"Less Is More" - The Feeding of the Four Thousand (Mark 8:1-9) - Seventh Sunday after Trinity
[Mark 8:1-9] In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.
Less Is More
What happens to the bowl of salad in your fridge? When your countertops are filled with an abundance of junk food and snacks, the bowl of salad in your fridge turns old and brown. Neglected. Left unconsumed.
But when the countertops are empty and the chip bags and cookie jars yield no supply, then we turn to the salad, our only option. And blessèd are we. Our body is all the more nourished.
Less is more. Less of what I first desire so often leads to more of what I truly need. Less is more. When we have less of our own, we are forced to turn to what God will supply. And blessèd are we. Less is more.
In our Gospel today, Mark 8:1-9, a crowd gathers with no bread of their own. “In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat…” A crowd of about 4,000 men, plus women and children [Matthew 15:38]. They left the pantry and cellar of home far behind to carry their blind and mute and crippled and lame to Christ [Matt. 15:29-31; Mark 7:37].
Without the bread of home, these 4,000 families receive what? A greater bread from the Lord. A great miracle of their Savior. The experience of His compassion – “I have compassion on the crowd”, Jesus said. And they are filled – “they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full” – left with more than the little they began with.
Others that same night who ate bread at home in the towns – even if they had a feast – did not receive anything comparable to what this hungry crowd in the wilderness received, this crowd that had so little. Less is more with Christ.
So often in our crowd, more becomes less. More leisure. More work for more money. More shows and games at our fingertips. More interests in life. More dreams to pursue. More hobbies. More time on vacation. More and more cheap novels to read. More gardening to do. More things to buy and sell. More, more, more.
With these pleasurable snack foods and junk foods of life available in such abundance, how well do your Scriptures fare? Your Bible and your Catechism are as dusty as your salad is brown. You have more than any generation before you. And this more has brought you considerably less. Less of what is from the Lord.
Blessèd are those before us who had less. But you have the responsibility, brothers and sisters, to choose to have less. To go into the wilderness with Christ. To spend time with His Bread alone. There is no excuse.
The world’s main course is a diet of distractions – a platter of spiritually empty snacks. But you are choosing to consume it all day instead of consuming the Bread of Life – a bread that you have an abundance of time for, if you would use it.
Choose to have less, brothers and sisters – choose to do less – choose to pursue less – and have more of the abundance of the Bread of Life. Having less, when it’s with the Lord, is a more abundant feast and a more satisfying meal. You’ll truly be full.
There was a miraculous bread in the wilderness. And there is a bread for you. Jesus said, “the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [John 6:33,35, 51]
Jesus became your bread by giving His life for yours on the cross. This He did for all. He gained true and abundant life for you in place of this worldly life which is really only dying. As this life become less, the life He gives becomes more. May the life He won by His death for you increase to become your true and only life.
And may His righteousness become your only righteousness. Less is more. He died for sinners. For those who have less. He becomes the “more” for those who have no goodness of their own. His righteousness becomes yours. Our best human righteousness – the best of our best – is only empty calories, tooth rotting junk food, “filthy rags”, as Scripture puts it [Isaiah 64:6].
Jesus’ death and resurrection for you is true Bread. His righteousness is true righteousness, healthy bread, that is yours by faith in Him – the righteousness that is by faith [Romans 4:4-5; 9:30]. “Whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst” [John 6:35].
How do I eat it? The abundance of what Jesus won for you on the cross is given to you through particular means: through Baptism; through the Bread and Wine, Christ’s true Body and true Blood, in the Lord’s Supper; through Confession & Absolution, not just in the service, but individually/privately at times when needed; through the singing or hearing of a hymn, here or at home or in your car; and through His Word.
Christ, the Bread of Life, all He did on the cross, is delivered unto you and into you through the hearing and reading of His Word, the Scriptures, the Bible. And you are truly with Him in prayer. Some things are only on Sunday or in service. Prayer and God’s Word is food every day.
And Christ our Bread is found in another place: the place of good works. Not as our righteousness or for salvation. But there is a true fellowship with Christ as He is served in the “least of these” [Matthew 25:40]. The crowd was in the wilderness with Jesus because they were bringing to Him the mute, the blind, the crippled, broken sinners. There they partook of that miraculous bread.
In the places where you bring broken sinners to Christ, where, in word and deed, you bring the love of Jesus to them - there you are with the Bread of Life and are partaking of a meal more satisfying than all the endeavors of the world.
And your good works, when done in Christ’s name, brings the Bread of Life to them. In the places of this life where there is Less, you can bring to them the much More of Christ.
Each day we must take time in which we say no to the world’s diet – to un-occupy our time with what else we could be doing – and occupy it with Christ in the wilderness. To choose to spend time in prayer and God’s Word – not on the internet – but in your Bible, in your Small Catechism, in rereading a sermon, in your portals of prayer – in fervent and long prayer for yourself and others – and in good works - a full feast of time with Christ. Less of this life. More of the life He won for you on the Cross. In this way, less is indeed much more. Amen.