A Jesus For Many
Pastor Duane Smets
July 23rd, 2017
I. Desolate Places
II. Divine Graces
III. Delighted Faces
We’re back in our study through the Gospel of Luke today in our quest to try to come to know and understand more this Jesus and the mission He has called us to as we attempt to ENGAGE the people of our city.
Today’s sermon title is a “A Jesus For Many” and we’re looking at what was probably Jesus’ most famous miracle, when He feeds over 5,000 people. He takes just a few loaves of bread and a couple fish, prays over it and then feeds thousands with twelve basketfuls left over.
This is the only miracle Jesus did that’s recorded in all four Gospels, which is extra reason to believe it actually happened. Back then they used to only count the men, so if there were women and children there it could’ve easily been more like 10-15,000 people. Regardless, the overriding picture in it is that Jesus cares for many. He provides for many many people. He is a Jesus for many.
So let’s go ahead and read the story from Luke. Let’s all stand. I’ll read it, declare it as not only Luke’s words but special words from God to us and then we’ll thank Him for it and pray over our time studying it together.
On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
• Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
• Congregational Response: Thanks Be To God.
Alright, so there are three things I want to talk about today from this story, “Desolate Places”, “Divine Graces” and “Delighted Faces.”
I. Desolate Places
I’m grabbing this first point, “Desolate Places” from verse 12 where it says this all went down in a “desolate place.” Here’s what’s happened.
Last time we were together studying Luke, we studied the passage before this where Jesus sent out His twelve disciples on this assignment where they were supposed to go to the surrounding villages and tell people about Jesus and pray for people who were sick so that they might be healed. Jesus sent them to go do that but with a special caveat, they weren’t allowed to take any provisions and instead be totally dependent on God, through what He provided from other people.
Things went well. They get back and they are stoked. But they’re also tired. So Jesus takes them to this desolate place outside of this little town called Bethsaida. In Mark’s telling of the story, he records Jesus saying, “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.
But somehow people catch wind of their plans, they hear where they were going and Mark says the people ran there ahead so that by the time Jesus and the disciples get there, this huge crowd has already gathered and formed. When Jesus sees this, something profound happens to Him, which I want to read from Mark’s account.
“When he (Jesus) saw the great crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” - Mark 6:34
So Jesus bails on His plans for a little private r and r time with his disciples and ends up spending the whole day teaching and preaching and praying for people healing them.
What I want us to see in this is the state and condition of the disciples and this crowd and then Jesus’ heart toward them. They are in this “desolate place” physically. But spiritually and emotionally, the disciples and the crowds are in a “desolate place” spiritually.
The disciples are tired and weary, so much so that they express frustration at Jesus and tell him to send the crowds away. The people in this crowd were in such a place of longing and need that they were willing to take the whole day of work to go listen to Jesus and maybe even have Him pray for them.
Look at how Jesus sees the condition of these people. He says they are “like sheep without a shepherd.” Do you get that picture? It’s a bunch of individual sheep, each one wandering off on their own, lost and aimless, with no one to care for them, provide for them, protect them or lead them. That’s what Jesus sees.
Then look how it affects Jesus. It says he had “compassion” on them. We’ve talked about this word before but it’s been awhile. It’s a very special word that only occurs in Luke three different times and the English word “compassion” doesn’t even come close to what the original word means in the Greek that it’s translated from.
The word is “splanchidzomai” and it’s the feeling of deep emotion you feel in the bowels of your being so much so that it almost hurts. This is what Jesus feels for people when He sees their need. This is what Jesus feels towards us when He sees us in our desolation. He hurts for us.
The picture here of a desolate place is a very vivid picture. This area near Bethsaida where they are is dry and hot, a vast expanse with very little vegetation. It’s a desert. You guys been out to the desert before, like in Utah or Arizona or New Mexico? It’s quite a sight. Just deadness. Very little life.
Have you been in a desolate place spiritually? Are you in one now? Do you feel like there’s very little spiritual life happening in you? Do you feel spiritually dead and dry? Or maybe like the disciples were, just tired? Weary of life?
