Lent 2020 Message #1
The season of Lent. The time each year we think about the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. His sacrifice of dying on a cross as the payment for our sins so we can be saved from our sins. The sacrifice that, when accepted, results in us being blessed here on earth and having the privilege of looking forward to being in Heaven.
Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice. It is worth being thought about and celebrated. However, there are other examples of Jesus suffering. It is some of those other examples we will study in this year’s Lenten sermons.
Including suffering that is described by Mark in his New Testament book, beginning in Mark 6.
Mark 6 is a bit more than a third of the way through Mark’s report of the ministry of Jesus, so it can be assumed it represents something that happened in the second year of Jesus’ three-year ministry.
By that time, Jesus had performed many miracles. He had spent much time teaching people. People as in His disciples and others who gathered to hear Him. Jesus taught those people how to live in ways that are best for God, for others, and for themselves. Jesus was well-established in His ministry.
Because of Jesus’ reputation, people thronged around Him whenever word spread that He was in the area. That is what we find, beginning with verse 30 of Mark 6.
Here is the setting. Jesus had earlier sent His 12 disciples. They are named earlier in Mark. They were Peter, James, and John, Andrew, Philip, and Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, and another one named James, Thaddaeus and Simon, and Judas Iscariot.
Jesus had sent His 12 disciples out on what we might call a missions trip. Those visited during the trip were preached to as the disciples shared the spiritual things they had learned from Jesus. The disciples also were given the power to heal people, which they used.
In verse 30 of Mark 6, when the disciples returned from their trip, they anxiously and joyfully shared with Jesus all they had done and accomplished. They felt good about the opportunity they had had to do ministry.
Jesus let the disciples share. I am sure He felt good that His closest followers felt successful and were excited about what had been done. However, Jesus also knew the importance of rest. So, in verse 31, Jesus said, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.” Part of the reasoning was that many other people were in the area. They no doubt wanted some of the disciples’ ministry - some teaching and some healing - themselves. But many times Jesus Himself sought times of rest. If He needed rest, most certainly His disciples needed rest.
Jesus got His disciples into a boat. The boat headed to a lonely place. However, it was not long before people saw where the boat was headed. At the same time, the people of that area heard Jesus was coming. As quickly as they could, people went to where Jesus was headed. In fact, they got to the landing point before Jesus and His disciples did.
So much for a chance for the disciples to rest. As they went ashore, they were suddenly in the midst of a great throng of people.
Jesus’ busy schedule is going to be highlighted in another Lenten message this season, but here is an example of that as Jesus was called upon to help. How interesting that instead of pushing His way through the crowd, shouting that He just wanted to be left alone, or becoming upset, Jesus had compassion on the people thronged around Him. With compassion, He took the time to teach those who had gathered at that spot. He taught with His great skill, instructing those people many spiritual things about how to live.
Verse 35. When evening came, it was discovered the people were unprepared in an important way. They had come to hear Jesus. That had been their one and only goal. No one had thought ahead to what would happen at the end of the day, as in needing food for dinner.
the disciples noticed the problem, which they mentioned to Jesus . “Jesus, it’s getting late in the day. It’s about time for dinner, but apparently no one has any food.”
Come to think of it, neither did the disciples have food for themselves. But knowing the problem, Jesus’ disciples suggested to Jesus He send the people away to wherever they might find some food, either back home or maybe to some nearby shops.
Jesus answered them. He said, “No. You give them something to eat.”
“Us,” they responded. “Are we supposed to go and buy enough bread to serve all the people. There is a large crowd here. Think of the cost. And how are we supposed to carry that much food? Us? No, Jesus. Send the people away to find their own food.”
Jesus asked the disciples, “How many loaves of bread do you have? How much can you find?”
The disciples went among the crowd. They found one person - a boy - who had a little bit of food. So there was one person in the crowd who had thought ahead. The boy had five loaves of bread and two fish.
The disciples took the food to Jesus, which, by the way, shows a very generous spirit from the boy. He had thought ahead. Why should he have to sacrifice for those who had not thought ahead?
The boy could have been selfish. He would have been justified in keeping his food for himself. Instead, he allowed his meal to be taken to Jesus.
Jesus then commanded the people to sit down on the grass. How they sat is always amazing to me. They sat in an orderly fashion. That is amazing because it is easy to get cranky when we are hungry. I can get cranky when I get hungry. But those people sat in an orderly fashion, in groups of hundreds and fifties. What a calming effect Jesus had that day.
When everyone was seated, Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish that had been brought to Him. The bread referred to was in small loaves common at that time. The fish were small. Together the bread and the fish would have satisfied just the one boy who had brought them.
Jesus looked to Heaven and blessed the bread. He then broke the loaves, I assume into a total of 12 pieces. He gave the bread to the 12 disciples to set before the people. He did the same with the two fish.
Listen. They all - all the people in the crowd - ate. They ate so much they were satisfied, which means they were full. And when they were done, the disciples took up twelve baskets full of left over food - broken pieces of bread and fish. Of course, there is significance to the number twelve. It means the disciples were also fed that evening.
The number fed was 5000 men. Actually, 5012 since the disciples ate as well. Actually 5013 since I assume Jesus also took some nourishment. That did not count the women and the children who were in the crowd. They were all fed by what should have been enough for just one boy.
