So the last time I spoke we talked about the purpose of parables. The parable of the sower and how some people hear with their ears but they do not hear in their hearts. They don’t hear in their hearts what Jesus is telling them. Tonight we’ll build off of the stories of the last two weeks and look at the shifting point of this Gospel. This Euangelion. This Good news announcement about Jesus the Messiah. The Son of God.
Now let me tell you this. I love the hidden nuggets of the Bible. There is always more than the surface to these things. I’ll admit that sometimes I can get so consumed with the neat nuggets within the text that I miss the surface and other times we can get so consumed with the surface level of the text we miss what’s really driving this story. Fewer of the gospel stories have more awesomeness packed in them than these two stories. The feeding of the five thousand and maybe this less impressive story that starts off this chapter the feeding of the four thousand. Now Jesus is going to insist that there is more going on here than just people’s stomachs being filled. And the disciples like each of us never see things quite like Jesus wishes they would.
I was trying to think of an analogy of just how excited I’ve been to teach this mind blowing stuff and it was best captured with imagining a guy playing fetch with his dog but his dog is on a leash. The guy throws the ball but holds tight to the dogs leash and so the dog is trying to chase it. He’s just ready to go. And finally the owner let’s the leash go and boom he’s gone. For so long I’ve wanted the chance to teach this and finally the planets have aligned so here we go. And we are going to look at the whole chapter because it all set’s the stage. We are halfway through and the story is going to shift. Because it’s been secret, secret, secret and now it’s time for Jesus to say what is going on. The truth is going to be revealed.
Mark chapter 8.
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand
8 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.[a]
The Pharisees Demand a Sign
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”[b] 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
There is something that Jesus wants his disciples to see that is directly related to these two stories. The Feeding of the 5,000 and the Feeding of the 4,000.
So let’s talk surface level real quick. And then we’ll talk numbers.
If there is one message that is clearly given in the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 it’s that God provides and he does so in abundance. There were 12 baskets LEFT OVER for crying out loud.
If there’s ever a moment where you just want to sucker punch the disciples it’s right here. Verse 4. “And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”
How Jesus kept his cool here I don’t know.
The disciples ask where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
I think of Biff and Marty Mcfly knock knock knock “Helloooo THINK MCFLY”.
If this were me I would have looked at these guys and gone “Are you kidding me!?” Do you not get it!? I just did that! Like how do they not just say “Well I dunno you did just feed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and well we have more bread this time… you good to do that again? I mean it’s fewer people so if you’re cool with using your God microwave to multiply some of this bread I think we’ll be able to feed everyone again.”
No! They are clueless? Jesus I don’t think we have enough.
And yet how often do we do this?
God provides for us. It’s exciting. It’s impressive. And then the very next time we are in an impossible situation: Oh no! I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this? I don’t know what I’m going to do. And then God just looks at us and goes “Really? Do you not get this? I just did that.”
Right before Christmas I was without a place to live. Couch surfing. After a few days of not knowing what was going to happen I was given the single nicest bed and breakfast to stay in for two weeks prior to going home. I mean the comfiest bed I’d ever been in. The nicest hot shower. A great tv and sound system to watch movies. I mean God hooked a brother up. I was amazed. I was so thankful. I felt blessed beyond all measure and then last week my transmission goes out. And what do I do?
How am I going to fix this? How am I going to get around town? Where am I going to find the money? How do I get to the table on Tuesday? Who’s going to take all the camping supplies to the state park?
God just went Devon? Do you need to be reminded? Here, this is Grayson, Cameron, Wade, and Danielle. They’ll help you with getting things to Fireside. Hey you can’t drive around town here, a stranger that you have never met is going to let you drive their Lincoln continental till you can figure things out. A car that is nicer than any car my family has ever owned.
God provides ya’ll. And he provides in abundance. Why do we doubt so quickly when repeat problems happen that we have already been brought out of?
See that’s the beauty of the Bible. On the surface level you can resonate so strongly with these people. On the surface of these stories we can find a message of doubt and struggle that we all relate to. There is beauty on the surface. And that beauty is not discredited by what is beneath the surface. In fact what’s beneath the surface answers the biggest questions we could possibly have.
So what is it that Jesus questions about their understanding? What does he assert that they are missing?
16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
He directs their attention to two things:
When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?
And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?
Do you not yet understand?
There is a link here between this and the mystery of Christ. The mystery that had been alluded to and hidden from people there is a link between that and the question Jesus is answering here.
