by Linton Smith
Scripture: MARK 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17
It is said that experience is the best teacher.. and I believe it is true. I can sit and watch someone use a computer program, but the only way I finally learn how to use that program is to use it and learn by doing.
Jesus is recognized as one of the greatest teachers that have ever lived. He taught His followers by sitting down and explaining things to them. He taught them by vivid stories. And He taught them by giving them things to do.
He did that when He fed 5,000 men plus women and children.
Only two miracles are recorded in all four gospels. The miracle of the resurrection of Jesus.. and this one!
Clearly, God wants us to notice it.. and learn from it!
Let’s imagine.. each of us.. that we were there.. that we were one of the disciples.
That we were there that day when Jesus took five small loaves and two fish and fed 5,000 men.. plus women and children.. when afterward.. 12 baskets full of leftovers were collected!
Imagine that we are now looking back, discussing what He taught us that day.
We might say something like this..
HE TAUGHT US TO BE COMPASSIONATE.
Jesus had sent the twelve apostles on a ministry tour in Galilee.. They had stirred up so much interest that people by the thousands were trying to get near to Jesus..
The Apostles.. gathered around Jesus.. and reported.. then.. we read..
Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
They went away by themselves to a solitary place.. sailed from Capernaum on the West of the Sea of Galilee.. to a place on the NE shore.. The crowds saw where they were heading.. and ran around the Lake.. gathering people as they went from all the towns.. and got there before them..
When Jesus and the disciples landed.. they had every reason to be irritated..
We came here for a rest.. look at this!
The disciples may have been irritated.. but Jesus certainly was not.. He saw the large crowd.. and had compassion on them.. put His planned rest on hold.. and began to teach them.
You are one of the disciples.. you recall that.. you ponder it.. and do you not say..
By His example.. He taught us to be compassionate!
Then.. as we continue to reflect on what Jesus did.. we say..
HE TAUGHT US TO MEET MATERIAL NEEDS.
In Mark 6:35-37 we read..
It was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
There were probably 15,000 or more people.. away from their homes.. many had come hurriedly.. unprepared.. and soon they would be hungry..
The disciples saw an easy solution – send them away.. let them look after themselves.. go home if they cannot buy food nearby..
But Jesus said.. YOU give them something to eat.
And they did.
In John’s Gospel we are told there was a boy there with five small loaves.. and two fish.. Apparently he gave them to the disciples.. and they gave them to Jesus.. and Jesus did the rest.. He created the food they needed.. and fed them.. all of them.
Now.. imagine you were there.. and you are reflecting on what Jesus did. What does it teach you?
It teaches me that Jesus wants us to meet the basic needs of people.
The first Christians took this seriously.. and so have many believers throughout the history of the church.
Throughout history Christians have been at the forefront of meeting basic human needs.
In 1886, Henry Sidgwick wrote a book called, ‘Outlines of the History of Ethics’ He observes [p122f] that Christians played a key role in:
Putting a stop to the killing of unwanted infants and to gladiatorial combats.
Providing generously for the sick and the poor.
And today Christians are still caring for people.. still meeting basic needs.. the needs of people at home and overseas.
And that is just what Jesus wants His people to do. He wants us to be at the forefront of meeting human need.. food, clothing, shelter, and coming alongside to help people to cope.
And thinking back on that day.. we say..
HE TAUGHT US TO TRUST HIM.
They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
The first thing the disciples thought about.. was the problem!
Just like us.. The challenge is too big.. too hard.. too costly..
Even if we could find enough food in the villages.. it would cost about eight months of a man’s wages [Literally.. 200 denarii or wages of a labourer for 200 days]. Based on a wage of $800 a week that is almost $30,000!
Jesus surprised them.. get the people to sit down in groups..
Can you feel what they felt as they did this?
What’s the point of this.. we are going to look foolish.. there is no way we can feed this crowd..
But they did as they were told.. they took the first steps.. and the next.. and then Jesus acted.. He took the five loaves.. and two fish.. and did as any Jewish host would do at a meal.. prayed.. and gave it to the disciples.. they delivered it.. came back for more.. and came back.. until all were fed.. and they had 12 full baskets of fragments left over!
When I imagine I was there.. and reflect on this.. I hear Jesus saying to me.. Trust Me.. do as I say.. It may not make sense.. may seem impossible.. but take the first steps.. and I will provide!
Yes.. I hear Him saying.. trust me..
And I hear Him saying.. think about who I am!
Put ourselves in their shoes.. and we also say..
HE TAUGHT US ABOUT OUR DEEPEST NEED.
The Apostle John describes the sequel.
Jesus went up into the hills.. the disciples began to sail back to Capernaum.. that night Jesus came to them.. walking on the water. Next morning.. the people had returned to Capernaum.. saw Jesus.. How did You get here?
Then Jesus challenged them..
You are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.
We have material needs.. we are challenged to meet material needs.. but there is something far more important.. the food that endures to eternal life!
Jesus spoke about the manna with which God fed His people in the desert.. and contrasted Himself with this bread.. People ate that bread and died.. In contrast.. those who believe in me.. will live for ever.. He says..
I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.. I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Our deepest need is eternal life. We can have it now. Believe in Jesus.. and we pass from death to life – now. And what a difference that makes.
It makes a difference now.. and it makes a huge difference in eternity.
Jesus says, I will raise him up at the last day!
The Bible presents us with two prospects in eternity.
In Romans 2:7,8 Paul describes it like this: eternal life with glory, honor and peace.. OR wrath, anger, trouble and distress.
The last book in the Bible in chapters 20-22, puts it in pictures.. the heavenly Jerusalem with streets of gold.. God’s throne.. glory.. light.. purity.. OR.. a lake of fire.. and eternal torment. Who are the people in the heavenly Jerusalem? Those whose names were written in the Lamb’s book of life.. those who looked to the Son.. and believed!
When I imagine I was there.. and reflect on what Jesus said..
I hear Him saying, Come to me.. look to me.. believe.. and live eternally.
Then I hear Him saying, This is what I want you to do.. I want to you tell people about Me.. so that they also will believe.. and spend eternity with Me.
The disciples were confronted with a vast crowd.
Jesus said.. YOU give them something to eat.
Today.. Jesus invites us to look around.. see the people around us.. and far beyond.
And says to you and me,
YOU give them something to eat. Give them bread. And give them the Bread of Life!
Sermons and Bible Commentaries for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost
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