Give It to God

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Mark 6:30-44 (Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand)

INTRODUCTION: Today’s passage is one of Jesus’ most famous miracles, the feeding of the five thousand. In fact this is the only one of Jesus’ miracles that is recorded in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14).

Skeptics have come up with all sorts of “excuses” to try and explain away this miracle. Some say Jesus’ example in sharing the bread inspired others to share so that everyone was fed. Others say this was more of a symbolic meal, and everyone just took a bite of the bread rather than eating their full. There are even some who claim that Jesus had all the extra bread hidden in a cave behind him, and just made it look like he was feeding all those people from a few loaves of bread.

Of course, that is not how the Bible describes it, and unless we are going to accuse Jesus or the gospel writers with deception, we should accept Mark’s presentation here as Jesus performing a miracle over nature, miraculously providing enough food for the multitude from the few loaves and fishes at his disposal. If God created the universe out of nothing, trust me he had no problem creating bread out of more bread. (Read and pray.)

One of the most important principles you will learn in the Christian life is to give it to God. Do you have a problem in your life? Give it to God. Do you have an opportunity? Give it to God. Are you concerned about the future? Give it to God. Are you distressed about the past? Give it to God. Are there people in your life whom you love and care for? Give them to God in prayer. Has God blessed you with something? Commit it to God and his glory. Everything we have comes from God. And when we try to hold on to those things for our own purposes, we never discover the full potential we have when we give it over to God instead.

This morning I would like us to look at this principle in light of the miracle Jesus performed with the loaves and the fishes. I believe there is so much more that God could do with each of our lives if we would only learn this simple principle of giving it to God.

I. God has compassion on all people (verses 30-34)

The first thing I want us to see from this passage is God’s compassion. If we are going to give things over to God, we must first learn to trust God, and the best way to trust God is to see his compassion. God has compassion on all people, as clearly seen through the actions of Jesus in this passage.

    A. Jesus calls his disciples to rest (30-31)

For example, we see God’s compassion for his followers as Jesus calls his disciples to rest. Look at verses 30-31:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 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.” (Mark 6:30-31)

We already looked at verse 30 a couple weeks ago as part of the “sandwich story” of Jesus sending out the Twelve Apostles. In verse 30 they return and report to Jesus all they had done and taught. Apparently their mission was successful, because now there are so many people coming and going they can barely stop and get a bite to eat. Jesus sees that his disciples are overwhelmed by all this, and he calls them away to get some rest.

I love Jesus’ words here. Notice three things. First he says, “Come with me by yourselves.” He doesn’t say, “Go away by yourselves,” but “Come with me.” Sometimes when life gets hectic, we just want to get away by ourselves, but true rest and peace is found in fellowship with Jesus. Jesus says, “Come with me.”

And then Jesus says, “Come with me to a quiet place.” The word “quiet” here doesn’t mean so much “low in volume” as it does “isolated, apart from others.” In the Greek it is actually the same word for desert, as the desert was a place away from human contact and the normal business of life. We all need a quiet place where we can get away from the normal distractions of life and just be alone with God

And finally Jesus says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” God knows our limits. We can’t be working all the time, even if it is work for God’s kingdom. That’s one of the reasons why God gave us the Sabbath, a day set aside especially for worship and rest. We all need to balance out work and rest, time spent with people and time spent with God. The disciples were overworked, and Jesus had compassion on them. He said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Do you have a quiet place where you go to be with God? Do you go there daily? Jesus invites you to come with him to a quiet place, and he will give you rest.

    B. Jesus has compassion on those who are lost (32-34)

Jesus not only has compassion on his followers, but he also has compassion on those who are lost. Look at verses 32-34:

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 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. (Mark 6:32-34)

I love this scene. Jesus and his disciples have left for this quiet place by boat, but the crowd sees them going, and the people start running around the shore by foot. Apparently word is spreading and more people are joining them from the various towns, so that by the time Jesus and the disciples land the boat, there is a huge crowd already waiting for them. So much for their rest! I am guessing they got their much needed time of rest a little later. But for now, when Jesus lands and sees the crowds, we read that he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

If you are not a Christian this morning, do you know how God looks at you? Perhaps you think God is angry with you, or that God desires to punish you, or maybe you think God doesn’t even notice you at all. But the truth is God has compassion on you. He sees you as a sheep in need of a shepherd, and he longs to be that shepherd for you.

There are a lot of parallels between the feeding of the five thousand and Psalm 23 in the Old Testament; you know, the Psalm that begins, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1) In Psalm 23 David describes the Lord as his shepherd who guides him, who leads him to rest, who lays him down in green pastures and provides for all his needs. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus does here in Mark 6? He has compassion on the people, he guides and teaches them, he sits them down in the green grass, and he provides for their needs.

Are you like a sheep without a shepherd? Know that God has compassion on you and offers to be your shepherd and guide in life. God has compassion on all people – on his followers and on those who are lost. That’s the first thing we learn from this passage this morning.

II. When God asks you to do something, you can do it! (verses 35-38)

The second thing is this: when God asks you to do something, you can do it! When God calls, he enables. You may not be able to do it in your own strength, but if God asks you, you can do it. He wouldn’t ask you if you couldn’t. There are a couple things under this point I want you to note.

