01 May Mark 16: More than enough
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 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.
How many of you used to have a nickname that you do not like? Back in the days, some of my friends in Dallas used to call me goldfish because they thought goldfish only had 3 seconds of memory span. But they were wrong. Goldfish can remember things for months. So, I do not have a goldfish memory. I have Dory’s memory. My short term memory is worse than goldfish. If I get introduced to new people today after church, there is a high chance that I will remember their faces next week, but I call them something else that is not their name. I mean, not even a week. The other Sunday, I was told that there was a new person who would come to church a few hours before the service started. And her name is Josephine. I thought, “That’s easy. How hard could it be to remember the name of Martin’s daughter?” I met her after the service and I confidently said, “You must be Jacqueline. Nice to meet you.” So close yet so far. My mom used to tell me that if my ears are not attached to my head, I would probably lose them a long time ago.
Why am I telling you this? Because I am convinced that most of our problems as Christians are a result of not remembering. We have spiritual amnesia. All of us have a problem remembering. You might argue that this does not apply to you. You have an excellent memory. Maybe some of you have a photographic memory. All you have to do to study for an exam is to read over your material once and you remember everything. It is a gift you are given. Jesus loves you but we hate you. But the kind of remembering that the Bible speaks about is different from the way we understand it. When we use the word remember, we are trying to communicate the idea of being aware of some facts that we might forget. So, when your wife tells you to remember to get the groceries before you come home, she wants you to know that she expects you to come home with groceries or else there will be no dinner for you. But the Bible’s understanding of the word remember is a lot stronger than that. When the Bible tells us to remember, it does not simply mean to be aware of some facts but to take hold of those facts and see everything else through the lenses of that facts. It’s like putting on sunglasses. When we put on sunglasses, whatever we see is affected by the lenses in front of us. And in this passage, we see the disciples forget to put on their sunglasses. They have witnessed Jesus perform the impossible again and again. They know nothing is impossible for Jesus. But they have yet to take hold of that truth and see the problem in front of them through that truth. They keep forgetting who Jesus is. And their problem is also our problem. When we face an impossible situation, it is very easy for us to forget that we have the God who makes the impossible, possible. It is very easy for us to focus on our limitations instead of the One who has no limit. But this story teaches us to look outside ourselves and look to Jesus. Because get this. Jesus can take our limitations and multiply them for the good of others and for the spread of the gospel.
Let me give you the context first. The miracle of feeding the multitude is the only miracle besides the resurrection that is recorded in all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It tells us that this miracle is very important that all four writers decided to include it in their accounts. This is probably one of the most familiar stories in Sunday School. And there are good reasons why this story is incredibly popular as we are about to see. But pay attention to the context of this story. Mark puts the story of Jesus feeding the multitude right after the story of Herod’s banquet. So, there are two banquets, and they are opposite each other. Herod has a banquet to boost his position. He invites the nobles and the elites of the society. He provides ten-course gourmet food. He entertains with exotic dancing. While Jesus has a banquet to minister to peoples’ needs. There are only commoners in Jesus’ banquet. The food provided is only fish and bread. The main agenda is to hear Jesus preaches the gospel. And the end of the two banquets cannot be more different. Herod’s banquet ends with the tragic beheading of John the Baptist. Jesus’ banquet ends with people being satisfied and having more than enough. One ends in death, the other ends in life. Don’t miss the comparison. Mark is putting these two stories next to each other to tell us that Jesus is the only king that gives life to his people. Let’s get into the story.
I have three points for my sermon: The compassion; The need; The provision.
Mark 6:30-34 – 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.
If you remember what happened earlier in the chapter, Jesus sent his disciples on a short-term mission. And after some time, they return to Jesus and tell him everything that happened. Their short-term mission was such a huge success that they draw even more crowds than before. And now Jesus and the disciples are very busy tending to peoples’ needs that they don’t even have time to eat. So, Jesus says to the disciples, “Let’s have a retreat. We need to go away from the crowds to a quiet place so that you guys can rest.” And this is something that we see Jesus does again and again. Whenever life gets very busy, he always takes some time to retreat and rest. Jesus understands the importance of rest. In fact, the greater the success, the greater the need to rest. And this seems counterintuitive to us. What would we do if we were Jesus? We would not miss this opportunity, right? We will squeeze the orange as hard as we can and get as much juice as possible. But not Jesus. Amid success in ministry, Jesus wants the disciples to get away with him and have some rest. The greater the success, the greater the need to spend time alone with Jesus. Why? Because it is very possible to make an idol out of ministry. It is very possible to make an idol out of busyness for Jesus. And Jesus does not want that. So, he takes the disciples to a desolate place to recalibrate their hearts and body.
