Sunday, July 9, 2023

Jesus provides Food for the 4,000: The Response of the Crowds, Pharisees, and Disciples

“Oh why didn’t I listen!?" The rich man cries out from the depths of hell, to this very day in 2023. He needed salvation dearly but could not see it. And he looked and saw Lazarus, comforted, in paradise. The rich man in sorrows, why didn’t he listen? He was rich, he was powerful, he did not have ears to hear of the savior, and so he remains where he is to this day. He said in the parable, send someone to preach to my family, but the Lord said, they already have the prophets, Moses, and the testimony of scripture. But if someone comes back from the dead, surely they’d believe then, right? But billions today don’t believe, though one did rise from the dead, Jesus Christ.

Today we look at Mark chapter 8, the feeding of the four thousand.

And I think we’ll see today, the time to trust Jesus humbly has come for all of us, lest we make the same mistake as the Pharisees, Herod, and the rich man from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

In Mark 8, Jesus has gathered crowds again who are following him and listening to him explain how the kingdom of God works.

These crowds have followed Jesus for three days. They’ve gathered and followed him, listening to him teach all day. Then they’d go to sleep, wake up the next day, and follow Jesus as he taught for another day, then another day. And it’s been three days.

Jesus is grateful for their dedication to follow him. There are four thousand of them following and listening. He has compassion on them, and wants to help them.

In Mark 8:1-3 it says, “During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”

Jesus has compassion on them.

These four thousand people have probably been eating what little they had with them when they began following Jesus, which probably wasn’t much. They may have found sources of water along the way. But they’re now in a predicament, they’re too far out from sources of food, but they’re all very hungry.

It’s no doubt to me that Jesus set up this scenario to build their faith. They had to follow Jesus and trust that he would provide for their needs even if they brought nothing with them.

Now it’s come to the point where Jesus will now provide. We often must wait in faith, and then comes the moment when Jesus provides.

So Jesus tests his disciples also by asking them, what should we do?

Let’s see how his disciples responded.

In verses 4-5: 4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied.

The disciples have something to bring to the table. They have seven loaves of bread. They had some fish as well, we’ll find out in a moment.

We all have something we bring to the table. That is our gifting, our abilities, our zeal for the Lord. We apply it in a given situation. And then, God multiplies it, to produce much more than we’d expect.

Let’s see what Jesus does next, in verses 6-10: "He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 9 About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha."

Just like when Jesus fed the 5,000 this time again, he multiplies the loaves and the fishes, by God’s power, to produce enough food for every person there to eat their fill.

The people were satisfied by their savior. He provided for their need. They were filled. So we also long to be filled. We serve Jesus and through the struggles of live we get exhausted and we need to be recharged. Then God comes and provides the refreshing we need. He refreshes me again and again and again in my life. Come to Him, and in His time, he will refresh you in the journey of life.

He said in Psalm 23, "I will lead you beside still waters." And in Psalm 1:3, "That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers."

After everyone is done eating, the disciples gather seven baskets full of broken pieces left over from what everyone had ate.

He sent the crowds away, now safe to travel home after eating, and he traveled again to a different region. Jesus was always on the move, teaching and speaking the message to people in the area.

Jesus enters this new region after traveling by boat, and he encounters some of the religious leaders in the area, and they begin to question Jesus.

It says in verses 11-13: "The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.”

Don’t always expect a sign from God. God does give signs from time to time. Jesus did many miraculous works in his life. These were signs of who he was. And sometimes in our own life God will give us signs, nudges, in the right direction, to let us know His will for our lives. But many other times he will simply tell us to trust Him and follow His lead day by day.

Jesus immediately again leaves this area, and heads to another.

Then in verses 14-16 it says, “The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

What does bread do when it has yeast in it? The bread rises. It becomes puffed up.

The pharisees and king herod had something in common, they were puffed up. They were proud. Power and influence had made them prideful. Many of the pharisees were so focused on their own power and influence, their own selfish ambitions, that they saw Jesus as a threat, and they missed the savior of the world because of it.

