Mark 8: 1-9
During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.’
His disciples answered, ‘But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?’
‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked.
‘Seven,’ they replied.
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterwards the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present.
SUMMARY OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE
Neil began our new summer sermon series looking at some of the miracles recorded in the Bible by inviting Mark Marx to share some stories from a recent visit to Sweden. As Mark recounted incredible stories of healing on the streets, we were reminded that our God is a God who does the miraculous and impossible everyday through ordinary people.
As we read through the accounts in the Gospels, we see many instances where people were just going about their daily routines when they encountered Jesus and experienced a miracle.
The truth is we all need to see a miracles in some area of our lives and we’ve all prayed and hoped for a miracle at some point. It could range from being as insignificant as praying for our sports team to win, right through to asking for God’s intervention in our exams, job, family or supernatural healing for ourselves, a friend or relative. We’ve all believed somewhere in our lives that the unexpected can triumph over what is expected and predicted.
However, when a miracle does show up, we can often be quick to dismiss it or try to explain it away. We want to avoid wishful thinking which only results in disappointment and disillusionment.
We like miracles as a concept but as a reality we're not so sure. Perhaps we've seen people claim they received a miracle when actually they haven't been healed. Or maybe we believe that God can and could do a miracle but just not through someone like me. Perhaps we have prayed with and for others and haven’t experienced the breakthrough we were crying out for. We have walked away discouraged, disappointed or even heartbroken. We may end up becoming so uncomfortable that we no longer bother praying for the miraculous or we lower the bar of our expectation.
In our western post-enlightenment culture, we like things we can explain rationally and scientifically. We don't like mystery. That's why we invent religion which enables us to package God into someone more manageable. You know that you've got religion when everything God does agrees with how you think. Religion and miracles simply don’t co-exist well.
Sometimes it's easier to have a faith which doesn't encompass miracles. That way we avoid false hope. However the Bible allows us no such option. It tells us very explicitly that to follow Jesus is to be part of a movement which encompasses the miraculous and prays expectantly for the impossible. Jesus himself is a miracle, after all. His whole life from his virgin birth to his resurrection from the grave was full of miracles. Therefore you can't believe in Jesus without believing in miracles. A life without miracles isn't a life of faith.
As Jesus’ followers, we are called to be more Christ-like. Often we limit that to character qualities such as love and compassion for other people. As incredibly important as these are, to be like Jesus is to fully expect and experience the supernatural power of God to be working in us and flowing through us. This is not wishful thinking, it’s Kingdom thinking.
Hope in the miraculous doesn't kill us - it fills us. Our days become pregnant with moments of possibility in the midst of, at times, great adversity.
The feeding of the 4000 is a different story from the other miraculous feeding of a crowd of 5000. This account took place in Decapolis or the region of ten cities. It was a mostly Gentile region and the crowd would have been regarded as pagans. This was not the sort of place a Jew wanted to be. It is the same region where, in Mark 5, Jesus and the disciples had been welcomed by a crazy, demon-possessed man. Jesus cast out ‘legion’ into a herd of pigs which rushed into a lake and were drowned. Subsequently Jesus was begged by the people to leave their region. However, we read this at the end of the account:
"As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed." (18-20)
This former demoniac remained behind as a visible and verbal witness to the supernatural power of Jesus. The impact of his deliverance is such that, when Jesus returns to the region here in chapter 8, thousands flock to hear and see him and don’t return home for days, even though they have no food.
These are not the most likely contenders for a miracle. In many people’s eyes they were detestable and their practices and lifestyle were deplorable. Yet Jesus did this miracle to meet their immediate physical need by multiplying a small amount of food into more than enough to feed 4000 people. If he did it there, he can also work his miraculous power among us.
The question is: ‘What kind of person do you want to be?’ Do you want to be someone who believes impossible is possible? If so, it comes with a health warning. Miracles can be messy. As well as divine intervention you may well experience deep disappointment. You shouldn’t allow that to stop you though. As Bill Johnson says: “We can’t lower the standard of scripture to our level of experience…or in most cases, inexperience.”
Jesus himself promised: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14: 12)
We must continue to contend and persist in praying until our experience conforms with the supernatural standards expressed as ‘normal’ in the Bible.
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