So why is it significant that there were Twelve baskets and Seven baskets.
What in the world is going on? Does he just want them to see “Hey, I do really cool things with bread!” Or is there more to this?
These two symbolic feeding stories point to many things. In Judaism numbers have great significance. These numbers reveal the truth about names about genealogies about groups of people. Just look into numbers and the creation story. Your head will hurt. Numbers in Judaism bring things to life. I’ll give you my favorite example from the New Testament.
We’ll do this by taking a quick quiz…
So what can you tell me about the Genesis creation poem? How many days are discussed?
Correct. And where does this story begin? What location?
Look at you Bible nerds. Let’s get nerdier.
When you read the gospel of John. Who can tell me what Jesus’ first miracle was?
The seven signs are:
- Changing water into wine in John 2:1-11 – “the first of the signs”
- Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54
- Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-18
- Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14
- Jesus’ walk on water in John 6:16-24
- Healing the man born blind in John 9:1-7
- Raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45
Jesus turns water into wine. We know it’s the first because in 2:11 it states this was the first sign. And then Jesus heals the royal officials son and it say this is the second sign. And you follow the mention of signs you get the healing of the paralytic, the feeding of the 5000, Jesus walking on water, healing the blind man, and raising Lazarus.
Seven signs. One for each day of the creation week. The eighth sign. A symbol of a new week. A symbol of the new creation is the resurrection. Can anyone tell me what Mary Magdalene mistakes the resurrected Jesus for in John 20:15? Look it up! A gardener. So this new creation story begins where? In a garden.
Guys, the bible is friggin sweet. There’s more going on than we often think. So the numbering of those signs is significant. Numbers matter. These two stories are riddled with numbers and would you believe it if I said they might all mean something? The numbers tell as much about the meaning of this story as the miracle itself. So…take notes. Haha!
So let’s look at the feeding of the Five thousand. Aside from the resurrection it’s the only miracle story to appear in all four gospels. In Marks Gospel we read two weeks ago. Jesus is in a Jewish region surrounded by Jewish people. Jesus has compassion and asks to feed the people. The disciples don’t believe this is something they can do and to give the disciples a nudge about what is possible he asks them to go see how much bread they have. They come back with five loaves and two fish. Alright numbers. So FIVE and TWO. He multiplies the loaves of bread to feed the 5000 people and there are TWELVE baskets left over. Five. Two. And twelve. Plus the multiplying of bread.
Alright back to the quiz! Who is the Jewish hero?
Moses. Alright there are two very significant things attributed to Moses.
How many books of the Old Testament are attributed to Moses?
When Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments what are they written on?
Two stone tablets.
Jesus takes the five and the two and he feeds the people. And there are twelve basketfuls left over. If you remember, Jacob who is later named Israel has several sons and these sons are split into tribes. When Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt they are divided back into these tribes. Try and guess how many there were. 12. Now all the drama of the Old Testament happens and these tribes are scattered, divided, and dispersed. And then the prophecies began to tell of the Messiah restoring these twelve tribes. The twelve tribes would be restored in the age of the Messiah.
So we have all of this imagery packed into one simple story about God providing. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! There is another story in the Old Testament of a feeding by means of God multiplying bread and having some leftovers. And there is sooo much that could be packed into this but read this.
2 Kings 4:42-4442 A man came from Baal-shalishah, (bye Felicia joke. That had to be done.) bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And the king Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” 44 So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.
This symbolic feeding is about the superior prophet and the superior king. This is what the disciples are MISSING. If you think I’m just making weird out of the air comparisons look at what John adds in his gospel’s version of the same story.
John 6:12“Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. (This is what John adds to his gospel. This part is not written in any of the other three versions of this story. John wants you to see that nugget)14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet (the Moses) who is to come into the world!”
15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king (Make him Elisha), Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Jesus is the Prophet, he is the King, He is the one who gathers the scattered back into twelve. We’ll get to that identity in a hot second.
Mark chapter 8:5:
How many loaves do you have?
Seven they replied. With 7 loaves they fed the 4,000 and when they gathered the broken pieces there were 7 basketfuls leftover.
So for the 5,000 Jesus is in the Jewish region and there is symbolism of building back the twelve tribes. Well here Jesus is in Gentile country. It’s one reason the disciples are confused that Jesus would be willing to feed THESE people. Jesus and the disciples are in Decapolis a pagan and Greek region. When the Israelites are led into the promised land it says in Deuteronomy 7:1 that God would drive out seven nations larger and stronger than Israel. Jesus here in the region of those nations that were wiped out acknowledges and symbolically establishes these seven nations.