Jesus says, beware! Be very cautious. Even in ministry for me, it’s very common to be drawn to the idea of wanting to promote yourself. It’s easy to put your career before the message, your desire for promotion. Your desire to show how brilliant you are. It’s very dangerous. Pretty soon the message of the gospel becomes secondary to our own selfish ambitions and pride. I’ve seen it so many times, and it’s dangerous.

Jesus says beware. If you’ve been drawn in by selfish ambition to climb your own way, and make yourself great, repent in dust and ashes, cry out to Jesus for mercy and he will forgive you pride, and humble you, and have mercy on you.

Those who are caught in the sin of selfish ambition will not see the kingdom of God, let no one deceive you. It is a deadly sin.

Pride is what caused angels to fall. Pride is a deadly danger. It led the pharisees to reject Jesus, as the crowds followed him, trusted him for all they needed, the pharisees were fearful, arrogant, angry, and demanded signs from Jesus.

Pride is so deadly because it makes us unable to listen. We can’t hear anything. We won’t listen to anyone. Thankfully God will humble us when we become prideful. That’s never fun though.

Don’t be like the puffy bread, like the pharisees, puffed up with pride, but instead be like the flatbread, close to the ground, aware of your nature as a servant of Christ, and follow Him humbly. If you can get that lesson, to stay humble, deeply humble, as a servant of Jesus, you are very close to the kingdom of God, I believe. Humility is vital to the kingdom of god system.

Herod had wanted a sign from Jesus, but Jesus had already done so many miracles. The pharisees wanted a sign from Jesus, but Jesus had already so many miracles. It was clear and plain who Jesus was, for anyone who could humbly examine it. But, to demand a sign was a rejection of all Jesus had done.

It kind of reminds me of when a couple has an argument, and she says give me one example, and he gives her an example, then he or she demandes another example, and she demands another, well he can’t think of a third, so it’s never quite enough.

I was at middle school camp last week, and I had offered the children to ask questions. Many of the students would ask good questions and I would try to answer. But, there were some children who were looking to have fun with me, so they would ask one question, then another question, then another, and you could tell by the look on their face, they didn’t really want an answer, they were just trying to stump me, to make their friends laugh. So I finally said to one of them, you don’t really want an answer, so I’m not going to answer you. That kind of reminds me of this situation with the pharisees.

In any case, the disciples don’t seem to get the point. They instead are asking about bread. They wonder if Jesus is noticing that they didn’t bring enough bread.

Here is how Jesus responds to them: (verses 17-19) 17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

This portion of scripture ends off with this open-ended question: Don’t you understand?

Even after everything, don’t you understand? Can’t you see the plain truth? Jesus is the messiah, the king of the universe. He can make food appear out of thin air. Jesus tells his disciples, you saw it happen twice now, where I made all this food appear, through God, and you still don’t understand?

Do you have ears but they don’t hear? Do you have eyes but they don’t see?

For many in this world, you could explain the gospel in the clearest form, you could have Billy Graham explain it to them himself, for hours, and they wouldn’t quite be able to get it. Their minds are focused on earthly things, not on the eternal truths of God.

Even for Jesus disciples, people He chose, they still struggle to understand. But we know over time they would come to understand and believe, and really trust that Jesus was their Lord and God on Earth. Praise the Lord.

We can talk about his disciples or the Pharisees, or Herod, or people today, but let’s get right to the point: What about you? Do you understand? Do you finally get it? Do you know and believe and trust that Jesus Christ is the messiah, the Lord, the King of the universe? Do you see beyond the physical, to these spiritual truths we discuss each week? Have you applied them to your life? 

Do you now live seeing the world through spiritual eyes? Do you see not just humans, but souls who need Christ before they die? Or are your eyes still blind? Do you really see what’s going on in the world around you?

Do you see a spiritual war taking place between good and evil? Do you see angels and demons in the unseen realms? Do you see souls struggling in darkness? Do you see reborn blood washed saints spreading the truth? Do you see heaven and hell beyond the grave? Do you see life beyond death?

That is the question and the challenge I leave you with today. See the truth. Believe the truth. Take the truth as your own. Apply it your life. And wear the truth as your armor. See the world through the eye glasses of the spiritual truths of God, and you will see truth and live truth and be truth in your life. Amen.