The Compassion, Power, and Provision of the Lord (Mark Sermon 28)
October 23, 2022 | Andy Davis
Miracles, The Offices of Christ
Pastor Andy Davis preached on Mark 6:30-44, where Jesus feeds the five thousand, showing compassion, power, and provision to meet his people's needs.
- Sermon Transcript -
Turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 6:30-44. The Holy Spirit in its wisdom has given us four perfect records of the life of Jesus Christ. Four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each of them give us everything that we need for salvation, all the facts that we need about the life of Christ. In those four gospels, there is a record of many, many miracles, a river of miracles that Jesus did, but only two of them are recorded in all four gospels. One of them, the most significant miracle of all, the most significant moment in human history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day and the other is the miracle we'll read about today, the feeding of the 5,000. Other than the resurrection, it's the only miracle that the Holy Spirit saw fit to give us four different times, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
As with all the accounts that we read of the life of Jesus, the ministry of Jesus, I believe the Holy Spirit had the same purpose, the same intention, that we would understand the facts of the Savior Jesus, and that those facts would draw from us faith. And by that faith our sins would be forgiven and our souls saved. This is the purpose of Matthew, of Mark, of Luke, and of John, that we should learn from this account things about Jesus. What does this account teach us about our savior? What can we learn of his nature? What can we learn of his character, of his heart, and of his great works, of his capabilities? How does this account glorify Christ so that we may believe in him, that we may worship him, that we may follow him for the rest of our lives? That's what's before us today?
I think the answer will be plain as we walk through it. This account puts some vital attributes of the Lord on display. First, his compassion. We're going to see Jesus's compassion throughout the account. It's openly stated and displayed how compassionate Jesus is on his disciples and on the needs of the crowd. He feels their needs at the deepest level. He feels their hunger as though it's happening to him. He feels the pain of their diseases, of their injuries. He feels it within. It moves him to his deepest level. He feels their weariness and he feels their lostness through their sins. There's deep compassion in Jesus.
We're going to see also the clear priority that Jesus puts on the ministry of the Word. While He feels all of their temporal needs, He knows their real need is the ministry of the word, so He's going to teach them many things right away. That's how He's going to show compassion for these who are sheep without a shepherd. We're going to also see Christ's wisdom in training the apostles, and we can put ourselves in their place. Though we're not apostles, we can see as Jesus draws his apostles into what He's doing, into his strategy to meet these needs, we can see his strategy for reaching the world to the ends of time, of drawing disciples, the apostles, and then after that in future generations, disciples after him to share his compassion for the poor, for the hungry, for the hurting, but especially for the lost. He desires that we would be instruments in taking his name to the ends of the earth and to the ends of time. We’re drawn into his work and we see that also.
We're going to see, of course, his astonishing power. There is literally nothing that Jesus cannot do. There is nothing He cannot do. We're going to see on plain display his power, specifically here to create matter, to create molecules, atoms, out of nothing, out of thin air. Well, not exactly. He does have a starter kit of five loaves and two fish. We'll talk about that. And the mysterious connection between the two, which I will never figure out, but I'm going to do my best to explain it. But the actual molecules that the people chewed and swallowed came out of nothing. And it gives us a picture of Jesus's original creation of the universe, “ex nihilo,” from nothing.
Finally, we're going to see his commitment to provide. Jesus has a heart to provide, to meet the needs of his people, to be their good shepherd for they were like sheep without a shepherd. He wants to open his hand and satisfy the needs of his people every day. So an application I'm going to say right from the start, for all of you who are followers of Christ, to not be anxious about your lives what you'll eat, but to trust him to meet your needs. That's where we're going in this sermon. So let's walk through it.
I. Jesus’ Compassion Toward the Apostles
It begins with the account of Jesus' compassion toward the twelve, toward his apostles. Look at verses 30 -32, "The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and talked. Then because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them,’ Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place".