What a miracle. I do not know how it happened. I do not understand how it happened. I guess if I did, it would not be a miracle. But what a wonderful, powerful, loving example of Jesus taking care of the needs of people.
Wait. Did I not mention that in today’s message, we were going to talk about Jesus suffering? What does the feeding of thousands of people have to do with suffering?
Actually nothing. However, it is related to suffering that came later. A short time later. Which takes us to the first part of Mark 8.
To set the stage for today’s second passage, here is what happened, as recorded by Mark, following the miracle in chapter 6. That very night after the feeding, Jesus saved His disciples from a storm at sea. The next morning, Jesus healed lots people. Sometime after that, Jesus was confronted by some of the Jewish leaders who were already against Him. They tried to trap Jesus into saying things that would get Him in trouble, but He escaped their attempts. Jesus did some more healing. He rescued a girl from demon possession and a man from hearing and speech problems.
Jesus continued to show His great power, doing so after the great miracle of making sure thousands of people were fed, all of which should have deepened the faith of His disciples.
But then Mark 8, beginning with verse 1, once again a great crowd had gathered around Jesus. Once again it was nearing a mealtime and at least the majority had not thought ahead and brought food with them. Actually, some might have at first had some food with them, but, as reported by Mark, this happened on their third day with Jesus. At best, the food had just about run out.
Knowing the need, this time Jesus went to His disciples, telling them He had compassion on the people, who were hungry.
Jesus added He did not want to send the people away because they would faint on their way home. The disciples sensed Jesus was suggesting to them that they feed the people in the crowd. They answered, “Jesus, how can anyone feed these men with bread here in the desert?”
What? Just a chapter and a half earlier, they had seen Jesus feed thousands of people with just a very little amount of food. After that, they had continued to witness Jesus’ power and love.
As mentioned, all that should have deepened the faith of the disciples, but they apparently did not have a clue how to take care of the problem Jesus mentioned to them, which would have been as simple as asking Jesus to once again perform a miracle.
That, I think, is an example of Jesus suffering. The suffering of having disciples who were so slow to learn and understand.
Humanly speaking, Jesus might have wished He could just be done with His disciples. He might have wished He could start again with a new set of disciples. If they could not or would not learn, why should He spend any more time with them?
Fortunately, Jesus was not only 100% human. He was also 100% divine. So instead of turning His disciples away, He did yet another miracle, continuing to prove His love and power.
Jesus asked the disciples how many loaves of bread were available. Aapparently no fish were on hand this time, but the answer was seven for the loaves of bread. That much had been found remaining in the crowd. I assume those who had a little bread were as generous as the boy back in chapter 6 had been. They had given what they had to Jesus.
Jesus again commanded the people to sit, I assume in an orderly fashion. He gave thanks for the food, as He had done earlier. He again broke the bread. Again the disciples served the bread to the people.
Again the people ate enough for them to be satisfied, and again there was bread left over, this time enough to fill seven baskets, meaning that again the disciples had a meal as well.
Interestingly, in chapter 6 the number of baskets was 12. Here the number is seven. Perhaps the baskets in chapter 8 were bigger than earlier, or maybe Jesus used this as a teaching of the need for the disciples to share.
But again, a huge number of people were fed, this time listed as 4000 people. Or 4013 since the disciples and I assume Jesus also ate.
Right after the second miracle of feeding, Jesus continued to heal people. He continued to teach. He continued to move toward His sacrifice of death. But again, even before His death, He suffered, including the frustration He had to have experienced when His disciples - His closest followers - were so slow to learn.
Suffering that should give us hope. Hope based on the fact Jesus did not turn away His disciples.
I should add that what we have talked about today is just one example of problems with the disciples. There were many others, including arguments among them and one of them betraying Jesus. When Jesus was arrested, all the disciples deserted Him. Two returned to be near where Jesus was, but they at first deserted Him, and one of those who returned denied even knowing Jesus.
Jesus had problems with His disciples, but He continued to work with them. All of them, with the exception of the one who betrayed Him, went on to accomplish great things for the Lord.
What hope that is for us. Even if we seem slow to learn - even when we struggle to be perfect - Jesus will continue to work with us, doing so for as long as we will allow Him to do so.
Throughout this season of Lent, let’s allow Him to work with us, including when we suffer because of our faith in Jesus.
Each Sunday of this season, we will think of what the Bible teaches about that. For this message, listen to what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:10-11. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Blessed are you when you are reviled and persecuted and have all kinds of evil uttered against you falsely on account of the Lord.”
How important that Jesus did not promise an easy life for His followers. Of course we have good days. Of course there is the wonderful future in Heaven promised to those who follow Him. But His followers are also promised suffering in this life at the hands of those who do not accept Jesus as the Savior.
Knowing that - especially when we are slow to learn or we fall far short of being perfect - let’s remember that as Jesus was still willing to bless and work with His first disciples when they struggled, that same willingness is still present with Jesus now. Let’s allow Him to continue to bless us, good times and difficult times alike.
Today’s closing song is an expression of commitment to Jesus. Knowing we will always need His strength to accomplish the commitment, let’s sing Take My Life and Let It Be.
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love,
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only, for my King.
Always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages for Thee;
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.
Lord, our hands and our feet, our voices and our money, our love and our very lives we commit to You. You who are worthy because of Your great sacrifices for us.
Thank You for continuing to work with Your people, even when we struggle. Thank You for dying for our salvation. Amen.