So the twelve basketfuls represented Israel. And the seven basketfuls represented the Gentiles.
Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
So friends do you not yet understand!?!?
Well maybe not yet, because this story is still unfolding.
Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida
22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus[c] laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
My immediate question to this is why does Jesus attempt to heal the man twice? Was he not successful the first time around? Or… does this two illustrate a greater point. So this “double healing” comes after the “double feedings.” Jesus has just criticized the blindness of the disciples. “Do you still not SEE or understand?” That’s what he asks his disciples. He follows this question by pulling aside a blind man in front of them, spits on the mans eyes and asks HIM in front of the disciples “Do YOU see anything?” But notice what he says: “I see people, they look like trees.” Like the disciples this man sees, but he doesn’t fully see. He can see but he cannot see. He mirrors back to the disciples their failure to understand the scope of Jesus’ ministry and the true nature of the kingdom.
The disciples now back in Bethsaida where the 5,000 were fed meet the blind man whom Jesus uses to illustrate their own spiritual blindness. They witnessed the miracles but they didn’t understand their meaning. In chapter 4 he addresses the disciples need to actually hear. In this chapter Jesus address their need to actually see. The disciples needed the healing touch of Jesus to see the nature of Jesus’ ministry to the twelve and to the seven. To the Jew and to the Gentile.
And here is the SHIFT. Finally. For eight weeks we have been working for this moment with Jesus and his disciples.
Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Lord of the Law. Jesus is family. Jesus is King. Jesus is healer. Jesus is prophet. Jesus is I Am. And now the disciples get to solve the puzzle. They get to reveal the mystery.
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. (which was this merged society of Jew and Gentile. It was also the location for the Gates of Hades and the God Pan who was the giver of revelation ahhh ok stop! guys I am trying so hard not to chase rabbits RESIST RESIST!.) And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
Peter answers you are the anointed one. You are the Messiah. In the heart of the Roman Empire in this Pagan city. Jesus reveals to his disciples the meaning of the twelve. The meaning of the seven. I am the restorer of the tribes of Israel AND the nations of the Gentiles. I am the Prophet, I am the King. I am the I am. The unity of all things. The one who reconciles the broken pieces of creation back to himself. This mystery is now revealed. I warn you, do not tell anyone.
Jesus heals their blindness.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly.
See to me this whole story is the true beauty of God. You can read that story over and over and miss some of the things we talked about. And then you see it and if you are like me I legitimately texted like 15 people and was all “DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS!? HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THIS!?” And there’s just a beautiful truth in that. God’s presence is in ever single thing and situation. He’s leading us through the pleasant and unpleasant throwing us hints and beauty and asking us “Do you still not see or understand?” It’s why I honestly roll my eyes when people say “Well if God would just show me proof, then I would believe.”
Forgive me but that’s nonsense for so many reasons. Look at all the ways in which God was revealing himself and the disciples didn’t know it. I mean they saw him make dead people walk. One of my favorite verses in the Old Testament shows up in Genesis in a story with Jacob. It’s the story where God reveals the significance of the land Jacob is resting on. The Dream about the ladder to heaven. When Jacob wakes up he says this: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I, I did not know it.”
It goes back to my situation with my car. Surely the LORD was in that situation, and I, I did not know it.” Where will I get a job? How will I eat? How will I survive that break up? How will I ever get over their death? How could God do this to me? How could God let that happen? God where were you?
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I, I did not know it.”
“Do you still not see or understand?”
The truth of the Messiah is actually in all things. Not just in biblical stories. It is in your life’s brightest moments and in life darkest pits. When we doubt this we are revealing what we believe about Jesus.
“But who do you say that I am?”
Well Jesus, I say that you’re the one who provided for me that one time but won’t this time.
Well Jesus, I say you’re the one who loves but I don’t think you can love me after this.
Well Jesus I say you’re the one who transforms lives but I think I need to hold on to this addiction a little longer.
I haven’t shared much of my personal story with you guys but I will tease it with saying my parents have encountered God in ways that many people, most people say they desire. They’ve seen and been a part of Miracles much like the ones we read tonight. A few years ago after much demand they wrote their story into a book. And when they released it I met a lady that went with them on this trip where strange things happened. As far as I know everyone who went on this trip saw beautiful unexplainable things. But she did not.