The context here is a little bit easy to forget. There was an intervening story. Jesus has sent his twelve called apostles. They're called here in verse 30, the apostles. That means literally, “sent ones.” He has sent them out on their first trial run mission. The apostles have been designated by Jesus in Mark 3 to be with him, to learn from him, and to be sent out to preach and to do miracles in his name. This is their first chance to do it on their own. Look back at verse 7 in this same chapter, Mark 6:7, "Calling the twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” These men have returned to report to Jesus how things went. In verse 30, Mark tells us they reported all they had done and taught. What did that entail? Look at verses 12 and 13 earlier in this chapter, "They went out and preached the people should repent.” Verse 13, "They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them". The mission by the apostles must have been exhausting for them, and all it did is stir up more and more interest among the crowds, more fervor among this relentlessly needy throng. Their needs are never going to be fully met. The crowd's needs were so urgent the apostles did not even have a moment for themselves in which they could eat or meet even the most basic physical needs, so Jesus has compassion first on the twelve, on the apostles, look at verse 31, "Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’". So that's the context. But also in the meantime, we have another account, and that is the account of the martyrdom of John the Baptist. Both in Matthew's account of the feeding of the 5,000 and in Mark, these things happen one after the other.
And so, John the Baptist has been martyred as we looked at last time. This news must have been incredibly emotional for his disciples. Some of them had been disciples of John before they were disciples of Jesus. They knew him personally, all of them knew him. They must have been deeply grieved by the news that he had been executed. Jesus himself had more reason to grieve than any of them. There was a special connection between Jesus and John, even when Jesus was still in the womb and John was still in the womb, how the baby John lept with joy in his mother's womb. John was Jesus' forerunner, and He had reason to grieve over the wicked death by Herod of John the Baptist. Jesus himself is a man just like us with emotions like ours, only pure and perfect. He felt the need to get away from the crowd and find some time to rest, a time to grieve, a time to pray and get renewed, and He knew that the apostles needed the same.
Friends, let me just stop and say we need rest. We need rest. One of the translations that's out there is, “Jesus says, ‘Come apart with me and get some rest.’” I remember hearing a preacher on this years ago make the point this way, "Come apart or you're going to come apart". I thought that's kind of memorable, isn't it? We need rest. Why is that? We have this treasure, the spiritual treasure, our soul's treasure in jars of clay [ 2 Corinthians 4:7]. So, we need to rest., we need to be refreshed and renewed. We can't just go at it all the time. Psalm 23 says, famously, "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul”. So the text presents Jesus as our good shepherd because it's going to use that same language. He's going to see that the people are like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus knows the needs of a sheep.
Now what about you? Do you come apart with Jesus spiritually so that you can be renewed in your soul? Do you use Sundays for that? Do you have daily quiet times? Do you begin your day in the word and in prayer so that your soul, the inner person, is renewed? You need that. You've got to have Jesus restore your soul. So that is what the disciples did. Verse 32, “They went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” Now this is not a desert. Don't imagine it's a desert in the account of the feeding.They're going to sit down on green grass, which doesn't grow in desert regions, rather the Gerasenes is a solitary place, a quiet place where there aren't huge thongs of people. That was the point, to get away from the people so they could have that time to pray and rest and be renewed. But much to their surprise, they couldn't do it. They couldn't get away.
"Do you come apart with Jesus spiritually so that you can be renewed in your soul? ... You need that. You've got to have Jesus restore your soul."
II. Jesus’ Compassion Toward the Crowd
So we next see Jesus' compassion toward the crowd. Look at verse 33, "Many who saw them leaving, recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them." They're going around the corner of the Sea of Galilee. They probably are never out of eyesight. Scholars say it's probably about an eight mile jot around there. Some of the younger individuals could have run on foot, and made it there faster than the boat. That seems to be exactly what happened. But here we see Jesus's amazing selflessness and compassion on the crowd. When He lands, having sought to get away from the crowd and finds they're waiting for him when He gets there, think of how you would've responded and think of the exact opposite, and that's Jesus- tremendous compassion on the people. Not the slightest selfish irritation at that moment at all. His heart is moved with compassion for them.
