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"You Feed Them"

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on July 22, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Mark 6:37

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Lord, today we share a simple story of how You can use our small gifts to do great things. Bless these words so they may accomplish that which You intend in the souls and hearts of sinners. This we pray in the Savior's Name. Amen.

If I were to ask all of The Lutheran Hour listeners today, do you have bad days and good days? Most would say, "Yes." If I asked you to describe what constituted your good and bad days, well, the answers would be all over the place. Those with health problems would say a good day is when the pain has subsided, even just a bit. Those with money problems might allow that a good day is when the mailman brings no bills. A good day for someone who is in love might mean they received a phone call, or a letter, a text, or a visit from the person they most care about.

Although the Scripture doesn't usually follow Jesus' daily schedule, there is no doubt that He definitely had times which were good, and times which left a lot to be desired. Now let me explain that in a bit more detail. In the fourth chapter of Mark, the chapter we are going to look at today, Jesus did an impressive miracle: the only miracle recorded by all four evangelists. But in the days and weeks before this chapter, He had been pretty busy-busy with good days and bad days. For example, the Savior had raised a girl from the dead and gave her back to her appreciative parents. That was a good day. Not so long afterward, He went back to His hometown of Nazareth. Actually, Jesus went back home twice. Those should have been great days-grand occasions with parades and bands and speeches and fireworks and the mayor offering Him the key to the city. That's what should have happened, but none of it did. What did happen is this: all of Jesus' old friends and companions absolutely refused to believe on Him. They refused to think of Him as being anything more than the son of Joseph, the local carpenter. When Jesus claimed to be the long-expected Messiah, the people of Nazareth went ballistic and tried to murder Him. It goes without saying an attempted assassination by your childhood playmates is not the stuff of a good day.

Soon after His visit to Nazareth, Jesus sent out His disciples to visit the numerous towns and cities of Galilee. Their job was to call people to repentance and point them to Jesus, the Savior from sin. All in all, the experience was a pretty good one for the men who went out. Sadly, the good feelings generated from those mission expeditions were overcast when King Herod beheaded Jesus' cousin and official forerunner, John the Baptist. The days don't get much worse than that.

John's beheading came at a time when the Savior was enjoying a great surge of popularity. No one should be surprised at that. Think of how popular a politician might be if he could turn water into wine, heal the sick, and raise up the dead. He would be unstoppable. When the pompous Pharisees picked a verbal battle with the Savior, He usually knocked them down a peg or two. Jesus' words were beautiful, and His message was easy to understand. Even today it must be admitted He taught as no other man has ever taught. Using simple stories, He spoke of a pearl of great price, a prodigal son, a small seed, and when He was done never again could His listeners see the oyster's jewel, a wandering child, a great tree, and not think of God's great love and gracious sacrifice. Jesus set aside human wisdom and old traditions to teach those who would follow Him of a new way of life, a better, a more complete, way to live. "Love your enemy," Jesus said. "Do good to those who persecute you," He said. And although, from any other man, these words would remain just words, in Jesus they became salvation's story.

You can see why Jesus was, at least for a while, incredibly popular. He was so well-liked that, when He tried to get away for prayer and some private time with His disciples, the people followed Him. Now, the concept of a retreat was sound. Jesus would take a boat and His sea-faring disciples would ferry Him to a different location. The execution of the plan left something to be desired. As Jesus' boat never disappeared over the horizon, the folks on shore were able to plot His destination. That's why, when Jesus landed, the crowd was there waiting for Him, demanding He continue His message centering on the Lord who graciously calls sinners to repentance and forgiveness.

Now if you are not a public speaker, you may have a hard time believing me when I say an eager, expectant crowd which shows a willingness to hang onto every word coming out of your mouth is a rare thing, and it makes for a very good day. It also makes for a rare day. I can remember many Sunday mornings when I thought I was preaching on all eight cylinders. Sadly, when I looked out upon my people I saw a pretty disinterested congregation. Five people were sleeping and one, the fellow who was snoring, kept getting nudged in the ribs by his wife. The children in the back of the church were making paper airplanes. Now, that would be bad enough, but it was hard to take when the mothers were the ones flying them.

It was not that way for Jesus. His day had become a very good one. Jesus healed many who were sick, and He spoke to any and all who would listen. The Bible says there were 5,000 men there. That means the Lord's crowd could easily have exceeded 10- or 12-thousand souls. The people were having a great time; Jesus was having a great time; the only people who weren't having a great time were Jesus' disciples. If they had had a clock back then, the disciples would have been watching it. Even without a clock, they could tell the hour was growing late.

You see, since the crowd's following of Jesus had been spontaneous, none of them had thought about bringing any food. Maybe even worse, the disciples figured out that if Jesus didn't wind down pretty soon, these folks would be stumbling their way home in the dark. To head off a first-class public-relations disaster, the disciples approached Jesus. Although Scripture doesn't tell us exactly what was said, you can almost see them, surrounding Jesus with what would have looked like a modern-day football huddle.

No doubt a spokesman would have addressed Jesus with words sounding something like "Lord, this has been a great day, an incredible day. We, like everybody else here, have savored everything You've said. But, as You can see, the shadows are lengthening, and the day is winding down. We've talked about it, and although we wish the day could last forever, it won't. Which is why we suggest You do something about the crowd. They need to eat; they need a way to get home or find lodging. We wouldn't dare to presume and tell You what to do. You're the Teacher here. Still, we wish You'd send them away so they can get something to eat."

And Jesus, with hardly a moment's hesitation, says, "Good idea, boys! Go ahead, you feed them." If you had been there, you would have seen panic in the faces of the disciples. They might not have said it, but they sure all thought, What? What did You say? That's not what we meant? Maybe some of the disciples remembered the amount of work their mothers or wives put in for family festivals. It took days, weeks of planning, purchasing, cooking. And that was just for a few extra people who were coming as guests. Maybe some of them even imagined showing up at their house and saying, "Honey, I brought home a few extra mouths for supper, okay?"

And the wife would cheerfully reply, "No problem, I can make supper stretch. How many folks are coming?"

And your answer would be, "Well, it's hard to say. I know there's at least 5,000 outside waiting to be fed. Do you think that will be a problem?"

The disciples are in a panic. Andrew starts to canvas the crowd. "Anybody have any food? Anybody have anything, anything at all?" Understand he's asking if anyone, or any group, has enough food to feed more than 5,000 people. Some of the other disciples do some quick calculations: "Let's see, it would take about 200 denarii, about eight-months wages for a working man, to feed this gaggle of Galileans. Then they look at each other. "You got 200 denarii? How about you?" Nope, none of them had that much.

Which doesn't even begin to answer the question: if one of them had been holding out on the others and had managed to salt away that kind of cash in his super-secret stash, where are they going to buy that amount of food on short notice. Remember, there are no fast-food joints; there are no mega-big supermarkets. Jesus' order, "You feed them," is getting further and further from the realm of reality.

And suppose they had the money, and suppose they found the food. Just how were they going to get it from the supply to the demanding crowd? They needed wagons, lots of big wagons, and they needed them now. It was just then, when it looked like things couldn't get much worse, Andrew shows up. He brings with him a lad who is willing to share his pita-type bread and his fish with a crowd of 5,000. No doubt they all appreciated the boy's generosity, but Andrew speaks for them all when he says, "But what are these among so many?"

And it is with that question that I am going to stop. I'm stopping because the disciples are going the wrong direction. They've been going the wrong direction since Jesus first gave His order: "Boys, you feed the multitude." Now, you should know that the Savior knew from the very beginning what He was going to do. He knew that He would end up telling the disciples to have everybody sit down on the grass in groups of 50 and 100. He knew that He would say a prayer of blessing and distribute the bread and fish. He knew that people would be shocked and utterly amazed at how, no matter how much they took, there was always more food available. Not since the Lord had sent manna and quail to their ancestors in the wilderness had they seen such heaven-sent bounty. Jesus even knew that, at the end of the meal, when everyone had eaten their fill, 12 basketsful of surplus would be collected. Yes, Jesus knew it, but the disciples didn't.

Which is amazing? These disciples had seen Jesus heal and make whole people who had been disfigured by leprosy; they had been there as Jesus forgave the sins of a crippled man, and then to prove His authority to the skeptics, had healed the palsied man, so he could stand straight and carry his stretcher home. They had been present when He restored sight to the blind, and watched wind and wave obey His command when they thought their boat would be sunk by a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Even death had been defeated when Jesus told a little girl to awaken. Again and again, Jesus had proven His divinity by reversing, rewriting, reinventing the laws which govern this world. Miracle after miracle had shown that He was everything the Old Testament prophets had said the Redeemer would be.

But, somehow all of the things-the miraculous, wonderful things-Jesus had done in their days together were forgotten that day when the disciples were facing thousands of hungry Galileans. All the lessons about their dependence on the Lord and His gracious care of them had been erased from their memories. That's why, when Jesus said, "Boys, you feed them," they acted as if they had to do the job all by themselves. They acted as if they were all on their own when they did their calculations on how much it would take to feed everybody.

They acted on their own when they searched the crowd for assistance and ended up with a lad who was willing to share his bread and fish with the multitude. Finally, it was acting on their own which had them, disheartened and discouraged, ask, "What are these few crumbs when they have to be divided up among so many?" May I tell you the answer to that question was not as obvious as the disciples thought. That's because the answer to that question is completely dependent on who is doing the answering.

If the disciples, and the disciples alone, are expected to provide the meal for thousands, they are going to fail, and the people will go home hungry. Not even the emperor, with all the resources of Rome at his fingers tips, could have fed that crowd without some kind of advanced notice. On the other hand, if Jesus is answering the question, the results are going to be different, very different indeed.

That day would have been a lot better if, when Jesus had said, "Boys, feed them yourselves, they should have said, "No problem, Lord." Next, they should have gone into the crowd, not to beg for some crumbs, but to announce, "Today the Lord Jesus is going to feed you." Then, as long as they were with the people, the disciples should have divided the multitude into 50s and 100s to make serving easier. Then, after they had done all they could, they should have gone to the Savior and respectfully declared, "Lord, the people are seated and ready. Here are the boy's loaves and fishes. By the power which only the Triune God possesses, we place the feeding of these people into Your charge." And the people would have been fed.

If that had happened, the disciples and the crowd would have learned the Lord can take man's inabilities and inadequacies and use them to accomplish His purpose. Consider how the Heavenly Father used the faithlessness of Jesus' disciple Judas to have the Savior arrested and brought to trial. Look at the hatred of the Jewish Supreme Court who compromised justice so Jesus could be railroaded to the cross. Remember Pontius Pilate who ignored the law and had Jesus crucified so his hide might be saved. Each of these had a weakness, a fatal flaw, but the Lord used them to bring to fruition His plan to save humanity from hellfire. The worst of human qualities were used so God could show His grace, fulfill His promise of redemption, and allow His Son to die, so we might be ransomed from sin, death, and devil. Even the guard which was set to watch Jesus' tomb, the guard designed to keep His body safe from thieves, has been used by our Lord to prove Jesus third-day resurrection from the dead was real and not imaginary.

Now if the Lord can do such wondrous things with those who are ill-intentioned, think what He can do with those who have been claimed, called, and directed by the Holy Spirit. Why, my friends, the sky is the limit! Right now, all around us, there are jobs the Lord has entrusted to us as individuals, as families, as congregations. Make no mistake, these are big jobs, frightening jobs, impossible jobs if we are left to complete them on our own. But these jobs are cut down to size when we offer our loaves and fishes and say, "Lord, we don't know what or how You're going to complete this work, but we're on board ready to do what we can."

So, let me finish this way. Right now, listening to my voice are many people who don't know Jesus as Savior. Trying to reach them from The Lutheran Hour studio seems an impossible task. It is an impossible task, if the job of touching lost souls is ours alone. But it isn't ours alone. These words are our loaves and fish, a humble offering the Lord is using to speak to you. If the Holy Spirit has succeeded in doing that, then I extend this invitation: if you wish to know more about Jesus, please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.

Reflections for July 22, 2018


Mark Eischer: You are listening to The Lutheran Hour, and we just heard a message from Pastor Ken Klaus. Dr. Dale Meyer joins me now here in the studio. We were hearing about the feeding of the 5,000. What was it that struck you or stood out for you in that message?

Dale Meyer: Mark, good to be with you and our listeners again. I was especially struck when Pastor Klaus mentioned forgetting.

Mark Eischer: Okay.

Dale Meyer: Here's what he said, "But somehow all of the things-the miraculous, wonderful things-Jesus had done in their days together were forgotten that day when the disciples were facing thousands of hungry Galileans." That's me. We live so much in the here and now that we forget, I forget, all the things God has done for me in the past. We're just like children. We forget our memory work.

Mark Eischer: What sort of things cause you to forget?

Dale Meyer: It can be a relationship problem, a work problem, being out of work, a diagnosis of disease. These are serious issues to be sure, but Jesus tells us, "Your Heavenly Father knows." There are, I think, things we can do in our tough times, but we should not act as if God doesn't exist.

Mark Eischer: And you devoted an entire sermon to that idea. You called it "Functional Atheism," and our listeners can find that sermon at our website Look for the message from May 20th. But, how can we work then on remembering instead of forgetting all that God has done for us?

Dale Meyer: Two things occur to me: the first is, use the good days to learn more about God in the Bible. Prepare yourself for when the tough times come. Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them.'" The second thing is to put ourselves in the Bible story. I think today we often read the Bible and say, "How does this fit into my story? What does this do for me?" No, no, no. Do it the other way around. Put yourself in that Bible story. Imagine yourself in the story, because the truth of the matter is we are in the Bible story. God's not putting Himself into our little story. That's idolatry.

Mark Eischer: But when we're deep in our own problems, are we really going to stop and think about that?

Dale Meyer: Some do, others don't. It's in our bad days that all these teachings about God and Jesus become very personal. I think it calls on us to exercise the discipline of retreating. The 5,000 were fed as Jesus and His disciples were seeking to get away from the crowds and retreat, to be with each other and the Heavenly Father. We need a discipline of retreat. In bad times we turn in on ourselves, feel sorry for ourselves, and easily turn to despair. Woe is me. I'm all alone. So, it's in the good times that we should also retreat to be alone. We should be practiced in loneliness with ourselves and with God. Voluntary retreats like that, and I suggest every day, prepare us for the times when circumstances will, indeed, make us feel alone.

Mark Eischer: And what would happen then?

Dale Meyer: You know, it's garbage in, garbage out. Every time that I retreat, whether it be in morning devotion, thoughts at the end of the day, or more extended retreat, the first thing that floods my head is all the garbage that might be going on in my life. Eventually, I get to a point where I say, "Wait a minute, Dale. Wait a minute, Dale. Just get that stuff out of your system and see what God has to say." Garbage in, garbage out, and then God's peace and assurance of His presence comes in.

Mark Eischer: Dr. Meyer, for our listener, what's the bottom line?

Dale Meyer: I think the bottom line is remembering that in our bad times we trust God's promises. 2 Corinthians 5:7, "We walk by faith, not by sight". The sights around us are not God's truth, be they good sights or bad sights. They are occasions to turn to God's truth, His love for each and every one of us, in Jesus.

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Life-Giving Bread" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.

"The Church's One Foundation" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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