Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This week's sermon: Feeding the Thousands

The story of Jesus feeding thousands is included in all four gospels, each one including details that were important to the individual author. This message is taken from the account in Mark's Gospel the 6th chapter.

I. God can work in and through us in spite of our tiredness.
Jesus and the Disciples were heading off for some solitude. They had been inundated with crowds and needed some space. The disciples had just returned from their being sent out by Jesus for the first time and needed to process all their experiences. In Matthew’s Gospel, he tells us that Jesus had also just learned of the death of his cousin John the Baptist. So these weary men needed to take a break and regroup. Mark is a detail guy and he tells us things had been so hectic that Jesus and the disciples had not even had time to eat because there were so many people coming and going. But even in their fatigue, God had a plan to work through them. God wanted to work through them in spite of their fatigue.

II. God can work in and through us in spite of our bad attitude.
Jesus had compassion on the crowd, and I can just see the disciples go, “oh, no, not again.” They had come for solitude and some 12 on 1 time with Jesus. They are patient while he is teaching them, but once again, they think they need to remind him of proper protocol. It was getting late, and they are looking at the people gathered and thinking, it’s time to say the closing prayer, Jesus. And Jesus calls their bluff. He says, “If you are so worried about them being hungry, you give them something to eat.” Jesus knew they really were just tired and wanted everyone to go home. And their response to him here in Mark is just plain funny. They say, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?!” You have got to be kidding Jesus!
Notice here what they do not say. They do not say, we don’t have that kind of money lying around, or where are we going to get the money necessary to do this? No, in none of the four accounts do they say that they don’t have the money to feed the people. And here, the response is telling. They ask if they are supposed to take that much money and use it to feed the people. I think it is possible that they may have had that much in their little treasury, but that they were simply unwilling to spend it on one afternoon of ministry when they had no idea when they would replace it. Especially for something so transitory as food. So, Jesus simply asks what they have that they are willing to part with. Five loaves. Two fish.

III. God can work in and through us in spite of our meager available resources.
I don’t know if that is really all they had or not. (John is the only gospel writer to tell us about the boy with the sack lunch.) It may be that in their busyness, and with their quick departure to go off alone, they didn’t stop to pack bread for the journey. But five little loaves and two fish are not enough to even have fed the 12 and Jesus. If this is really all they had among them, it would have been miraculous to feed all thirteen until they were satisfied, let alone five thousand.
Jesus has the people sit down on the green grass. Again there is Mark with the details. They sat down in groups of fifties and hundreds. Jesus tells them to bring him those loaves and fish. He gives thanks to God, breaks the bread, and then gives them back to the disciples to distribute among the people. Jesus was serious when he said, “You give them something to eat.” He wanted the disciples to be involved in the miracle.
They couldn’t do the miracle themselves, but Jesus wanted them to see that they could be partners with him in spite of the fact that they felt inadequate. He wanted them to have front-row seats for what God was going to do with what they had to give. It did not matter if they had a good attitude or not. It did not matter if they had five loaves or fifty, whatever they had, whatever they were willing to give, God wanted to use to show them his mighty love and compassion.

IV. God wants to use us to work in the lives of those around us. Are we willing?
You may feel tired, poorly equipped, and you may even have a bad attitude. If that is you, then be comforted that you find yourself in good company. On the day that Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, the disciples were all of the above. They wanted alone time with Jesus, they were tired, they were hungry, and instead of what they wanted, they got another crowd of people with needs too great for them to meet. But God has a way of taking us on our worst day and using us to work miracles in the lives of those around us. Are you willing?

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