We do not know the exact location of this desolate place. But apparently, many of the crowds do. They are probably the ultra-fans of Jesus. They check out Jesus’ Instagram, Peter’s Instagram, John’s Instagram, and they manage to figure out where Jesus and the disciples are heading. So, they spread the words on their Instagram stories, “I see Jesus heading to so and so,” and people quickly repost the stories. So, by the time Jesus and the disciples get to their destination, a great crowd is already waiting for them. Now, what would you do if you were Jesus or the disciples? Let me tell you what I would do. I would be extremely annoyed. I am an introvert. I need my alone time. And these people are intruding on my space. I would probably tell them, “Sorry guys, RSVP only. You guys are not invited. Come again next time. Ciao.” But Jesus is different. Look at the way Jesus respond to the great crowd.
Mark 6:34 – 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. Jesus is not annoyed at all. When Jesus sees a great crowd, he has compassion on them. And the word compassion is very interesting. It comes from a Greek word, “splangnizesthai.” And this word is only used to describe Jesus in the New Testament. It is not mere compassion. It is to be moved with deep longing and empathy. It is to be stirred to the core of your being that it is impossible for you to not do anything about the situation you see in front of you. But what makes Jesus feel this way about the great crowd? Mark tells us it is because he sees sheep without a shepherd. And this is not a farming metaphor. This is a military metaphor. In the Old Testament, the image of shepherd and sheep speaks of the relationship between a king or a military leader with the people. A shepherd is someone who will lead people to victory. But when Jesus sees the great crowd, he sees people without a king. He sees people without purpose and direction. He sees people who have made a big mess of their life and do not know what to do. He sees people with needs and no one to lead them. So, he is moved to the core of his being to help the great crowd.
And pay attention to what he does next. Jesus begins to teach them many things. This is Mark’s way of saying Jesus teaches the gospel to them. Wait. What? These people have needs in their life. Some of them have a very messy life. Some have broken marriages. Some are oppressed. Some are failing in business. Some are experiencing difficult relationships. But instead of tending to their personal needs, Jesus teaches them the gospel. Why? Because Jesus understands that their greatest need is not a physical need. Their greatest need is a spiritual need. What they need first and foremost is not solutions to their problems. What they need first and foremost is to know God and his word. And this is the primary role of a shepherd. The primary role of a shepherd is to feed the sheep with the word of God. Maybe the reason many Christians are weak is that the pastor does everything but preach the gospel faithfully. Jesus has compassion on the great crowd.
The question is, what happens to rest for the disciples? The reason Jesus took them to a desolate place is so that they could get some rest. Does Jesus ignore the disciples’ needs for the sake of the great crowd? I don’t think so. Jesus has not forgotten about the disciples and their need for rest. Jesus will still give them rest. But the rest comes in an unexpected package. It is different from what they have in mind. Instead of physical rest, Jesus will give them something better. Something deeper. Jesus will give them heart rest. And heart rest comes in seeing who Jesus is and being amazed by him. Let’s move on with the story.
Mark 6:35-38 – 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 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.”
So, apparently, Jesus preaches very long. To the point that it is getting late, and the disciples become uneasy. It is good that this great crowd come to a desolate place to hear Jesus, but they need to eat. It’s close to dinner time and if they have nothing to eat soon, it is going to be chaotic. Moms, imagine if it is almost dinner time, your kids are hungry, and you haven’t cooked anything. If you don’t provide food soon, you know what’s going to happen. There is going to be a mutiny in your house. Cereal boxes are flying, chips are scattering, your kids are licking whatever they can find, and your husband is playing PS5 while keep asking, “Is dinner ready yet?” It’s just a mess. And that’s just your family. Imagine thousands of people. What are they going to do? So, the disciples come up with a solution. And their solution is very reasonable. They say, “Jesus, we know that you are a great teacher. Everyone loves to listen to your sermon. But here is the thing. It’s getting late. People are hungry. And we are in the middle of nowhere. So, why don’t we end it for today and send people away so that they can go and get food for themselves? It is still not too late if you send them now. They can go to the city and Lestari will still be open by then.” Don’t you think it is a good suggestion? I think it is a good and wise suggestion. Maybe the disciples themselves are hungry and they also want to get to Lestari before it closes.
