The All-Sufficient Servant King – Mark 6:30-44
The late Whitney Houston was the most-awarded female recording artists of all time. She seemed to have it all, and yet her friend and costar Kevin Costner shared that she struggled with a common problem—insecurity and anxiety about measuring up. When Costner asked her to star in The Bodyguard, she had her doubts. Costner shares what happened on her first day on the set after her hair and makeup were ready:
Whitney was scared. Arguably, the biggest pop star in the world wasn’t sure if she was good enough. She didn’t think she looked right. There were a thousand things to her that seemed wrong. I held her hand and told her that she looked beautiful … but I could still feel the doubt.
Despite her success and worldwide fame, Whitney Houston still wondered, “Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?” It was the burden that made her great, and the part that caused her to stumble in the end.
All of us are like Whitney Houston. Every day we wake up and look in the mirror and we are hit with our feelings of inadequacy. We battle feelings like, “This job is way out of my league. What am I doing here?” Or “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). Really? That’s what I have to live up to? Man, I don’t have it takes to be the husband my wife needs. Or “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). What? Did Paul even have kids? If he knew what kind of kids I had, he would understand! And so it hits us: Do I have what it takes to the parent my kids need?
Ministry would be great if I didn’t have to deal with people. Man, do I have what it takes to serve the Lord effectively? Every week I sit in front of a computer screen, with my bible and books open and my notes I have accumulated and think, “What is this? This sermon stinks!” Am I the right fit for this ministry? Every day we are bombarded in fresh ways of our inadequacy. What does the Gospel have to say to these constant feelings of “Am I ______ enough?—pretty, smart, able, wise, cute, thin, etc. Well, I’m glad you came and this passage is for you today.
In Mark 6 we find one of the most familiar stories in all of Scripture. In fact, it is the only miracle (apart from the Resurrection) that is recorded in all four gospels. Let us be careful not to miss the point of this story. Sadly in many children’s books, this story is taught as how to share well. It was after all, a little boy who shared his lunch that was a blessing to all right? Yes, sharing is caring, but that is not the point of the story.
Professor Michael Wilkins in an article about discipleship in the Gospel of Mark notes, “…an important issue for under- standing discipleship in Mark’s Gospel is to recognize that center stage always belongs to Jesus…Although other characters and the scenes in which they appear serve an invaluable role by highlighting various facets of his person and ministry,first and foremost Mark tells a story about Jesus.From the first verse—where he is declared to be the Messiah, the Son of God (1:1), to the final verse—where his stunning resurrection from the dead causes the women to run away with trembling and bewilderment (16:8), Jesus is the one about whom this entire gospel is written, and discipleship to him must be understood in the light of his unique Person and Mission.”
The center stage always belongs to Jesus. This Gospel and this Bible is about the Servant King. The Puritans used to describe the Gospel as a multifaceted diamond. It has so many sides that glimmer and sparkle in so many different angles. This is all we do every Sunday. We study the beauty of the Gospel from different angles and pray God will hit us with it in a fresh way. Today we will look at the Servant King’s Sufficiency in our Deficiency. The title of the message is “The All-Sufficient Servant King.” We will consider three things:
- His All-Consuming Compassion For Us (vv.30-34).
Let’s look at the setting. Jesus sent out His disciples on a ministry tour (Mark 6:7, 11). It was awesome. They healed people, taught the crowds and even cast out demons. They returned eagerly to tell Jesus everything. They were exhilarated, but exhausted.
“Let’s get some rest,” Jesus tenderly said to them. Remember also that He himself was nursing a wound; his own dear cousin John had been murdered in the most brutal way. He sure needed some time to grieve and doubtless, John’s death provoked somber thoughts of the fate awaiting him. Jesus seems to always respond to popularity, success and busyness with more prayer and solitude. If you and I are flawed, weak people, and He’s the Son of God, and if He thought He needed more prayer the busier it got, how much more would we need it?
Notice also that though I am sure Jesus evaluated what they were doing or what they did for Him, He seems more concerned with how they were doing than what they were doing. We can get obsessed with what we are doing but He is looking at who we are becoming. Shade is hard to give when roots are shallow. If we are not abiding in Christ and His love, drawing from Him, we cannot provide the compassion and love needed to give shade for others. The old pastor Robert Murray McCheyne said, “No amount of activity in the king’s service will make up for neglect of the king himself” So He says, “Let’s retreat.”
However, Jesus’ popularity was cresting. Wherever he went, a throng that included many deranged and afflicted trailed behind. Jesus looked up and saw stretching back for miles and miles a growing stream of desperate, needy humanity, of both sexes and of all ages.
How does Jesus feel about this? Mark draws our attention to Jesus’ heart. The…tense may be rendered, “He was gripped with compassion.” It is a “…wonderful love that never [seeks] its own, but always [forgets] its own needs and worries and sorrows in sympathy and care for the burdens and sorrows of other people. He felt deep emotion in His gut that led to action.  This is what compassion means.
