#28 Little Is Much When God Is in It
September 27, 2020
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TEXT: Mark 6:30-44 – "And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. 31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. 33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. 34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. 35 And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: 36 Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. 37 He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? 38 He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. 39 And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. 40 And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. 41 And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. 42 And they did all eat, and were filled. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. 44 And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men. "
Illus. – Once there was a turkey farmer who was always trying to perfect a way to breed a better turkey. All the members of his family enjoyed turkey legs, and there was never enough for everyone. After several frustrating attempts, the farmer told his friends at the general store, “Well I finally did it! I bred a turkey that has 6 legs!” They asked the farmer how it tasted, to which the farmer replied, “I don’t know. I never could catch the darn thing!”
Life is like that sometimes. It’s full of frustrations; and even when we do succeed, it’s often more than we can handle. This is especially true when we’re serving the Lord, because He asks us to do impossible things, to do things that are way beyond our ability to accomplish, things like loving an enemy, or making disciples of all nations.
Howard Hendricks once said, “Living the Christian life is not hard; it’s impossible!”
Well, that’s not exactly true. In today’s text, we’ll see how the disciples did the impossible through the power of God.
Before we begin, let me give you a trivia question: Who knows what is the only miracle that is recorded in all four Gospels? – Anybody know? If you thought it was the feeding of the 5,000, then congratulations; you are correct. Jesus performed dozens of miracles, but the feeding of the 5,000 is the only one that appears in all four Gospel accounts. I believe that’s because God wants us to pay close attention to the lessons of this miracle.
Let’s see what they are as we look at Mark’s version of the feeding of the 5,000.
I. BUT FIRST, LET’S NOTICE A WELL-DESERVED VICTORY LAP. – Mark 6:30-31 – “And the apostles gathered themselves together to Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. 31 And he said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”
You’ll recall that earlier in chapter 6, in verses 7-13, Jesus had sent the Twelve out to preach and have authority over demons. Then Mark sandwiches in the story of Herod’s banquet and the subsequent beheading of John the Baptist. This is another one of those sandwiches we’ve talked about earlier in Mark).
Now the disciples have returned from their ministry trip and they’re rejoicing over their ministry victories. They shared with Jesus and the others everything they had both done and taught. What stories they had to tell of victory after victory over all of the power of the enemy and of lives transformed!
Then in verse 31, Jesus says in essence, “Let’s go to a place away from the crowds for some R&R.” This was not in the desert necessarily, as later in the story it tells us that the crowd was told to sit down in the green grass. Comparing the different Gospel accounts, scholars say that they withdrew to an area near Bethsaida, where the Jordan empties into the Sea of Galilee—a solitary, deserted place.
Jesus was suggesting a little holiday to get away from the pressures of life and ministry—a time for the disciples to spend some quality time alone with Jesus. You know, we need time away from the hustle and bustle of life to recharge. Getaways and holiday retreats are a great idea. We look forward to them and have some of our fondest memories of them.
God Himself is a great believer in holidays. He took one Himself when He had completed His work of creation, to enjoy the fruits of His labor. In the Mosaic Law, He instituted various feasts and sabbaths for the benefit and blessing of His people. Several of the feasts called for joyous pilgrimages to Jerusalem away from home. So, we’re not surprised that Jesus and the disciples went off on a holiday.
We need to come away from our busy lives for some needed rest and recharging.
I like the way Vance Havner once put it: “If you don’t come apart and rest, you’ll eventually come apart.”
Illus. – According to an ancient Greek legend, a man in Athens noticed the great philosopher, Aesop, playing marbles with some little boys. He laughed at Aesop and asked him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity. Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to this critical Athenian, “Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bow implies.”
The man looked at it for several moments but had no answer to the riddle. Aesop then explained, “If you keep a bow always bent, it will eventually break; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when needed.”
Now, that’s the way it is with each of us! We must take the time to rest regularly, so we can be ready for use when needed.
II. NOTICE IN VERSES 32-34 A CANCELLED HOLIDAY. – “So they departed to a deserted place by ship by themselves. 33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran there on foot from all the cities, and arrived before them, and came together to him. 34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw a great crowd, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. So he began to teach them many things.”
Unfortunately, the solitude the disciples hoped to have was not going to happen—at least not yet. Somehow word got out where Jesus and the Twelve were headed. At that time of year, it would take less time to walk the distance than go by boat, so when the crowd heard where they were headed, the crowd raced to Bethsaida by foot to see what Jesus would do next. Along the way they must have picked up hundreds more as they passed through villages.
