Brad Libolt speaking on Mark 6:30-44. He spoke of Jesus providing for the large crowd of five-thousand, and how he provides for our needs as well. He asked us if we tend to ask God for things that we want or things that we need. Are we asking for God’s will to be done, or our own?
- Two summers ago I went on a backpacking trip with Dave, some high school students and people on the youth team. It was a very long and difficult hike. If anyone has ever gone backpacking you know that there aren’t restaurants along the way, you have to pack your own food. On this trip we packed lots of food in which you have to add boiling water to so it can cook and then you eat it. Some of it is pretty good, some not so much, but every time, there wasn’t enough. I eat a lot, and I love food, so even at home I will finish my meal and usually want more. On this trip the food was scarce, just enough to get you by and that was it.
- Needless to say, I got very, very hungry. And it made me very angry. My stomach was empty and we had done a bunch of hiking, so by the time this trip was over I was in dire need of some real food. On the way home we stopped at Dairy Queen. And boy did I feast. Chicken strips and fries and burgers and blizzards galore, I stuffed my face. I was in great need of food, and Dairy Queen provided. Not just enough, but in abundance. I had more than enough food.
- In today’s story, the people Jesus is teaching are in need, and he provides for them as well, in a miraculous way, and in abundance. And for us as well, when we are in need, Jesus provides for us in abundance.
- Let’s take a look at how this story unfolds.
30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
- Remember two weeks ago we talked about how Jesus was rejected by his hometown and sent out his apostles and they went out to do what Jesus told them to do, to cast out demons and heal, and now they have returned. And they were doing so many signs and wonders and interacting with so many people that they were exhausted. So Jesus wants them to rest. He tells them to go to a desolate place and rest. They didn’t even have time to eat. So they start heading there, just Jesus and his disciples. But, a bunch of people saw them going and recognized who they were and started running to get to the place they were going first. This is how badly these people want to see Jesus and the apostles, they are running on foot just to get to them. Jesus and his apostles can’t catch a break.
- So Jesus gets off the boat and sees the crowd that had run there and was waiting for them, and he has compassion on them. Because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them.
- Get this picture in your head. Jesus and his apostles are exhausted, so they try to go somewhere to rest. When they get there, there is a huge crowd that is waiting for them. Jesus looks at this crowd, and sees them as sheep without a shepherd. Think of sheep with no shepherd. They have no guidance, no protection, no provision. Lost, vulnerable, and in need. So he begins to teach them.
- This shows so much about the character of Jesus and the way he sees people. He spends time and energy on them because of his compassion on them. This should give us comfort, because Jesus sees us the same way. And his compassion on the crowd and his compassion on us leads to the same thing, him being our shepherd through his death and resurrection.
- Let’s keep going.
35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”
- After Jesus has been teaching it grows late and the disciples come up to him and tell him it is a desolate place and that it is late, and that Jesus should send the people away to to the villages to get something to eat. This is pretty logical. It is late, the people have been there a while, the apostles are ready to get their rest they need, so they want the crowd to get out of there and get some food. But look at Jesus’ response, it is hilarious.
- He answered them, “You give them something to eat.” Jesus just tells them to give the people something to eat.
- And they are like what? Do you want us to go and buy a bunch of bread and give it to them to eat? Two hundred denarii is a lot of money. Money they didn’t have. It would take eight months of working in order to earn that much money.
38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
- Jesus then asks them how many loaves they have, and they report that there are five loaves of bread and two fish. Then the people sit down in groups of hundreds and fifties on the green grass and Jesus does an incredible miracle. He takes the two fish and the five loaves, says a blessing, and gives them to the disciples to give to the people. And from the two fish and the five loaves Jesus gives food to everyone. It says everyone ate and was satisfied. There was so much food that they picked up twelve baskets full afterwards. And that was after feeding 5,000 men, and likely a lot more women and children.
- God is providing food for these people, in a desolate place. And not just enough to get by, but enough for abundance. Jesus provides for their needs, and Jesus provides for our needs.
- But here’s the thing about Jesus providing for us in abundance. Does Jesus provide for our needs, or our wants? We probably all know how we should answer, obviously Jesus provides for our needs and not our wants, but are our needs what we ask God to provide for, or our wants?
- When you pray, are you praying for God to provide things you want, or with things you need? Are you asking him that you would get the birthday present you’ve been wanting? That you will win our basketball game? That your dance performance will go perfectly? That you won’t have too much homework? Or that your week goes by with no problems? None of these are necessarily bad things, but they are all wants. They are things we want, and don’t necessarily need. We don’t need that birthday present we have been dreaming about. We don’t need to win our basketball game. We don’t need to have less homework.
- When we ask God for things we want rather than things we need, we put a lot of pressure on God to fulfill our own will. We want him to do something we want. And when he doesn’t, we get mad at him for not doing what we wanted. This isn’t right. Examples of prayer in the Bible talk about praying for God’s will, not our own. Think about the Lord’s Prayer.
- Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be you name, your kingdom come, your will be done, as earth as it is in heaven.
- It doesn’t say your kingdom come, MY will be done. No, it is YOUR will. God’s will. And maybe sometimes, it is in God’s will that you don’t get the present you wanted. Or that you lose your basketball game. Or that you fall down in your dance performance. Or you get a ton of homework that stresses you out. Maybe God makes those things happen because it is in his will. And he doesn’t do them just to be mean, but because there is a need he is addressing that is more important than the want.
- Maybe you need to be more thankful, so God is teaching you to appreciate gifts even when it wasn’t what you wanted. Maybe God is teaching you humility, so you lose your game or mess up your dance performance. Maybe God is teaching you to be responsible and diligent and work hard so you get a ton of homework. Now God doesn’t ignore our wants and desires, but he is far more concerned about our needs. So our prayer life should reflect this. Rather than asking God for things we want, we should ask him for things we need. And if we don’t know what we need, we should ask him to reveal that to us. To show us his will and the areas of our life that need to grow.
- But here’s the thing. Even our understanding of our needs is clouded by sin. We have felt needs and fundamental needs.
- Our felt need might be something like food, or shelter. But the fundamental need might be greater trust in God. The felt need might be rest or recuperation, but the fundamental need is a greater reliance and dependence on God.
- Take my backpacking trip for example. My felt need was food. I was starving, and I was mad because I was starving. But over the three days we were in the wilderness, I realized that food wasn’t everything. I was letting my need for food, a felt need, rob me of joy and peace, and when I saw past the felt need to the fundamental need, that I needed to rely on God for strength, not food, I was able to enjoy the trip despite an empty stomach.
- Now discerning between felt needs and fundamental needs isn’t easy, and it takes time to learn. But we can be praying, asking God to reveal his will to us, to show us what our fundamental needs are, and to make us more like Jesus.
- Remember it is Jesus who is providing bread in this story, and it is Jesus who provided for our ultimate need: our need for salvation. But Jesus wasn’t able to do this, provide for our salvation, without going through a crises of want vs need on his own. When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested, he was praying to God, anxious about what was about to happen. And in his prayer he asked God to take the cup from him, that if there was any other way to get this done, that God would choose that way instead. It would seem initially that Jesus wanted to escape the suffering he was about to endure. But then he says, nevertheless, not my will but your will be done. Jesus submits to God’s will, knowing that it will bring pain, suffering, and ultimately death, because that is what needed to happen.
- Jesus chose need over want, so that he could go to the cross and suffer on our behalf, dying for our sins, so that he could offer to us fulfillment for our greatest need, our need for salvation.