The miracles of Jesus were a combined expression of His divine power and compassion.
What are miracles and what is their purpose?
- Miracles historically are powerful confirmations that the person performing them has powers beyond the natural world. A miracle is a super-normal event. It is something that happens that does not follow the laws of nature. Something or someone more powerful than the laws of nature interrupt the laws of nature, or, manipulated the laws of nature. You and I can’t do that. Beings that transcend this realm do that. Some force, or some being is available to this human enabling them to do incredible things. Nicodemus knew Jesus was from God precisely because He was doing miracles – and Nic’ knew Jesus couldn’t do the things He were doing unless God were doing them through Him. The sorcerers of Pharaoh’s court did miracles that Moses did, but, not all of them. God proved in that contest to be greater than any supernatural demonic power they could tap into. That’s why after all the Egyptian first born males were killed by God they didn’t turn around and have all the first born-males in Israel killed – they couldn’t match that one. Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:9-11 was performing miracles by his magic and people followed him thinking that “the Great Power” was with him. (https://efcspringlake.org/2017/08/22/the-final-false-prophet-part-2-rev-1311-18/)
- The purpose of Jesus’ miracles was
- 1) to demonstrate His divine glory (Jn 2:12) “This the first of his miraculous signs…He thus revealed His glory”
- 2) to demonstrate He was from God (Acts 2:22) “Jesus was a man accredited by God to you through signs, wonders and miracles, which God did among you through Him.
- 3) to show people compassion. The kind of miracles Jesus did were not show-boating, circus-worthy miracles. He didn’t float over the wall into the temple courts for all to see; He didn’t rapture Himself and His disciples from one location to another; He didn’t cause the clouds to form the wording to the Shema; He never uprooted a mountain and threw it into the sea. His miracles were personal to people – aimed at bettering the human experience. His miracles were a combined expression of His divine power and compassion. Out of His compassion He wanted to make people healthy and whole, and, with His power He was able to do it. The blind could see, the deaf could hear, the crippled could walk, the leprous were cleansed, the sick cured, the bleeding woman healed, the possessed were delivered. He did miracles that improved people’s well-being, or, we might say, their “quality of life” was radically improved. His power was an expression of His loving, compassionate concern for the well-being of people.
Examples of God’s miraculous provision: feasts only God could give:
- Mannah in the desert
- Quail in the desert
- Water from the rocks in the desert
- Ravens feeding Elijah
- Elisha and the debt-ridden widow
- Elijah and the starving widow
- Feeding 5,000
- Feeding 4,000
- Water into wine
- 153 catch of fish
Now coming to Mark 6, the feeding of the 5,000, we encounter yet another miracle of Jesus where His power and compassion combine to improve people’s condition. This is the only miracle found in all four Gospels, indicating something special about it in the mind of the Holy Spirit. We should pay special attention to this miracle. In this event, we see again a feast that only God could give.
THE REPORT AND THE RESPITE (30-32)
The apostles return and give Jesus a report on their first apostolic adventure. Notice they are called apostles, not disciples. Remember apostle means “one who is sent” whereas disciple means “one who follows”. Since they were sent, they are referred to appropriately as apostles. So Jesus listens, then, takes them away from the crowds to rest and recharge. But those R&R plans are prevented because the crowd chases them down and interrupts their intended respite.
The quintessential Shepherd is not rankled. Quite the contrary -He swells with compassion for the intruding crowds.
Lesson: Christian service often is not convenient. A willingness to be inconvenienced is required by anyone seriously committed to serving in Christ’s cause. Emotionally difficult, challenge your time and priorities – “Who is God of your time?”
So, His compassion comes out…remember the quality of compassion makes you take action to help or relieve someone. His compassion is expressed in two ways: teaching them and providing them with a meal. Both spiritually and physically they receive nourishment. Jesus is Shepherd of the whole man.
We are not informed of His teaching content, but, we are given Jesus’ conversation with the disciples leading up to the miracle. This shows us that this miracle is just as much for the 12 disciples as it is for the crowds.
Now Jesus turns from teaching the crowds to begin discussing something with the disciples. Mark starts the story with the disciples advice that the crowds should be sent away to buy food. But why are they even talking about this? Well, according to John’s Gospel, Jesus is the one who inquires about how the crowds will be fed.
