Mark 6:30-44

21 Jan 2024

Mark 6:30-44

Passage Mark 6:30-44

Speaker Claire Rose


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Before she does that, why don't I just pray? Heavenly Father, we thank you that you are a God who speaks. That you have chosen to reveal your holy self to a sinful people. We pray that you would open our eyes to see more of you as we hear from your word and as Clare speaks to us today. Amen.

Amen. Today's reading is taken from Mark, chapter six, verse verses 30 to 44. The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

But many who saw them leaving recognised them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When jesus landed and saw a large crowd he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. By this time, it was late in the day. So his disciples came to him.

This is a remote place, they said, and it's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat. But he answered, you give them something to eat. They said to him, that would take more than half a year's wages. Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?

How many loaves do you have? He asked. Go and see. When they found out, they said, five and two fish. Then jesus told them to make all the people sit down in groups on the green grass.

So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven. He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them. All.

They all ate and were satisfied. And the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was 5000. This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Morning. Let me just change my glasses. I've worked out these days. I can either see you. I can see what I'm saying.

Right. Thank you, Catherine, for that reading. The passage today is obviously very, very well known. It's the only miracle in all four gospels. Actually, it was witnessed by thousands of people.

So I think we can be pretty sure it did actually happen. There was enough people around to say that it didn't. So, like me, you've probably heard sermons about the feeding of 5000 lots and lots of times depending how long you've been coming to church. But I'm not going to be talking about the feeding of the 5000. I'm actually going to be talking about the very first few verses.

Those verses that can often be overlooked but actually contain some wonderful lessons. So before I start, you know, I like to put things in context. So let's look at what happened previously to this particular passage. At the start of chapter six we hear the story of how Jesus wasn't welcome in his hometown of Nazareth amongst his family and his friends. So he left.

It always makes me smile that in verse five we read he could not do any miracles there except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. Now I don't know about you, but I think laying your hands on a few sick people and healing them is pretty miraculous, you know, makes you wonder what else he was doing. But I digress. Mark, in his usual way then hurries straight into the passage where Jesus sends out the twelve disciples in pairs. Mark says he gave them authority over impure spirits.

It's quite a small passage in Mark's gospel. If you look at Matthew, he devotes nearly a whole chapter to this in Matthew, along with a lot of other instructions such as not taking food or money or a change of clothes. He tells his disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Wow, what an amazing challenge. What faith Jesus had in them and what faith they must have had in Jesus that they believed him, they would have the power to do this.

So our passage today starts with the return of those disciples, or apostles as they're actually called here, from that mission. Now one can only imagine how fired up they were, how full of their experiences, how excited, wanting to share and talk about them. Well, I think I would be too. Now there are several people in education in our congregation. I'm confident they would agree that offering the opportunity to reflect and talk about their experiences is foundational to successful education and being able to develop.

It's exactly what Jesus offered. These they reported to him all they had done and taught. That's what it says. So they shared what had happened. But they would also have been drained physically and spiritually.

Healing the sick and driving out demons is draining.

Teaching is draining. When I preached a few weeks ago, Jesus had been teaching all day and fell asleep in the boat.

He knew. Jesus knew that when you feel like that the best thing is to step away to find some time to rest and recuperate and, yes, perhaps spend time with God. So he says, come away with me by yourselves, to a quiet place and get some rest. The time described here is not actually for teaching or for being sociable. It seems to have been simply for resting, even though their plans turned out to be somewhat thwarted.

Busyness, with all its attendant stresses, as we all know, is a very common problem these days. For some people, the idea of rest that is retreating in order to advance is actually counter intuitive. I can't take a day's leave because when I get back, I'll have twice as much work to do. I've been there, done that. But putting yourself first is not always the wrong thing to do.

Anyone who's been in an aeroplane knows those wonderful instructions that if anything happens, you have to put the mask on yourself before you can help anybody else. You know, looking after yourself puts you in a better position to show compassion to others. We, all of us, need rest. And yet, in our 21st century, gadget driven world, with the constant pinging of mobile phones demanding attention and our increasingly noisy surroundings, it can be something that is really elusive and we don't always make it easy for ourselves. I remember a few years ago when I was really struggling, I had all these lists in my head, I must do this, I must do that, I need to do this, I need to speak to so and so.

Until someone stopped me and said, why must you? Who is telling you to? Why is it so important? And I realised the only person who was telling me I needed to do it was me. So long as the kids were fed and clean and at school and I was able to do my job, nothing else mattered, really.

I have to admit, from time to time, I have to stop myself going down that rabbit hole. We make burdens for our own backs when actually, sometimes we need to stop, or perhaps just do something for ourselves. So where do you go for your rest, your me time? Physical or spiritual? Indeed.

Do we give ourselves the grace to seek rest when we need it? After all, even God rested on the 7th day. Then, in the Ten Commandments, he gave the Jews the Sabbath, a day of rest. Now, can you imagine how amazing that was for a people who had been slaves for hundreds of years, whose time was literally not their own, and who were worked to death? Here was God, demanding that they rest.

