6/17/18

When a Little Is a Lot (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6)

Children’s Sermon:

Do you ever get hungry during church?  I brought a bag with a snack in it.  Let's see what’s in here.  Uh oh, there’s a problem.  All I have is five honey buns and a couple of “goldfish.”  I don't think there’s any way it will be enough to feed all of us (start counting the children… one, two, three, four, five...).  Nope, not enough.

This reminds me of something that happened to Jesus and His disciples one day. Jesus was very tired and needed some time to relax.  And He was sad because His cousin John the Baptist had been killed by King Herod.  So He got into a boat with His disciples and went looking for a quiet place to rest.  The problem with that was… eople liked Him so much that when they found a place, a big crowd of people were already there waiting for Him – the Bible says 5,000 men and who knows how many women and children (some calculate 25,000)!  They wanted to hear Jesus teach and see Him heal.  And this shows us the way Jesus was: though He needed to rest, when He saw the people, He loved them so much that He forgot all about being tired and sad.  So He healed folks and taught about the kingdom.

In fact, He taught and healed so long, suppertime came and His disciples said, "Jesus, it’s getting late and we’re hungry.  Send the crowd away so they can eat and we can eat."  And wow, did Jesus ever surprise them!  He told them, "They don't need to go away; you feed them."  The disciples answered the way we humans always answer…  “No way!  All we have is five loaves of bread and two small fish.”

Oh, but Jesus had a way!  He got everyone to sit down on the grass in groups of 50 or 100.  Then He took the loaves and fish, looked up to heaven and thanked God His Father – “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the ground” – then gave the food to the disciples to hand out to all the people… and all 5,000 plus women and children ate His supper!

If I shared what I brought with you today, there might be enough for each of you to have one tiny little bite.  But Jesus is God and when He blessed the loaves and fish, the Bible says that everyone ate until they were full.  And then… you know what?  They gathered up the leftovers and there were twelve baskets full.  Can you imagine taking these five honey buns and goldfish and feeding everyone here today and still having twelve basketsful of food left over?  “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Matthew 14:20 NIV).  No way could we do it, but God can.

What can we learn from our Bible story today?  We learn that if we give what we have to God, He can take it, bless it, and do more with it than we could ever imagine.  Even though we only have a little, little becomes a lot when it’s placed in God's hands.

PRAYER:  Dear God our Father, just as Jesus used a small boy’s lunch to feed thousands of people, we pray that you will use all the boys and girls here today to bless everyone they meet every day.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Main Sermon:

When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.”  But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and see.”  When they found out, they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” (Mark 6:35-38).

Jesus sometimes tells us to do impossible things so that we will learn to rely on Him to help us.  This miracle we’re looking at happened on the evening of the night Peter walked on the water to meet Jesus when He came walking to the boat on the sea.  Walking on water isn’t possible without relying on Jesus, lots of faith in Jesus.

This is the only miracle of Jesus repeated in all four gospels (other than His resurrection).  We know that if the Bible says something once, it’s enough and it’s true, and we should believe it.  But when it repeats something four times, it must be telling us something really important.  All four gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – write about Jesus feeding the 5,000 plus.  Must.Be.Really.

Important! 

The battle for bread was a daily, lifelong struggle for the people of Jesus’ day.  Let’s stop to notice that what drew them was not kingdom, salvation, forgive-ness, or escaping judgment and hell.  What drew them was Jesus’ teaching and healing.  After this miracle, many come for more bread and some want to make Him King so He can give them bread every day.  Yes, Jesus drew a big crowd if He offered bread (or healing), not much of one if He called for self-denial and taking crosses.

Well, they had no food, but we know the rest of the story…  how they found a boy with five loaves and two fish and how Jesus blessed that little bit so that it fed 5000 men-plus with lots of leftovers.  It’s one of the great miracles of the Bible.  5,000 men-plus show up uninvited to hear Him teach and see Him heal and then stay for supper.  When it gets late, people got tired and hungry, and there were no Burger Kings or Pizza Huts to be found.  Sure, the disciples’ suggestion to send them away to find their own food makes good sense.  They weren’t being impolite… they just had no way to meet such a huge need… no food… not enough money.  So what could they do?  Nothing!  We should learn a lesson: Over and over again God puts us in positions where we’re helpless, and then says to us, “Do something!” 

