Mark 8:1-21 – Sermon Manuscript

-Short story: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a short story published in The New Yorker in 1939. Been turned into a couple movies, but a fascinating story of a man (Walter Mitty) who lives a life of daydreams. Begins with an account of a Navy plane flying through a terrible storm, only to turn out to be his daydream while he’s driving his wife to town. The story continues with extravagant tales where Walter is the hero of each story, only to be snapped back to reality by someone in the real world.

-Reads a little bit like trying to have a conversation with your kids! They’re only half listening and off in their own world, so lost in their thoughts that they miss what’s going on around them.

-The disciples today are a little bit like that! Jesus is doing these huge things around them to point to a bigger story, and they keep missing it. 

READ/PRAY (pg. 492)

  1. Another Miraculous Feeding (1-10)

-Jesus is still in the area of the Gentiles, while he’s there a “great crowd” appears. It’s been a few weeks since we talked about this, so who remembers what Jesus’ primary ministry is? Teaching! Not a stretch to make that leap, as last time a similar story appears, it says Jesus began to teach them.

-I want to take a minute to talk about this again, I was reminded about how important Word centered ministry is this week, and I’ve shared with you all before how tempting it is to either assume or neglect keeping God’s Word the center and focus of everything we do, but I don’t think we always know what that means or what it looks like in everyday life. 

-First, what is ministry? I’ve used it repeatedly, but it’s a word that tends to get assumed without enough thought given to it. Another way of translating the word “ministry” is “serving,” so when we come across a passage like Eph. 4:12 “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” we could translate it “to equip the saints for the work of service.” So ministry is service.

-Second, every single one of you in this room has been given a gift (or gifts) from God for the good of those around you, and my job (and the rest of the leadership of the church) is to equip you to grow in and use those gifts BUT they’re meant to be done in the context of the church, you can’t use your gifts to serve yourself.

-Third, the driving force behind all of us using our gifts of service is the Word. We need regular time in the Word, we can’t grow apart from the Word, and apart from the Word we will die as Christians.

-This gets us to a question: whose job is it to speak the Word? Say it after me: MINE. This is the key to us thriving as a church! We need to be speaking the truths of God’s Word to each other as often as we can. That’s how Jesus has commanded us to make and mature disciples, through God’s Word! We see that in Jesus’ ministry: always bringing things back to the Word, He tells a parable of sowing the Word (no matter the soil). Regardless of the person or their response, our job is to keep speaking God’s Word to them. Let’s think of just a few ways you could do that:

-Today, after this worship service share what you learned! (music, prayer, sermon)

-Find someone to meet with on a regular basis and share with each other what God’s been teaching to you through His Word

-Share with an unbelieving neighbor what God has been teaching you, what you read or heard or sung in corporate worship

-Serve in kid’s or student ministry and share God’s Word with them

-Share with a roommate, spouse, kid from God’s Word and what it means

-The key is that it takes all of us being in God’s Word, and making that Word a high enough priority in all our lives that we can speak God’s truths to each other. Can you imagine being a church where everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing? We do, we just have to do it! 

-Back to the great crowd who is being taught by Jesus. Just as we saw with the last miraculous feeding of a great crowd, a similar idea appears about how Jesus views these people: with compassion.

-Do you have compassion toward people in need? Think of how Jesus describes the final judgment in Matt. 25: whatever you did to the least of these (my brothers), you did to me (hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked)

-One of the things that set the early church apart was their care and concern for others in an inherently selfish culture. Church originally had “not a needy person among them.” How do we live that out? We were talking about this issue before our staff meeting this week! We’re commanded to be hospitable, but what if someone can’t afford to invite someone else over? That’s a legitimate issue! 

-But then taking it a step further: what does outreach/ mercy ministry look like today? (Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence) Our job as the church isn’t to alleviate poverty (if only it were that simple!), our job is to be ambassadors of reconciliation: the fall broke 4 relationships: God, self, others, the rest of creation. How do we help people reconcile with all 4 of those relationships? This is really hard to do! And something I was completely unprepared for as I started ministry! I’ve been chewed out, cussed out, yelled at because we wouldn’t help someone. It’s hard to have a soft heart toward people when you find out you’ve been taken advantage of. 