By the time Jesus and the disciples arrived, there was a huge crowd of people there awaiting them. So much for their restful getaway! You can imagine how they must have felt when they got there. “Can’t they just leave us alone for a while?”
Illus. – Have you ever had to cancel a vacation? Years ago, the church gave us some money for our anniversary to go to Portugal where we had wanted to go for a long time but could not afford it. With the money from the church in hand, we planned our trip, only to have to cancel it because of several reasons. We squirrelled the money into savings and were not able to make that trip until this past March. We had a wonderful trip, but at the time, we were terribly disappointed.
That’s how the disciples must have felt, because later in the story you pick up on a negative attitude from them. But Jesus had a different attitude.
Verse 34 says that when He saw so many people, He was moved with compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd…so He began to teach them.
Illus. – I never fully understood what this meant until we were living in a town near Wiesbaden where we were able to watch a shepherd who led his sheep around to various pastures. He was German, so I guess that made him a German shepherd. When he and the sheep were outside our village, I’d go out and watch them.
I noticed that he always had his sheep dog with them, and he’d say something to the dog and it would spring into action and start nipping at the heels of the sheep who were wandering off. The sheep would nibble on grass and their only perspective was the next clump of grass, all the while slowly wandering further and further from the flock—much like humans whose only concern is the next thrill or fleshly pleasure as they wander further and further away from God.
The problem with sheep is three-fold:
• First, a sheep without a shepherd cannot find its way. – Bill Rice, who once owned sheep, said, “Sheep are geographical morons.”
• Second, domesticated sheep cannot find food and pasture on their own.
• Third, sheep have no defenses against predators. – They’re at the mercy of any and all predators.
This was what moved Jesus to compassion. He saw how directionless they were, how they could not find true sustenance from the sorry things this world feeds on, and how defenseless they were to the enemy of our souls. Tired as He and the disciples were, compassion moved in Jesus’ heart to be their shepherd if they would follow Him. So he began to teach them.
III. NEXT, IN VERSES 35-38 WE SEE A HUMAN IMPOSSIBILITY.
Look first at verses 35-36. – “When the day was far spent, his disciples came to him, and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. 36 Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding countryside, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.’”
The disciples make an imminently reasonable suggestion: It’s getting late, there’s no McDonalds close by, these people are getting hungry, they’re way out in some secluded spot away from villages, and these people need to GO HOME! I can’t help but think there was some sense of resentment toward the crowd because they had to cancel their little getaway for some rest and recuperation.
Now look at verses 37-38 – “But he answered and said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ And they said to him, ‘Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii of bread, and give them something to eat?’ 38 But he said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have? Go and see.’ And when they found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.””
Jesus doesn’t agree with their plan; instead He says, “YOU feed them.” At this point they are only thinking in purely human terms. That Jesus could solve the problem had not occurred to them. They recognize their inability; they just hadn’t considered Christ’s ability.
So they think, “Well, we’ll have to go the market in Bethsaida and buy some food.” The treasurer, Judas gets out his abacus and calculates that it would cost about 200 denarii to feed the crowd. A denarius was a Roman silver coin and was the standard day’s wage of a working man. In effect the disciples were saying, “We couldn’t earn enough in more than six months’ work to feed a crowd this big.”
So Jesus changes their focus from what they DON’T have to what they DO have. He says, “Go and see how much food there is.” They go out to see, and all there is are 5 loaves and 2 pieces of fish. Don’t think of a loaf of Wonder Bread when you see the word loaf here. Scholars say this would be more like small rolls made of barley. And the fishes would have been about the size of a sardine. This was a typical meal for one person who was traveling.
This just confirmed in the disciples’ minds that the crowd should be sent away. Obviously, there is no way such a paltry meal could feed a whole multitude.
IV. BUT IN VERSES 39-44 WE SEE A MIRACULOUS SOLUTION.
In verses 39-40 we read, “Then he commanded them to make them all sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 And they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.”
There was to be no pushing and shoving, no scrambling or squabbling. The Lord had everyone sit down in orderly fashion, in groups, so the disciples could walk back and forth, making the crowd manageable enough to serve.
Then verse 41-42 says, “And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fishes among them all. 42 And they ate and were filled.”
