Mark 6:30-44 “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.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognised 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. 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 that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ But he 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?’ How many loaves to you have?’ he asked, ‘Go and see.’ When they found out, they said, ‘ Five – and two fish.’ 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 two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve baskets of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.”
Who was this Jesus of Nazareth? Once his name had become well known, his extraordinary teaching and mighty works heard and seen, the villages of Galilee simply buzzed with the great debate. Some were saying that he was John the Baptist raised from the dead, while others thought that he was a resurrected Elijah; still others said that he had to be a prophet like those of old times (vv. 14&15). Could he be a revolutionary Messiah, the deliverer of Israel from Roman bondage? In this passage Mark is going to tell us who Jesus is. There is no more important question for men to answer. Who is Jesus of Nazareth? Is he a crook? Is he crazy, or is he the Christ, the anointed one of God? Is he mad, or malicious, or is he the Master? Is he a liar, a lunatic or the Lord? What does Mark tell us about him to help us build up a fully rounded picture of Jesus?
1. THE LORD CHRIST IS MATCHLESS COMPASSION.
Mark shows us this in two ways, in Jesus’ relationship with his own 12 disciples, and then with the people of the world.
i] The 12 disciples have just returned from weeks of toil – we reckoned that it had taken about nine months for them to go through all the villages of Galilee – preaching the gospel to the whole province. They now return to Jesus and give him a report of all they’d done and taught. But it wasn’t easy for them all to sit down with Jesus and have a sharing time together because thousands of men were following them. That day the twelve were hungry, but they couldn’t sit down to eat because of the crowds, and then the incarnate God, Jehovah Jesus, says to Peter and John and the others, “‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest'” (v.31). He looked at them, and they had a hundred stories to tell of conversions and healings, and entire communities changed, but they were exhausted too, and he didn’t expect more from them than their bodily strength could give. “Let’s get some rest,” he said to them. He himself was nursing a wound; his own dear cousin John had been murdered in the most brutal way. He had been killed for serving Jesus, for speaking just as Christ wanted him to speak. The Lord felt responsible and mourned for John, and yet at that time thousands of men were crowding in on Jesus, clamouring to see and hear him. He couldn’t eat for the press. Our Saviour too needed to get some rest with the twelve.
Today that may not be a message that all of us need. It may be a message very few Christians need. As J.C.Ryle says, “There are only a few in danger of overworking themselves, and injuring their own bodies and souls by excessive attention to others. The vast majority of professing Christians are indolent and slothful, and do nothing for the world around them. There are comparatively few who need the bridle nearly so much as the spur” (J.C.Ryle, “Expository Thoughts on Mark,” Banner of Truth, p.124). That’s true. There are very few of you to whom I must say such words as these, “Take a break from the Prayer Meeting and stay home for a few weeks and recuperate. You are spending too many of your evenings in the Lord’s work!” It’s the very reverse; I need to spur you on about such things, but I do know some in this distinguished congregation who are abounding in the work of the Lord, whose days and evenings and Saturdays are spent labouring for the kingdom of God. I am saying to you that you have a compassionate Saviour, not a slave driver, who not only tells us to work while it is day but who also says, ‘Get some rest.’ J.C.Ryle says this, “Remember that to do a little, and do it well, is often the way to do most in the long run.”
There are divinely set rhythms of labour and rest. The Bible begins with its teaching about creation. When God created the world, there came a moment when he rested from work. Divine rest became the model for creatures made in God’s image; they have to punctuate their work with times of rest and worship. Some forms of rest are terribly abused by immorality, and excess, and self-centred indulgence. Let’s avoid that. Only those who labour for the Lord can rest in the Lord. I was reading parts of Charles Darwin’s autobiography, called Recollections which he wrote for his children, and he looks back to his twenties when he enjoyed music, and reading poetry, and he appreciated painting. He says that all that gave him “intense pleasure and very great delight.” Then he immersed himself in his scientific theories so much so that every one of those pleasures were destroyed. He couldn’t bear to read a line of poetry, and he lost all his taste for works of art and music. This is what he says, “My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts.” It seems his soul had become computerised.
