Monday, April 18, 2005

Bread And Water

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 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. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii [1] worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 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.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 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. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Jesus Walks on the Water

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night [2] he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Mark 6:30-52 (ESV)

A question that stands out to me at the end of the story about Jesus walking on the water is “what does this have to do with the loaves of bread”? If we were to read the account of Jesus walking on the water by itself we would not expect the statement about the loaves to be included. We read expecting each story to be self contained, ready to have a nice Bible lesson or a sermon fall out of it. The scripture is God's Word and includes the kinds of complexities that truth includes. In one sense when we try to oversimplify our answers people know it and the scripture looses some of its authenticity because it does not address life in the same level of complexity that the normal person experiences their life. What we want to explore here is what was it that the disciples were supposed to have been able to understand had their hearts not been hardened.

Mark 6:30 – This verse comes as a part of scripture where Jesus sends out the disciples to preach, they preach that people should repent. Then lo and behold an account is told of the suffering of a preacher, John the Baptist. He had told Herod about his unlawful marriage, which implies the same message that the disciples had been preaching, repent. John the baptizer gets beheaded. They too are going to suffer but merely from a lack of privacy and a lack of food.
So now we come to Mark 6:30 and the disciple return and talk about what they did and what they taught. In the military we have after each exercise a procedure where we review what was supposed to happen, what happened and what could be done better next time. This

Mark 6:31–33 – Jesus is ready to withdraw with his disciples and seeks refreshment for his disciples.

Mark 6:34 - This idea of caring for the people as a shepherd cares for his sheep has an Old Testament context in Numbers 27:16-23 and Ezekiel 34. In response to their need for a shepherd Jesus “began to teach them many things”.

When Jesus saw that the crowd lacked care and lack from someone to lead them, he responded by teaching them.

I remember when I was a young man in high school going to a Christian Vocation conference at my denominational school. A question that I asked and did not get an answer for was what does a minister do all day. I'm not sure if the answer was not given because it is so obvious or because it was a big secret that no one knew what the right answer was supposed to be, they only knew what they actually did and were not comfortable telling people how they actually used their time.

What is it that a preacher is supposed to do?

Ask a coach he will tell you that winning isn't everything but it is the only thing.
Ask a true shopper and she will tell you if you can't buy happiness then you just don't know where to shop.

These passionate statements talk about how the coach and the shopper fully committed to their discipline and the answers lie in the discipline itself. I am not attesting to the veracity of these mottoes defy conventional wisdom and what people usually expect.

What is it that a ruling or teaching elder is supposed to do? What is our discipline brothers?

As I have tried to discern what a minister is to do I have wondered around various answers.

Counseling - One answer says that the answer is in counseling. As a counselor a person talks through a person's problems and helps them come to understand what it is their conflict is.

Discipleship – Another answer lies in the work of meeting with people and discipling them. At various churches I learned to disciple people. Some of these were very beneficial.

Organizational Leadership – A few years ago I read the books by Tom Peters, In Search of Excellence. A pastor can see his 67th, 68th and 69th books of the Bible in Maxwell, Peters and Covey. I'm not saying that these books have nothing to say to the pastor, but the answer to church in the next century is not organizing better.

Today when we see a need for leadership the first thing that we do is teach and preach.

Mark 6:35-36 – Here the disciples sense a need of the people too. They sense a need for the practical. They see that if they try to bear the burden of feeding the people they do not have the resources. If the need is to be met, the responsibility must be distributed among the group, the needs are too large otherwise. As you start to calculate the vast need, an individual can not meet the need.

Mark 6:37 – In this passage he is talking to them about something more than mere feeding the hungry. I believe this based on the fact that Mark 6:52 says that there is something more to be understood here. He wants them to be feed but the primary thing that they need is the spiritual presence of Jesus. The bread is symbolic here. We always want to be careful about reading into a passage the meaning of the words which were not originally intended but here we can see from verse 52 that this was not merely a mercy ministry, there was a meaning to the loaves beyond physical sustenance.

Mark 6:39 – This verse seems to allude to the 23rd Psalm where it says “he makes me lie down in green pastures”. He sees the people as sheep without a shepherd in Mark 6:34.

Mark 6:41 – Some of the same wording, at least the same four verbs, in Luke 24:30 where Jesus is instituting the Lord's Supper. Also another cross reference is Luke 22:19 where Jesus

Mark 6:42 - As a boy, my mother would often buy one soda and my brother and I share it. I wanted to be older and have a soda all to myself. I always thought that a mark of adulthood would be not having to share my soda. Of course my wife thinks otherwise, adulthood means that you are not petty about not sharing. Are there things that even though you give it to everyone, no one has less than he would have had if he had not shared it? How about singing a song. If I sing a song for you, do any of you have any less of the song than if you had not shared it? In a sense though, if you share a concert with your friends, you have more than if you had not shared it. As we experience

Mark 6:43 - The story in 2 Kings 4:42-44 is a story of the prophet who feed many with a little. Other places in the Old Testament where people were supernaturally feed is the account of the Mannah, and the account of Elijah being feed by the raven. Perhaps there is more.

Mark 6:48 – This account gives the same idea as Job 9:11 where Job is describing God's presence and yet men do not realize it.

“Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not;
he moves on, but I do not perceive him.”
Job 9:11

While there is definite parallels between the Mark passage and the one in Job, there are also contrasts. In both passages, the presence of God is near, about to pass by. Men did not know when the presence of God was there. The contrasts is in the fact that Jesus does not pass by, the presence of the Lord does not remain a mystery.

The presence of the Lord is there in the boat. The men did not understand the presence of the Lord as he taught the multitudes. They did not understand that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. We experience the presence of the Lord in His Word as it is taught. We see the power of God as he speaks to his people through his word.
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