Keep in mind, Jesus is undoubtedly grieving over John the Baptist's death. As soon as all of their needs are met and all that ministry's done, He's going to make them go away. He's going to send them forcibly away. He's going to send his disciples across the lake and He goes alone up on a mountain to pray because He needs that time with his father. But at this moment, He put their needs ahead of his own. This is so instructive for us. The reaction here is nothing but love and compassion. Look at verse 34, "When Jesus landed and saw large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd”.
Matthew in his account adds these words, Matthew 9:36, "They were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd". Harassed by demons, by invisible spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly realms, harassed by afflictions, by constant chronic pain and by disease that they can't cure. They're harassed by sorrows and by bitter memories, harassed by their poverty, harassed by political oppression, by the Herods and their overlords, the Romans. Harassed by religious oppression, the scribes and Pharisees, those hypocritical blind guides who laid heavy loads on them and wouldn't lift a finger to help them. Harassed. Harassed most of all by their own lusts and temptations and desires and their own guilt. These feelings of guilt that they could never get rid of, torn and afflicted by their own conscience. They're harassed.
But Matthew also says they're helpless. They can't do anything about any of these things, like sheep without a shepherd. Now for those of you like me that grew up in suburbia or an urban setting, that might not mean much to you. Like sheep without a shepherd. One of the things as you become a Bible believing Christian is you learn a lot about sheep. I haven't been around sheep. I've been to petting zoos a few times in my life, that’s been about it. But what I learned about sheep is a lot of things, you just find out that they are slow, they are stupid, and they're delicious, and that's just a bad combination. I don't know how Darwinism and natural selection works. They need shepherds or they're finished. They're obsolete quickly. So we people are called God's flock. We are his sheep and He is our shepherd. Furthermore, God uses the language of the Davidic kingly line, a son of David who's going to come and be shepherd to God's people, Israel. Many verses use this language. Ezekiel 34:23 gives us an example of this. God says, "I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them. He will tend them and be their shepherd". That's Jesus. He is in John 10, "The good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep". Now, as Jesus lands and sees them and he knows all of their needs, his top priority, as I've said, is the ministry of the word.
When all's said and done,He's going to meet many of their needs. Incredible. He's going to heal their sick bodies. Mark doesn't tell us anything about that, but Matthew does. Matthew 14:14, "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick". He does healing ministry. Of course, He's going to fill their hungry bellies. That's today's account. He's going to feed them food, but there is nothing more important, nothing greater that they need more than the ministry of the word. All of those other things are temporary. If he heals them of some particular malady, they're going to have another one pretty soon after that, or maybe the same one a year later, and their empty bellies are going to get empty again real quick.
But their souls need the word of God. "What would it profit someone to gain the whole world and forfeit their soul?" What good is it for you to have a continually full belly and a healthy body and go to hell for all eternity? And the only thing that's going to stop that is you believing the gospel message, believing the ministry of the word of God. That's the priority. It's Jesus's priority. Look at verse 34, "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began teaching them many things". The juxtapositions, not an accident. That's how He showed compassion on them as their good shepherd. Their souls were hungry for the truth of the word of God. Their salvation depended on hearing the word with faith, believing with faith. So does yours and mine.
It says He began teaching them many things, though Mark, typical of him, doesn't give us any sampling of the teaching. Maybe He ran over all the same material that we know of as the Sermon of the Mount. Maybe He taught them a lot of parables of the kingdom. We don't really know. We have lots of samples of Jesus' teaching in Matthew, Luke, and John. All we have here in Mark's is he taught them many things. It wasn't a light touch, it wasn't a little devotion, it was deep teaching for a long time.