Now there is something wrong with a religion that that has no place for going to a quiet place and getting some rest. One of my friends is an evangelist, and he has written many books including one hefty volume answering atheism. He travels widely speaking all over the world, and yet not a week will go by without his playing a couple of games of golf. I love that about him. Another friend is a profound creative theologian and he loves to work in his vegetable garden and also to watch cricket matches. Another friend was once a student here, but now he is a professor of practical theology in America, and he adores music, and has the most comprehensive collection of vinyls and CDs. He goes to their front room and sits down to listen to a couple of symphonies and allows that stirring soothing music to invigorate him. That is his quiet place and that is how he gets refreshing rest. Those three are all very disciplined men to be able to get physical and mental refreshment in that way. They have all been taught that fact by the Lord Jesus. They put me to shame. I feel embarrassed when people ask me if I have a hobby and I have to say, “Not really,” meaning “not at all.” Yet one of my favourite paintings is of a Scottish Presbyterian minister in his frock coat skating on a frozen loch. My wife made for me one Christmas a needle craft miniature of that famous portrait.
We are involved in a great battle. We have to be good stewards of our leisure time and make the necessary moral choices that getting some rest involves. Can your music, and TV watching, and fascination with sport, and the books you read for relaxation, and your use of the Internet all pass the scrutiny and win the approval of the Lord Jesus Christ? Has he told you to go and be involved in such things? Does he bless those things to you? Do those things send you back to kingdom work with new vigour, or do they weaken you as a Christian? Devotion that doesn’t result in Christian activity is not real devotion. Prayer that doesn’t result in your seeking to reach the people you’ve been praying about is not real prayer. Here is someone who is running way ahead of you in the Christian life, and he is not getting weary. What is his secret? He that waits upon the Lord renews his strength. During that last illness of Dr Lloyd-Jones Iain Murray was visiting him and asked him how he was feeling, quoting the hymn line, “Weary and word and sad?” “Not sad,” said the Doctor. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Our leisure, even our play, is a matter of serious concern. There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan . . . It is a serious matter to choose wholesome recreations” (C.S.Lewis, “Christian Reflections,” Collins Fount Paperbacks, 1967, p.52). The Lord Jesus ordained nine months of demanding kingdom work, and then he says to the twelve, “Get some rest.” He is full of compassion. There were two sisters whom we might classify as Types A and B, Martha was the activist, while Mary was the one who had to sit perfectly still and listen to Jesus speaking. The Lord commended Type B – Mary, the sister who sat and listened. So, Jesus of Nazareth is compassionate towards his own weary disciples.
