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God’s Word for You

Mark 6:34 The kingdom of God

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, January 28, 2023

34 As Jesus went ashore he saw a large crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He began to teach them many things.

We stand here with Jesus at the shore of the lake. Jesus is about to perform the most famous miracle of his earthly ministry: The Feeding of the Five Thousand. But here, before the people are fed, before the crowds are seated “by hundreds and by fifties,” before the Lord asks about what food there is, the Lord had compassion on them and taught them.

The Son of God was stirred with emotion, and his emotion stirs us. The word splanchnizomai (σπλαγχνίζoμαι) is a churning of the stomach, a gut-wrenching feeling of pity and a reaching out of the heart. What Jesus saw in the crowds beyond their need, their hurt, their agony, was that they were leaderless.

“Like sheep without a shepherd” is a phrase that goes back to a prayer of Moses: “May the Lord appoint a man over this community… so that the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:15). The prophet Micaiah (not Micah) used these words to describe a vision he had: “I see all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd” (1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chronicles 18:16), echoed by later prophets (Isaiah 13:14; Ezekiel 34:5; Zechariah 10:2, 13:7). Nearly every culture in the world knows about sheep, or at least about wool, even if they don’t call sheep by a name we would recognize (“woolly goat” to the Eskimo people of Barrow, Alaska, and “cotton deer” to the Maya of Central America). The Lord’s heart went out to them.

Luke gives us some details that don’t surprise us. First, Jesus also healed those “who needed healing.” Second, the teaching he did was about the kingdom of God (Luke 9:11). The kingdom of God is another name for the invisible church. The one defining characteristic of this kingdom is faith. That means that we can’t see it in other people, but we can see its results in one another. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming in a way you can observe, nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘Look, there it is!’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20). We have a record of what he taught just after this occasion in John’s Gospel (John 6:26-58), but that was in the synagogue at Capernaum and not out on the hillside with the crowds (John 6:59). We cannot say precisely what he said to the people, but since we know that he preached about the kingdom of God, we can remind ourselves of many things he taught about the kingdom:

1, The kingdom of God is the rule of Christ the King, and his ruling activity wherever his kingdom is (Psalm 2:9).

2, Christ creates the kingdom through the seed of his Word as he sows it in the hearts of people who hear the gospel (Luke 8:4-15). “My heart trembles at your word” (Psalm 119:161).

3, Good works naturally take place in the hands of those who hear the gospel and believe it. Such good works don’t create faith, but they show that faith is present, just as apples don’t make an apple tree, but demonstrate that the tree is an apple tree (John 15:8). “Do good to your servant and I will live. I will obey your word” (Psalm 119:17).

4, The path, the means of entering the kingdom, is the means of grace. This is the gospel in the word and in the sacraments. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).

5, The people of the kingdom want Christ to rule over everything in our lives, “everything that we are and have and hope to be.” “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18). Christ alone is our king; nothing, least of all sin, should rule over us. “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me” (Psalm 119:133).

6, Christ refers to the church as his bride to show the intimate connection and love that he has with all believers. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7). And “one of the seven angels said, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb’” (Revelation 21:9).

7, God permits the wicked to live among the godly until judgment day and does not destroy the wicked, “because you may root up the wheat with them” (Matthew 13:29). Here is the compassion of our Lord (Psalm 119:156).

8, The kingdom grows from such a small thing as the preached word or the washing of baptism into something large that benefits many (Mark 4:30). “May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous” (Psalm 119:172).

9, The kingdom works when the gospel is preached and spreads all through a person’s life and transforms the whole lump and raises it (Matthew 13:33). “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:50).

10, The kingdom is priceless, more valuable than any earthly treasure (Matthew 13:44, 46). “Turn my eyes from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word” (Psalm 119:37).

11, The people of the kingdom will finally be sorted out on judgment day (Matthew 13:49-50), and none of the righteous will be lost. “All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your statutes” (Psalm 119:119).

12, The teaching of the kingdom, the New Testament, fulfills the Old so that anyone who knows them both has “new treasures as well as old” (Matthew 13:52).

13, The Lord calls many into his kingdom who refuse him, and many who are unworthy who are then made worthy by the preaching of the word (Matthew 22:2-10).

14, No one can remain in the kingdom apart from the righteousness of Christ. No one can remain based on his own righteousness (Matthew 22:11-14).

15, All those in the kingdom have the faith of a little child, depending upon Christ alone (Luke 18:17), knowing that apart from Christ we are helpless and have no merits at all (Mark 10:15).

  “Your saints will praise you:
  They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
  And speak of your might
  so that all men may know of your mighty acts
  and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
  Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
  And your dominion endures through all generations.”
                                      (Psalm 145:10-13)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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