Summary: Often it is in times of frustration and incessant demands that God most effectively teaches us how to have compassion and to serve others with His power.

Mark 6:30-44

Serving Others When They Should Be Serving You

Parallel passages: Matt 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6

THE SETTING: Mark 6:27-29

1. Disciples just returned from long ministry tour through towns – they’re exhausted

2. And Jesus finds out his cousin (john the Baptist) has been brutally killed – he is grieving

READ Mk 6:30-31

They need rest, comfort, recovery time. Hard to think of a situation that would justify some time off more than this – exhaustion from serving God, family tragedy. However…

PROBLEM #1: Others Ignore My Needs

READ v.32-33

Crowds won’t let them get away; they get to the vacation spot before Jesus & the disciples! They arrive to find a big crowd waiting for them. The very thing they were trying to get away from!

PROBLEM #2: Others’ Needs Become My Problem

READ v.35-36

1. The sun was setting – would be dark soon

2. v.44: 5000 men, which probably amounts to 15,000 with women & children included

3. In a remote place – nowhere to eat

Add these up and you have the imminent threat of an unruly mob on your hands!

Few things can be as infuriating as this: when my legitimate needs are ignored and the needs of other people only add to the burden I have to carry.

In what ways does this happen in our lives?

At work? Marriage? Kids? (of course!) In ministry?


I. One option is to throw your hands in the air and give up. Demand your right to put yourself first. Shut the door on the needs.

A. Maybe dramatize what this looks like in everyday life…

B. Frankly, there may be times when saying no is appropriate. We can’t meet all the needs around us and survive.

C. But the real question is whether in times like this we ever take option #2…

II. The other option: (what Jesus does)

A. Cultivate compassion (see v.34)

1. This may be the primary way God teaches you compassion for other people – by putting you in situations like this!

a. We learn compassion in the midst of frustration and incessant demands!

b. Sometimes God fills our heart with pity and compassion for another’s plight. The Greek indicates here that Jesus was deeply moved.

c. And yet there are also times when we have to make a choice to consider the needs of others as more important than my own legitimate needs. Compassion may not start as a feeling, but as a choice. We don’t learn compassion by sitting around waiting – even demanding that God make me feel compassion for a person as a precondition to action.

2. It tells us Jesus had compassion on them because he noticed that “they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

What do you think that means?

a. Consider the defensive abilities of a sheep. Consider the sheep’s ability to build or find shelter for itself. Consider the sheep’s ability to hunt or locate sustenance for itself.

b. Jesus saw people (you & I too!) as sheep. Does that bother you? We need a shepherd, and Jesus is eager to lay aside his needs to serve us as our shepherd.

c. GOSPEL: For instance, Jesus met our need for forgiveness at great cost to himself...

B. “You feed them” (see v.37)

Read v.37-38

1. Jesus asks them to do something they really couldn’t do. All of them would have to work 10 months – tens of thousands of dollars!

2. All they can scrounge up is a happy meal (a few loaves of bread and fish)

3. If you think about it, this is a pathetic situation. Such great, pressing need, and such pitiful resources. The disciples probably wondered whether to even present the loaves and fishes as a part of the solution. Embarassingly inadequate.

Is Jesus crazy? Why would he ask something so outrageous?

John 6:6 tells us Jesus was testing them.

He knew what he was going to do. Jesus wasn’t worried.

I guess this means that there will be times when God tests us by placing needs before us we feel inadequate to meet.

So the test is not to see if you can do it – you clearly can’t. The test is to see how much you really believe God can.

One of the great barriers to our spiritual growth and being effective for God is focusing more on my inadequacy than on God’s abundant power.

Common reasons why I can’t be used by God:

1. I’m such a new Christian.

2. I’m not an outgoing personality,…

You can come up with others, with personal examples...

What happened??

READ v.39-44

Apparently, here is how the miraculous event transpired:

1. v.41: Jesus miraculously kept breaking the bread and dividing the fish and loading it into baskets.

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