In John's account, in John chapter 6, we see Jesus' top priority again the next day. Mark doesn't give us this, but John does. The crowd comes back the next day on the other side of the lake, and what do they want? You know what they want? They want breakfast. You fed us yesterday, feed us again. That whole thing that Moses did, do that day after day, we'll all quit our jobs. Jesus said, "You are here not because you saw the miracle, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill". You filled your stomachs. "Do not labor for the food that spoils, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the son of man will give you.”[ John 6:27]. What is the food of life? What is the bread of life? It is Jesus and it is Jesus's word. That's what it is.
As we go back to the account in Mark, we're going to see Jesus does indeed care for their physical needs as well. I begins with the compassion of Jesus for the crowd and their growling stomachs through his disciples. He draws them in. Now the disciples start, and in our account here, the disciples show some basic compassion, kind of. I'm not going to give them high marks here. But it starts with them. Verse 35- 36, ”By this time it was late in the day. So his disciples came to him. 'This is a remote place, they said, and it's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat'", I guess. I shouldn't add that, but I don't sense a river of compassion on the part of the disciples here. Remember, they themselves have been harassed by the crowds and Jesus says, “Hey, let's get away from all these people.” They land and the people are all still there. My guess is they have reached the end of their limit. But they have some measure of compassion. So send them away so they can buy something to eat.
In Mark 8, the second feeding, the feeding of the 4,000, Jesus openly discusses his own compassion on the people for their empty stomachs. He said, "These people have been with me several days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home now, hungry, they may collapse on the way". And he openly says, "I have compassion on them". So that's Jesus's compassion for them. So do the disciples to some degree, but Jesus to a perfect degree, have compassion on them for their hungry stomachs, but Jesus has a better plan than sending them all away. The apostles don't seem to understand how much Jesus wants to be their good shepherd and meet all of their needs. They're about to find out.
III. Jesus’ Training of the Apostles
Jesus in his wisdom, is going to draw them in, the disciples, directly into the miracle. So we get to this point, the training, Jesus's training of the apostles. Verse 37, "But he answered, 'You give them something to eat’". The apostles' faith is about to get stretched. They've already seen the power of Jesus in more ways than they could have possibly imagined, and they themselves have done amazing miracles. They come back from their mission trip beside themselves. "Even the demons are subject to us in your name." They can't believe it, it’s amazing. But now Jesus wants to involve them in a new work, something they've never done before, something He's never, it seems, done before. He directly commands them to feed the multitude. He wants to involve us, his people, in his work.
In John's account, John chapter 6, He actually asks Philip this question, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" It’s a bit of a misleading question. Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat? But then John tells us He asked this only to test him because He already knew or had in mind what He was going to do. That's very important and insightful. Jesus tests us in this matter of poverty, in this matter of the poor and needy, the haves and havenots. It's a testing issue. He wants us to feel the weight of poverty, feel the weight of hunger. He tests us, and what is the nature of the test? How are you going to address the problem? Are you going to look inward and try to find the resources within yourself, your creativity, your ingenuity, your money, your plans or not? Will you look to him to meet the need? That's the test. That's the nature of the test.
The disciples somewhat fail the test initially. Look at verse 37, “They said to him, ‘That would take 200 denarii’". One translation says, eight months wages. A denarius is day's wage for a laborer, a worker. So that's about two-thirds of a year, about eight months wages. That's a lot of money. That would take eight months of a man's wages, we need to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat. Honestly, what else could they say? What would you say? The crowd's huge, mass huge. Now it wasn't just 5,000. I know that may be jarring for some of you because this is the feeding of the 5,000, but Matthew makes it very plain. There were 5,000 men plus women and children. The 5,000 men, probably more women than men, usually more women than men at gatherings like this. So it's another five to 7,000 women, undoubtedly children too. We're talking probably over 20,000 mouths to feed. 20,000 people. Huge. And even if they did spend eight months wages, 200 denarii on bread, each one would get a tiny portion, a morsel, a sample. It wouldn't be enough to feed them.
