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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor


The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Series B
 

Option One: "Compassionate Love"
Mark 6:30-34
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, M.Div.

1) How it thinks–Matt. 9:36ff., 14:14, 15:32ff.; Rom. 15:1ff. 2 Cor. 1:3

2) What it does–Matt. 15:29-31, 20:34; Mk.1:41-42, 6:53-56; 2 Cor. 1:4; Heb. 4:15-16

Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 1: Mark 6:34   They were as sheep not having a shepherd (esan hos probata me echonta poimena). Matthew has these words in another context (Matthew 9:26), but Mark alone has them here. Me is the usual negative for the participle in the Koin. These excited and exciting people (Bruce) greatly needed teaching. Matthew 14:14 mentions healing as does Luke 9:11 (both preaching and healing). But a vigorous crowd of runners would not have many sick. The people had plenty of official leaders but these rabbis were for spiritual matters blind leaders of the blind. Jesus had come over for rest, but his heart was touched by the pathos of this situation. So "he began to teach them many things" (erxato didaskein autous polla). Two accusatives with the verb of teaching and the present tense of the infinitive. He kept it up.

Richard Lenski, Interpretation of St. Luke--According to John 6:3-5, Jesus did secure a few hours of quiet with his disciples on the mountain side, where no one disturbed them. From this retreat Jesus came out and saw the multitude gathered below along the shore of the lake. It was this sight that melted his heart. ...The eyes of Jesus saw more than a mass of people, they saw the spiritual condition of these people. Sheep without a shepherd stray helplessly and are bound to perish. He saw the fate of these people unless they were shepherded. So "He began to teach them many things." Luke is more specific: "He spoke to them about the Kingdom of God."

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CHILDREN'S MESSAGE ON MARK 6:34  When Jesus saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. 

Do you have cats in your house? We have two of them. There was a story in the paper the other day about how good it is for Grandma’s or Grandpa’s who live alone to have a cat. So they decided to make it easier for them to get one and to solve another problem while they were at it. The Doctors know that if Grandma has somebody to take care of and talk to, she is more healthy. Her blood pressure goes down, she doesn’t get depressed as much, and she may even live longer. So here is what they decided to do. They took the cats in the Shelter, age 7 and older, and made them available to Senior Citizens for only $10. It usually costs $50 to adopt a cat. So Grandma gets a companion and the cat gets a home. Pretty good idea, wouldn’t you say?

Cats that don’t have anyone to take care of them are called "feral cats". They are loose on the outside and we often see them lying dead on the highway. Cats that have someone to care for them don’t let them outside. Some friends of ours lost one of their cats. They think he ended up as a Coyote supper!

You didn't come to Church to learn about cats, but actually I’ve been talking about us too. Like those stray cats, we needed someone to take care of us. Jesus looked at the people and saw them as sheep without a shepherd, so He began teaching them many things. When we listen to Him and when we talk to Him in prayer, we’re much better off, just as the cat is living with Grandma.

Jesus said that He came to seek and to save those who were lost. He had compassion on us. That means he cares about us, wants to help us and take care of us now and forever. He does that when we listen to His Word. He makes our lives a lot better when we listen to His Word.

People at the Animal Shelter take care of lost cats and dogs and try to find them a home. The Bible says that God is our Home (Ps. 90). Jesus said that He is preparing a home for us and is coming back to take us to our Father’s House forever (John 14).

So if you see a stray cat, think of those sheep that Jesus saw. Think of yourself as a stray who has been found by Jesus. Then enjoy his care for you now and in the life which is to come.

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Option Two: "De-Fleece The Flock"
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Introductory Notes:

Perhaps the most grievous sins are committed by those religious leaders who subvert—and pervert—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah’s prophecy records God’s wrath and anger at those unfaithful shepherds who lead God’s people astray. The people of God in the Southern Kingdom of Israel had certainly experienced a long, unending string of unfaithful shepherds. The unbridled unfaithfulness of kings, priests and other leaders resulted in an unprecedented state of national decadence and decline in the southern Kingdom.