ii] Then Jesus is confronted with these thousands of men, stirred by the apostolic preaching, who are searching for this extraordinary man who has been commended to them so enthusiastically by his disciples. It is a great picture of true evangelism. We are to speak to people about the Lord in such a way that people’s curiosity has been aroused. They must come where Jesus himself meets with even two or three who gather in his name. So the disciples and Christ tried to get away from these crowds. They slipped into a boat and crossed to the other side, but the shout immediately went up, “There he goes! He’s crossing the lake.” At this particular place it would have been about four or five miles across the lake and about ten miles to walk round the top of the lake. There were at least thirteen men in the little boat, and if it were a calm day, or if the winds weren’t favourable, it might take as long to sail those miles as walk around the edge. That is exactly what happened. Those men set off immediately, in fact Mark tells us that they “ran on foot” – ten miles, almost a half marathon, thousands of them, such was their eagerness to meet the Lord. They got to the other side before Jesus and the disciples. We are told two things about the Saviour, how he felt about the men of the world and what he did:
A) How the Lord Jesus felt: “He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (v.34). They had gone there for some peace and quiet, to get away from the crowds. They had gone there by his express command, and yet the crowds wouldn’t stay away from Christ. They pressed in on him there. This was the maximal time of Christ’s popularity. Was he the one who would drive the Romans into the Med? Would he make them a great nation again? They had to find out, so they dogged his footsteps. They went right into his space; he couldn’t get away from them, but he wasn’t angry – like today’s stars pouting because of the paparazzi, and the crowds that wait outside doors everywhere to see them. That’s the price of the fame that they themselves have itched to get, famous for being famous. they have nothing to give, but Christ had something to say to them; he could help them. Christ was not resentful about their gate crashing his quiet place; he was full of compassion towards them. They seemed like lost children in the rain. He wasn’t like that to the Pharisees; he scorned their hypocrisy, but with these panting, curious, longing men of Galilee he knew a feeling deep in the pit of his stomach which gripped him as he looked at them. In the New Testament this word ‘compassion’ is used only of the Lord Christ. It is a Jesus’ word, and it is used of him on eight occasions. He is sorry for them. Who is their king? Herod! The man who killed his dear cousin, and Jesus’ sorrow about that was channelled into compassion for them.
How did he see them? “Like sheep without a shepherd” (v.34). That is a Messianic phrase. Did he mention it in the boat to the twelve as they grounded ashore and these thousands of men ran towards him? Did the Twelve glance at one another as they heard that phrase? They would remember how Moses prayed, “May the Lord . . . appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbs. 27:15-17). That passage continues: “So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him'” (Numbs. 27:18). You know that Jesus’ name in Hebrew is ‘Joshua’. Could Jesus of Nazareth be great Joshua’s greater son, the coming shepherd- leader of God’s people? The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the great shepherd who one day would be raised up: “I will save my flock . . . I will place over them one shepherd” (Ez. 34:22). Who was this in the boat with them? A great compassionate shepherd.
Sheep without a shepherd are lost. Sheep without a shepherd won’t have pasture. Sheep without a shepherd have no defence against wolves or thieves. We must have a shepherd. We all face a future of extraordinary complexity, huge decisions, and fearful new dangers. Do you have a shepherd? Not any old shepherd – a compassionate shepherd, one who is touched by your lostness and vulnerability and need? A Christian is someone who knows he needs a shepherd. He knows he is weak and helpless. He has cried mightily to God that Jesus become his very own shepherd. A Christian is someone who says from his heart, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
What we have here is a picture of the attitude of God the Son to unbelievers, we might say, to the ‘non-elect’. This is how Jesus Christ today confronts the careless sinners of this town. As J.C.Ryle says, “High in heaven, at God’s right hand, he still looks with compassion on the children of men. He still pities the ignorant, and them that are out of the way. He is still willing to teach them many things. Special as his love is towards his own sheep who hear his voice, he still has a mighty general love towards all mankind – a love of real pity, a love of compassion. We must not overlook this. It is a poor theology which teaches that Christ cares for none except believers. There is warrant in Scripture for telling the chief of sinners that Jesus pities them, and cares for their souls, that Jesus is willing to save them, and invites them to believe and be saved” (op cit, p.125).
B) What the Lord Jesus did: “so he began teaching them many things” (v.34). I love that statement. They have hurried ten miles in their thousands. They are hungry and far from home, and the incarnate God has compassion on them. What can he do to help them? He will preach to them. That is his conviction. From the very beginning of his public ministry to his last evening in the Upper Room, on the mount, from a boat, in the Temple, in a synagogue, in a home, all the years of his ministry to audiences large and small he never loses confidence in the utter centrality of the word of God. He will not be silent. He doesn’t give these thousands of men an epilogue – a sermonette – proceeding hurriedly to feeding them with loaves and fishes. Jesus taught them many things. Peter Hilder, my assistant, and myself, spent the spring reading the sermons of Jonathan Edwards, but this week we have begun to study Dr Lloyd-Jones’ “Preaching and Preachers.” You find a conviction like this on its first page, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching.” It is a conviction that Peter Hilder’s own father has known as this month, in his early fifties, he has given up his post as a teacher after a couple of decades’ teaching to accept the call to become the preacher in his home church.