Desolate places are the reality of the world we live in. It’s a picture of our true spiritual need, that we are lost in a desert with no water and are in need of a shepherd to take us still waters and it’s a picture of us when we are at our lowest and we feel deeply our spiritual need.
I was talking to one of our church members right before I left for our Nashville trip and he was telling me about some things God had been teaching him this year. This last Christmas Eve he ended up in the hospital with a high fever and when they examined him found an abscess on his liver that they had to drain. When they drained it his lung collapsed causing him to go into shock and have trouble breathing. He ended up being in the hospital for an entire month.
During that time he was telling me he had never felt more lonely in his entire life. Laying there in the hospital bed, looking up at the fluorescent lights, not able to go anywhere, hours upon hours and days all alone, except for the few times when some people would come visit him. He said he just felt like he was in a darkness and wondered where God was as he was forced just to be there alone and sit with his soul. A desolate place for sure.
In 1925 a lady named Mrs. Charles E. Cowman wrote a daily devotional book titled, “Streams In The Desert”. I discovered it years ago and it has been a personal blessing in my life on many occasions. I often will pull it out when I’m having one of those dark days.
One of her entries, the one from July 5th says this,
“Often the riches which the soul needs is obtained in the wilderness, the lonely place, out of which you can seldom find your way. God knows our need of the wilderness experience. So he leads us into hard places that we might find His eternal springs.”
Everybody sooner or later finds themselves in a desolate place and realizes in desperation their need for God. It’s for all those people, the many many people of the world that Jesus the good shepherd came for. To meet us in our desperation and desolation. He comes to us in the desolate place and minister to us.
So now, let’s transition and talk about what He does for us there in our second point for today, “Diving Graces.”
II. Divine Graces
Alright, so Jesus is ministering to many many people all day in this desolate place and verse 12 in our text says the day wore away, so the sun is setting. Everyone has been there all day but no one is leaving and everyone is hungry.
I think especially the disciples. I could be wrong here, but I think they were kind of tired of the people. The account in Mark has this little side note that they never even had the chance to eat before going there.
So they come up to Jesus and try to tell him what to do. Here’s what they say.
“The twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions.” – Luke 9:12
Now, the funny thing about that this isn’t a real suggestion. They try to act like they care for the people but with over 5,000 people there wouldn’t have been enough places to stay and even if they went to the nearby town there’s no way there’d be enough food there to feed all the people. So basically the disciples are just telling Jesus to get rid of the people. They’re kind of over ministry, over the whole church thing if you will and want a break.
Jesus doesn’t seem real happy with their attitude. His response is kind of sharp. He quickly retorts, “You give them something to eat.”
Which from a leadership perspective I love. So often people will come to us as the pastors and complain about this thing or that thing or come to us with this great idea of some new thing we should do as a church. My response is almost always, “That’s a great idea, I agree, that’s a problem we should definitely address. You know what, I think you’re just the right person to head that up!”
The disciples, in response, are just kind of dumbfounded. They’re like, “Uhhh, what do you want us to do Jesus? All we have are 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish that we brought just for ourselves.”
After that is when everything changes. Jesus lets it go and instead of being frustrated or annoyed at their attitude decides to grant them grace and He turns His attention to care for this flock of people who needed His shepherdly care.
And Jesus just takes charge. He has them go around and instruct the people to sit down in groups of fifty. Smart. Imagine trying to prepare a dinner meal for 5-10,000 people. Jesus was a great event planner.
Then, something really mysterious goes down where turns everyone’s attention to God the Father in heaven, giving Him thanks for the bread and the fish and when He’s done with the prayer they look down and I imagine in the middle of the circle where He and his twelve disciples are standing is this huge pile of food.
In a few scenes before this the disciples learned Jesus’ power over the wind and the waves and now in this scene, they learn Jesus’ provision of food for hunger.
