Summary: Our greatest need to fill the sense of spiritual hunger. If you are hungry, you can eat bread and be satisfied for a few hours and then you get hungry again. But Jesus can fill a spiritual need that will satisfy you for eternity.
Life is full of impossible situations. And everyone has different advice to pass on to you during tough times. Someone has said the best way to deal with your problems is to laugh at them. But someone else said that laughing at your problems is like changing a baby’s diaper. It doesn’t fix the problem permanently; it just makes it more bearable for a while.
Recently someone sent me an email that contained “Cowboy Wisdom.” Here are some pearls of wisdom from the perspective of a cowboy:
1. Never slap a man who’s chewin’ tobacco.
2. Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
3. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.
4. If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
5. Don’t ever squat with your spurs on.
6. Never miss a good chance to shut up.
7. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
8. There’s two theories to arguin’ with a woman. Neither one works.
There’s something better than laughing at your problems, or applying cowboy wisdom. When you introduce the Jesus factor into your impossibility, He transforms your impossibility into a possibility. When we come to the eighth chapter of Mark, Jesus has encounters with three different groups in a single day. First, He has to deal with 4,000 hungry Gentiles; then He confronts some skeptical Jewish Pharisees. Finally, He has to deal with the spiritual dullness of His disciples. There is a measure of impossibility in each encounter.
Mark 8:1-10. “During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.’ His disciples answered, ‘But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?’ ‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked. ‘Seven,’ they replied. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.”
To be able to trace the journey Jesus followed on this day, it’s important to understand the geography of this part of the world. The Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake shaped like a harp, thus it was given the name Lake Gennesaret, which is the Hebrew word for “harp.” Jesus began his day on the Eastern side of the Sea of Galilee in the Decapolis area. These were ten Roman cities; it was Gentile territory. Then He and His disciples made the seven-mile journey across the lake to an area near Magdal, the home of Mary Magdalene. For many centuries, the location of Dalmanutha was unknown, but excavations over the past five years have uncovered evidence that Dalmanutha was a large fishing village beside Magdal. We stood on the very excavation in progress a couple of weeks ago.
Then after an unpleasant encounter with the Pharisees, they get back on the boat and head to the northern part of the lake to the town of Bethsaida. With that introduction, let’s learn three lessons from the three different encounters of Jesus that day.
1. LIKE THE 4,000, PEOPLE STILL SUFFER FROM SPIRITUAL HUNGER
You may be a little confused thinking, “Wait, Pastor, didn’t we just read about Jesus feeding the multitude in Mark 6?” You’re right. Last fall I taught a message called The Miracle of Minnows and Muffins. But this is a different miracle. In Mark 6, Jesus fed 5,000 hungry Jews people with five loaves and two fishes supplied by an unnamed boy. There were twelve baskets of leftovers. In this miracle, Jesus fed 4,000 hungry Gentiles. And there were seven loaves and a few fish—and no little boy. After the all-you-can-eat buffet, there were seven baskets of leftovers.
The truth we learn is that these people weren’t just physically hungry. They were following Jesus because they possessed a spiritual hunger. So where did this mob come from? Why had they been following Jesus around the countryside for three days?
I think we can find the answer if we look back to Mark 5 and the poor man who was tormented by a legion of demons. Jesus cast the demons out into a herd of swine. This was in the same place, because pigs weren’t allowed on the Jewish side of the lake. The Bible says this man went to all the cities of the Decapolis telling people how Jesus had changed his life. These people had known this man as a maniac who didn’t wear clothes, lived among the tombs, cut himself, and couldn’t be restrained with chains. They saw the amazing transformation, and they said, “I want what that man has!” They had a voracious spiritual hunger.