-Story of 2 people in a car giving gift cards in Cheyenne. Story of Micah meeting with a guy here.

-It’s not just being taken advantage of though: How do we care for someone holistically, not just viewing financial poverty as the primary problem? Sometimes we need to help financially for a short-term need! Unfortunately, that’s not sufficient when we need to care for people, who are complex and thus require complex help. 

-On top of that, there’s an inherent tension too! Matt. 26:11 “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” Gal, 6:10 “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” We’re to care for/care about everyone, but there’s a different level of care that we should have for fellow believers. One of the things we need here is a group of people who have a heart for mercy ministries to help us with our benevolence funds! If you’re interested, please talk to me!

-AND there’s all sorts of ways to approach this issue! How many of you sponsor children (Compassion, World Vision, Global Fingerprints)? That’s has proven to be one of the best ways to help those stuck in poverty! Met with someone from Global Fingerprints a week and a half ago and was blown away at some of the ways they’re able to reach to the least of these. I know people who always have a few dollars in their car to give to beggars on the side of the road. Anytime I see someone begging I pray for them. I’ve paid for people’s gas before at random gas stations, it just takes careful observance of the people moving nearby you.

-Compassion is what drove Jesus, and compassion is what should drive us as believers today. When we see a need we cannot turn away from it.

-This great crowd had been with Jesus for 3 days, listening to Jesus teach. Some of them even came from far away. These people were desperate to hear from Jesus!

-What would you be willing to do without to get to Jesus? It’s not hard today! Read the Bible, visit His bride: the church, spend time with another believer (the name “Christian” means “little Christ”), pray. We have no excuse to be distant from Jesus anymore. Jesus actually said it was better for Him to leave because by leaving, the Holy Spirit now lives in all of us! That’s far better than Jesus being constrained by His human body where He could only be in 1 place at a time.

-Last time they were in this pickle, the disciples encouraged Jesus to send the crowd into the surrounding areas, this time that appears to not be an option. This isn’t just a desolate place, this is the desolate place of the desolate place! However, at least this time they have 2 more loaves! 

-Jesus takes charge of the crowd. Similar scene to last miraculous feeding: has the crowd sit down and make themselves comfortable:

-Jesus gives thanks (this is why Christians have typically prayed before meals), breaks the bread, hands it to his disciples. Not just bread, they also had some small fish that were also handed out.

-Everyone ate and were satisfied, AND they had 7 baskets leftover. Does anyone remember how many baskets were leftover last time? 12! Signifies God’s provision for the Jewish people, today’s text signifies God’s provision for the Gentile people. God’s overwhelming provision isn’t just for the Jews anymore, it also extends to the Gentiles.

-This time, there were “only” 4,000 people (last time 5,000 just men, could have easily been double that to include women & children), but after feeding them the true words of life, Jesus fed them physically and then sent them home, and moved to a new place.

-No one’s quite sure where this is, most people believe it to be near Magdala, west. What does Jesus run into when He gets there? 

  • Another Hard-Hearted People (11-21)

-The key to understanding this text is seen in the response of the disciples to the previous feeding Mark 6:52 “For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” What does a hardened heart look like? It’s not believing who Jesus is, or that He can provide for them. Remember, the point of this Gospel is to answer the question: who is Jesus? We’re so close to the climax of this story, where the disciples finally confess who Jesus is, but we’re not quite there. We’ll see 2 groups whose hearts are hardened: the first group is the Pharisees:

  1. Pharisees (11-13)

-Pharisees once again looking for things wrong with Jesus.

-Argue is accusatory, blaming, looking for problems with Jesus. Maybe you’ve had a situation come up where you ended up in an argument that you weren’t prepared for, the person had made assumptions and run with them and by the time they actually talked to you it had spiraled far beyond what happened! That’s what the Pharisees are doing here! They’re coming to test and find what other ammo they can use against Jesus. But notice what it says they’re looking for:

-“Sign from heaven.” What would you call all the miracles we’ve read about from Jesus? Micah reminded us that there are some parallels between these feedings of thousands and the manna provided to God’s people in the wilderness wanderings, and both show the ways God provides for His people. If Jesus feeding thousands isn’t a sign from heaven, what is? What do you think it would take for people to believe in Him? Maybe rising from the dead? But even then, people still don’t believe Him!

