing
ministry for the sake of his name. If anyone’s ever been to Passavant Hospital
as a patient or as a visitor, you have encounter healing that began when
William Passavant, pastor of First Lutheran in Pittsburgh, founded that hospital
in Christ’s name for the relief of the sick and injured.
It is not simply the ill who are in need of healing. When a
single woman becomes pregnant, and seemingly has no option but an abortion,
there are Christians who, for the love of Jesus, will provide for them and give
them options and hope, so that there may be a future for both mother and child.
In places where there is no clean running water at the twist of a handle,
organizations like Water Mission, who, for the love of Jesus, go and give the
people what they need to provide hope and a future without water-borne illness.
When a woman or a man is put into another’s power and made an object to be
bought and sold for sex, there are people who for the love of Jesus will seek
to bring them out of this situation, to lead them into a better, safer,
healthier life, because they are valued by God.
Jesus indeed from heaven provides for the healing of his
people, their nourishment in body so that they may know who they are and whose
they are. In the sacrament of Holy Communion he gives his own body and blood to
us to forgive us our sins, to form us in the mind of Christ, to bind us
together in the family of God. For in this sacrament, we all eat the same food
and we all drink the same drink. There is no difference between us, no matter
what our race or background, whether or not we live a successful or respectable
life in the judgment of the world. No difference, whether we are rich or poor,
whether we are woman or man, whether we are child or adult, whether we are educated
or uneducated. Perhaps the only reason that there are divisions among us is so
that we can learn how little they matter – that Christ came to shepherd us all
into the same flock, to teach us and feed us and to guide us in the straight
Jesus still teaches and heals, by the preaching and teaching
of the Word, in the eating and drinking of his Supper, and by his healing
ministry done by the Church’s hands. We give thanks to God, for in his goodness
and mercy he has given us a good shepherd, and we will dwell in his house