They are “sheep without a shepherd,” an OT expression (Numb. 27:17; Eze. 34:5), meaning helpless, lacking nourishment, guidance, and protection, exposed to the perils of dispersion and destruction.  This is an indictment on the religious leaders who were not doing their job. This is also an indictment on Herod, who was also supposed to be shepherding the people, but instead feeding his own lusts at his own banquet. Jesus is a different shepherd who prepares a table in the wilderness for His sheep.
Note they do not irritate him. He is not annoyed by this intrusion or interruption. He also knew their motives. John’s Gospel says that people wanted Him to be their political ruler and King (John 6:15). John’s Gospel also says many walked away after this miracle (6:66). Yet He gives Himself to them.
Don’t you feel like we are annoying to Jesus at times? Same sin-patterns over and over. Same lame excuses. Same impure motives. Let me remind you that His heart for us this morning is no different than He is here. His heart is full of compassion toward us. He was so moved that He taught. Compassion ministry is not just building homes for the needy. Compassion can lead us to teach the Scriptures well. What did He teach? Probably Mark 1:14-15: Repent and believe the Gospel.
As I remember His compassion to me, let us pray for redemptive lenses that help us see people around m e the way He sees them.
II. His Condition for Fruitfulness is Brokenness (vv.35-38)
It is almost evening. The disciples check their watches, “is He going to keep this up all night?” It’s been a long and wearisome day. The disciples’ heart was, “Send them away. We’re weary.” Jesus’ heart is, “Come unto Me, all you who are weary.” I relate to the disciples—but I long to be more like Jesus.
They decide to have a board meeting. One says, “Maybe the Master is getting carried away with this? Tomorrow is a new day right?” Another says, “Let’s be practical here. I can hear their groaning in their stomachs and some are grumbling with their mouths.” So disciples in the gospel of Mark do what they do best. They make obvious assessments, as well as dumb recommendations as they constantly “feel the need to remind him of his responsibilities” (Mark 1:36-37; 4:38; 10:13). They are just like us!
They collectively come to Jesus and say in verse 35: “It’s a desolate place. Jesus, we don’t really work for Bethsaida Banquets or Jerusalem Jewel and there is no Hillside Hilton for these people to stay overnight you know.” So our recommendation: “Get rid of them.” How quickly they have forgotten that this was the same Jesus who calmed a storm with a word, who caused a man without many demons to sit in his own right mind, who had healed the paralytic and the leper and turned water into wine. Here the size of the need, the greatness of their limitations forces them to make faithless assessments.
Their plan was “every man for himself.” But Jesus is too good of a shepherd to do that. These poor people had put themselves in His care and now to send them to their homes famished and faint? Jesus looks up at them and without hesitation, he says “YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT.” The “You” is emphatic and imperative. What an astonishing command!
At first glance it seemed ridiculous. Is this a rhetorical, almost snide, sort of bad joke? The disciples looked again at the face of their Master and realized that He was serious. No sneer. No rhetoric. He wasn’t laughing. His body language gave no indication that Jesus considered his request to be ridiculous. Don’t bother going to Bethsaida Banquets or go to Jerusalem Jewel, Don’t call the caterer. Just feed them.
If a crisis was mounting up to this point, it has now intensified. The disciples respond sarcastically and disrespectfully.  Do we look like the kind of people who can foot the bill to buy food for all these people? A denarius was a day’s wage for an agricultural worker (cf. Matt 20:2). Therefore two hundred denarii was about “eight months of a man’s wages” (NIV). Moses had a similar argument in Num. 11:13: Where shall I find meat to give to all these people?…Shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to satisfy them?”
Ok maybe our Master Rabbi did not do too well in Math 101—So they look at what they have 5 loaves and two fish, the common food of poor people, bread made from barley, not wheat. These are more like biscuits from ALDI. And most likely they are salted fish—sardine like. I can picture their consternation. 5000 men, plus their dependents who may have tagged along – They put a sharp pencil to the problem and is quick to calculate the cost. He concludes that the expenditure is beyond their budget. He puts the pencil down. “Impossible. Can’t be done. You even told us when we went on our short-term mission trips not to take money with us…this can’t be done!” They’re paralyzed. Unable to do anything. You know the feeling, right? Where a project seems so big, so overwhelming, that you don’t even know where to begin. This is preposterous. We are broke. This is unreasonable and impossible to fulfill.
What is Jesus doing? He is deliberately creating this situation. John Calvin says though they did all this ministry, Jesus was sending them “…back to school to make greater advances in learning. This is on-the-job training.
He is deliberately giving them more than they can handle. This is for the disciples. Wait, doesn’t the Bible say that He won’t give us more than we handle? No, that was a hallmark card or a meme you saw on facebook. God certainly gives us more than we can handle to bring us to the end of ourselves.