So the Lord Jesus “began teaching them many things” (v.34). He pointed his finger at them, at specific groups of people, at specific sins, at the day of judgment coming ever nearer, all the time urging them to repent. The Lord Jesus preached prayerfully, that is, he looked at them in the presence of God. The Lord Jesus preached with open arms. He would have embraced them all: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Those were his invitations, and the promises he made to all who would obey. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Was it worth running on foot for ten miles to hear that sermon? It was worth running a hundred miles! The best moments in our entire lives have been spent hearing the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. How sweet their memory still. Little can match the enduring value of such times. Let preachers all over the world search themselves by the example of Christ. Are we tenderly concerned about the unconverted? Do we feel compassion on them who are as sheep without a shepherd? Do we care about the Hindu and the Buddhist, and the Moslem on our doorsteps? Do we use every biblical means, and give our money willingly, to spread the gospel in the world? Let preachers show they are men of true compassion by preaching all the word of Christ to all the church and all the world.
So who is Jesus of Nazareth? He is the living God who is full of compassion for you today.
2. THE LORD CHRIST IS LIMITLESS POWER.
At the end of the sermon, as the shades of night began to fall at the edge of the lake, Jesus’ disciples finally broke the silence: “This is a remote place . . .and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (vv. 35&36). Prayer can be just like that; going to the Lord with preconceptions on how our problems are going to solved, making suggestions to God as to how people could be helped. Prayer is not some perfectly formed, sinless petition, full of holy beauty prayed with just the right amount of emotional intensity. Some may be like that, the greatest prayers perhaps, but many more are like these words. “Lord we see a problem and we feel that this is the best way it can be dealt with.” They loved their Lord, and they admired his compassion; it made them want to be compassionate just like him, so “Master, don’t let these people get increasingly hungry in this remote place. Before everybody in the surrounding villages has gone to bed dismiss this crowd so that they can go off and buy some food.” Jesus cared – and they cared too! They thought of themselves as ‘practical carers’.
How often have we prescribed to Jesus how we want him to act to attend some problem. “Help, Lord, and do it this way . . .” I am saying to you not to let the misguided attitude of these very young Christians stop you from speaking freely to God in prayer. We go to him through our Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, we pray in Jesus’ name, and we ask the Lord to hear us for his sake. We ask him to forgive all our sins, especially the sins of our prayers. No one has ever prayed a sinless prayer. That is why we pray in the name of the Lord Jesus. Imagine a little child going out into the garden and picking a bunch of flowers for Mummy, but in the process he picks dead stalks, and weeds, and even some poison ivy and nettles, along with some beautiful flowers. He comes into the house smiling and proud of himself and shows to Daddy the flowers; “For Mummy,” he says. His father says to him, “Let me rearrange them for a moment,” and very tenderly and unobtrusively he takes away the dead stalks and the weeds. He arranges them in an attractive posy, puts them back in the hot little hands that picked them, and opens the door of the living room for his son to walk to his Mummy’s chair with a big toothless grin and the flowers in his hand.
Our great compassionate Mediator takes our prayers, and he removes all that is unacceptable and then he presents our petitions without spot or blemish or any such thing to the Father who answers every prayer. I am saying to you to tell Jesus everything. Don’t let fear of sinning stop your praying. If you move in Christian circles you hear people’s language and especially how they talk about prayer. You can learn from them. One minister, driving me around Penzance this year, said to me, “I don’t like to pray, ‘O God give ME a parking place,’ because I am to love my neighbour as myself and my neighbour needs somewhere to park too. So I pray, ‘Lord make me patient while I am looking for somewhere to park the car, and thankful when I’ve got one.'” Our praying isn’t always in focus, but our main intention usually as regenerate men and women, is the glory of God and the eternal good of our neighbours. But these disciples’ chief concern was that these hungry crowds went off and fed themselves before it got dark – “so don’t preach any longer.”!