John 6 says, “When Jesus looked up and saw the great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” Their response to Jesus asking where enough bread would be gotten is found in Mark’s Gospel, “Hey, that’s more bread than we have or we can afford. Just send them away Jesus so they can go fend for themselves in the surrounding villages. Then Jesus says, “No, you feed them.” Pow.
We see here that Jesus is doing 3 things. First is supplying food for these hungry people. You have right here the Omniscience, the Compassion and the Sovereignty of our Lord in one sentence. He knows the problem. He cares about the problem. He knows what He’s going to do about the problem. He is able to do something about it and He is going to do something about it.
The second thing he’s doing is to teach His disciples about servant-leadership. This is the first miracle Jesus had His disciples participate in. Their job was to serve the people the bread that Jesus provided. You have to see that they thought Jesus was the Messiah who would come and establish Israel’s free and glorious kingdom. They thought they had special positions being His 12 disciples and they argued over who would be the greatest in the kingdom. Now they were reduced to waiters serving food to these people? They wanted to send the people away. They were even the ones who, in Matthew 19, were annoyed with little kids that were trying to come to Jesus.
But, Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 20, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus was teaching them being a great leader, and being a great disciple of His, meant making yourself last and not seeking to be first. Serving others with the love of Christ in your heart instead of trying to be served by them with a love of yourself in your heart. Jesus teaches Peter this specifically at the end of John’s gospel when He says, “Feed My lambs”. Your leadership in the church, in the work place, and most importantly in the home is servant leadership with Christ’s love.
And the third agenda was to teach the disciples that His supply is sufficient. He will supply all that is needed for living the Christian life and serving Him. I think that His disciples were His primary targets for seeing this miracle. They needed to know that He, their Lord, sufficiently supplied all they need to serve as leaders.
They were going to be the ones preaching the Gospel after He was raised from the dead. They were going to be establishing and leading the 1st century church. They would be the examples to the 2nd generation Christians who never saw Christ. They needed to be like Him to give a picture of Him to those who would believe the message. They, like Paul said, needed to be worthy examples to other believers. And what they needed most was to know that everything they needed to serve Jesus would be supplied by Jesus.
Each time they reached into that basket there was more bread and more fish. Keep going, the Lord will provide. Keep doing what I commanded you to do and I will give you what you need to do it. What are you to keep doing that God has commanded in His Word? A lot of you might be thinking about money, but, this goes way beyond God’s provision of money. You might be in circumstances right now where you don’t have what it takes to make it through. I don’t have the strength. I don’t have the love. I don’t have the patience. I don’t have the faith. I don’t have the wisdom. God doesn’t just provide bread.
THE PROBLEM (37-38)
Did they really need that lesson? Yes! Looking at verses 37-38 we see the natural, human, faithless response.
We know that Jesus was testing them because John’s Gospel says so. Jesus started the conversation about how to feed the people as a test.
Here’s a simple definition of a test: Making what is inside of you come out. God puts you in circumstances to bring out what is truly inside of you. What is inside of you? What comes out of you when you’re in hardship?
Jesus was going to bring what was going on inside the disciples to the surface by asking them to do something that is impossible for them. Their response is exactly what Jesus knew it would be – anxiety, overwhelmed, confusion, and fear.
Now, apparently Matthew isn’t the only accountant among the disciples. Philip has already crunched the numbers. He knows the fair market value of bread at volume discounts, and the average wage adjusted for inflation in that region of Galilee. He knows that it’s going to cost more than 8 months wages to feed this many people. He’s done his homework! He’s keeping the books (He had to because Judas was the one in charge of the money and we all know how dishonest Judas was). Philip is counting the cost and sees that the cost is way too much! Do you ever feel like the disciples? You see the odds stacked up and get overwhelmed and depressed? Once again, Jesus takes them into a situation that is beyond them: first the boat, now the bread.
Jesus tells them to find out how much they’ve got and they come back with a little kid’s lunch. This is hilarious. 5,000 men there and no one brought a lunch? I don’t think I agree that women were there – they would have packed lunches. According to John 6 Andrew speaks for the whole group and says, “how far will this 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish go among so many?”