    A. Be aware of people’s needs. (35-36)

First of all, you need to be aware of people’s needs. God’s two big commands in the Bible are “Love God and love people,” so when God asks you to do something, it will most likely have something to do with people’s needs. Look at verses 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.” (Mark 6:35-36)

Jesus had been teaching for some time, and by now it was late in the day. They were in a far away place, and the disciples realized the people needed to get something to eat. The disciples didn’t understand God’s plan in all this yet, but at least they recognized the need.

That is where mission and ministry starts. You need to be aware of people’s needs around you and then look for ways to meet those needs. Be aware! Get to know the people God has placed in your life, whether at school or at work or in your neighborhood or in the community at large. Ask God to open your eyes to people’s needs, and then begin looking for ways to meet those needs.

    B. Focus on the task, not the obstacles. (37)

Secondly, focus on the task, not the obstacles. Look at verse 37:

Jesus answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “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?” (Mark 6:37)

The disciples recognized the need, they brought it to Jesus, and Jesus told them, “You take care of it. You give them something to eat.” But instead of saying, “Okay, show me how,” the disciples immediately start raising objections. “What? Feed a crowd this big? Do you have any idea how much food that would take?” One of them (the gospel of John tells us it was Philip) does some quick calculations and says, “It would take eight months’ wages to feed this crowd. Do you really want us to go out and spend that much money on bread just to feed them?” The disciples saw an impossible task, and they were focused on the obstacles instead of obedience.

Isn’t it easy for us to do that as well? God calls us to do something big, like reach this community for Christ, and we get all hung up because we are looking at the obstacles instead of the task. Remember, when God asks you to do something, you can do it! Otherwise, he wouldn’t be asking you.

    C. Use whatever resources you do have. (38)

So what do you do when God asks you to do something that is clearly beyond your means? If you don’t have all the necessary resources, then use whatever resources you do have. Look at verse 38:

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five — and two fish.” (Mark 6:38)

You see, the disciples had been looking at what they didn’t have – which was enough bread to feed the crowd. Jesus directed their attention instead to what they did have: five loaves – and two fish. Now that doesn’t sound like a whole lot, because it isn’t. But that’s okay. Because when God asks you to do something, you can do it! You can do it with the resources you have, because you can do anything with God.

III. You can do anything with God (verses 39-44)

That’s our third point this morning. You can do anything with God. Anything! God has no limits. God is not confined by our lack of resources. When God asks you to do something, you can do it, because you can do anything with God. Now please don’t misunderstand me here. I am not saying you can do anything you want with God. I am saying you can do anything God asks you to do. So what do you do when God asks you to do something, but you don’t have the resources to do it?

    A. Commit what you have to God (39-41)

First of all, commit what you have to God. Look at verses 39-41:

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. (Mark 6:39-41)

The disciples gave what they had to Jesus. Jesus organized the people into groups. He took the loaves and the fishes, he thanked God for the resources at hand, and he committed it all to God in prayer. We need to do the same. We need to take whatever God has already given us, and give it back to him, trusting him to use it for his purposes.

    B. Let God do his work (42-44)

And then we need to let God do his work. Look at verses 42-44:

They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. (Mark 6:42-44)

And here in just a few short verses, we finally get to the miracle itself. Everything else was just a prelude to this. Notice that the miracle is described with just a few sparse words. We are not told how Jesus did what he did or even when the bread began to multiply. Did people see the bread multiplying? Did Jesus just keep breaking pieces off of loaves that never got any smaller? We’re not told.

What we are told is that everyone ate their fill. That word “satisfied” there in verse 42 means “filled up,” and it is the type of word you would use to describe yourself after Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone ate until they were full, and even then there were twelve baskets left over. They had more food at the end than they had at the beginning!

Mark tells us that the number of men who had eaten was five thousand. Now that’s a whole lot of people, but it was even more than you might think, because the word “men” there in verse 44 literally means “men.” The gospel of Matthew tells us that there were also women and children there in addition to the five thousand men.

This was an amazing miracle. During a time of famine in the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah fed himself, a widow and her son, from a single jar of flour and a single jug of oil that didn’t run out until the famine was over. (1 Kings 17:7-16) That was a neat miracle. Later on another prophet named Elisha fed one hundred men from twenty loaves of bread, and they all ate and had some left over. (2 Kings 4:42-44) That was a neat miracle, too. But Jesus’ miracle outshines them all. Jesus fed a crowd of five thousand men plus women and children from just five loaves of bread and two fish. The gospel of John compares it to God feeding the people of Israel manna in the wilderness, and Jesus used the miracle to present himself as the bread of life that comes down from heaven.

What do you do when God asks you to do something you can’t do? Give it to God, and then let God do his work. David had a slingshot and five small stones when he went up against Goliath. It wasn’t enough on his own. But with God’s help, Goliath went down. You can do anything with God.

CONCLUSION: So what is God asking you to do these days? Has God laid a certain ministry idea upon your heart? Is he calling you to a closer walk with him? What needs do you see around you that need to be filled? God has compassion for all people. How might God be asking you to fill those needs? Take some time and come away with Jesus to a quiet place where he can speak to you through his word and minister to you by his Holy Spirit.

Maybe you don’t have the necessary resources to do what God is telling you. No matter. Focus on the task, not the obstacles, and then use whatever resources you do have. You need to give it to God. Give it to God, and let God do his work.

© Ray Fowler

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