God could not let this go on any further. As He sent prophets to the kings and leaders of  the northern kingdom of Israel just a little over century before, God sent Jeremiah and other prophets to call the leaders and people of the southern kingdom of Judah to repentance. The people of Israel failed to respond to God’s call. The result for them is that their nation was decimated and the people taken captive by the Assyrians. Jeremiah’s call was to prophesy to the southern kingdom to keep them from having the same experience. Ultimately, he would be unsuccessful. Judah would be overrun by the Babylonians. The people of Judah, like their neighbors to the north, would experience slavery. Their nation would be left to ruins.

Jeremiah, however, was not totally unsuccessful. His preaching was heard by a remnant of the faithful. To them Jeremiah proclaimed restoration, and an uplifting message of hope.

True to God’s pattern of grace, Jeremiah’s preaching was not just words of judgment and condemnation: “’I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,’ saith the Lord”). They also included words of promise to the remnant of those who would repent and believe. 

The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land ..” (v. 5) 

Jeremiah proved himself a faithful prophet of God. He preached the word of God “in season and out of season.” In doing so he unflinchingly proclaimed God’s judgment while also faithfully proclaiming God’s Word and promise of grace to those who repented. Central Jeremiah’s preaching was his proclamation of the coming Messiah, the “Good Shepherd”. God’s ministers, have as their highest responsibility, faithfully proclaiming Christ—and not themselves—to the people of God. The result of such faithful preaching is indicated in verse 4:

“I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing.”

Textual Observations:

In general, one would do well to research the Biblical concept of “shepherd.” Rich in Messianic imagery, this metaphor is one of the most central themes of the Scriptures. “Shepherds” can refer to keepers of sheep, kings, rulers, spiritual leaders and, of course, Jesus Christ Himself. The “shepherd” metaphor frequently has associations of quiet pasture, feeding, dwelling in safety, the quieting of fear and, most significantly in this text, an association with a faithful leader. Psalm 23, John 10, Isaiah 40 (vs. 11!),  Ezekiel 34 et al all come to mind.

Note also other “shepherd” references in Jeremiah, such as that in Jeremiah chapter 31.

10 "Hear the word of the LORD, O nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: 'He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.' 11 For the LORD will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. 12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD-- the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.” Jeremiah 31:10-12 (NIV)

v. 1) “Woe” is the prophetic means of calling attention to great dread and punishment. Combined with “Thus says the Lord,” these words of Jeremiah are, by virtue of this formula, are of the highest moment.

“destroy” is a Hebrew Piel, with meanings ranging from “Destroy” To “allow one to be destroyed” (as if through abandonment). Apparently, the shepherds are destroying the flock through both intentional abuse and wanton, careless neglect. Either will destroy. Combined, the destruction can be enormous.

v. 4) “Fear” connotes the experience of  “terror” or “fearful dread”, probably not unlike that reported by citizens of Iraq after the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Possible Illustrations:

A. From Current Events

#1) Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, we have been dumfounded by the enormity of the terror of his regime. Mass graves, horrific torture, countless executions and, overall, a reign of terror characterized this regime. Amazingly, amidst all this evil Saddam lived at an almost unprecedented level of  opulence, luxury and excess. While killing even members of his family, Saddam fleeced the Iraqis—without guilt, without shame, without ceasing.

Though we do not know the precise details of the Kingdom of Judah to which Jeremiah preached, I think we can safely say that the people of this kingdom were also fleeced by their leaders.

#2) The Episcopalian Church in the United States recently considered Rev Robinson’s election to Bishop of New Hampshire. CNN’s  McAfferty Report (Monday, August 4th, 2003), interviewed one conservative Episcopalian church leader regarding the Robinson nomination. He responded, “A bishop is to be a symbol of unity not disunity.” Another interviewee said, “It would not bother me if my bishop was gay. I can understand why it might bother some people. But can’t we just get along?”

Doesn’t it seem strange that, at least in the media, no one is asking, “What does God say?” When leaders refuse to use God’s Word of Scripture as their guide—or when they construe and twist it for their own means—the expected result is that the flock will be fleeced.