But watch what Jesus says. Jesus replies, “You give them something to eat.” Do you see what Jesus did? Instead of avoiding the possible crisis, Jesus intensifies the crisis by telling his disciples to feed the crowd. I can imagine the disciples are talking among themselves. “John, did we hear him right? Did he just say for us to give the crowd something to eat?” “Yeah, I think that’s what he said.” “Is he serious? Is this a command or a suggestion? Can we disagree with him?” “Well, if you listened to his words and how he said it, I am sure it is not a suggestion. He is commanding us to feed the crowd.” “But how? It is impossible. It is an irrational command. I thought we came here to rest. But now he gives us an impossible task for us to do. Someone needs to put some sense back into Jesus.” So, Phillip comes to Jesus. “Teacher, I did the math already. I took out my calculator and count the cost of feeding these people. It is going to cost about 200 denarii, which is 200 days’ worth of work. So, about $50,000. Should we spend $50,000 to feed these people?” By the way, this is Phillip being sarcastic. They don’t have $50,000 to spend on the crowd. They don’t even have $1000. They are broke. Phillip is basically saying to Jesus, “Jesus, I think you get it wrong this time. It is impossible. There is nothing we can do about it.” Jesus smiles and says to the disciples, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” So, the disciples walk among the crowd and ask if anyone brings food with them. And they can only find a little boy’s lunch box. Five loaves of bread and two fish. That’s it. And by fish, we are not talking about two big fish. It is two sardines. Five loaves of bread and two sardines are barely enough for a little boy. What good is it before thousands of people?
What lesson can we learn from the story so far? We see two different perspectives. The disciples focus on the fact that they do not have what it takes to feed the crowd. They don’t have the money or the resources. All they can find are five loaves of bread and two fish. That’s the human perspective. But Jesus sees it differently. Jesus sees from the divine perspective. The disciples see only impossibilities; Jesus sees possibilities. And there is a lesson that Jesus wants to teach the disciples and us. Remember the context. The disciples just returned from a very successful mission trip. They witnessed how God did the impossible in and through them. But now when they are faced with another impossible situation, they forget. They forget the source of their power in ministry. They forget that they were always unable. It is never about them and what they can do; It is always about the one who is with them and what he enabled them to do. They forget that they have Jesus and his power to provide. It doesn’t occur to the disciples that Jesus is in the mix. And whenever Jesus is in the mix, Jesus changes the equation.
Can you see? Here is the important lesson for us. Don’t miss it. We tend to focus on what we lack; Jesus focuses on who we have. Now, there is nothing wrong with being aware of our limitations. In fact, it is good and wise for us to know our limitations. But it is wrong to limit God with our limitations. The purpose of knowing our limitations is not so that we can limit God. The purpose of knowing our limitations and impossibility in front of us is so that there can be no doubt as to where the help comes from. Jesus is asking the disciples to do the impossible. And that’s the point. Because until we see that Jesus is asking us to do the impossible, we are not ready to do it. As long as it is still possible for us, we will rely on our own strength. It is when we know that we are at the end of our strength that we are ready to witness Jesus’ strength. Jesus wants us to focus not on what we can do but on what he can do. He wants us to focus not on who we are but on who he is. So, the question is, where do we turn to in our times of need? Where do we turn to when we face impossibilities? The disciples only look at their situation and themselves. But Jesus wants them to look outside themselves and gaze their eyes upon Jesus. Because Jesus is able to make the impossible, possible.
Mark 6:39-44 – 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.
I think this scene is comical. Instead of sending the people away, Jesus commands them to sit down on the green grass. So, the disciples direct the crowd to sit. “Okay, everyone, could you please sit down in groups of hundreds and fifties?” And the crowds are asking, “Why do we need to sit down?” “Well, I don’t know.” “Why do we need to sit in groups of hundreds and fifties?” “Well, I don’t know.” “Will we have food? What are we going to eat?” “Well, I don’t know.” “What do you know?” “Well, I don’t know. Just be quiet and sit down. I am as confused as you.” So, they all sit in groups of hundreds and fifties. Then Jesus takes the five loaves and the two fish, he looks up to heaven and blesses the food. Jesus probably recites the common Jewish’ prayer for food. “Praise be to you, O Lord our God, King of the world who makes bread to come forth from the earth, and who provides all that you have created.” That’s it. A short concise prayer. I like it. You know people who pray a long and winded prayer when they pray for meals, right? They pray for Aunt Mary who is sick, Uncle Joe who is busy, children in Africa who are hungry etc. Jesus most likely does not do that. So, Jesus blesses the food, he breaks the loaves, he gives them to the disciples, and the disciples distribute them to the people. And somehow, the bread and the fish does not run out.
