GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 17
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|When we face problems in our life, how can we learn to look beyond the temporal needs to see an eternal perspective?|
Looking at Temporal Problems through an Eternal Perspective
The title this morning is this: Looking at Temporal Problems through an Eternal Perspective. This morning we will consider a miracle. In fact, we’ll consider the only miracle that is found in all four Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John take the time to record this miracle, the feeding of the 5000. Mark chapter 6 verse 30. When you’re there, say word. Notice what it says:
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 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. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 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. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ 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?’ 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.’ Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 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. And they all ate and were satisfied [That’s the key there]. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.”
I want to show you how Jesus, through the feeding of the 5000, used a temporal situation to teach an eternal perspective. I’m going to do that in three ways. First of all, we’re going to look at Jesus resting in a desolate place. Secondly, we see Jesus recognizing a desperate people. And then thirdly, we see in the text Jesus reveals an eternal perspective and that’s the key.
But let’s go first of all, Jesus rests in a desolate place. Let me remind you of what happened last week. The disciples are still grieving the death of John the Baptist. You remember last week we talked about the killing of John the Baptist by Herod. His head was demanded by Herodius’ daughter. And so the disciples are still grieving that; and not only just the disciples, but Jesus is still grieving that. I mean, think about this. John the Baptist was not just a prophet. He was not just a friend. He was a family member. And Jesus is grieving in his humanity the death of John the Baptist.
But in addition to that, the disciples are disturbed. They’re beat down by the demands of ministry. Jesus has sent them out. He said, “I want you to go preach and I want you to go heal. I want you to cast out demons.” And the disciples, for the first time, experience how demanding ministry can be. Do you know that ministry can be demanding? And I’m not just talking about pastoral staff ministry. I’m talking about all the saints who are equipped for the work of ministry. How many people know it’s difficult sometimes to be in ministry? I see a few hands. It reminds me of a poem I heard: Mary had a little lamb, t’was given her to keep, but then it joined the local church, and died for lack of sleep. I mean that’s kind of how ministry is, right? I mean, you join the church here, we’re going to put you to work.
But Luke gives us an interesting caveat. He shows us the destination. We believe Jesus leaves the Galilee region of Capernaum and he travels over to Bethsaida. The travel by boat would have been about four miles. The travel by foot would have been about eight miles. Now, we don’t know how this happened, but what the text says is that the people were on the shore waiting for Jesus. We don’t know if the wind held up the boat or stalled the journey. We don’t know if the people ran really fast. Can you imagine hundreds and thousands of people running around the shore and Jesus seeing these people? And when he gets to the land, they’re there. I mean, the disciples were trying to take a break. I mean, if I was the disciples, I probably would have told these guys, “Listen, we’re tired. We’ve come here to relax. I don’t know if you realize this but business hours are Monday through Friday, 8 to 5. And we’re not open right now.” That’s what we would have probably said.
But I want you to notice what Jesus does. He sees, secondly, a desperate people, all the people on the shore. Jesus tells the disciples this isn’t a time to rest. This is a time to work, this is a time to minister. Look at verse 34: “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd [now the key word here is this], and he had compassion on them [can you imagine?] because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus does the opposite of what many of us would do. He realizes, yes, there’s a time to rest; but when the opportunity presents itself, we need to be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within us, right? We need to be ready to serve. We need to be ready to minister. We need to be ready to preach. And that’s what Jesus does. The key word here, the key question is, why is Jesus feeling this? Why does he do this? And that word there, compassion, is what I want to focus in on. He saw them as what? Sheep without a shepherd. You know, there’s no other animal in all the animal kingdom that wanders as much as sheep do, did you know that? I mean sheep, if they don’t have a guide, they will wander. If a sheep doesn’t have someone to protect them, the wild wolves will kill them. If the sheep don’t, if they don’t have someone to graze them, they will die for lack of food. They’re plain dumb animals. I mean, let’s be honest. And what’s interesting is Jesus and God equate us as believers, as Israelites, to sheep. And it shows us that if you and I do not have a shepherd leading us, we’re prone to what? Prone to wander. And that’s what Jesus sees.
But notice what he does. He does two things right away. Before he takes care of their physical need, notice what he does first. He addresses their spiritual need. Do you see it in the text? What is Jesus’ first response? Look at it in verse 34. He began to what? Teach them. Pretty amazing. Jesus realizes that they have a deeper issue here than their bellies. They have a deeper issue here than their healing. They have a spiritual need. Now the question is what did Jesus teach? Go to Luke 9. It’s the same account of this story. Luke 9:11. We will see what Jesus taught. “When the crowds learned [Jesus was there], they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of [what?] the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.”
What’s the message of the kingdom of God? Where’s it found in the book of Mark? You should know. Mark 1:14. You remember? “After John was put into prison, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God saying, ‘Your time has come. The kingdom of heaven is near.’” Or “Your time is fulfilled. The kingdom of heaven is near.” Here it is, “Repent and believe in the kingdom of God.” Right? Any questions? That’s the message. Repentance and belief is the message. It’s the same message. It’s the message he preached then. It’s the message he’s preaching here and it’s the message you and I need to be preaching today. What is the gospel? Repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But, Jesus, that’s good and well. We hear the words of God. But we still have a dilemma here, right? That’s what the disciples are saying. They heard the word of the Lord. Jesus probably preached into the wee hours of the late day, probably until about four or five o’clock. It was getting late. The disciples come to Jesus and say, “Master, I don’t know if you realize this, but we have a dilemma.” “What’s the dilemma?” “Taco Bell isn’t open late in Bethsaida,” right? “McDonald’s doesn’t have fast food at this hour. Jesus, if we don’t send these people home, we’re going to be in a world of trouble.” Now, I want you to understand this. Jesus could have sent the people home. But the question is, why does he leave them there? Why does he make the disciples bring them to himself instead of sending them away? Because Jesus realizes this is an incredible opportunity to teach a spiritual principle.
Look at Mark 6:35. Watch this: “And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ But [Jesus said to the disciples], ‘You give them something to eat.’” Write that. That’s the command. 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?’”
Friends, that word “you” in the language in the New Testament is an emphatic command. Wow. What a challenge here. Jesus is saying, “Don’t worry about sending them home. You feed them.” And they say, “Jesus, should we spend 200 denarii to feed these people?” I want to submit to you what Jesus is saying is this: He’s trying to teach these men—don’t miss this—that they are completely inadequate in their own power, right? That in their own strength, they are helpless and they are hopeless. Jesus wants to establish that before he goes into the miracle. He wants to establish that they are at a place of utter helplessness. That is, if Jesus doesn’t intervene, they’re lost.
John tells us what happened. John says that Andrew finds a little boy. He has a bag lunch that day. He has five barley loaves and two salted sardine-like fish. And they bring that to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus addresses the spiritual need but notice he addresses the physical need, too. Look at it. Verse 39: “Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties.” Write this down. He directs the people to sit in groups. It’s what he does first. Not only does he direct them to sit in groups, secondly, he offers a blessing to the Lord. “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.”
Jesus, church don’t miss this. Jesus never blessed the food, he blessed the giver of the food. Jewish people never would have blessed the food. You want to revolutionize your prayer time over meals? Stop blessing the food and start blessing God. “Blessed are you, O Lord God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” That’s what he would have said. And you can you hear it? Can you listen? 20,000 people in unison say, “Amen.” And then he distributes the food. He blesses the food, then he distributes and multiples the food. Look what it says: “he divided the two fish among them all.”
Jesus miraculously takes the bread, he breaks it. He miraculously takes the fish. Where does the miracle happen? It happens in his hands. Not only did Jesus feed sufficiently for people to eat, there were 12 baskets of crumbs left over. This wasn’t just to fulfill the appetite. This was an overabundance of food that Jesus gives out.
Now, this is the question, though. What is the point of this miracle? I want to submit to you this morning that Jesus Christ is not interested in the physical feeding only. Jesus is about to teach a spiritual principle and I want you to write it down. Notice this in the text. Jesus reveals an eternal perspective. Robby, where do we see this? We have to turn to John 6, which is the parallel passage of this account. Go to John 6. The feeding of the 5,000 is verses 1-15. Then we see, as we’ll see next week. Jesus sends the disciples in verse 16 in a boat ahead of him and Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray, possibly still grieving the death of John the Baptist, possibly taking a rest. If you can imagine feeding 20,000 people, as our disaster relief crew can tell you, is a lot of work, right?
Jesus goes up to the mountain and then he takes a shortcut through the water and decides not to take his own boat. Jesus walks on water, if you remember, gets into the boat. The disciples worship him and then they make their trek back to Capernaum. When he gets to Capernaum, guess who’s waiting for him on the shore? The people, right? I mean his popularity at this time is at an all-time high. So Jesus goes into one of the synagogues and begins to teach. Notice what Jesus teaches them in verse 26 of John chapter 6. Watch this: “truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not[here it is, underline this] labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
What Jesus is doing here is he’s connecting the physical world, the temporal, to the eternal. He goes on. Verse 32: “Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.’” What are you talking about, Jesus? Here it is: “‘For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said [underline it], ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”
When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” this is what he’s saying. He’s saying, “I am the bread which gives life.” He’s not just saying “I’m the bread of life.” He’s saying when you eat of me, and drink of my cup, as he said, I will give you life. He’s correcting two faulty understandings of him. First of all, he’s saying the miracle of the manna was not meant to bring you through to a product. It was meant to point you to a person. You see that? It’s not meant to be a product of consumption. It was about a person. And secondly, what he’s saying is like the manna fed you temporally, physically, the bread of life will feed you everlasting, for all of eternity. Do you see it?
The bread was not an option for the first century hearers. See, for you and I, we read about bread and we just think, “Ah, bread. I may eat it on a sandwich, I may not.” In fact, if you’re on sugar busters, you don’t eat bread nowadays, right? But not for the first century believers. Not for the first century Jews. They loved bread. They lived for bread. When you heard the word bread, it was sustenance for life. It was a necessity. It was not an option. And so when Jesus says, “I’m the bread of life,” what he’s saying is, “I am the sustenance for your life. I am the one that’s going to satisfy you. I am the one that’s going to be sufficient for you. Not temporal things, but eternity.” They would have been reminded of the manna from heaven that God gave to Moses and Jesus makes the connection, “I will fulfill you the same way.”
Now, you’re probably saying, “Robby, that’s pretty simple. We see that in the text.” The disciples get it. I mean, they had to get it, right? Wrong. They missed it. I mean, look at the disciples. John 6:12. “And when they had eaten their fill, he told the disciples [Listen, in case you guys missed it, I want to send you on a little object lesson here.], ‘Go take twelve baskets. Fill up the left over fragments that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.” All 15,000-20,000 people were full. And then there were left over 12 baskets full of fragments. Imagine the scene. Everybody grabs a basket. Peter’s got one. James has one. Bartholomew has one. They’re walking around. At what point do these guys realize something’s going on here? Wow. “Peter, your basket’s filled up. Wait a minute. My basket’s filled up. John! Your basket’s filled. Wait a minute! Andrew, your basket’s filled up! Even Judas’ basket is filled up!” Right? This must mean something here, right? I mean this is no coincidence here.
What is God trying to tell us? God’s showing us two things through this miracle. First of all, he’s show us this, that the 12 baskets had a connection to the 12 apostles, which ultimately have a connection to the 12 tribes of Israel, who will one day reign over all the world. We understand that. But the second thing he’s trying to show us is this: That God’s supply never runs dry. Do you see it? His well never runs out. His supply is never lacking. He not only fills, but he gives in abundance. You know, sometimes we’re baffled by the disciples. You know, we have to ask ourselves the question: why do these guys miss it sometimes, right? I mean, how could they miss it? Jesus has been trying to teach this. I mean, when you’re hearing about this story, think about it, he leads them by the water, right? He brings them into green pastures. He causes them to sit down. They’re like sheep without a shepherd. Turn to Psalm 23. You had to catch it. The hidden gem in the feeding of the 5,000. Look at verse 2: “He makes me [what?] lie down in green pastures.” What are they doing? They’re sitting and lying down waiting to be fed. “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” He preached to them. But notice verse 1: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
That’s what he’s teaching them. Is that amazing? Jesus takes a real life illustration and leads the people through it to give an eternal perspective, living out Psalm 23. Those people in the feeding of the 5,000 lived out Psalm 23 for Jesus to prove a point. You shouldn’t look at only the temporal. You and I need to begin to look at the eternal. He’s been doing this all along. In fact, he’s been doing this since the beginning of Mark.
Remember in Mark 2 when they bring the paralytic man to him, the four friends when they bring the man who’s a paralytic with the four friends? Jesus says, “Which is it easier to do? To say to this man, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk?’ or to say ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ To prove to you that I can forgive sins, I will heal the man.” What is he saying there? Don’t look at the temporal healing. Look at the eternal possibilities of forgiveness of sins for your soul. When John the Baptist died, the disciples had to be saying, “What is going on here? The greatest prophet is dead.” Jesus says, “Don’t look at the temporal. John has died, yes—get this—but John must decrease so that what? I must increase. And don’t miss this. I’m going to die. And I must increase so that you will increase. And listen. Don’t miss this. You’re going to die. But when you die the mission of God will go on. Don’t look at the temporal. Look at the eternal.”
This disciples land on the shore. They’re hungry. Their temporal situation is bothering them. And then all of a sudden they see thousands. A ministry opportunity opens up. They stop focusing on their temporal problem and they see through an eternal perspective. Jesus gives them food. He gives them bread. They feed the people. They’re looking at the temporal feeding. But Jesus says—don’t miss this—the bread is not for the stomach. The bread signifies the bread of life for the soul.
Jesus has been trying to teach us this since the beginning of his ministry. But God has been teaching us this since the beginning of time. I mean, friends, that’s what God is trying to show us. Remember in Exodus when God says to Moses, “You shall not live by [what?] bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Basically what he’s saying is this: Yes, bread is sustenance, but the bread or the food that you live on will not sustain you. When Jesus Christ comes into the world, the first temptation when he starts his ministry, the first temptation by the enemy is what? Turn these stones into what? Bread. There it is again. When Jesus takes the disciples to the side of the mountain, he feeds the 5,000 by giving them what? Bread. When he takes the 4,000 and he does it again, he feeds the 4,000 with bread. At the last supper, he takes the wine and the bread and what does he say? “This is my body. Do this in remembrance of me.”
But God was trying to show this even through the birth of Christ. Jesus, by no accident, was born in the town of what? Bethlehem. Bethlehem, in the language of the Old Testament, is two words. Did you know this? It’s not Bethlehem. It’s actually Bayt Lehem. Bayt Lehem is the two words house (bayt; like bayt adonai, the house of the Lord). Lehem is the word for what? Bread. Jesus was born in the town or the house of bread. In essence, Jesus was born in a bread factory. And that’s why he says when he stands up before the people, “Don’t pursue the bread of this world. Pursue me. I’m the bread of life.” Or, in essence, I give life.
So let me ask you. Why are you pursuing bread in this world only and not the bread of life? Why are you trying to fulfill things in this world to give you satisfaction? It’s easy for us as Christians to get caught up in the temporal, right? It’s easy for us to get caught up in the here and now. It’s easy for us to focus on ourselves. I think that’s why Jesus does the same thing with the woman at the well. Remember what he tells the woman? He says, “If you knew the kind of water I could give, you would be asking me for a drink.” He’s saying that water will run dry. He’s telling the disciples that bread will perish one day. Stop seeking the temporal. Stop searching for things that will fade away and start living with an eternal perspective.
Now, don’t miss this. I’m not saying you neglect one for the other. I’m not saying stop focusing on the temporal for the eternal. It’s a both/and. I’ll give you an example. If you, as a parent, only raise your kids and take care of their physical needs only as a Christian parent, you’ve failed. You send them to the best schools, give them the best education, given them the nicest car. But if you haven’t trained them in a biblical worldview and taught them how to look through an eternal perspective to be discipled and to disciple other people, as a parent you have failed as a Christian parent.
For example, let’s say you have kids and you send them to high school, a good high school. What next? Then you send them to the best college in the country. And then what next? Then they get out of college and get married. And then what next? And then they buy a house. And then what next? And then you buy a car? And then what next? And then they have kids. And then what next? And their kids go to high school. And then what next? And then their kids go to college. And what next? And then they, parents, wind up in a nursing home. And then what next? And then they wind up in a hospital on their death bed. And then what next? And then you stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and then what next?
See, friends, it’s important to us to take care of the temporal but to look at the temporal through the lens of eternity. We’ve got to visualize and see everything through the gospel: How does this turn out for God’s greater good? How do I redeem what I’m doing? How do I use my job for God’s glory? How do I use my situation for God’s glory? How do I use these problems that I’m in for God’s glory? How do I use my resources for God’s glory realizing that what we have temporally is used for God’s glory? What’s a perfect example of this, of people who did not focus only on the temporal, but they looked at eternity.
Go to Hebrews 11. Hebrews 11 is probably one of the greatest examples of men and women who looked at eternity and not focusing on the temporal. Now, one of the things about Hebrews 11 is it’s divided in two sections. The first section is a group of believers by name that we know who were faithful to the Lord and were blessed by God, right? The favor of the Lord was upon them. God blessed many of them. We know them by name. But then in verse 13, we see kind of a shift: “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
Basically what that means is this: they didn’t realize that this world was all that there was. They lived with an eternal perspective. Then we get to verse 32. Here’s the major shift. One of the things about verse 32 is this: we don’t know the names of many of these people. They’re characterized by names like these, others, and they. And although we don’t know their names, the Lord Jesus does. Look at verse 32: “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.”
And then we get to, here it is, others. That’s the key. “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
Friends, what these people did is they didn’t live only for today. They lived for tomorrow. Don’t you guys get it, Peter? The food was not for your stomach. It was for your soul. John, don’t you get it? The manna is not for the here and now. It’s for eternity. Don’t you get it? But guess what? We’re going to get it this morning because what we’re going to do is purpose in our heart today as believers here that we’re going to stop looking at the here and now. We’re going to start looking through an eternal perspective. We’re going to redeem our job. We’re going to redeem our family. We’re going to take care of our family and our kids and our job and our workplace and our homes. But we’re going to look at it through the lens of the gospel for an eternal reward, for an eternal destination realizing that the Lord Jesus Christ is the life-giving sustainer of life and we’re going to put our fulfillment in Jesus, right? We not going to be fulfilled by things in the world only.
So in order for you and I to do that, we probably have to make some changes, right? I want you to examine your life this morning. I want you to ask yourself the question, “Am I living only for the temporal?”