Return to Index or Sermons
Proper 13A, Tr 2, Trinity 10,
31.7.05 - Mark II
Isaiah 55.1-5: you shall call nations that you do not know
Ps 145.8-9, 15-22: The Lord is loving to everyone
Rom 9.1-5: Paul maintains Jewish roots. Jews to be means of calling Gentiles, now tables reversed.
Mt 14.13-21: after Jesus heard John beheaded, Feeding of 5,000 men
Collect: make us ask such things as shall please you.
Post Com: God of our pilgrimage ... may [we] never wander from the way of life.
Additional Collect: Lord of heaven and earth, as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer, give us patience and courage never to lose hope,
but always to bring our prayers before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (1344-119=1225)
Feeding the 5,000 is a Jewish feeding; Feeding the 4,000 is a mixed
Jewish-Gentile feeding, added to help move the Church outwards.
beloved brothers and sister in Christ, tighten your seatbelts, for this morning
I am going to take you on an academic ride.
Since we are in
Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary, our gospel reading this morning has
been from Matthew. Matthew is what
one might call an up-dating of Mark, up-dated to speak to a somewhat different
pastoral situation than that faced by Mark’s community, and even Mark had been
forced to deal with a shifting situation, since he added a large section of
material to what we may call his first edition.
Mark issued his first edition around AD 65-70.
This first shorter version is the one that Luke used when he wrote his
gospel. Very soon after the first
version of Mark, the large bit in the middle was added.
This is Mark’s Gospel as we have it, and it is the version that Matthew
worked from. It is this bit in the
middle that Matthew keeps that I want to bring to your attention after we have a
good look at some aspects of today’s gospel reading.
this morning includes the Feeding of the 5,000.
It takes place in the springtime when the grass has turned green and they
can sit on it. In the
takes place in purely Jewish territory, of those fed only the males are counted,
another Jewish trait, and even the kind of basket, called a kophinos,
that is used to gather up the fragments is associated with Jewish usage.
So the Feeding of the 5,000 is a purely Jewish affair.
Matthew keeps all the material that Mark added to his second edition, and that includes the story of the Feeding of the 4,000. When I started my doctoral studies 45 years ago scholars were bemused by this second feeding; they scratched their heads and generally said that it was just another version of the same feeding and they could see little point to it, for at that stage most of them viewed Matthew, Mark and Luke as being little more than arrangers and recorders of received tradition. If you wanted real theology, you had to go to John’s Gospel. But now we know differently.
When we come to
the Feeding of the 4,000, the feeding takes place in the
So we have moved from a purely Jewish feeding to a
mixed Jewish and Gentile feeding. And
the rest of the added material taken over from Mark is concerned with the
conditions of the mission to the Gentiles. It
includes Jesus declaring all foods clean, which opens the way for Jews and
Gentiles to eat together.
There is a
sense in which one might say that Mark’s first edition was seen to be too
inward looking, which is why the materials were added to help the community to
be more outward-looking.
It is quite possible to become tired of ones calling, or even to mis-read ones calling. As we read the various writings of the OT, we can detect the tensions between being a self-contained people on the one hand, and on the other hand being urged to look outwards and be concerned for others.
E.g. the prophet Haggai, stresses the need
to rebuild the temple after the exile as being the primary concern.
And Ezra & Nehemiah’s so-called ‘reforms’ in the 4th
century BC after the return from the Exile include the putting away of foreign
wives – a real push towards inward-looking ethnic purity.
Just as Mark’s addition, followed by Matthew, helps to set the church’s focus outward on the mission to the Gentiles, so likewise in the Old Testament there is a counter-stream against being inward looking in such writings as the tract of Jonah, which tells of his disgust at God’s sending him to preach repentance to the Gentiles, namely the inhabitants of Ninevah. When he finally does so, he is still unhappy that they repent and are saved.
Another such writing is the Book of Ruth, a real counter-blast to the concern for ethnic purity. In it the line of David, the great King of Israel, comes through a Moabite. And the scroll of Ruth was read at Pentecost, the missionary feast.
vision is also present in our readings today.
In our reading
from Isaiah the Lord says, ‘See, you shall call nations that you do not
know’. Our psalm says, ‘The Lord
is loving to everyone, and his compassion is over all his works’.
And in our
reading from Romans, Paul is agonizing over his fellow-Jews who have not yet
accepted the gospel. He goes on to
argue that the calling of the Jews was to be the means whereby the Gentiles
would be brought to God, but now God has reversed the tables, and through his
kindness as shown forth by the Gentile Christians, the Gentiles themselves are
now to be the means for bringing in the rest of the Jews.
Even if things did not work out that way in the end, we can sense
Paul’s tremendous desire to share the gospel of God’s love in Christ with
So, where have
we gotten to? We have seen how easy
it is to become discouraged and inward looking, to become a self-preservation
society, so-to speak. But on the
other hand we have seen that our real calling is to reach out in concern for the
welfare of our neighbours, near and far, and we who trust in God through Christ
know that his Spirit will sustain us in the patience and courage of which
today’s collect speaks, as we continue to respond to our calling to look
outward in love and service to our neighbours here at St Mark’s.