Most of us would have said what the disciples said.  Of course we would.  They saw thousands of hungry people they couldn’t feed.  Here’s another lesson:  We’re quick to see what we can’t do and quick to talk about what we don’t have.  The disciples saw the crowds and saw what they lacked and somehow forgot that the Son of God was standing there with them.

When they told Him they had no food or money, He still said, “You give them something to eat” (v 37).  So they’re helpless, and He says, “Do something!” Much too often we conclude that something can’t be done, so we don’t even bother to try.  When God presses us, we cry out, “How?” to heaven, and God smiles and says, “So glad you asked… what took so long?”  God doesn’t set us up to fail, but He does want us to know that without Him we can do very little.  Our success depends totally on Him.  The sooner we learn that, the happier we’ll be.

No fanfare, no voice from heaven, no lightning and thunder… He just created bread and fish and gave it to group after group until everyone was fed.  He passed out loaves #s 1 through 5, 75 through 100, and 4,950 through 5,000.  It was bread that never was grain, or seed, or grew in soil…  And fish # 1 and 2, and then hundreds more!  They were fish that had never swam.  He created them right there on the spot!  Surely this was the best bread and fish ever… not cursed by the fall in Eden… kin to manna in a way… straight from heaven.  This kind of food would cause everyone to want more, right?  Take some home in their aprons?

Let’s not miss another lesson in this story:  we should never underestimate small things.  Just because a thing is small or seemingly insignificant doesn’t mean God can’t use it.  He used a teenage boy named David with one smooth stone to defeat the giant Goliath.  Here He fed 5,000 men with five biscuits and two sardines.  Size doesn’t matter with God.  He can use anything we offer to him.

I believe God puts us in situations where we are sure to fail in order to make us depend totally on Him.  Then, when success comes, the credit has to be His.  That’s the story of Gideon:  God said go with 300 men to fight 135,000, and for weapons use… bazookas?  Nope, they got a torch, a pitcher, and a trumpet so they’d know God won the battle, not them. 

Sooner or later (probably sooner), we will come to the end of our knowledge, wisdom, skill, strength, eloquence, creativity, and personal charm.  The ministry God daily gives us to do has a way of stripping away our self-sufficiency and showing us how weak we really are.  When that happens, we’ll discover what we really believe.  We’ve been given truth by parents, Bible class teachers, and preachers, but when the moment of crisis comes and Jesus says to us, “Give them something to eat,” we’ll find out what we’ve learned that’s really stuck.  It’s stressful to have no money, no muscle, and essentially no way to meet the need in front of us, and still hear God say, “This person is hungry.  Give them something to eat.”  But when we turn to Him, we can!

Another lesson: The fact that something is impossible is no excuse for a believer not trying to do it.  If Moses had thought that way, the Jews would still be in Egypt.  If Joshua had thought that way, the walls of Jericho would still be up.  If David had thought that way, Goliath would still be terrorizing the Israelites.  We can never know in advance what God might do so we shouldn’t rule out asking Him to act.

Jesus often told people to do impossible things.  He said to a lame man, “Rise, pick up your bed, and walk;” and told a dead man, “Come forth.”  In a way, every command of God is impossible for us to obey – we always lack what we need to obey God’s commands.  But God is faithful to give us whatever we need when we ask him: what God demands, He enables.  He tells us to fly and gives us wings.  He gives us whatever we need to do his will.  In that confidence we can go out from here with great joy and confidence to do great things for Him.

Every miracle begins with an impossible problem.  Try to find a miracle that doesn’t.  Seeing that truth will give us an entirely different attitude toward our problems.  Problems become circumstances engineered by God to bring us face to face with our deficiencies so we will see His power as our only answer...  So let’s learn to love problems.  Got a problem?  Good!  Charles Swindoll said, “We’re faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” (Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back)… That’s opportunities to trust the Lord and watch Him step into to help for his glory...

Lord, you have not brought us this far to leave us now. Having come this far by faith, we go onward by your faithfulness. As you have been with us through all the years, we ask you to lead us into the future. Watch over us. Lead us. Protect us. Bless us. Take what we have and multiply it greatly for your glory. Grant us every blessing as we serve you. We pray these things in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.