Sunday, February 09, 2020

Sermon: Mark 6: 30-44 Who is Jesus? Provider (1)

Have you ever wondered to yourself: Does God really care about me? I mean, there are so many people in the world, with so many needs and wants, does God care about me? Yes, I know that God loves me - he loves everybody after all, but does he care about me?

This morning I hope you’ll see that Jesus cares about you - because he cares about his disciples; and he cares about the crowd; and he cares for the crowd through his disciples.

So first of all, Jesus cares about his disciples. I’m sure you’re well used to the idea of catching up with someone - you haven’t seen them for a while, or just all day, and so you find out what they’ve been up to. So the boys and girls get home from school and you ask ‘what did you learn in school today?’ Or you get in from work - how did you get on today? Or you meet a friend for coffee - what have you been up to? That’s what’s happening here in verse 30.

You see, to understand verse 30, we need a flashback; like in the start of each episode in a TV series - previously on... If you glance to the previous page, you’ll see that Jesus had sent the Twelve out, two by two, in verse 7. We get a summary of what they had been up to in verse 12-13 - preaching that people should repent, driving out demons, anointing and healing people. That’s what they had been up to. But now in verse 30, they’re back with Jesus, and they report to him all they had done and taught.

You can imagine that, with the summary we get, that they would be as excited as children coming in on a Monday to tell their teacher everything they got up to over the weekend. Or the Paraguay team will be when we get back at the end of April. They’re definitely excited, and they’re probably tired as well. And it’s busy. ‘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.”’ (31)

Jesus knows what they need - peace and quiet and rest. You see, Jesus doesn’t just care for our souls - he cares for all of us. He knows that we need to rest and recover, that we can’t be on the go all the time. And so he cares for his disciples. And it’s Jesus who will care for them - did you notice? They weren’t just being sent off by themselves; they were invited to come and rest with Jesus, to find in him their rest, because he cares for them.

Jesus cares about his disciples. Are you experiencing that today? You see, we can be so busy working for the Lord, that we neglect to take time out with the Lord. We can get caught up in the cares of our particular ministries and service, that we forget that the Lord cares for us. That we can feel guilty to be resting. But Jesus cares about his disciples - and he cares about you if you’re following him today.

Now, have you ever had that moment where you’re away on holiday, and you bump into somebody you know? A few years back, we were in New York on holiday, just walking up the street, and who should be coming the other way, only two other Church of Ireland ministers! They were there for a conference. And we thought - you can go nowhere!

Well here, Jesus and the disciples set off in the boat, going to a solitary place. Somewhere nice and quiet. Get a bit of peace. Some time off. But it didn’t work out that way. You see, the sea of Galilee wasn’t that big, and as Jesus and the disciples sail along, the crowd spot them going, and can run around the shore, and be there before them! So much for a quiet time!

So, how would you finish this sentence: ‘When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he...’ What do you think? What would you do? He groaned inwardly and thought, so much for a quiet time. Or, he jumped back in the boat and they sailed away again. Or, he told them all to go away and leave them alone. Much as we might be tempted to do one or all three of those, that’s not what Jesus did.

Do you see how the sentence ends? ‘When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.’ (34)

Jesus cares about the crowd. He has compassion on them. He feels for them. And why does he do that? Because they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were lost. Bewildered. And he cares for them, because he is the shepherd Lord.

And the way he cares for the crowd, and guides them, is by teaching them. These sheep without a shepherd hear the shepherd’s voice calling to them.

Sheep without a shepherd. Could that describe the people you come into contact with every day? The people you share an office with; the people you meet in your work. People who need to hear the shepherd’s voice calling them, guiding them. Could that be you today? Jesus came to be your shepherd, to lead and guide you. He cares for you. He has compassion on you. Can you hear him calling you?

Jesus cares about his disciples. Jesus cares about the crowds. But it seems that the disciples don’t care about the crowds. You see, it’s getting late, and they urge Jesus to send the people away. Tell them to go off and get themselves something to eat. It’s very practical, and you could even argue, compassionate - the disciples don’t want the crowds getting hungry, so send them away to sort themselves out.

And then Jesus says those incredible words in verse 37: ‘You give them something to eat.’ The disciples are quick to jump in with the absurdity of the situation: ‘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?’ (37)

That’s a huge amount of money, for one meal. And the disciples can’t get over the thought of it. They’re thinking practically, Humanly. It’s as if they’ve forgotten what they’ve just been doing in their preaching, healing, driving out demons mission trip. It’s as if they’ve forgotten all that they’ve already seen Jesus do. It’s as if they still haven’t realised who Jesus is - not just an ordinary man, but Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus will care for the crowd through his disciples. He’s already indicated that by telling the disciples to feed the crowd. So then he asks them what they have. That’s where we start. Not by thinking about what we don’t have - as if we think, oh, we would need this and this and this before we could start to make a difference. No, Jesus asks them what they have. However small.

It turns out they have five loaves and two fish. Don’t think of a pan loaf, though, this is more like a wee bap or a wee bread roll. It seems so small, so insignificant, when faced with such a great need. But Jesus can use the little we have in amazing ways. And he cares for the crowd through his disciples. And so he gets them to get the crowd sitting down, ready to eat. This vast open air dining room, as the sheep without a shepherd sit down on the green pastures.

Jesus takes the loaves and the fish, gives thanks, breaks them, and gives them to the disciples to set before the people. Those verbs (action words) are the same words in the same order as at the Lord’s supper. Taking, giving thanks, breaking, and giving. Jesus is supplying the peoples’ need, caring for the crowd through his disciples.

And his grace supplies abundantly, even more than enough. From just five little loaves and two fish, the whole crowd ate and was satisfied. They had their fill. But grace supplied even more - twelve baskets of broken pieces of bread and fish. The original amount wouldn’t have filled one basket, but now there are twelve baskets of leftovers. And that after the five thousand men (and however many women and children) had eaten.

We asked the question at the start: Does God really care about me? What do you think? We’ve seen how Jesus cares about his disciples - not a slave driver, but the Master who cares about rest and refreshment for his gospel workers. We’ve seen how Jesus cares about the crowd, having compassion on them because he is the shepherd Lord, who cares about the shepherd-less sheep. And we’ve seen how Jesus cares for the crowd through his disciples, using the little they have to multiply and magnify his abundant grace.

Jesus cares about you, whoever you are. He loves you so much that he came into this world to care for you. The bread, broken into pieces, would be taken again by his disciples on the night before Jesus died on the cross - his body, broken to satisfy the penalty our sins deserve. He offers you his shepherd care today. He’s calling you to come and be with him, to know the Lord as your shepherd today, and all your days, and for evermore.

That’s our prayer today for Charlotte and Freddie. And it’s our prayer for all of us gathered here - that we’ll hear the shepherd’s voice, and know the shepherd’s compassion, and receive the shepherd’s rescue - that we’ll commit as his disciples, and be used by him to care for the crowd.

This sermon was preached in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday morning 9th February 2019.

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