-2 places in the Bible describe Jesus as sighing, last week in response to the man who couldn’t hear or talk, and in response to the Pharisees.

-Hard heartedness is a problem: a conscious choice to disbelieve Jesus, looking for any alternative option than Jesus being who He says He is: God. This isn’t the only account we have of people asking Jesus for a sign! We see a similar story in Matthew’s gospel:

-Sign of Jonah (Matt. 12:38-42) The Pharisees are revealed to be so hard hearted that even the resurrection wouldn’t be enough for them to believe in Him (which proved to be true LONG after the resurrection!)

-Paul even picks this idea up a couple decades after the resurrection when he writes to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:22-24). There he says that Jews are still looking for signs, but the Gentiles aren’t any better because they just want wisdom, and Jesus refuses to play by their rules! Christ is both the sign AND the wisdom! Nothing else is needed and nothing else can add to what Jesus has done! The Pharisees miss the point that’s standing right in front of them! But they’re not the only ones who have a hard heart:

  • Disciples (14-21)

-Remember the miracle that had just happened (for at least the second time) and how many baskets were leftover? 7. Did anyone go hungry? 

-Do you think they started fighting about who was SUPPOSED to bring the bread? May have been because they viewed it as “unclean” or touched by Gentiles, so they didn’t want to become unclean themselves.

-Jesus uses it as a “teachable moment.” Have you ever had one of those? Story of when I did it to my sister in college and tried telling my dad how he should have done those when I was growing up.

-What is this teachable moment? He uses it to remind the disciples to be careful of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. What is leaven? We have little packets of yeast today, didn’t have refrigeration then so they would save a little piece of dough (with the yeast in it) to mix into the new dough to get it to rise. Honestly, still pretty magical to me!

-Why would they need to watch out of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod? Adding laws, cultural ideas onto Christianity. 

-This is the trend of every generation of Christians: Richard Lovelace: “One of the first effects of spiritual decline among the people of God is destructive enculturation, saturation with the godless culture of the surrounding world.” Adding too many ideas onto what Jesus has commanded us to do and be (legalism vs. licentiousness, religion vs. irreligion) 

-Disciples only focus on the physical, right here and now, and right now they don’t have enough food. What miracle did we just see in Mark, not once but TWICE? Multiplying bread and fish. Who did that? Jesus. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, only have 1 loaf of bread enough for Jesus to take care of them?

-Jesus knows what they’re focusing on, and He wants to move the conversation to a deeper level: what’s really going on in the hearts of His disciples? They still have certain expectations of Jesus (similar to the Pharisees) that Jesus is intentionally challenging. So Jesus goes on a run of questions for them:

-First: Why?

-Second: Don’t you get it?

3 -Is your heart still hardened? Do you refuse to believe me?

4 -As blind as a blind man, as deaf as a deaf man (Jer. 5:21) Jesus is quoting Jeremiah to tell the disciples how they should be responding to Him now, but they still don’t fear Him, they still don’t realize who He is, so the last verse describes where they’re currently at.

5 -Did you already forget the miracles that YOU benefited from? 6 – How many baskets were leftover? Don’t you think I’ll continue to provide for you?

-Last question: don’t you get it? How long will it take? Thankfully, we’re on the cusp of the disciples finally realizing who Jesus is! It won’t come about through legalistic demands (Pharisees) and it won’t come about by a political insurrection (Herod) it comes through a death and resurrection.

-2 things we need to take away from this passage:

1-Where do you look for things other than Jesus to satisfy you?

-These are idols that we need to repent from, and instead turn to Jesus!

2-What do you need to do to learn the truths of what Jesus says?

-Do you need to start reading the Bible more frequently? Do you need to get involved in a small group? Do you need to attend a class on Sunday morning? Do you need to meet with someone for accountability and prayer? Whatever it is, start today! Make a conscious choice to today to take 1 step closer to Jesus. Then wake up tomorrow and do the same thing!

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