There just isn’t enough Jesus! We can’t do what you’re telling us to do. Jesus you don’t know what you’re talking about. We can’t do what you’re telling us to do! I think they wanted to say to Him, “You’re so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good right now.” What you’re saying is impossible!
And Yes! It is impossible – with man. I think that is exactly the conclusion Jesus wanted to bring them to. It is only when you know the painful reality of your own insufficiency that you can learn the glorious reality of God’s total sufficiency. But, thank God that according to Mth 19:26, it says that with God –and that is who they were with – all things are possible. There is no asterisk in that verse. There is no fine print. God either is able to do all things or He is not. He is. When the odds are stacked up against you you must see that your God is stacked up over and against the odds.
How can I see that? Well you see whatever it is you look to. Jesus gives us the perfect example. Notice verses 10 and 11.
“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down about five thousand of htem. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.”
Notice that whereas the disciples turned their attention to the problem, Jesus turned His attention upward. The other gospels say He “Looked up to heaven and gave thanks”. Jesus knew that with man, yes, this is impossible. But, with God all things are possible. With God, one boy’s lunch was going to feed more than 10,000 people. God is not limited by anything or anyone.
Where are you coming up short? Are the odds stacked up against you? Does it seem like there is no way out? Is there no way that you can see how things are going to work out? Maybe it’s the circumstances in your life. Maybe it’s the bills. Maybe it’s a relationship. Are you like the disciples? Letting the storms and the empty baskets draw you away from Christ? Is your attention focused on the problem? Do you keep telling yourself there’s no way this is going to work?
OR, are you like Jesus? Are your eyes upon the Father from whom every good and perfect gift comes down out of heaven? Are you looking to Him with trust in your eyes who according to Matthew 6 “knows what you need” and do you believe what Philippians 4 says, that God “will meet your every need according to the glorious riches in Jesus Christ”?
The most important aspect of the Christian life is where you put your eyes. When we are focused on the problem we will be governed by fear and anger. When we focus on God we will be governed by faith.
“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are leftover. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves leftover by those who had eaten.”
Jesus supplies enough. The disciples saw that each person had enough to eat and that there were still leftovers. They ended with more than they began with (start with 5 loaves and end with 12 basketfuls). God adequately supplies all we need out of His abundance and He has more than we could possibly need.
The Disciples practiced last: they served everyone else first before they themselves sat down to eat. They could have been wondering the whole time if there would be any leftover for them. They could have taken what they had to start with and kept it for themselves and let everyone else go figure it out from there. But Jesus had them serve everyone else first.
The Disciples would forget this and Jesus would rebuke them for it in Mark 8:14-21. Those God knows the need, He has enough to meet the need, and He will meet the need just as He has always met His people’s needs.
Listen, you’ve got to see past the bread and fish here. This is a lesson in the unquenchable grace of God. There are some of you who need to realize that you cannot exhaust the grace of God. Your prescription hasn’t run out. You haven’t fallen out of God’s grace. You need to know that the grace of God you tasted when you were saved is the grace of God you can taste today. “My grace is what? Sufficient! Where sin increased __what__ increases even more?” GRACE! God’s grace is always sufficient to meet your every need. “Let us approach the throne of WHAT?” GRACE! Nothing will renew you like God’s grace.
He takes the boy’s lunch, offers thanks to God, and then the disciples are sent to disburse the food to everybody. (They just got back from being sent out to preach, now Jesus sends them out to wait on tables. Humility ought to mark the church leader).
LESSONS TO FEED ON:
- God is able to do things we can’t. There was no human way to feed the crowds. I am not convinced of the adage, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Instead, I believe it is the habit of our God to put us into situations that demand more of us than what we have in ourselves. This is His manner of prying us away from our self-sufficiency and discovering His All-sufficiency. It is one of His ways of teaching us that living life by faith means we factor Jesus into our circumstances. Which is to say that when we are sobered by our own inability to face something we must learn to say, “But God can!”.
- God provides precisely. There was enough for the crowds and for the disciples. He provided Precisely what was needed at precisely the right time.
- Don’t trust in what you have – trust God with what you have. The bread and fish wasn’t enough on its own to feed that many people. But, in the hands of Jesus it would be. Again the lesson points our eyes to Him and not what we have. We trust Him with what we have.
A feast only God can provide
Silent reflection takeaways