And yes, it was later bound up in numerous rules and regulations, but God recognised the need for rest to get off the treadmill. Now being slightly controversial here, I did mention this to Ben in the vestry. If your only day of rest is a Sunday and you feel you have to go to church because you've got a job to do, you're responsible for this, you know, you've got to be there, rather than I want to be there, can I suggest that maybe it might be time to take a break, to maybe step back a bit to relieve those duties for a couple of months and at the risk of being shot down in flames, maybe once or occasionally not come to church?

Actually, sometimes we need time with family and friends. We need time for those relationships.

Yes. I'm not saying don't ever come to church. Please don't think I'm saying that. And it is important that we come for fellowship and teaching and gathering together, but also we do need time for ourselves.

We can see in Mark one that after Jesus had healed Simon's mother and then others of various diseases, he got up early and went to a solitary place. If Jesus needed to do this and he recognised the needs of the apostles to do it, how much more do we need to find time? It's a salutary lesson for anyone involved in gospel work. And in this passage, with the crowds pressing in, jesus had again recognised that the desert place, away from people, is where they should go. But as I said earlier, their plans were thwarted.

The crowds were so eager to see them, they hurried along the shoreline, keeping pace as they rode to see where they landed, no doubt eager to hear more about what Jesus would say and do, and perhaps how he was going to respond to the murder of his cousin, John the Baptist had happened immediately before.

By the time they pulled the boat up, there was an even bigger crowd. So despite the desperate need for rest, Jesus had compassion on them. We sang our song earlier, everyone needs compassion. The kindness of a saviour. Why was Jesus compassionate?

Because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Now, compassion is a really emotive word. The greek word here and I've been practising is splaknisomai. Are you impressed? Splaknisomi, from where we get the word spleen, it means sympathy, mercy and loving concern, the Oxford English Dictionary actually says, means to suffer together.

It's not sympathy or even empathy. It's a feeling deep in your gut where you're confronted with someone else's suffering and you feel the need to do something about it.

Jesus' compassion for others is well documented. The actions he took in his healings, in defending people, in caring for those hurt, hungry and maligned. But here the compassion is because the crowds around him were like sheep without a shepherd. Now, the verbal imagery is used numerous times in the Bible, as I'm sure we all know, and it's another whole sermon or even a series of sermons, but none more. So if we look at Ezekiel, chapter 34, or psalm 23.

In Ezekiel, we read, I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the sovereign lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.

I will shepherd the flock with justice. I'm not a farmer, but the reality is that sheep without a shepherd have no chance of surviving or very little chance. Sheep are defenceless animals. The shepherd protects them from wild animals. Sheep will wander away and maybe fall down a pit or off a cliff.

There was that story a few months ago of that sheep in Scotland that had gone down a cliff and they had to rescue it. Do you remember? Sheep will keep eating the same patch of grass until nothing but dirt is left. So the shepherd has to guide them to green pastures and sheep. I didn't realise this until I was reading Kenneth Bailey's book.

Sheep will not drink from running water. They like to drink from still water. The crowd of people were like sheep without a shepherd. And the religious leaders of Israel, who should have been their shepherds, had failed them miserably. So Jesus had compassion on them and he started to teach them, to teach them about the kingdom of God, about salvation, about what it means to be he follows the God.

Now, we're not actually told in this passage what he taught, but from other gospel passages. We know what a wonderful teacher Jesus was and the things he talked about. And the people were utterly transfixed. So much so, the day got late and the people were getting hungry. They actually lost track of time.

I lost a bit here.

It's really important that we spend time with other people and talk about our faith. It's important that we spend time and share with others what we believe and what we know of Jesus. It's important to share that you know you are saved and that Jesus is seeking others and longs to save them.

Serving and sharing are equally important.

So I'll start to draw this to a close. Shortly, we'll be singing the Lord's my shepherd. As we do this, perhaps we can think about what it actually means. You've all heard the saying, you can take a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. You can't actually make a sheep lie down.

Sheep will only lie down when they have had plenty to eat, have quenched their thirst and are not threatened by wild animals. So how do we ensure that we have plenty to eat and drink spiritually? And how do we ensure that others whom the good shepherd is seeking, knows that they have enough to eat and to drink? He makes me lie down in green pastures. It makes it sound there's some kind of force involved.

He makes me. The Greek Old Testament uses the word, let me get this. Practise this cataskenos, which translates as to settle down or rest. Where grass is abundant, sheep are quickly satisfied. They lie down and then their food digests.

He restores my soul. In the english language, this has often meant some form of I was depressed and the Lord made me feel better about myself. The actual literal translation is he brings me back, he restores me. It makes it clear that the sheep is lost and the good shepherd has gone out to find it, carry it back. So we've talked today about rest and compassion for others.

Both are vital. I've heard it explained as a bit like breathing in and breathing out. We need time to breathe in, to rest, to recuperate, to allow our bodies, minds and spirits spirits to recover. And then we need to breathe out to share Jesus compassion for this broken world, to act as his hands and his feet, and to direct people to the love and care of our good shepherd. Both are important and we need to get the balance right.

So as you ponder those words, we're now going to sing the Lord, my shepherd. And as we do, just think about the words in that psalm. David was a shepherd. He knew how sheep acted and he done this from his experience of his work as a shepherd and on his knowledge of God. So please stand as you're able.