These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the gospel of Mark. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Listen carefully, God can do more in a moment than you can do in a lifetime. However, we must be willing to see His plan, agree to His plan, and do it His way. You can try to change people all your life or you can get out of God’s way and let God change them. Sometimes we don’t see God at work because we are trying to do His work for Him.
Today we are going to see God do something in a moment that would have taken the disciples months to have done left on there on.
Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.” 37 But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!” 38 “How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.” They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.” 39 Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred. 41 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. 42 They all ate as much as they wanted, 43 and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. 44 A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed. (NLT)
From this incredible account, we see how God works with and through His people. There are several observation we need to consider.
Be aware of people’s needs
The first observation is, we need to be aware of people’s needs. Mark tells us in verse 35, Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.” The disciples were showing practical compassion. Jesus had been talking to the crowds for a while and it was getting late in the day. The disciples interrupted Jesus to remind Him that it was late, everyone was getting hungry, and they were way out in the country and it would take a while for these people to get home, make supper, and eat. Besides the disciples were getting hungry themselves because they have been so busy ministering to people they didn’t have time to eat themselves. From a human perspective, their request was reasonable and logical. The disciple’s were simply asking Jesus to dismiss the crowd and begin again tomorrow.
As we will see later, Jesus already knew that He was about to perform an incredible miracle in feeding these people. This was actually a test for the disciples. Let me be clear, Jesus did not perform a miracle every time a crowd gathered to hear Him to teach and it got late. The normal routine was to teach and heal the sick and send them home. But today, it would be different.
But what we need to notice is, the miracle that is about to happen began with the disciples recognizing a practical need. People were getting hungry. This 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. They may need food, clothing, or shelter. They may need transportation, help with the yard, a handicap ramp built, help with the yard, home repair and the list of needs can be endless. But mission and ministry starts with a need. 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. So we aware of people’s needs.
Your need is your test
This takes us to number two, your need is your test. Sometimes, when you see a need in someone else’s life that is a test to see how you will respond to that need. Let me show you what I mean. In verse 37, Mark tells us, But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!” According to John, when he tells this story he let’s us know that it was Philip who spoke for the disciples and suggested that the crowds be dismissed and go home.
Here is where it gets interesting. Jesus responds by saying, “You feed them.” Why would Jesus say that? There are about 20,000 people who have gathered around Jesus to listen to Him and to be healed. According to John 6:6 Jesus “was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do” (NLT). This was a test for the disciples. Why was this a test? What was Jesus testing them about?
- Here is where the context of this story is important. The disciples just returned from several weeks of a ministry tour where Jesus had sent them out two by two and gave them authority to teach about His Kingdom, heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead (Mark 6:7; Matt. 10:8). During this ministry tour they saw God do incredible miracles. Prior to that they saw Jesus do hundreds and hundreds of miracles.
- So when Jesus says to them “You feed them,” He is testing to see if they have learned anything from their ministry tour about the divine power of who they serve.
Notice their response to Jesus’ statement, “With what?” Then they look around and point at the crowd and say, “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!” They are saying, “Jesus, we don’t have the money and we don’t have the food, so send these people home.” At this moment the disciples are not thinking about the power and authority Jesus has. They aren’t thinking about Him displaying who He is. They are thinking earthly. They are not thinking spiritually, nor supernaturally. They are thinking through their own abilities rather than through God’s abilities. They are placing their limitations on Jesus. Sometimes the need you face is a test you face.
- I think God will tell you to do something that seems impossible to you. You think you don’t have the money. You think you don’t have the resources. You think you don’t have the time. You think you don’t have the help. I think there are times God tells us to do something to help us see our need for Him to get it done. I think Jesus wanted them to see clearly that there was no way they could do this unless He gets involved.
I heard someone once say, “I am thankful for when I don’t have enough, because that is when I get to see God provide.” Have you ever told God, “Thank you for those times I didn’t have the money, but I saw you provide. Thank you for those times when I didn’t have a job, but you got me through. Thank you for those times when I was sick so you could make me well.” Every need you have is a test and opportunity to see what you have learned on your spiritual journey about the power of God.
Use the resources you already have
But now we see number three, use the resources you already have. Take a look at verse 38, “How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.” They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.” When John tells us about this event, he gives us a little more detail. John tells us, “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?’” (John 6:8-9, NLT). These loaves of bread can be literally translated “bread-cakes,” and refers to flatbread wafers or biscuits. Something like a small pancake or cookie. The “two fish” were probably pickled and intended to be eaten with the bread. Together, this made up a standard lunch for a small boy. However, Jesus was going to take that kids happy meal and turn it into a buffet to feed thousands. No one could have imagined that, except for Jesus.