Now here's the thing. When you see some vast problem like world poverty or world lostness, some big issue and you look inward to try to meet that need, one of two things is going to happen. Either you will be able to meet the need with your own resources, and you'll be arrogant, or you will not be able to meet the need looking inward and you'll be depressed and discouraged. Those are the two options. Arrogance and depression are two sides of the same coin, and the coin is self-reliance.So the test is, will you look away from yourself, up to God to meet these needs? Jesus is training the apostles to look to his power.
IV. Jesus’ Power to Provide for the Crowd
This brings me to the next point, Jesus' power to provide for the crowd. Jesus at this point takes over. The first step is, He asked them what they have to work with. Look at verse 38, "'How many loaves do you have?' He said, 'go and see'." When they found out, they said, five and two fish. None of them had anything. The twelve had nothing. We know where the five loaves and two fish came from. There was a boy with his lunch. You guys all know this story, the boy with his lunch. Some mom packs a lunch for the kid. But I find it interesting, He starts with them basically saying, what do you have to work with? It's like Moses and his staff. Remember how God asked Moses, "What's that in your hand?" A staff, and he uses the staff to do the miracles of Egypt. He uses what we have. And so, He uses this boy's lunch.
Now when you think of five loaves, don't think of loaves. Think more like dinner rolls, like a couple of little biscuits, five little biscuits. They were made of barley and some kind of fish. I don't know if it's pickled fish, broiled fish. At any rate, just two little fish for lunch. This is a boy's lunch. That's all it is. Now, I may ask to you, why does Jesus even use them? Let me ask an easy question. Did Jesus need the loafs and the fish? Some of you are shaking your head, no. Good. No, he doesn't need the boys' lunch. He didn't need a starter kit, et cetera. He created the universe out of nothing, but He chooses to involve what they already have in their hands.
The second step, He organizes the crowd. Look at verse 39, 40, "Then Jesus directed them to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties." This is just for the logistics of distributing the food. Some of you have seen in some depleted areas where a truck or a couple of trucks of food show up and the gates go down and there's a mass throng, like almost a riot. He doesn't want that, He wants to control it. He wants the people to be controlled and orderly and He has them sit down. It helps them organize and to be peaceful and to wait and to also count the crowd. We can see Jesus as a spiritual leader is intensely practical, more than most spiritual leaders ever would be. Jesus knows better than we do how practical and physical the universe is. So, there's practical steps here.
Thirdly, He takes the loaves and looks up to God and gives thanks. Look at verse 41, "Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks". Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father. What do you have that you did not receive? Jesus is a role model here. Take what you have and thank God for it. Notice that He looks up. I find this interesting because God is omnipresent. He's no more up than He is down. No more left than He is right. But yet again and again, we have this “up” image concerning God. Jesus ascended from earth up into the clouds. I think the idea is to give us a sense of the infinite majesty of God. He is above us. He is looking down on us from above. So, Jesus looks up and gives thanks.
The fourth step is He divides and distributes the food. Verse 41, "He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all". I want you to look closely at the words on the page there, verse 41. Somewhere in the middle of those words is the miracle. I don't know where, but it's in there somewhere. Do you wonder how He did it? I don't know. Did He take one and break it off? I mean, you got to be more efficient than that. It's got to multiply rapidly. We've got a lot of people to feed. But somewhere in there, the material gets created, the matter gets created out of nothing but some mysterious connection with the five loaves and the two fish. The amount is stunning. Maybe as many as 20,000 or more people ate their fill. Look at verse 42, "They all ate and were satisfied." The Greek says they effectively gorged themselves like, “No, no, I couldn't eat another bite.” That's the implication. They are absolutely crammed with food. That's like between a liter and two liters of volume for each of the stomachs. Some stomachs are larger than others, some appetites larger than others. So picture 20,000 two liter bottles laid out of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. That's just the sheer quantity of food that was created out of nothing. It's incredible, an astonishing quantity. I'm thinking astonishing quality too. The text doesn't say it, but in John chapter 2, the wine He made was of the highest quality, so I'm thinking these are the best barley loaves ever. Don't you think?