And that was so curious to me. She then started sharing that she had traveled quite literally all around the world to Marian sights places where miracles involving the Virgin Mary were taking place. And each time she came back with nothing. She argued the need of the bread and the wine to be the flesh and blood of Jesus IT HAD TO BE A MIRACLE in front of her. She told my parents well..”You were my miracle.”
This woman missed what Jacob saw. This woman needed a sign to believe. She needed hard and tangible proof. So much so that I believe her eyes were blind to God being in this place.
Look I understand that desire. To want to see God’s glory in a clear and tangible way. But let me say two things: One: That isn’t faith. “You believe because you have seen well blessed are those who have not seen and still believe.” “Faith is the confidence that we hope for and the assurance of what we do NOT see.” Faith is accepting your blindness and using it to see.
I will tell you first hand proof of God will only tell you okay, theres a God. Something every culture in the time of Christ believed. Big deal. The Bible teaches even the demons believe.
Seeing is not surrendering. Seeing is not giving your life to Christ. Seeing just informs. There’s knowing God is real and there is following him. Living for Him. See that’s something that takes faith.
Look I can see Donald Trump. I can see Bernie Sanders or Clinton or Cruz whoever. But believing one of them is the best choice for America, that takes faith. We seeing the difference?
My second point about the need for some tangible proof: My Brothers and Sisters, you. Already. Have. It.
God has made himself known. Open your eyes and SEE IT.
Stop praying for God to show up. He’s already there. Pray that you may be given eyes to see it!
So let’s end with one final story. In college I often would engage with the crowds that would come and taunt the evangelist that every now and again would show up on campus. I met one student named Rob who was particularly set in his criticism. He said he’d been asking God for proof all his life and he never got it so he determined God was not real. He was being a loud advocate that day about how some things just happen. He didn’t believe that things happened for a reason or purpose. For years prior to this encounter whenever people said they don’t believe there is reason behind things I would respond with one of my stories about how God took a terrible situation and gave it purpose. Well this guy was arguing that doesn’t happen so I shared my story. In high school I moved from my home and friends to South Florida to a city that I just hated. The one good thing I had was my rowing team. It was the only place that I felt like I belonged. Well one morning I showed up to practice to discover the night prior my coach had died in a car accident. The one good thing I had darkened by that tragedy. Shortly after I moved back to Tallahassee. I would talk with my parents about how wasted the time there felt aside from a few friends. I used to say nothing good ever came from moving there. And my parents would agree. While I lived there I met two people who were involved with Young Life from an area south of me. I hitched a ride with their bus to meet my friends at Young Life camp. It was there that I met someone many of you know Lauren Allen and her friend Darcy Shepherd. Fast forward to my freshman year of college I had no desire for ministry. I didn’t feel good enough to be an example to high schoolers and so I didn’t go to Young Life training like all of my other friends did. However I would go to hang out with my friends afterwards which usually meant stopping in for the last few minutes. Well one week I showed up at the end of the training and who should I see but Lauren Allen. And because she’s just a great human being I came to training that week. And then I joined her Bible study. We were placed on the same Young Life team where I learned to talk about Jesus to groups of people. Where after that first year I was placed as the Team Leader of that team. Where I got to lead other Christians in sharing the gospel with kids. Where I got to take kids to camp and watch them give their lives to Jesus. Where I got to walk alongside dozens of guys through good times and bad. Where I grew a passion for ministry that led to studying religion, which led to ultimately coming out here and being a part of this ministry which led to me teaching here tonight.
What I told Rob was this. I said nothing good came from me moving to South Florida. But had I not moved there I would have likely never met Lauren. I would have likely never become a Young Life leader. I would have likely never watched those kids give their life to Jesus. And so no, I don’t believe in chance.
But I was telling this, Rob was defending his view that chance is just a thing. He stops me and says “Darcy Shepherd?” You know that other girl that ultimately had nothing to do with my story and yet for some reason every time I told the story I included her in it. Well Rob said…I know Darcy Shepherd? From Port Charlotte? And I said…yes?
To which skeptic Rob replied….okay that’s kind of weird.
Maybe…maybe God is in that place, and you, you are unaware of it.
May your eyes be opened to what Jacob saw. That God is in THIS place even when you may not know it.
May your eyes be opened to what Peter saw. The Jesus is your savior and he restores broken things.
Do you see yet?
Do you understand?
May you not see with blurry eyes.
But see God’s presence and provision clearer than ever.
Because who do the angels say Jesus is?
He’s God “in this place.”
He’s God with us.