Text: Mark 6:30-43
Title: The Great Shepherd
Theme: Through the miracle of feeding the 10's, we learn that Jesus is the great shepherd.
What do the associates of Clark Kent in Superman, Peter Parker in Spiderman have in common? They see them all the time but somehow always manage to miss their true identity.
I think this is how we sometimes approach the miracles in the gospels; especially the feeding of the 5K. We have read, studied and heard it preached many times; and think we have known it thoroughly, yet we manage to miss its theme completely. This morning, I want to take you down a slightly different path, to rediscover and explore what the author of this gospel wants his reader to know about the miracle.
The narrative of this miracle in Mark is rather unique. First, it has a long introduction, vs.30-34. Secondly, after the miracle, Jesus referred to it in two places; 6:52 and 8:17-21. In this narrative, there are many OT imageries. Therefore to have an accurate understanding of this miracle, it will benefit us to be familiar with some of the OT themes.
In the OT, wilderness, remote places are where God met, tested and blessed his people. Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt , a place of toil, hardship, unrest and oppression. In the wilderness God appeared to them and they were also tested. In the wilderness and later in the promised land, they were given rest from hardship in Egypt . But, because of human sinfulness, such rest was incomplete. While they were wandering in the wilderness, God provided them with manna and quails for food. Again, these provision were temporary.
When they finally settled down in the promised land, their kings were frequently more ungodly than godly. Throughout the nation's history, they were being mistreated and misled by their political and religious leaders. They were burdened by false teachings and human traditions. Towards the end of the OT period, prophet Ezkiel described the nation as sheep without a shepherd. They were insecure and easily attacked by others. They were like a city with walls broken; anyone could go in and harass and take advantage of them.
Yes, human kings and leaders had disappointed them. Yet throughout their history, they were promised a king and shepherd that was to come. They were instructed to look into the future, when a perfect king and shepherd will come to rule and lead them.
With this as our background, we want to look at today's text.
I Jesus is the Great Shpeherd.
In vs. 30-33 we learned that the apostles had returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done. How they had proclaimed the kingdom of God and healed the sick. They were so excited that even the demons listened to them. Then Jesus took them by boat to a desolate place, somewhere in the wilderness to rest for awhile. However, the crowd knew about it and went there too. It was a large crowd. Just men, about 5K. When we include women and children, it would be close to 10K.
What did Jesus see when he saw the crowd? Yes, it was a large crowd. However, the author Mark made a special note that Jesus saw them as sheep without a shepherd.6:34, “ 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.” There was more to it than meets the eye. He saw them as men and women, being harassed, taken advantage of and misled by their political and religious leaders. They were spiritually hungry, searching and grasping anything they can hold onto. Not only this, when Jesus saw them, he had compassion on them. In the NT, this word, ‘Compassion' is used only on and about Jesus. It described a deep seated emotion of love towards people.
Now, having seen them as sheep without a shepherd, what did he do? He began to teach them. He must have taught them about the kingdom of God that had arrived. He explained to them about the love and righteousness of this king. About the light, hope, and freedom that belongs to the citizens of this kingdom.
Besides teaching, he also fed them. There are several observations here. It appears that they are not that far away from nearby villages. Vs.36, “ 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” As suggested by the disciples, Jesus could have sent them away to get their own food. This is different from the miracle of feeding the 4K. In that situation, if they would go to the villages, they might faint on the way. Jesus fed the 5K out of his mercy.
How did he feed them? In other miracles, we read about how Jesus touched the sick and commanded the demons and they listened. It was by direct contact. But it is different here: 6:38, “ 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.” We know from the other gospel that they belonged to a boy. After praying and blessing, he broke the bread and gave to his disciples to be distributed among the people there. With this, he fed the 5K men. Moreover, there were 12 baskets full of left over. They were completely satisfied (vs.42). He fed the people via human instruments.
There are some other details in this narrative that we need to take note. Jesus told them to sit down in groups on the green grass. Mark, the author, in writing this, as if he is trying to give some hints to the readers about something that was written over 800 years ago, “…he makes me lie down in green pastures….” Sounds familiar? They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. It is like how the Israelites camping in the wilderness.
There is one more important detail we must not miss. In vs.41, “ 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.” Do these words ring a bell? They are almost the exact words Jesus used in establishing the communion.
So, what does Mark, want the readers of the first and 21 st centuries to get out of this miracle? Does he want us to focus on the boy who brought forth his only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish so we learn about his unselfishness? Not necessarily so, for the little boy was not even mentioned here. Or about the power of Jesus? Certainly so, but what separates this from other miracles? I think Mark, the author, wants us to see and recognize that this Jesus, son of God, is also the great shepherd of his people. He is the Shepherd David referred to in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”This is the shepherd that brings true peace and rest to his people This shepherd can fully and completely satisfy his sheep. This is the shepherd that leads his people down the path of righteousness. He would protect and provide for them. He is the great Shepherd. Now he has fed them with bread and fish and they were satisfied. But there will come a day when his body would be broken for his people. He is the bread of life that would satisfy a man's deepest hunger. This is a permanent satisfaction.
This Jesus is also our shepherd. The shepherd who has broken his life for us so that we can be reconciled to God. He gives us eternal security because we belong to him. He guides and directs us; he is the one who loves, provides for and protects us. In recent months, the Almaty government was determined to get rid of the individual Chinese businesspersons. If you don't have the right kind of visa; even if it is issued recently by the government, you will be deported within 6 days. One person commented, “You see, not one believer in our church was deported.” This is God's protection. This is what Mark wants to tell us: This Jesus is our shepherd.
What does this mean to us? How will this affect how we live?
II. With Jesus as our shepherd, we learn to see our world the way he sees it.
When we were in Almaty this time, we were stopped by two policeman and were searched. They saw us as potential source of some extra income in US$. What did we see in them? Two greedy cops? Or subjects of our ridicule of a corrupt system? However, there is more than meets the eye. There is more for us to see. We are to see them as sheep without a shepherd. They are lost, insecure and empty within. We don't have to go to China , Taiwan , Almaty , Turkey , Mexico , Thailand or Indonesia to see this. We can see this in our own backyard. We are to see people living in the medical center area, in Pearland, in Mark6 and other apartment complexes, in Sugar Land and wherever you live, as sheep without a shepherd. I am certain that when we see people the way Jesus sees them, as sheep without a shepherd, it will stir up our deepest inner emotions, motivating us to reach out, to love and share the gospel with them. To see people as sheep without a shepherd must be the bedrock of our ministry. Without this, people will be a target of our projects, a number in our strategy. Without this, people can soon become our source of irritation and burn out.
III. With Jesus as our shepherd, we are to teach as Jesus taught the people.
When Jesus saw them as sheep without a shepherd, he taught them. Now, Jesus' words have been recorded in the scriptures. In some of our mission trips, we noticed that many of the people we met are like blank pieces of paper, absorbing whatever we teach them. For this reason, many of them have also taken in wrong and incorrect teachings. With Jesus as our shepherd, our priority is to teach the word of God, that which is recorded in the scriptures. Again, I think of the small group of believers in Almaty. During the past two weeks while we were there, every evening from 6:30pm to about 9; plus on Saturday from 10 am to 4:30pm , would come together to study. They had to come right after work and often taking the risk that they may be stopped by the police. They cramped into a small room with no ac. They had to leave in groups of 2 or 3 so as not to attraction attention from the neighbors. They were eager to learn and we considered it a privilege to share with them God's word. When we see the world through the eyes of Jesus, we'll make use of every opportunity to teach his word to his people so they may know how to live in this world.
IV. With Jesus as our shepherd, we are to give ourselves to God so he can use us as instruments of his love.
Certainly God can work in an individual's life directly without any human assistance. But most of the time he has chosen us, imperfect human beings, to be channels of his grace to those around us. I am so glad to see so many people in our church taking part in different mission trips during these past few years. Wherever we go, whether in big cities or remote areas in China , in Almaty , Mexico , Taiwan , Turkey , Kenya and Indonesia , we see how God used us as instruments of his love. His love and grace flows through us to those he brings into our lives.
I think of a person by the name of Li. We went to visit this Dong Kan family. Li lived in a room rented from this family. When Li knew about our presence, he came to see us. We talked to him for a while and realized that he had heard most of the gospel message. So instead, we asked, “are you willing to accept Christ now.” Without any hesitation, he responded with Yes. So we prayed the sinner's prayer together. This shows us that we are literally God's instrument through which his call comes to Mr. Li.
However, having said this, it does not mean that you have to go overseas for this to occur. God can use you right where you are. God will use you in your home to bring His love and grace to your family members. God will use you at your work place, at school, so your colleagues can hear and respond to God's call. Are you willing to offer yourselves to God for him to use you?
This time in Almaty, I found myself on several occasions shared with different individuals about bowing two times before God. the first bow is to acknowledge God as my creator. The second bow, to acknowledge him as both my savior and Lord of my life. Many of us have acknowledged him as our savior. But it is also essential that we submit ourselves completely to him as our Lord; to let him use us where we are to be channels of his love and grace.
The characters in this Gospel: the crowd and the disciples did not understand the true meaning of this miracle. The saw it yet they did not see. Yes, they were with Jesus, but they missed him completely.
As we listen to this story of the feeding of the 5K and come to an end, do we notice something unusual? If you were there, at the end of the miracle, you may want to add how many have decided to come and follow Christ because of what he did. When the apostle John recorded this miracle, he had an ending: John 6:14, “ 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” But not here; vs.44, “And those who ate the loaves were 5K men.” It is kind of abrupt, isn't it? There is not even an editorial comment.
We may get a little impatient about this, so instead of waiting, we start to read ahead. Then we come to Mark 8:29-30, “ 29 And he asked them, "“But who do you say that I am?” "Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”. This is the conclusion of this and other miracles. They point to the fact that this Jesus, not only is the great shepherd, but he is also the Christ. He is the Messiah, the son of God, the lord of all.
When my shepherd is the Christ the Lord, the Lord of my life, then I will want to see the world as he sees it, that men are like sheep without Shepherd. Seeing the world from this perspective, will then motivate me to teach His word to them and be willing to offer myself for him to use. It is this insight that caused Bob Pierce, founder of the World Vision to say: May my heart be broken by things that break my Lord's heart. And moreover, with him as my Shepherd and Lord, it then becomes my responsibility and desire to point others to him.
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