#3) The calling God gives to His Shepherds is like that which Doctors take in the Hippocratic Oath. “Do no harm.” Unfortunately, there are plenty of pastors, priests, bishops and other church leaders who, for a multitude of motives, would rather fleece the flock at their own expense rather than submit themselves in humility to ministering to God’s people in a way that brings honor to God and His Church.

#4) NBA star, Kobe Bryant, recently appeared at the 2003 Teen Choice Awards, where he was picked as the favorite male athlete. In his acceptance speech, he reminded us of a famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.  “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.” Nowhere is this felt more than in the Body of Christ. The prophecy of Jeremiah is just one of many examples in which selfish, ungodly rulers fleece the flock.

#5) Liberals in the United States Senate are stalling—filibustering—the confirmation vote for Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor. Pryor -- a conservative Roman Catholic – has been nominated for a seat on the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.. Why the delay? Allegedly it’s because he’s Roman Catholic. Some, apparently, are afraid that his Christian faith will influence him in his decisions on the bench. If such bias is true, in what ways might this affect the way our nation perceives Christianity?

 

B. Stories/Illustrations

#1) The need for discerning leaders

Evangelist Billy Walked told a story about the city fathers of New York as they contemplated the future growth of the city. They laid out the streets and numbered them from the center outward. When they began, there were only six or seven streets. In their planning maps, they projected how large they thought the city might grow. Reaching beyond their wildest imagination, they drew streets on the map all the way out to 19th street. They called it "Boundary Street" because they were sure that's all the larger New York City would become. But history has proven them to be shortsighted. At the last count, the city had reached 284th Street -- far exceeding their expectations!

#2) President Dwight Eisenhower On Integrity of Leadership:

In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence the supreme quality of a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, on a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man's associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bits & Pieces, September 15, 1994, p. 4.

#3) Checklist For Christian Leadership

Myron Rush identifies tough issues facing every Christian leader in The New Leader. We are wise to ponder them slowly.

- You must be willing to stand alone.

- You must be willing to go against public opinion in order to promote what you believe.

- You must be willing to risk failure.

- You must become master of your emotions.

- You must strive to remain above reproach.

- You must be willing to make decisions others don't want to make.

- You must be willing to say no at times, even when you'd like to say yes.

- You must sometimes be willing to sacrifice personal interests for the good of the group.

- You must never be content with the average; you must always strive for the best.

- People must be more important to you than possessions.

- You will have to work harder to keep your life in balance than people do who are not leaders.

Paul Borthwick, Leading the Way, Navpress, 1989, pp. 177-178.

Suggested Outline:

I Fleeced Flocks! Some examples…

A. Examples:

1. International Examples: Regime of Saddam Hussein
            2. National: Bias against Christianity? Judicial Nomination
            3. Ecclesiastical: Will Biblical standards for Bishops and Clergy be upheld in the
                    Christian church?

4. Biblical: Will God allow the leaders in Judah to “fleece the flock”?  No! That’s
why He called Jeremiah

B. What happens when flocks are fleeced….

                        1. People experience fear, dread, terror, injustice, etc…
                       
2. Leaders indulge in immoral excess, lack of restraint, etc…
                            “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”
                       
3. People and Leaders: in danger of losing faith, hope and God’s blessing

II De-Fleeced Flocks!

            A. God’s strategy: Send a prophet

                        1. Not a new strategy…but a repeatedly used one
                       
2. Results? Only a remnant remains faithful

            B. Common thread in prophetic ministry

1. The prophet must stand against the crowds, go up before Kings, preach judgment and repentance
2. Prophets proclaim grace, promise and hope to the remnant
3. Most important prophetic task: Proclaim Christ, the Messiah, as the center of this hope.

III God’s Calling: Be Fleece-Resistant! De-fleece the sheep!

            A. Corporate level: having God-fearing secular and religious leaders

            B. Personal level: God call us—whoever we are—to be “de-fleece police”

                        1. Be rooted in His Word
                       
2. Proclaim God’s Word with conviction


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This page was revised on: Friday, January 20, 2006 12:10:33 PM