According to the custom of the day, Jesus gave thanks to God for the provision of the 5 rolls of barley bread and the 2 fish. And THEN He gave it to His disciples to give to the people. As they went to the people, somehow the bread and the fish multiplied. How the miracle itself took place is not stated. To the gospel writers, HOW it happened was not the important fact. They needed no explanation. Jesus had done it by His miraculous power; that’s all they needed to know.
We read in verse 42 that everyone ate, and not only did all eat—they were filled. They were hungry and they got fish sandwiches which disappeared as fast as they were produced. This was not a snack to tide them over to the next town. This was a full meal in which everyone’s hunger was fully satiated. God doesn’t do things in half-measures; what He does, He does right.
Verses 43-44 say, “And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. 44 And those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men.”
Not only was everyone filled, but there were twelve baskets full of bread fragments and fish, one basket for every disciple.
Not only was their ministry a blessing to the people who were fed, but the disciples were rewarded with a full basket of food for themselves.
God blesses those who minister and bless others.
Wow!—What a miracle! This story confirms again a repeated theme of Mark: that Jesus was the Son of God. Though not yet understood by the people observing the miracles nor even the disciples, Jesus’ identity is progressively revealed by the miracles He performed. As we look at this story, what life lessons can we learn from them?
First, we learn that God wants to use us to bring the Bread of Life to a needy world.
Note that though Jesus performed the miracle, it was the DISCIPLES who fed the people. Jesus chose to work THROUGH His disciples.
In reality, God can do perfectly well without us if He chooses to do so. Jesus did not need the 5 loaves and 2 fishes that came from a little boy. Neither did He need to use the disciples to distribute the food. Just like He created the universe with just His Word, He could just as easily have commanded bread and fish to float down from heaven on pink parachutes.
But here’s the wonder of it all: Jesus delights in including us in His work!
Illus. – After World War II ended, a group of German students volunteered to help rebuild a cathedral in London. It had been severely damaged by bombing.
They did well with most of the cathedral, except for one statue that had been broken into many pieces—a marble statue of Jesus. It originally stood with Christ standing with arms outstretched. The inscription under it read, “Come unto me.”
They were able to find the pieces and reconstruct the entire statue with the exception of the hands, which had been completely demolished. When finished, they had a statue of Jesus with outstretched arms, but no hands. They couldn't decide what to do...make new hands, or leave it as it was. They decided to leave it as it was, but they changed the inscription. It now says, “He has no hands but ours.”
One of the great blessings in life it to be used by God to minister to and bless others. When we get in on God’s plan to use us this way, we experience miracles in our lives—miracles of people finding Christ and being born again, miracles of being the instruments to bring truth that transforms peoples’ lives. Every one of you who serves God with your talents and abilities—God will work in you to not only bless others, but to return with a basketful of blessings yourself.
I have seen it time and time again…
• Someone shares the Gospel with someone and pleads with them to come to Christ, and God does the miracle of saving them, but the evangelizer has the joy of being the vessel God uses to perform the miracle.
• Someone does something that goes way out of their comfort zone: they volunteer to teach a KIDS class on Sunday morning, and they’re scared out of their minds. But they jump in because there’s a need for kid’s teachers. They teach kids simple Bible truths and God takes that seemingly little service to minister to our little ones and multiplies the impact. God’s Word takes root in little hearts that someday produces saving faith.
• Someone takes God seriously about giving tithes and offerings to the local church so that the church can have the means to carry out all its missions and goals. – Then God uses that money to reach our community with the Gospel and the world through our missions program.
You say, “But I’m a nobody and I have few talents and abilities. How can God use someone like me?” The answer is embodied in a song we used to sing titled, “Little Is Much When God Is in It.” God could use the Twelve Apostles who were spiritually frail, faithless and halting in their spiritual growth and understanding. If God can use those Twelve clowns, He can use YOU if you’ll just step up to the plate and serve.
Here’s another truth embedded in this story: Jesus has compassion on you. Do you know the difference between pity and compassion? – Pity is merely an emotion; compassion compels one to action. Jesus didn’t merely pity us; He had compassion that drove Him to action.
Jesus did not merely have pity on you for your sinful choices that will lead you down the road to hell. He had compassion and was moved to DO something for you; for everyone. He came to this earth to pay the penalty for your sin on the cross. He suffered for you because He has compassion on you. He wants what’s best for you. He wants you to experience the best life for you—one that is found in a relationship with Him. You can have a relationship with that compassionate Savior by recognizing your sinful state before God, believing that Jesus paid the penalty for all your sins on the cross and turning from running your own life.
My heart’s desire is that if you have never done that, you will do so today.