Then the Lord Jesus said something which is very typical of the way he deals with us: “You give them something to eat” (v.37). Here is the Bible’s teaching on human responsibility. “Lord, my friends are perishing. Save them.” The Lord says, “You go and visit them. Don’t stay in your house watching TV every evening. Knock on their doors and save them.” “Lord, people are starving, feed them.” “Get a job,” says the Lord, “and earn some money so that you can buy them food.”
“You give them something to eat,” he said, and they protested, “‘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?” (v.37). What is your salary? Maybe you live on an old age pension of a hundred pounds a week. Eight to nine months would be about 35 weeks, three and a half thousand pounds. Do you carry that amount of money about with you? Have you got it in your pocket or handbag today? Of course not, and the disciples protest that they don’t have such money. “What do you have?” says the Lord. “‘How many loaves do you have?’ he asked, ‘Go and see'” (v.38). The Lord Christ is serious about their providing for these people. He is teaching them this lesson, that soon they’re going to be serving these crowds of men, though they have no idea how. He, of course, is going to be the provider, but they are going to be crucially important as the channels, or the dispensers of the Messiah’s food. He does not use angels to take the gospel to people: he uses saved sinners. In five minutes’ time these twelve young men are going to have another taste of serving their neighbours by doing exactly what the Lord says. It won’t be long before he’ll no longer be with them physically, but when those days will come they’ll still take the Messiah’s bread, the word of God, and in the power of the Spirit they’ll offer it to the whole world. These boys are being taught huge lessons in utterly unexpected ways, and that too is the Christian life.
So the disciples come back and all they have to show for their foraging trip is five loaves – one barley loaf for every thousand men, and two fishes – one for every two and a half thousand, and we suppose there were also many women sitting there in the crowd. The disciples must have said to the crowd, “The Master is asking if any of you have brought any food”, and John in his gospel tells us that a single lad had innocently responded and then discovered that he was the only one with his hand in the air! Still he had given his loaves and fishes to Andrew. The point is that a young person can help. He can bring something to Jesus, and the Saviour will not despise it. But the fact that it was a boy is not important nor that it was barley bread, the cheapest, nor that the fish were dried fish; John also tells us those details in his gospel. What is important were Jesus’ actions. Five things:
Firstly, “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” (vv.39&40). This shows the enormous authority that the Lord Christ wielded. Imagine my standing on a bench on the promenade in the summer and calling to the people as they walked up and down, “Now sit down, everyone, in groups of fifty and hundred. SIT DOWN!” You can imagine the mobile phones coming out, and people calling the local constabulary to report an idiot shouting at people and frightening children, and dogs, and the donkeys. I have no authority to do that sort of thing, but the people here by the shores of the sea of Galilee all obeyed the disciples as they passed on Jesus’ instructions.
They sat down on “the green grass” – there is the touch of an observer of that scene – it must be the apostle Peter. The word ‘groups’ (vv. 39 & 40) was used of garden beds, so that the scene – to Peter’s wondering eyes – was of fifty or more blocks of people, like flower beds in the green grass of a park. Thousands of people sitting down, with avenues in between, waiting in expectation, doing exactly what the Lord said. Think of the authority of Moses organising the ancestors of these people into groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens in order to settle minor disputes. Most of the 5,000 would know of that: “Who is this man we have been listening to?”
Secondly, the Lord took the five loaves and the two fish into his own hands;
Thirdly, the Lord lifted his eyes to heaven and gave thanks for the food;
Fourthly, the Lord broke the five loaves up for the people;
Fifthly, the Lord gave them to his disciples to set before the people. “He also divided the two fish among them all” (v.41).