Food in the story of the Bible and in the ministry of Jesus is an important theme and picture of God and His care and provision for His people.
Really, the whole Bible gets kicked off with a story about food. God creates everything He takes the man and shows Him at all and says, “You may surely eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
But then Satan as a snake comes along and tries to corrupt and ruin the food God provided. God had said the food was for their life and joy and relationship and satisfaction. The snake says there's better food to be had that God is holding out on them. The man and the woman buy the lie and end up eating the bad food and the moment they do they physically and spiritually taste how bad it is.
God, not being a liar, follows through on His promise and tells the man that now He’s going to have to die and that he’ll have to work hard for food. So Adam and Eve leave the garden but very quickly find out they’re not very good at life outside the garden. One of their sons kills each other over some disagreement over food and from there out the human race has been fraught with a spiritual hunger but seeking spiritual food in all the wrong places.
But God promised to save. So a number of years later He introduces Himself to a guy named Abe and promises him good food, a land flowing with milk and honey. And through his family line, God develops a people who begin to know God and His grace and promise to provide.
Food keeps coming up again and again. The promise of food. Special meals and festivals get developed centered of God’s provision of food. One time, God even rains down food out of heaven to provide for His people when they were hungry and had no food.
Jesus comes on the scene and right away before He starts His ministry He goes into the wilderness, the desolate place and Satan tries to feed him different food like he did Adam. But Jesus doesn’t buy it, He resists.
Jesus starts His teaching and preaching ministry and in His first big sermon, the famous Sermon on the Mount he makes this huge promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for they shall be satisfied.”
When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, part of what He says is to pray, “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.” And then Jesus promises this great banquet feast in heaven that will be part of the great reward and celebration for all who believe in and follow Him.
So you see, food is a big deal in the Bible and is part of the central message of the kingdom of God that Jesus is always talking about. In His kingdom, there is good food and good wine that He provides.
The point in all of it, which gets especially highlighted in this story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is that through Jesus God provides our every need.
Tim Chester, in his book, “A Meal With Jesus” says it this way,
“Eating is an expression of our dependence. God made us in such a way that we need to eat. We're embedded in creation, this means that every time we eat we are reminded of our dependence on others. Few of us eat food we ourselves have grown and cooked. Food forces us to live in community, to share, to cooperate, to trade. Above all food expresses our dependence on God. Only God is self-sufficient. Every time we eat we celebrate again our dependence on God's faithfulness in creation.”
What Chester is talking about is known as the doctrine of divine providence. It means that God provides for everything, especially the things we cannot provide for ourselves, He provides or gives us grace.
Louis Berkhof, one of my favorite dead Dutch theologians, defines providence this way, “Providence is the continued exercise of divine energy whereby the Creator preserves all of His creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.”
“Providence is the continued exercise of divine energy whereby the Creator preserves all of His creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.”
This is what Jesus shows us in this miracle, that He is God who is in control of all things and because of that He can be trusted to provide and to take care of His people in any and every situation. His provision may not always come in the way or form we want or expect it to be but He will always provide for us exactly what we need.
I like the way the Bible says it in Philippians 4:19, “God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
This is something we have been learning together as a church. We hit a real financial challenge as a church a couple months ago. So we’ve been open and honest about all of that and made some cuts and we launched what we called a 90 Giving Challenge, three months, where we challenged everyone who is a part of this church to start regularly giving, trusting God to provide and to see how He might bless us through that. Last week was the two-month mark and so far God has been good to us, we’ve been making budget and we’ve been hearing stories from many of you about how God has been blessing you personally and spiritually through it.
Ultimately everything in our lives boils down to whether or not we trust God with our life or whether we take our lives into our own hands and try to run them ourselves.
So where are you at on this? Are you trusting God to provide for your needs? Do you thank God for the food you eat as a gift of His grace? Do you believe that God is really in control and that He will care for you? Are you looking to Jesus as your shepherd who has compassion on you and will satisfy your spiritual longing and hunger?
Food is important. The food Jesus provides is the most important.