When I get to heaven, one of the many things I want to ask the disciples is, how does it happen? What does it look like? Does everyone take a big chunk of the bread and pass it down to the next person and the bread magically becomes whole again? Or does everyone in the group take a little chunk each time and by the time the food gets to them again, it is still there? We don’t know what happens. All we know is that the food does not run out. And it’s not as if everyone only gets a little piece of bread. Oh no. Everyone eats until they are satisfied. And Mark tells us that there are 5000 men in the crowd. So, if we count the women and the children, we have about 15 to 20,000 people. Do you realize how impossible this is? Imagine planning a wedding for 50 people. You have 50 people on your RSVP list, and you have enough food for 50 people. But then the whole stadium shows up to your wedding. You are in big trouble. How are you going to feed them all? When I see the disciples in heaven, I really want to ask them, “How on earth can five loaves and two fish feed 20,000 people until they are satisfied?” And they will say, “Well, we don’t know. All we did was we obeyed Jesus’ command even though we didn’t understand and it happened.” Can you see how amazing this miracle is? Yes, it is impossible. Yes, it is unexplainable. And yet, it is undeniable. The people ate and were satisfied.
And not only that. The disciples then gather the leftover. Moms, you will be pleased to know that storing the leftover food is biblical. This is a Jewish practice. They do not like to waste food. So, they collect the leftovers and there are twelve baskets full of leftovers. I mean, this is amazing. The disciples end up with more leftovers than the food they started with. They started with 5 loaves and two fish. And they end up with 12 baskets full of leftovers. Like, imagine you have a party at your house and there are 50 people. And you order one large pizza. That’s a disaster. I hate it when people do that. I am the type that if there are 50 people at my party, I would order 30 boxes of a large pizza. One large pizza for 50 people is never going to work. But then at the end of the party, everyone leaves with a box of pizza. That’s a neat trick.
But here is the question. Why 12 baskets of leftovers? Why not 7 or 10? Because there are twelve disciples. This miracle is about feeding a great crowd, yes. But it is so much more than that. This miracle is for the disciples. This is a lesson for them. They started by telling Jesus to send people away because they have no food. They end up with a basket full of food each. It is a strong reminder for them. Jesus is telling them, “You think it was impossible? You forgot who I am. You forgot that if I am in the mix, nothing is impossible. I can make the impossible, possible. Nothing is beyond my power. I can take care of you. I can meet your needs. I can do far more than you could ask or imagine. Nothing is impossible for me.” And friends, this is the heart rest that the disciples need. Listen. More often than not, what makes us extremely tired is not physical weariness. What makes us extremely tired is the weariness of our hearts. What causes many Christians to burn out? It is ultimately not physical exhaustion; it is the trouble of the heart. And what the disciples ultimately need is not physical rest. What they need is for their hearts to be captivated once again by who Jesus is. They need their hearts to be awed by the glory of Jesus. And that’s why each of them is holding a basket full of leftovers as a visible reminder of the lesson they learned that day. And that lesson is this: Jesus is more than enough. The reason Jesus provides leftovers is so that they know that Jesus is more than enough.
And this is the important lesson of the story for us. Don’t miss it. No matter what kind of impossible situation we might face in life, having Jesus with us is more than enough. When we live in obedience to Jesus, we will often face impossibilities. When we live on a mission for Jesus, we will encounter many dead ends. Again and again, we will be faced with our limitations. But that is good news. Because Jesus is not limited by our limitations. Our limitations are opportunities to showcase Jesus’s unlimitedness. Think about it. Jesus does not need to use the disciples to feed the crowd. He could have done it on his own. But Jesus invites the disciples to take part so that they might know his greatness. Jesus does not need our contribution to accomplish his will. But he graciously invites us to take part so that we might witness his greatness. Jesus does not need us to be awesome. He wants us to be available. All he asks of us is for us to surrender what we have in our hands. He doesn’t ask us to think of a way to feed 20,000 people on our own. He asks, “How many loaves do you have?” That’s it. And we might think that what we have is nothing. We might think that what we have in our hands is useless. But we are missing the point. Because Jesus is not seeking our 200 denarii. He is seeking our 5 loaves and two fish. Jesus does not ask for what we do not have. Jesus asks that we bring what we have and put it into his hands. Because he is able to multiply what we have for the good of others and for the spread of the gospel.