At this point, if I were Jesus and heard that sarcastic and disrespectful remark and I knew these disciples had forgotten about who I was even after a great time of ministry that the Lord had just blessed, I would have said, “You want me to get rid of them? How about I get rid of you? Get out.” Certainly Jesus does not need them. He could have very well done this apart from anything. He is in fact the God who created the world with His spoken Word. What he could have done is he could have fed them like Albus Dumbledore, which is you walk through the crowd, and you wave your hand. These beautiful trays of food just appear right before them and everybody gasps.
But notice that He works with them and with what they have, though it is obviously insufficient. Why? This is a foretaste of how Jesus will work through them for the rest of their lives. What is the condition for fruitfulness? Inadequacy. To feel inadequate is a gift from God. Praise God! Why? Only those who feel inadequate acknowledge their dependence. Only those who acknowledge their dependence receive from the compassionate, capable and generous God the grace they need to persevere, praise, serve and glorify God in the midst of their inadequacy.
Another commentator notes, “It is not God’s intention that we should be in ourselves adequate to our tasks. Rather, he wants that we should be inadequate. If we only accept the tasks which we think are adapted to our powers, we are not responding to the call of God. The church is always in a crisis and always will be. There will be difficulties, limitations, insoluble problems, lack of people and money, a menacing outlook, endless misunderstandings and misrepresentations. We are not only to do our work despite these things; they are precisely the conditions requisite for the doing of it.” Only the inadequate are adequate. Only when you know you’re inadequate and you go do it anyway, only when you know it’s going to take a miracle for the things that you’re being called to do by Jesus to happen and you go do it anyway will he begin to work through you.
Faith is dependence on God and God-dependence can only begin when self-dependence ends. And self-dependence ends only when we deeply sense our inadequacy and we throw ourselves helplessly upon God in utter defeat.
This is also called brokenness. Brokenness is hard to define. It is like a fragrance, easier to detect than to define. It’s more than an emotion or feeling. There are unbroken people who cry. There are broken people who don’t cry. It is agreeing with God about your true condition, which is inadequate, unable and incapable. We are sheep, but act like shepherds of our own lives. He sees us as sheep and wants us to see ourselves as sheep as well. Brokenness is a deep awareness of your God-neediness. It is proactive surrender. God doesn’t bless what you bring to the table, but what you surrender to Him.
As one believer said, “Oh, the victory of what the world would call a broken life! Broken in self-strength to find the strength of God: broken in fortune to find the riches of God: broken in earthly pleasure-quests to find the joy of God!”This is why Jesus says, “What do you have?” Tell me how little you have. Be freshly amazed by your inadequacy and in the depth of your surrender, be freshly amazed by my generosity, grace and provision.
Really you are never giving anything to God. You are taking your hands off what already belongs to Him. Give your inadequacy to Him. Give Him your weaknesses. As you face things that is way out of your league—maybe it’s a job, maybe it’s a difficult marriage, maybe it’s your insecurity as a parent, maybe it’s contentment, maybe it’s a constant battle to stay pure in this sex-saturated society, maybe it’s fear of the future…whatever it is, Jesus says, “What do you have?” And in your calculation you are like, “Impossible!” How often I bear a striking resemblance to these disciples? Every day. Every day I calculate, assess, recommend what He should do, how he should do it, why I shouldn’t do it, etc. For those of you who serve, do you do that? Give God a billion reasons why you shouldn’t serve. All I have is weakness, God. All I have is limitation, God. What in your life right now appears as impossible to you as it did to the disciples?
Maybe you are like me and say, “Lord, I don’t even have five loaves and two fish. I barely got crumbs.” Do you really want that Lord?
Let Elizabeth Elliot minister to you: If the only thing you have to offer is a broken heart, you offer a broken heart. So in a time of grief, the recognition that this is material for sacrifice has been a very great strength for me. Realizing that nothing I have, nothing I am will be refused on the part of Christ I simply give it to Him as the little boy gave Jesus his five loaves and two fishes—with the same feeling of the disciples when they said, “What is the good of that for such a crowd?” Naturally in almost anything I offer to Christ, my reaction would be, “What is the good of that?” The point is the use He makes of it is His blessing. Lastly, consider:
- His Capable Sufficiency in our Deficiency (vv.39-44).
It’s all on Jesus now, as it should be. He is very organized, almost like He’s organizing seating for a banquet, which He is. Moses did this in the OT as well (Ex. 18:25). The New Moses has come, leading a new Exodus and who feeds God’s people in the wilderness with true bread. Notice Mark says, “green grass.” Why say this? He’s thinking of Psalm 23. The Ultimate Shepherd has come who makes us lie down in green pastures, who prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies like Herod, who makes our cup run over.