The crowds had no food. They had come running after Jesus when they discovered that he was setting sail for the other side of the lake. They were not prepared for hours away from home and they’d had no time to go back for bread. The disciples knew this. “Send the people away so they can . . . buy themselves something to eat.” There was no food at all in their pockets or their baskets, just one lad on his way somewhere, caught up in the running crowd, and ending up ten miles away from home with food that would become famous for ever. Then Jesus broke the bread and gave it to his disciples and when they distributed it all five thousand ate, and were filled, and twelve baskets full of fragments were taken up.
Matthew Parris has recently written in The Times about his lack of sympathy with the Church of England installing a homosexual bishop, even though he himself is a homosexual. He writes, “knowingly to appoint gay bishops robs Christianity of meaning. It is time that convinced Christians stopped trying to reconcile their spiritual beliefs with the modern age and understood that if one thing comes clearly through every account we have of Jesus’s teaching, it is that His followers are not urged to accommodate themselves to their age, but to the mind of God . . . The Church stands for revealed truth and divine inspiration or it stands for nothing . . . Stripped of the supernatural, the Church stands for nothing . . .” Then he adds this memory, “Even as a ten-year-old boy in Miss Silk’s Scripture class, when I heard the account of how the parting of the Red Sea could actually be explained by freak tides, and that the story of the loaves and fishes really taught how Jesus set an example by sharing His disciples’ picnic (so everybody else shared theirs), I thought: ‘Don’t be silly Miss Silk! If Jesus couldn’t do miracles, why should we listen?'” (Matthew Parris, “No, God Would Not Have Approved of Gay Bishops”, The Times, August 9, 2003).
So what happened on this occasion? It was something so important that all four gospel writers give an account of it in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9 and John 6. There were thousands of people alive who had been at this place when Jesus fed them, and if for what occurred there had been a perfectly naturalistic explanation, such as everybody taking out their picnics convicted by the example of the wee laddie, then many still alive when these gospels appeared could have mocked and protested. Not a solitary person did. In fact the Lord Jesus repeated this miracle a little later and Mark records that at the beginning of chapter 8 of his gospel, the feeding of four thousand men.
What, then, happened? The Lord Jesus took the loaves and fishes, looked up to heaven, gave thanks, broke the loaves, divided the fish and gave them to his disciples. This was the pattern of every Jewish father as the head of the family at mealtimes. We are told about Paul on the ship in the storm as he was being taken to Rome, that “he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat” (Acts 27:35). What was unique about Jesus’ action was the fact that he kept breaking the bread and dividing the fish. Do you see the scene? There is no table. Jesus is standing facing the crowds, and the twelve disciples gather in front of him with their baskets, and Jesus breaks the bread and divides the fish and fills Peter’s basket and off Peter goes to the first group, and by the time the men have taken all the food he offers them, John has joined him and he is distributing the food to those in the group who have not received it yet, and soon Andrew joins him, and then James, and all the other apostles as they wait for Jesus to fill their baskets, and Peter returns to the end of the line, and the other apostles waiting for it to be their turn again. Jesus is dividing this bread and fish – these five loaves and two fishes – and he is filling each basket in turn. The disciples are doing what Jesus said – “You give them something to eat” (v.37). They are taking from his hands this food and giving it to the people, and he is constantly breaking the bread and putting it in their baskets and they are constantly hurrying back and fore to the various groups. When everyone had eaten there would have been a pause and then the twelve went out again with their baskets and gathered the fragments that were not eaten and the leftovers filled their baskets.