Then there are leftovers therein verse 43, "The disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish." These fragments are clear physical evidence of the miracle. You can't see the food inside the stomachs, but you can see the fragments that are left over. There's no doubt about it this is a miracle. Where did all that stuff come from? Furthermore, I love in John's gospel, this command is given[ John 6:12], “Jesus said, ‘Gather up the pieces that'll left over'". Listen to these words. "Let nothing be wasted." I just love that statement. Let nothing be wasted. If Christ cares about fragments of bread and fish on the ground and says, “let nothing be wasted,” how much more the details of your life? No encounter is wasted. Nothing is purposeless. Everything has a purpose in your life. He's not going to waste anything in your life. So that's the account. We've walked through it. Now let's get to some applications.
Before we get to the applications, I just want to make an observation. Something that's been on my mind, and I find it interesting. Some of you'll find it more interesting than others, but it has to do with the age of the universe. Recently I've been teaching a Christ and Culture class and thinking a lot about creation, evolution, things like that. How old is the universe? Science tells us somewhere around 13.8 billion years, there are different dating techniques. Earth, four and a half billion, science tells us, et cetera. There are debating points back and forth on this. I'm not getting into all that. I myself am a young earth creationist. I have lots of reasons for being that way. I just want to bring up one point, having to do with the creation of these loaves and fishes. Isn't it possible that God could create, for his own purposes and apparently old universe, not in any way to deceive us. Bothers me when Christians, Christians who are scientists and who are theists, but maybe believe in evolution or believe in other things and are trying to incorporate scientific knowledge, go immediately to “God wouldn't deceive us.” Let's just take that right off the table. That's what I'm trying to do is take it off the table. God isn't trying to deceive us if he did in fact create an apparently old universe. Rather, He just has his own purposes. Was Jesus trying to deceive the 5,000 when the loaves appeared to have a backstory they didn't have? It appeared to be barley that grew up from a seed to a stalk, to a head and then there was a harvest. And then it got brought to a mill and got ground into flour. And then there was a certain recipe for barley loaves. And a chef cooked them for a while, a certain length of time in an oven. Not too much, not too little. They weren't burned, they weren't raw. They were cooked just right, cooked just right. And the same thing with the fish. You would imagine these little fish, I don't know what kind they were, but grew up from being fish, eggs and then little, I don't know if the right words are minnows or something like that. And then more mature fish. Then one day a fisherman caught them and pulled them up on shore and then they were pickled or they were broiled or they were whatever verb and ready to eat. None of that ever happened. None of it. It came out of nowhere, ready to go, ready to eat. Not to deceive, but to feed. Same thing happened with the wine in John chapter 2. It was water and then it was aged wine with a backstory it never had.
Adam and Eve, instantly adults, and a backstory they never had. Don't ask me anything about belly buttons. I'm not getting into that. Fruit trees, I don't know, backstory they didn't have. There's fruit for them to eat. “You are free to eat from all this fruit.” What about when Jesus was arrested and Peter in his zeal hacks off Malchus's ear. Jesus touched him and gave him an ear. Aren't you glad it wasn't an infant ear? Aren't you glad He got the, I don't know, the melanin right and the shape right there? I mean, ears are interesting. They're a little weird, but there's a certain family shape. Just like that. That ear had no backstory. Just a thought. Moving on.