Jesus models dependence as He prays. He is presiding over the meal like a father would. We don’t know what He prayed, but maybe it was something like, “Praise be to you, O Lord our God, king of the world, who makes bread to come forth from the earth, and who provides for all that you have created.” He distributes the bread.
Note that, as one commentator says, He “Gave them to his disciples”—the imperfect tense denotes the continued action of giving the broken pieces to the disciples. While none of the Gospels explicitly assert where the multiplication of the bread took place, the tense seems to indicate that the bread multiplied in the hands of Jesus. He continued to give out the broken pieces; yet always there was more to give out.” They keep passing out the bread, come back empty and there was always more to give out.
See this picture. The disciples are not the source of the blessing. They are mere channels and witnesses. This is the Christian life. This is ministry. This is the secret of everything: Empty hands continually filled with a generous, all-giving Savior. Our inadequacies and deficiencies colliding constantly with His adequate and sufficient abundance and generosity.
I look at my own sermon prep. Almost every week I’m like, “Oh God I got nothing. Give me something for your people.” I constantly feel like you need more than I am able to give. You are all so encouraging to me and I am thankful, but I am aware that if there is anything God does in your heart from my feeble lips any week, it is this miracle right. It’s my bread crumbs that He’s multiplying. You heard a better sermon than I actually preached.
This is the secret of Living Hope as well. I look at all of you. What are you all doing here? Many years we felt like the bread we did have was being taken away. I know what’s happening. It’s this miracle. Bread crumbs multiplying right before our eyes into real food.
When it was all over, the disciples began cleaning up. Twelve full baskets of food. Twelve disciples. One for each disciple, lest they forget who it is that miraculously fed a multitude in the wilderness is someone greater than Moses, Elijah (1 Kings 17:9ff) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:42-44) and someone who is indeed the MESSIAH. However we find out later that they have no real clue as to what is going on. What a compassionate, capable and generous Savior we have! But how will I know for certain that He will be this way for me? He will. How do I know?
There is something hinted at us in v.41. Notice the verbs in English: “taking, looking, blessing, breaking and giving.” Literally in the Greek it says he blessed and broke. Two verbs. He blessed and broke. In Mark 14:22, just a little later, when Jesus is at the Lord’s Supper the night before he is about to die, it says, “Take it; this is my body.” Same two verbs. He blessed and broke.
What’s He saying? I am the Ultimate Moses that has come to liberate you and lead you into a new Exodus, to free you from bondage of sin and death. I am the Ultimate Shepherd who will feed you in the wilderness with what you ultimately need: Me. I am the true bread of life. But in order to provide you with this bread, I will have to be broken.
If you are dying of hunger and in some miraculous way you find a table with a loaf of bread on it, only two things can happen. If the bread stays whole, I starve and die and literally go to pieces. If the bread is broken If I am to be whole and eat the bread, it has to be broken into pieces. See? It’s me or the bread. Either you’re pieces, or I’m pieces.
One the cross, He was broken to pieces for our sin. He was broken, so we would be whole. He was broken so that in our brokenness, our inadequacy, in our sheepishness, our helpless, we get Him, our Bread of Life. We will always get a shepherd in our wilderness because the Lamb of God was abandoned by God.
“I was torn to pieces so you could be whole. I went to the cross, and I took the penalty the human race deserved for all you’ve done. I absorbed sin. I absorbed the punishment. I absorbed judgment. If I had stayed whole, you would have been broken to pieces. But I was broken to pieces so you would be whole.” He was poured out so we would be filled to overflowing in our deficiency. Your brokenness ends up being just a wound to wake you up from your delusions of strength because He was ultimately broken for you. This is the Gospel.
To the degree we let that truth collide with our inadequacy, His power and grace will flow through us and we will find Him miraculously using us. And one day the Messiah will invite us the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, not as a guest, but as His bride, where we will feast on “rich food” (Is. 25: 6-9). Revelation says, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore…for the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:16-17).
Until then, hear the sweet words of Annie Johnson Flint:
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits,
His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
Adapted from John Bishop, God Distorted (Multnomah, 2013), pp. 87-88. http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2013/november/2111813.html Retrieved July 3, 2014.
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Keller, T. J. (2013). Sermon, “The Good Shepherd,” Preached May 7, 2006.
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Keller, T.J. Ibid.
DeMoss, Nancy Leigh (2005). Brokenness: The Heart God Revives (50).
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McConkey, J. http://www.path2prayer.com/article/437/revival-and-holy-spirit/books-sermons/mcconkey-ministry-of-suffering Retrieved July 4, 2014.
Hughes, R. K. (152).
Edwards, J. R. (192).
Hiebert, D. E. (181).
Keller, T. J. Ibid.
Flint, A. Johnson. “He Giveth More Grace,” http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/He_Giveth_More_Grace/ Retrieved July 6, 2014.