Let me put it this way. Listen. Jesus does not need us to be strong. Jesus wants us to be inadequate. He doesn’t want us to think that we have what it takes to meet people’s needs. He wants us to rely on him to meet people’s needs. It is easy to offer Jesus our strengths. But Jesus wants our weaknesses as well. He wants us to bring whatever we have in our hands and trust him with it. Because when we know that is impossible and we are inadequate and we trust him anyway, then and only then will Jesus do the impossible through us. Do you want to see Jesus’ greatness at work in and through you? Trust him with your 5 loaves and 2 fish and see how he multiplies it for the good of others and for the spread of the gospel.
However, there is another layer to this story that we must talk about. It is implicit in the book of Mark, but it is explicit in the book of John. And I think the turning point of this story lies in Mark 6:34 – 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. Even though we do not know where the exact location is, this desolate place is most likely around a place where many Zealots are. Zealots are the group of people who want to overthrow the Roman government. They are like terrorists. They want a revolution. And they need a king to lead the revolution. That is why when Jesus sees a great crowd, he sees sheep without a shepherd. He sees people without their king. And if you read the account of John, right after Jesus fed the multitude, the great crowd wants to take Jesus by force and make him king. They want Jesus to lead the revolution against the Roman government. But Jesus is a different kind of king than what the people expected. Jesus is a king. And he has compassion for the people. But what the people need is not a military revolution. What the people need is the gospel revolution. Listen to what Jesus says in John 6:35 – 35 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. In other words, Jesus is saying to the crowd, “I have come into the world not to be a military king but to be a bread of life.” See, when we think about bread, what comes to our mind? We immediately think of carbs. But not so with the Jews. For the Jews, bread is a symbol of life. So, for Jesus to call himself the bread of life means that he is the only one that can give true life to the people. And this is why Jesus has compassion on the great crowd. He sees thousands of people who are on their way to destruction. And that’s why Jesus came into the world. Jesus came into the world to be the bread of life so that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life. There is nothing wrong with coming to Jesus with our physical needs. But we have a greater need, a greater hunger that must be satisfied. If we don’t have our greater hunger satisfied by Jesus, we are going to starve forever. That’s why Jesus came into the world not to give us bread but to be our bread.
But how can Jesus be our bread? Here is how. Jesus needs to bless us and be broken for us. And that’s what happened at the cross. At the cross, Jesus blessed us with forgiveness. Jesus blessed us with his life. Jesus blessed us with his perfect righteousness. So that when we put our faith in Jesus, we received every spiritual blessing. We are holy, righteous, and blameless before God. Jesus purchased our salvation at the cross and he blessed us with it. But in order to bless us, he must also be broken for us. Remember, Jesus is the bread of life. If the bread remains whole, it is useless for us. We are going to starve. The only way for us to live is to rip the bread to pieces and eat it. At the cross, Jesus was literally being ripped apart. He was broken into pieces. Why? Because he took the punishment that you and I deserved. Jesus went to the cross to take the penalty that we should have received so that we don’t have to. Do you see what happened? If Jesus had stayed whole, we would have been broken to pieces. But Jesus was broken to pieces so we would be whole. It is seeing Jesus broken to pieces for us that will finally satisfy our deep hunger. Jesus is the bread of life.
Let me close with this. I know that there are many among us who are overwhelmed with life. Some of you are overwhelmed with the assignment you need to finish next week. Some of you are overwhelmed with family situations. Some of you are overwhelmed with the deadline at work. Some of you are overwhelmed with the uncertainty of your future. Some of you are overwhelmed with ministry at church. Some of you are overwhelmed with the call of God in your life. Some of you are overwhelmed with your marriage, parenting, or singleness. And you think that you are faced with an impossible situation. You keep saying, “It’s not going to work.” But I have good news for you today. You have Jesus with you. He is what you need most. And he has proven at the cross that he gave you more than what you could ask or imagine. So, bring whatever you have in your hand to him. Trust him with it. Because Jesus can take your limitations and multiply them for the good of others and for the spread of the gospel. Jesus is more than enough. Let’s pray.
- All of us have problems with spiritual amnesia. Give examples of it from your daily life.
- What is the difference between physical rest and heart rest? Give examples.
- Explain the danger and the good of knowing our own limitations. Are you leaning toward seeing the danger or the good? Why?
- Why did Jesus leave the disciples with a basket of leftovers each? How does this truth encourage you in your struggle?
- How does Jesus satisfy your deep hunger and gives you heart rest?
- Spend time in prayer. Each person to pray for themselves and trust God with their specific limitations.