The observation is this, the disciples were focusing on what they didn’t have, but Jesus wanted them to focus on what they did have. The disciples were saying, “We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough food. We don’t have enough of anything to help these people.” We are good at focusing on what we don’t have. “God, how can I help these people? I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough space, I don’t have enough knowledge, I don’t have… I don’t have… I don’t have….”
But Jesus says, “Go find out what you do you?” Then you discover, “Lord, all I have is $5, all I have is 30 minutes, all I have is an extra bedroom, all I have is….” This is where God is able to take what you have and use it beyond what you thought possible. When God tells you to do something that is obviously beyond your resources, start with what you have first. Start with the resources you have.
Number four, be organized. This may not sound very spiritual, but it is significant. Mark tells us in verse 39, Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred. Jesus ordered them to sit in neatly organized units. This would help in the distribution of food and help the people be more comfortable and aid in the counting of the people. With a simple command, Jesus transformed the chaotic crowd into a highly coordinated assembly.
God is not a God of confusion or chaos. God is a strategic, intentional, and organized God. You see this aspect of God in creation, you see it with Moses and the deliverance of Israelites from Egypt, you see it with Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, you see it with Jesus intentionally selecting the 12 apostles and sending them out two by two, you see it in Acts as the church grew, you see it in how God wants a local church organized, and you see it every time God is at work. God is an organized, strategic, and intentional God.
When God wants you to do something, it will not be a chaotic command or a command filled with confusion. It will be a command that is strategic, intentional, and organized.
Commit what you have to God
Number five, commit what you have to God. You have identified a need. You have identified your resources. You’ve gotten organize. Now, commit what you have to God.
Verse 41 says, Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. The disciples took the small amount food and gave it to Jesus. Not only did the disciples trust Jesus with the food, but Jesus demonstrated trust in the heavenly Father with the food… to use it, to bless it, and to multiply it.
To “bless” food is to thank God for it. You are identifying that God is the provider. You are demonstrating your gratitude for it. To bless something is to acknowledge that it is a gift from God. Whether you bless a child, a house, a car, a job, food, or something else. You are identifying it as special and from the Lord. You are identifying it is from God and even though its in your hands you are committing it to Him. Commit what you have to God: your house, your car, your money, your time, your family, your career, and everything else. When you bless it you are saying, “God, this is actually yours and thank you for allowing me to have and use it. Help me to manage what you have given to me in such a way that it brings honor and joy to You.”
God works through people
Number six, God works through people. Verse 41 goes on to say, Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. We finally get to the miracle itself. Everything else was just a prelude to this. Notice the miracle is described with just a few words. We are not told how Jesus did the miracle. Did the bread and fish simply begin multiplying in the basket and began to overflow? Did Jesus just keep breaking large pieces of bread off the loaves and handing it to the disciples? We are not told the details of the miracle. Miracles are always a mystery.
Notice carefully, as the miracle was happening, Jesus was giving the bread “to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people.” When God is at work, He works through people. When you have been blessed in the past it usually was through the hands of a person. God used a person who took you to the hospital. God used a person to help you pay for that bill. God used a person to give you godly counsel to make the right decision. God used a person to protect you from doing something stupid. God used a person to bless you with that meal. God used a person to encourage you. God distributes His blessings through His people. One of the great privileges of being committed to a church family is you are placing yourself in an environment where blessings can occur to you and through you. God distributes His blessings through His people.
God’s blessings bring satisfaction
Number seven, God’s blessings bring satisfaction. Verse 42 says, They all ate as much as they wanted, 43 and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. 44 A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed. (NLT) Mark tells us there were about “5,000 men and their families,” and when you add that up you get about 20,000 people. Mark points out “they all ate as much as they wanted.” This was not a everyone gets one slice of pizza. This is a eat all the pizza you want. Most translation use the word “satisfied” to describe how they felt after eating. It means “filled up.” It is the kind 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.
They were not only satisfied, but were astonished by what they just witnessed. Again John gives us some more insight, “When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, ‘Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!’ When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself” (John 6:14-15, NLT). This miracle was so overwhelming they were willing and ready to make Jesus king.
John tells us this was a “miraculous sign.” A “sign” of what? What did this miracle point to? What did it illustrate? According to John, the next day he told the crowd that had regathered, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you” (John 6:26-27, NLT). Then later Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35, NLT).
This miracle of feeding thousands of people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish demonstrates that God can meet your physical needs, but more importantly He can meet your spiritual needs, the needs of your heart. You are hungry for something bigger than yourself? Are you hungry to find purpose, value, and meaning in this world? Is there something inside of you that seems missing? The only person who can fill that void is Jesus. He is the only one who fill that hunger and bring true satisfaction.