I want to begin with applications here just to you Christians. I want to speak to you who are believers. First of all, just worship Christ for the attributes I've singled out here, for his compassion, for his wisdom, for his power, for his provision as a good shepherd. Just worship him. Worship him, and believe in him, trust in him. Let Jesus meet your needs. He knows what you need before you ask. He knows that your stomachs get cyclically empty. He knows that very, very well. I know that these are difficult economic times, some worse for others depending on what your job is. I know that the future looks somewhat uncertain. Future's always uncertain. We don't know what will happen tomorrow, James tells us. But we are all tempted in a very sinful way toward anxiety concerning our basic bodily needs. Jesus said in Matthew 6, "Do not worry about your life, what you'll eat”. Don't worry about your stomach. Don't make your stomach your God. The reason Jesus says that in Matthew 6 is He wants to set you free from being worried about yourself and your bodies so that you can seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and be involved in kingdom work knowing that your needs are met. So the number one takeaway for us as Christians in this is, don't worry about money, don't worry about your needs. Set yourself free from that so that you can serve God. Jesus can meet your needs. He will feed you. He'll care for you. Along with that obviously, is when Jesus says, "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness". What he means is that we should be about the kingdom work. Jesus involved his apostles in what He was doing. So, set free from concern about money and concern about our bodies, we are then able to say, “Lord, here I am. Send me. What do you want me to do?” We're involved in addressing these big problems that Jesus tests us with, such as poverty and lostness. Years ago I read, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby, and he said, "Find out where God is at work and join him". What is God doing? Join him in his work.
"Worship him, and believe in him, trust in him. Let Jesus meet your needs. He knows what you need before you ask."
Also, I get out of this as I meditate on it, “common grace”. The feeding of the huge crowd is an example of what we call “common grace.” It's a miracle, but it's a picture of his ongoing provision for people, whether they believe in him or not. There was no spiritual condition for those that ate these meals and had their fill. He doesn't test them and say, according to your faith, it will be done for you. Whether they believed him or not, they ate. We know that many of them did not believe in him because the next day, John chapter 6, they departed from him and no longer followed him. Most of them didn't believe.
This feeding of this crowd, apart from their faith commitment to Jesus, is a picture of what God does all the time and feeding literally billions of people. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, whether they believe in him or not, whether they ever thank him or not. Acts 14:17, "God has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons. He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy". Paul preached that to a pagan crowd. Yet, Judgment Day is coming, and they're going to be called to account for how they've reacted to God who has fed them every day of their lives, specifically this crowd.
Look at the next verse, verse 45. Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida while He dismissed the crowd. They're going to Bethsaida. This brings me to Matthew 11, "Jesus condemned the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed because they did not repent. 'Woe to you Chorazin, woe to you Bethsaida. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would've repented long ago in sack cloth and ashes. But it's going to be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon for you." They're accountable for the miracle that Jesus did in their midst. Most of them rejected Jesus and no longer followed him. They should have repented and believed and trusted.
That brings me to the highest application. The highest application is that as you read this account, if you're not yet a believer in Christ, you should come to Christ to meet your real need and the real need, Jesus said in John 6, "Do not labor for the food that spoils, but for the food that endures to eternal life". What is that? The food that I give for the world is my flesh. His death on the cross, that's the food. "This is the work of God", Jesus said in that same chapter, John 6, "that you believe in the one he has sent". That's what you need more than anything else. More than the filling of your empty stomach, more than the healing of your diseases or injuries, you need to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins.
In the kind providence of God, we're going right from this text to the Lord supper, and we have the opportunity to partake in the Lord's supper. Though we don't believe that the bread and the juice actually become the body and blood of Christ, they are a picture of how Jesus's death and resurrection feeds us spiritually, so, every time that we have the Lord supper, I pray that the Lord would send forth his spirit and minister using these elements to feed our souls with a lively sense of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, so that we can be fed not just by the ministry of the word, but by the observance of the Lord's supper. Now, I do want to say, if you have not yet trusted in Christ and testified to that by water baptism, we ask that you refrain. It's only for those that are believing, baptized believers in Christ. But for the rest of you, I invite you to come. So let's close this time in the word in prayer and we'll go to the Lord supper.
Father, we do thank you for the time we've had to study the feeding of the 5,000. We thank you for the many lessons that flow from it, but especially the central lesson of the infinite majesty and greatness of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the good shepherd, the savior of the world, whose body was given that we might live, that we might feed on it by faith and that we might live. Now as we turn from the word to the ordinance of the Lord supper, we pray that you would be in the center of this time and we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.