John the Apostle is one of the other guys in the Bible who wrote about this miracle. In John 6 he records some of the things Jesus said about this miracle the next day. Check it out.
“You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you… Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” – John 6:26-27,35
Every meal we ever eat is meant to remind us of our need for God and He and He alone satisfies the longing of our hearts. May God help many many of us to look to Him and trust Him to provide for all of our needs and be satisfied will all of His goodness.
Well, let’s move on to our last point today “Delighted Faces” and talk about what this satisfaction looks like.
III. Delighted Faces
With this point, I want to just briefly look at the last line in our text for today, verse 17. Luke 9:17 says, “They all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.”
Two things from this. One, the twelve baskets full left over. This is a picture of abundance! That with God there is infinite supply and that there is always more and will be many more meals to come.
One of the good things about believing in the God of the Bible is that He is an infinite and eternal God. So He is not limited in any way. You cannot exhaust Him, get bored of Him, or ever fully plunge the depths of how truly good and great He is. That means there is always more and more and more wonderful things to experience in knowing God.
I love the way the Bible puts it in Ephesians 3:19-21, “Know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.”
“Know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.”
Being filled with God. Being filled with all the fullness of God and His love. It’s better than we could ever fully imagine or grasp. It’s a joy and power that truly satisfies.
God is good. And we can know Him through the person of Jesus Christ. And when we truly come to know Him and His goodness that’s something that puts an eternal smile on our faces. God people are meant to be a happy people because of what they see and experience in Christ.
What Jesus Christ does for His people is He satisfies them. It’s such a rich picture at the end of our story, “They all ate and were satisfied.” Satisfied.
That word “satisfied” is the picture of an animal eating its fill and then laying down for a nap. Not a care left in the world. Just enjoying the pure goodness.
What God gives us in Jesus is a taste of the eternal satisfaction and a promise to eat of it forevermore. The Bible actually ends with a picture of a meal, a great feast called, “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb” where we eat rich food and drink good wine in a great celebration.
The best meals are not the ones where we are eating just for fuel. The best ones are the ones where we savor the smells and the tastes and we have great discussion around the table and where everything we experience is experienced as a wonderful gift. Having a good meal with good people is one of the best pleasures of life.
God means for us to have those meals, to experience them as a gift from Him, to eat and be satisfied and for it to create in us a longing for the great feast to come where we will sit and dine with Him face to face.
So I’ll end this point with just a few questions…
Are you looking to and finding your satisfaction in God or are you eating dirty crumbs off the table of the world? Are you eating the good food of God or are you eating things that really don’t satisfy and actually make you spiritually sick?
Are you eating just for fuel or are you eating to actually enjoy the food with others as good gifts of God that you are thanking Him for? Are you longing for the final feast to come and making it your aim in life, to make to heaven to dine with your Creator?
Friends, what Jesus shows us in the story of this miracle is that He alone can provide what we need so that we might be truly satisfied. May God give us many meals to come where we might eat in celebration of His goodness.
Many many people are hungry. Jesus promises to delight the face and satisfy.
Well, it’s been fun today to talk about Desolate Places, Divine Graces, and Delighted Faces. What we’re about to do we do here every week but it seems especially fitting this week in light of what we’ve learned today.
Each week here at The Resolved we always eat a little bit. We go to one of these tables throughout the room and we take a piece of bread as Jesus’ perfect life, His very person as the bread of life from heaven and we dip it in the wine or the juice as His blood shed on the cross, where He paid the penalty for all the bad things we’ve spiritually eaten and consumed.
Today, if you're in a desolate place, come and taste that through Jesus God is with you and cares for you.
Today, if you’re needing to trust God and know that He will supply your every need, come and taste that through Jesus God promises to provide for you.
Today, if you’re sensing a longing for the satisfaction that God offers to us, come and taste the joy of eternal life that through Jesus God gives to delight the soul.
Friends our God is good. He gives us good gifts, He meets us where we are and He provides for all of our needs.