7-25-2021

“THE PRESENCE OF JESUS”

Mark 6:45-56 (Pentecost 9)

Sunday July 25th, 2021

Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text for today is the Gospel lesson from Mark 6 that was just proclaimed.

Dearest Jesus: Send your Holy Spirit to remind us that amidst the pains and stains of this life you are always present with your saving grace. The victory has been won!! Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:

As we read through the stories of Scripture in these days after Pentecost, there are certain moments when we’d like to give the disciples a hard time. Today’s Gospel is just such an occasion.

We were not with the disciples as they journeyed with Jesus, so it’s hard for us to know what they were truly going through as they heard the things Jesus said and saw the things Jesus did. What is recorded for us in scripture, however, seems to be many of the teachable moments, and most of them are not all that flattering.

Our critique of the disciples in today’s account centers on how they didn’t know it was Jesus who was walking to them on the water. They seem to have a short-term memory problem, for it was just a few weeks ago when, in Mark 4, we heard that Jesus was sleeping soundly on a cushion in a boat as a great storm arose.

How could they have forgotten so quickly about that event? And today, as Jesus climbs into the boat with them, it says that the disciples were utterly astounded because they had forgotten what happened in the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.

Why in the world were the disciples fearful, thinking Jesus was a ghost? What was hard about all of this?

Well, like most situations, hindsight is 20/20. We think things should be obvious to the disciples because we already know how everything ends.

The disciples were in the middle of things and could only go by what they thought they knew and what they were seeing . . . and they didn’t get it. They will eventually.

So put yourself in their shoes for just a minute. Or better yet, take a look at yourself, for our response to similar life situations is often no different from these disciples: we sometimes fail to see clearly or understand fully.

The Gospel today shows us the strains and pains God’s people were experiencing, both the disciples and the crowds on Gennesaret’s shore. As the disciples were on the sea, the text says, they were making headway painfully, straining against the heavy winds.

Make no mistake about it: this was not just a tough sail for them; this was hard work. It was late, they were tired, and there was a real fear on their part that they might not make it across safely. These disciples are getting nowhere fast, and it’s a strain to make any headway at all.

With Jesus’ help, the disciples land on the other side of the sea, where Jesus encounters the second group of people today. Our Lord’s fame had spread throughout the region, so when people recognized him, they brought to him their sick and lame.

All of them who felt the pains of life were healed by Jesus, even if all they were able to do was grab hold of the fringe of his garment. For the disciples and for the people, there was only one thing that could help as they experienced the strains and pains of this mortal life: the presence of Jesus.

It’s the presence of Jesus that helps us still as we go through the strains and pains brought about as the effects of sin. If we look at our lives as a whole, most of us would probably agree that they’re filled with many blessings from God.

We have family and friends to share our lives; we are blessed with jobs and opportunities to use our gifts in service to our neighbor; we have a place to live and food to eat and many other what we call First Article gifts from our Creator.

We can even get to a point in life where it feels as if we’re riding the wave comfortably and can simply enjoy all that God provides.

However, there are moments where the wind picks up: we get in a fight with someone we love, our job becomes a dreadful burden or is taken from us, the joys of homeownership overwhelm us, or our very lives seem to be in jeopardy.

Like the disciples, we find that the days become long and we’re tired; we’re lonely. We’re making headway in life painfully.

As people of God, our faith knows where we can turn for help in these times, but as sinful people, we often don’t do it. We tell ourselves that painful headway is still headway, that we can do it ourselves, and even if Jesus factors into things, we often see him as the disciples did: like a ghost and not really there. In fact, we do this so often that we begin to think this is just how things are in life.

When life becomes work, when hardship befalls us, when suffering enters our world, we have a tendency to close up, to isolate ourselves, and to desire simply to be alone in the strains and pains of our misery.

As people of faith, we ought to know this isn’t the way things are intended to be for us, that we are never alone, that we know where we can turn to find divine help, and yet so many times our life looks quite different.

An outsider looking at our life might sometimes think, “How can you not get it? How can you not see where your help is? Why have you not learned by now that Jesus is always with you?”

But it was the presence of Jesus that brought calm amid wind and waves. It was the presence of Jesus that brought healing to the sick and infirm. It is the presence of Jesus that comforts us and joins us to his help and healing and life through forgiveness and grace.

From the moment of your Baptism, the Lord’s promise is that he will never leave you or forsake you. He continues to make his presence known to you as you receive his forgiving word of absolution, as you are reminded of his promises revealed in his Holy Word, and as you have his very life placed into your mouth in the Lord’s Supper.

His presence is manifest to you as a recipient of his daily provision and is shared as you bring works of mercy to others. In all times and in every circumstance, Jesus is there: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).

In fact, Jesus is not just present with you but has borne the burden of the strain and pain of sin for you. He knows the heartache and hurt that you experience. He has died for you on the cross and has risen from the grave to give you the eternal gains of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mk 6:50). These are powerfully comforting words from our Savior today, for the strains and pains of life are sure to come, but as a child of God, you know where you can turn for help in your time of need.

Look to Jesus, for he is there. He steps into the boat with you to bring an end to your strains; he brings his healing touch to you for all your pains of body and soul; he has gained for you the kingdom and promises you life with him eternally.

Just as He Promised, Jesus Is Always with Us, Especially in Our Strains and Pains, to Secure for Us Eternal Gains.

Your health and life are forever preserved by the presence of Jesus, so whatever may come for you, you can confidently pray to the Lord the words of the final stanza of the

Hymn of the Day today:

Our hands and feet, Lord, strengthen; With joy our spirits bless. Until we see the ending Of all our life’s distress. And so throughout our lifetime, Keep us within Your care, And at our end then bring us To heav’n to praise You there. (LSB 754:6)

Amen.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.