Read Mark 6:30-44
When you follow Jesus on his mission you will come face to face with your own insufficiency. Don’t let that stop you because God is able to multiply your little into a lot.
This morning we are going to see that lesson in living color through the only miracle recorded in all 4 gospels – the transformation of 5 loaves of bread and two fish into a meal that fed thousands of people.
Let’s start with some context.
The disciples have just returned to report on their first short term mission trip. They came back thrilled that God could use them in significant ways. They healed the sick. People oppressed by unclean spirits were delivered. They were exhilarated and tired and so many people were crowding around them that they couldn’t even eat.
That crowd of people is going to create an opportunity for a huge lesson. We are going to look at the what, why, who, how and what now of that miracle.
Miracle: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
We are preconditioned to skepticism and sometimes struggle to take in the miraculous accounts of the Scriptures. Whether you hold a theistic view of the universe or a naturalistic one, at the end of the line both views require a miracle. Either a transcendent intelligence created the universe or it was formed out of nothing. Both explanations defy human understanding.
“There was in these miracles, I think in all, only a hastening of appearances: the doing of that in a day, which may ordinarily take a thousand years, for with God time is not what it is with us…Indeed, the wonder of the growing corn is to me greater than the wonder of feeding the thousands. It is easier to understand the creative power going forth at once – immediately – than through the countless, the lovely, the seemingly forsaken wonders of the cornfield.” – George MacDonald
“God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn the water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities. Thus every year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see…But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana.
“God makes a little corn into much corn: the seed is sown and there is an increase, and men, according to the fashion of their age, say… ‘It is the laws of Nature.’ The close-up, the translation, of this annual wonder working is the feeding of the five thousand…A little bread is made into much bread. The Son will do what He sees the Father do…When He fed the thousands he multiplied the fish as well as the bread. Look in every bay and almost every river. This swarming, pulsating fecundity shows He is still at work.” – C.S. Lewis
34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” -Frederick Buechner
In the revelation of God in the Scriptures, compassion is a central quality of our creator.
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…
This is the incredible revelation of the heart of God in the face of Christ. When looking over crowds of messy people, even those who continually resisted him, Jesus expressed a relentless compassion.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
In that moment many qualities found expression in the heart of Jesus. Righteousness and judgment. Jesus has just pronounced 7 woes against the Pharisees. But the overwhelming quality is compassionate love.
How does God feel about you? In your worst moments? Righteousness and judgment are certainly his. He hates our sin and will some day rise in judgment against it.
But we see in Jesus the overriding quality of compassion.
Someone here may be resisting God. You are choosing sin. You are hurting the people around you. God is righteous, but he is compassion. He longs for you to turn to him before it is too late.
“No matter how low down you are; no matter what your disposition has been; you may be low in your thoughts, words, and actions; you may be selfish; your heart may be overflowing with corruption and wickedness; yet Jesus will have compassion upon you. He will speak comforting words to you; not treat you coldly or spurn you, as perhaps those of earth would, but will speak tender words, and words of love and affection and kindness. Just come at once. He is a faithful friend – a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” D.L. Moody
This is God.
We’ve talked about the mysterious ways of God in founding his kingdom with ordinary, everyday people.
Look at the limitations of the disciples in this passage.
They are limited compassion. (35-36)
They are limited belief. (37)
They are limited resources. (38) (Matthew 20 tells us that a denarii was worth one day’s wages, a rough estimate makes 200 denarii that around $30k)
They are small. They are insufficient. They aren’t enough.
To teach the disciples, and us a lesson.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
The principle: God does big things through small people. The supremely sufficient, almighty God works through insufficient instruments for the benefit of his creation in the display his glory.
The general principle is that God is able to make all grace abound to you. That could have been demonstrated in a variety of ways. God chose a striking display of supernatural power which defies our experience. Why? In order to shock us into faith. God is really able to make a lot of a little.
Because Jesus is enough you don’t have to be.
Because Jesus is more than sufficient you are free to be insufficient.
Is this just a history lesson?
Heidi Baker is a missionary working in Mozambique, one of the poorest areas in the world. She describes a time when she was caring for her 2 biological children and 320 orphaned kids.
Resources were often tight and once they went a couple of days without food. In those days a woman at the American embassy called – “I made a meal for your family.”
“Nelda, I have a very big family.”
Heidi had a little cornmeal and they made some mash out of it. They began to serve the meal. Every child received a plate of food.
Is that real? It’s in the Scriptures. We live in the same world as Mark and the disciples.
A team of researches traveled to Mozambique to conduct research on the miraculous claims of Baker’s ministry.
They published the results in the Southern Medical Journal in an article titled “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique”.
The study reported “significant improvement in auditory and visual ability following prayer.” In other words, the deaf were able to hear and the blind received sight.
A team of MDs and PhDs conducting peer reviewed research found the claims of God’s intervention in Mozambique to be sound and verifiable.
God is at work in our world.
When we are insufficient, He is sufficient.
Notice the order of events. It was only after the disciples surrendered the little that they had to Jesus, only after they set it out before the people that God supplied the rest.
Jesus could have snapped his fingers and filled the area with bread and fish.
But he wanted the disciples to learn something. God wants us to bring the little we have to him in faith. He wants us to step out in faith to offer the little we have. The gracious power of God follows the faith.
Jesus sees needs, disciples see problems and limitations.
When we get to know Jesus we will see what he sees. We will feel what he feels. We will do what he did.
When you follow Jesus on his mission you will at times face your own insufficiency. Don’t let that stop you because God is able to multiply your little into a lot.
God plans for his compassion to multiply in the world through ordinary and insufficient people.
Are you willing to feel compassion?
Christian, it’s easy to feel outrage. It’s easy to separate yourself from the world and judge it from the outside. Will you allow yourself to feel the compassion of Christ?
“The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.” – John Stott
“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” -William Wilberforce
“Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.” -Francis Schaeffer
I am not speaking to you out of personal preference. Mine is not a bleeding heart. In my own nature I am entirely unwilling to feel the pain of others. I have enough of my own. But the Scriptures won’t let me stay that way.
Many Christians are living with the strain and burden of trying to maintain their comfort and security. Jesus offers us the opportunity to trade that for the liberating, life-giving adventure of giving ourselves away for the good of others while experiencing the miraculous provision of God.
Christian, are you enjoying the life you are living right now? Are you happy with your current level of experiencing God?
“The needs are too great and I am too small.
That feeling of insufficiency is exactly why we have this text.”
Maybe you feel that you don’t have enough knowledge to share the gospel with your friend
You don’t have enough money to give to tithe or give to the missionary this month.
Let Mark 6 inspire you, when you aren’t enough, God is.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown