Family service - Mark 6:30-43
Now I want to begin this morning with a question. What do these five people have in common? Alex Ferguson, Tony Blair, The Queen, Nasser Hussain, Melvin Tinker. (answer from boy scout in the congregation: "They're all famous!") Well the answer is that they are all leaders of different sorts. Alex Ferguson is the manager of Manchester United, he leads that team. Tony Blair is the Prime Minister, and he leads our country. The Queen is the Queen, and she is the overall leader of our nation. Nasser Hussain is the England cricket captain, and he leads the England cricket team, and Melvin Tinker is our vicar and he leads our church. So all these people are leaders of different sorts.
Now this morning we are thinking about a leader who is out of this world. He is such a good leader that he cares for his people, he provides for his people and he guides his people. He is far better than any of these leaders on this list, however good they may be at their jobs. And todays Bible reading tells us about him. He is of course Jesus. Now over the last few months on the morning services we have been looking at Marks gospel and seeing some amazing things about Jesus. And today is no exception. Today we see another of Jesus amazing miracles. In fact this was perhaps the most spectacular of them all, because it involved thousands of people. And it was when Jesus fed a huge crowd of over five thousand people. And like all the miracles and amazing stories in the Bible about Jesus, they are there to tell us things about Jesus which we need to know. And todays story is no exception. So lets turn in our Bibles to Mark 6 if you have not already and well look at it together, and well discover three things about Jesus which show him to be an amazing leader, far above any other leader that has ever lived or ever will live:
1) Jesus Cares for his People; 2) Jesus Provides for his People; 3) Jesus Guides his People
1) Jesus Cares for his People
Now the disciples had just been on a preaching tour and they were in need of a holiday. So Jesus said to them: "Why dont we go and get some rest across the other side of the lake." Well the disciples were very pleased with this suggestion. That is until they got to the other side of the lake. Because some people had recognised them and they told everyone else, all their friends and families and very soon and a large crowd had gathered. Well you can imagine what the disciples thought. They wanted a break, but they were faced with a huge crowd wanting to hear from Jesus. But what does Jesus do? Does he send them away and tell them to come back tomorrow? No Mark tells us in verse 34: "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd." So Jesus had a great concern for all these people. He says that they were like sheep without a shepherd. They needed help, they needed someone to lead them and care for them. And Jesus was that person. And he cares for them by teaching them nay things. They needed his word to help them, and thats how Jesus cares for them.
Now the problem of course with sheep is that they have a tendency to run off and wander all over the place. If ever you go up to the North York Moors, you will see hundreds of sheep dotted all over the countryside. And the Bible says that we human beings are like sheep. We wonder all over the place and we stray from Gods ways, just worrying about our own business, munching grass and admiring the view. We have a tendency to go where we want away from God. But Jesus doesnt leave us in that position. He is a leader, a shepherd who cares for his people, his sheep. He even dies for his sheep, laying down his life so that we could live. Now that is amazing care. Thats the sort of care that Jesus provides.
So it means that we can trust him completely because he is the good shepherd, who doesnt let his sheep starve, or run off. He cares for his people. And for many of us who trust in Jesus as that shepherd, that is a great comfort this week ahead. Each of us will be experiencing different things in our lives, some very difficult, some enjoyable. Whatever they are we can be sure that Jesus the great shepherd is with us and cares for his people, and he is completely trustworthy. So thats the first thing we learn about Jesus as a great leader- He cares for his people.
2) Jesus provides for his people
But the second thing we learn is that Jesus provides for his people. And so we continue the story. After Jesus had been teaching the people for a while, it was getting towards tea time and they began to get a bit hungry. And so the disciples came to Jesus to ask him to send the people away so they could get food. Maybe there was first century branch of Tescos or Asda where the people could get food. But Jesus said to the disciples: "You give them something to eat." Now can you imagine you much money that would cost. Over five thousand packed lunches for all those people. Thats well over £5000, about half a years wages for many of us! Well the disciples were not very happy with that suggestion, as you can imagine. "Do you want us to spend all that money on these people," they asked Jesus. And besides its not often that you carry around £5000 cash in your back pocket is it? There was just no way the disciples could do it. They were helpless. Only Jesus could help.
So what happens? Well Jesus asks them whether they have any food, and they find that they have five little loaves and two fishes. John tells us in his gospel that a little boy gives his lunch to the disciples. And here he is! Well call him Ian, Ian the Israelite. So Ian hands over his little lunch which his Mum had made for him that morning, and Jesus takes it and then prays to God. And all the people sit down. And when Jesus has finished giving thanks to God, an amazing thing happens. As the food is given out to all the people, there is enough for everyone. All of that huge crowd, says Mark, had enough to eat. Isnt that amazing. "They all ate and were satisfied," says Mark in verse 42. And even more amazing is that when the leftovers were collected up by the disciples, there were twelve basketfuls. All those leftovers from just five little loaves and two fishes. Jesus provided for his people.
Now I thought we would do a little experiment this morning. Here this morning there are probably about 150-200 people. Thats quite a big crowd. And being a generous sort I thought I would share out my packed lunch with all my friends here. Lets see what Ive got- four ham sandwiches, an apple, a few biscuits and a packet of crisps. Now lets see if I can feed 200 people with my packed lunch. Hand out lunch. Now how far have we got? Well, sadly not that far! Only about 8/9 people have had a bite to eat. And I dare say that they will be wanting something for dinner in a few hours time! The trouble is of course is that there is no way in the world that I can feed 200 people, let alone 5000+ people with my packed lunch. It takes a miracle to do that! And only one person is able to do that sort of miracle and that is Jesus! He provides for his people.
Now as Ian the Israelite thought about this amazing event in bed later that night , he realised that he had heard a very similar story at the Capernaum Sunday School that week. (Actually it was Saturday school, but well stick with Sunday to avoid confusion!). Ian remembered that they had read that story of the people of Israel in the desert when Moses was their leader and that God had fed them miraculously with something called manna, bread which came from heaven. Well Ian was amazed. The same thing had happened today. Jesus had fed all those people by a miracle, just as God had done for the people of Israel in the desert. Ian thought a bit, and he realised that Jesus was doing the same for the people today as God did for the people then. There could only be one conclusion: that Jesus was God. What a staggering thought!
An that is one of the many amazing things that this story is teaching us. Jesus is taking Gods role and feeding his people in the desert. Jesus is, as the Hebrews used to say of God, and as we sang just a few minutes ago, Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides. And the second great lesson that we learn from this story is that Jesus provides for his people, just as God did for his people in the desert. But he doesnt just provide food. He provides for us in amazing ways. We can have from Jesus everything we need to live the Christian life. We dont need anything else. We have his Spirit to help us, we have his Word to guide us, and we have his people to encourage us on. In fact, we have everything we need to live the Christian life this coming week. And if you think you dont have the resources to live the Christian life, or you cannot see what Jesus has provided for you, then ask him to show you. Jesus is that same God who provided for Israel in the desert. And as a loving leader he provides for us, his people.
3) Jesus guides his people
And so finally the last thing we learn is that Jesus guides his people. And where does he guide us? Well the answer is to heaven! You see Ian the Israelite had got it just right. Hes remembered correctly the story for the people of Israel in the desert being led by Moses when God fed them. And he remembered the end of the story that Joshua would lead them into the promised land. And though Mark doesnt spell it for us here in this story of the feeding of the crowd, yet Jesus is also leading his people to the promised land which is heaven. (Acetate 11- Heaven). He is fulfilling all the OT promises about Jesus feeding his people and then leading them to heaven. And that is what this story points us to. One day, all Gods people will be together with Jesus in heaven and they will be having fantastic feast. Everyone who has trusted in Jesus will be there, and well all have reserved place at the dinner table, and it will be one spectacular feast. And this feeding miracle which Mark tells us is a little taster (if youll excuse the pun) of what is to come for us in heaven. But the best thing about it will be that Jesus will be there. And if ever we are in doubt that we will get there, then we need to trust our loving shepherd who has promised to get us there. And maybe if you have never trusted in Jesus Christ, then today could be the day for you to trust him as the loving shepherd who laid down his life for you!
So I think youll agree that Jesus is a very special leader, far better than Alex Ferguson or Tony Blair, or even Melvin Tinker! In fact Jesus is the best leader we could want. But hes not just an ordinary leader, he is our rescuer and our God. And Mark has taught us three things about Jesus this morning: that he cares for his people, that he provides for his people, and that he guides his people to heaven. And that will be a great encouragement to us as we follow him this week.
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