Summary: Faith is about trusting in a person. Faith is not about stuff. It is not about things happening or things not. It is not about things coming together. It is not about a happy feeling or a secure moment or even knowledge - it is about a person.
Richard Dawkins, the famous Oxford zoologist said, “Faith is the great copout, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, a lack of evidence.”
Does Jesus prove Richard Dawkins right in our passage today? Jesus is asked for a sign to show that He is the real thing and He refuses to give a sign and walks away. Is this Jesus way of showing us that faith is taking action to believe, in spite of the lack of evidence?
Turn with me to Chapter 8 of the Gospel of Mark, and let’s see if we can find out. If you are marking verses this morning, the key verses for us this morning are: verses 7, 12, 15.
Isn’t this human nature – people want proof before they commit? When we go to buy a new car, we take it for a test drive. When we buy clothes, we try them on first. Ladies, when you shop for lipstick, you try it on first, right? Men…well, I’ve never seen men trying on lipstick at the department store. But, men, if you were thinking of buying a large flat screen TV, wouldn’t you go and compare the picture quality side by side? How many here snack on all those samples they give out at Costco when you go shopping? We like to try before we buy, there is no doubt about it.
Here in our passage this morning we have Jesus give us a sample, so to speak, of who He is by feeding the four thousand. This of course is not an isolated example of what Jesus can do. So far in the book of Mark we have seen him drive our demons, heal numerous people – including Peter’s mother in law and a man with leprosy. He has calmed a great storm in an instant, walked on water and even has raised a little girl from the dead; Yet, yet, no one seems to really get it, they have no idea who He really is. Where is their faith? Where is their understanding?
Looking at the beginning of this passage we see a familiar predicament. A large crowd had gathered to hear Jesus teach. Jesus has taught them for an extended length of time, and the people quite simply need to eat. Now remember, this same thing happened back in Chapter 6. Let me be clear, this is not the same event as the feeding of the five thousand; We see at the end of our passage in verses 18-20 that clearly Jesus and the disciples discuss, not two versions of the same event, but two different and distinct events.
So we see in verses 1-3 Jesus having compassion on the people, even fearing that they will collapse if He sends them away, but His disciples respond, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” Well, you know guys, remember, a short time ago? Same situation, different place. What did Jesus do then? How in the world do these guys not remember? After all the things they have seen, up close and personal – it is if Jesus had never done anything miraculous before!
We are exactly the same.
A young man of age 22 was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It was serious. Jack was given a very low chance of making it. But a year later he was healthy and cancer free. A few weeks later it was discovered that Jack had a tumor the size of a football in his belly. It was intertwined around various organs. They had to operate immediately. Jack was given a 10% chance of survival, 10%. The surgery was to last 28 hours and three teams were lined up to do tag team surgery. The entire team were devote Christians. Four hours later the tumor was out, it was the most perfect, by the book surgery they had ever experienced. THEN, about four months later Jack was driving his silver Ford Bronco and Jack was very drunk. He had an accident killing and 18 year old boy and Jack barely survived the accident.
He was not allowed visitors in the hospital as he was a prisoner of the state. A few months later Jack was released on bail with an ankle bracelet to monitor him. We spent some time together in his parents living room talking about the events of the last few months, and at one point Jack said to me – “Maybe God is trying to get my attention?” Ya Think!
We may not be as dense as Jack, but I tell you, here in this congregation I have seen a number of people who have had God intervene miraculously in their life and when the next difficult issue arises, the past mighty acts of God in their life are completely forgotten: Faith amnesia.