What, then, happened? He multiplied the bread and fish. As he tore pieces off and put them in the baskets there was always some food in his hand for the next basket. Let us judge that if the Lord were able to break off a large enough portion for one person each time he divided it, then that would have been at least 5,000 times he would be breaking the bread. How wearying for the Lord. The disciples came right up to him until it was their turn, and they watched with wonder as the flow of food from him never stopped. Then he repeated the same some months later, this time breaking the bread four thousand times. It would have been early evening before he had finished. How that gesture of the Lord breaking bread, repeated thousands of times, would register in their minds! You remember how the two men on the road to Emmaus recognised the resurrected Lord. He taught the Scriptures to Cleopas and his friend as they walked, and then they urged him to come indoors and eat with them. We are told, “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight . . . Then they got up and returned to Jerusalem . . . Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke bread” (Lk. 24:30, 31, 33, 35). No one else had that characteristic mannerism in breaking of bread that the Lord Jesus had, and the apostles had seen him do it many times.
What, then, happened? Jesus did not create barley seeds, or barley flour, or dough, but cooked bread. He did not make fish spawn, or baby fish, but fully grown fish, gutted and dried in the sun. He was able to do that, to compress a process of time into a moment. God alone can do that. So who is Jesus of Nazareth? He is the mighty Creator of the heavens and the earth. John tells us at the beginning of his gospel, “all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” So it was this Jesus who said, “Let there be light and there was light.” It was this Jesus who said, “Let the waters teem with living creatures . . . So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kind” (Gen. 1:20 & 21). The hand of that Jesus who made the world out of nothing, and created the fish of the seas, is active by the lakeside in Galilee. Now that Jesus is holding in his hand a descendant of that first fish that he had made at the dawn of creation, and he replicates it, and speeds the processes of drying and preservation – just as he does when he turns water into mature wine, or when he repairs the eyeballs of a blind man, or ends the effects of disease in the sick. It is this same Lord who sent manna from heaven and daily fed the children of Israel in the wilderness. It is the God who guaranteed that the cruse of oil in the widow’s house never ran dry. This is the one of whom David said, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” He provided all that David needed. It is this Lord who sent a great sleep on Adam, and from his side created the first woman – not a cell, nor a baby, nor a little girl, but a mature woman – and presented her to Adam as his bride. “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called a woman for she was taken out of man.”
So with whom are we dealing? Jehovah Jesus: God incarnate; the Creator created; the Almighty veiled in flesh. In the Lord Jesus there is the nature of God and the nature of man in one indivisible person. That is why the winds and waves obey him. That is why he can raise from the dead Jairus’ daughter. He has limitless power. None can stay his hand or say to him, “What are you doing feeding 5,000 men with five loaves and two fishes?” The only limitations on Jesus’ power are what he wills. What a Shepherd! Not Herod, and not Annas and Caiaphas. There is an alternative.
“Ask ye, Who is this same?
Christ Jesus is His name.
The Lord Sabaoth’s Son;
He, and no other one,
Shall conquer in the battle.” (Martin Luther. 1483-1546).
3. THE LORD CHRIST IS ETERNAL SATISFACTION.
We are told of these five thousand men, “They all ate and were satisfied” (v.42). I wish that everyone here could say that about Christ, that we have tasted for ourselves the Bread from Heaven, and we are satisfied. I wish we could tell everyone in this town that we are satisfied with Jesus, that he has educated us, and atoned for our sins, and that he has guided and protected us throughout our lives. We are no more looking for another Jesus that a happily married husband or wife is looking for another spouse. It is not that we must live with a thousand people before we can know for sure that this is the right one. We have tasted the Son of God and we are satisfied. Less would not satisfy; more is not desired, for more than all in Christ we’ve found. Can you say that from your hearts? When you sing these words do you mean them?
“We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still;
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead,
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.” (Bernard of Clairvaux)
This Jesus is incarnate compassion, limitless power and eternal satisfaction. I commend him to you to become your Saviour and Lord. I want you to take him so that you can testify in the years to come in words such as these:
“O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found,
And found in Thee alone
The peace, the joy I sought so long,
The bliss till now unknown.
Now none but Christ can satisfy,
None other name for me:
There’s love and life and lasting joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.
21st September 2003 GEOFF THOMAS