Good morning church. For our church it’s been marvelous to study the gospel of Mark. It’s been a joy seeing so many different attributes of Jesus. Every week we discover something new and today’s passage is quite a familiar one: it’s Jesus feeding the 5 thousand. Most of us have probably heard this from childhood.
This was probably one of my favorite stories growing up because it involved my two favorites: Jesus and food! And there was plenty of food. As I was studying this passage, God opened my eyes to see some deep rich truths that I want to share with you today.
 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[f] 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.  And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.  And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
If I were to ask you “What motivates you to follow someone?”, what would your answer be? Some may say it’s the person’s charisma: how he looks, how he talks and what he wears but we all know that can only take us so far. That charisma will end someday or another person who is even more charismatic will get our attention. It keeps changing. Someone else might say “it’s the person’s skills and achievements that makes you follow him/her”. But we still know that if the person no matter how skilled he/she maybe if they live a selfish and wicked life, that wouldn’t be someone we would want to follow or emulate.
I believe more than the charisma of the person or the skills of the person, it’s “trust” that truly motivates us to follow someone. Is the person really looking out for us? How much do we know the person? All that plays into deciding to follow someone. In today’s passage Mark is giving us 3 rock-solid reasons why we can confidently follow Jesus. Not 10% or 50% but 100% wholeheartedly follow Jesus Christ.
1. We can confidently follow Christ because He is our Rest
 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.
Jesus’ disciples just got back from their 1st missionary journey. They went out 2 by 2 fully dependent on God – they didn’t carry any bags, no extra food, no money and not even an extra coat. They went around preaching repentance, casting out many demons and anointing the sick with oil to heal them. They saw how God used them to perform great miracles as they boldly shared the gospel! They came back excited to share what all happened, but they were also weary after being on the field for several days or weeks.
There was no respite once they got back. People still flocked around them to have some need met. They didn’t even have the time or space to eat food. That’s how tiring ministry got for them. What does Jesus do? He knows that they’re physically and mentally and spiritually exhausted, so he asks his disciples to go away from the crowd to a desolate place to rest.
Jesus is deeply concerned about His people’s rest. If we look back at the OT we see God resting on the seventh day after creating the universe and everything in it. One of the 10 commandments is to observe the Sabbath unto the Lord. That day is to be kept holy unto the Lord. So, we understand that rest is something that God is concerned about. Physically when we rest from work, it allows us to recuperate and rejuvenate us to get back and work with the right capacities.
Spiritually when we rest from work we affirm that we worship God alone and not make a god out of work. John Calvin once said that “man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols”. We can make new idols every single day. We can make idols out of good things that God has made like “work”. Rest is commanded not just so that we can switch off and switch on again. It’s so that our worship for God is preserved, our affections for God is ignited and our purposes for work is renewed for the glory of God. It for our good!
We live in a culture and a time where “work” and “over-working” are gods. After it begins affecting their relationships and health is when the world realizes how this idol promised so much but delivers very little. How should believers respond? We learn how to rest. At night when we sleep for 8 hours, we humbly accept that we are weak and weary and need rest to recover.
We wake up each morning “resting in God” through the Word. What if we all realized that spending time with God in prayer and Word wasn’t a burden but in fact rest as God intended it. How amazing would that be? Once a week, we determine a day that is our Sabbath – holy unto the Lord. But what do we do during a Sabbath? The inference from these verses is that it involves doing something that you’re not accustomed to doing during other days of the week. It can be taking a nap, going out with your family, going for a stroll in the park, finding ways to serve your community. Also, it should be centered around the gospel – that’s how it’ll be made holy- have an extended time of prayer and the Word, meet & encourage other believers – great opportunity to do that if you are not able to do it on other days during the week.
We as the church of God have been given a new meaning to rest and relaxation that’s different from the world. The world sees partying, splurging and indulgence as relaxation. We as believers can see and appreciate rest in its God given place! We as believers understand that rest cannot be found apart from God. If our hope and energies are fixed on anything else, we will be totally rest-less. Only in Jesus can we truly find rest. Matt 11:28: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
2. We can confidently follow Christ because He is our Shepherd
 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.
It’s interesting that Jesus and disciples headed toward this desolate place to find some rest and then they are met with a great crowd. Jesus doesn’t send them off by telling “Actually me and my boys are having a short vacation, so if you could allow us to be by ourselves that’ll be great”. V34 says when Jesus saw the crowd he had “compassion on them”. The word in the original language means “moved with pity and sympathy”. Jesus had pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
It’s the idea of how sheep without their shepherd are clueless, helpless and lost. Where else do we Jesus use the phrase of shepherd and sheep? Yes, the parable of the lost sheep: God leaves the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one who is lost.
Then in John 10, Jesus says He is the good shepherd. The shepherd is not like the robber who comes to steal, kill and destroy. Neither is he like the hired hand who abandons the sheep when a wolf comes to attack. Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep! That’s the love and compassion of Jesus. He didn’t just come to the earth to teach us good things about life. The Bible is Isaiah say “We like sheep have all gone astray. We’ve each gone our way”. We have all denied God by our actions, our words and our thoughts.
We have intentionally left God and rebelled against him. We deserve the eternal wrath and separation from God because of our sins and yet Jesus didn’t leave us to die but instead died in our place to protect us from the deadly sting of sin, Satan and death.
Therefore, when Jesus refers to people as sheep he’s implying their helplessness, their lostness and the grave danger that they face. And he steps in as the Great Chief Shepherd to lead, rescue and protect his sheep.
Where in your life today do you need your Shepherd? Are you feeling lost, helpless and insecure? Jesus looks beyond the facade and sees the deep need that you have. He sees beyond your smiles, beyond your tough exterior and sees your deeply hurt and broken soul that needs repair. Maybe today you’re thinking “I’m the worst one, I don’t deserve to be with the sheep, I’m lost and way beyond rescue.” Let me assure you by the Word of God that Jesus is looking for you. He leaves the ninety-nine to look for you specifically. Not only does Jesus look for you and rescue you, he leads you like a good Shepherd so that you can follow Him confidently.
Check out these words from Jesus:  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
3. We can confidently follow Christ because He is our Provider
 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.
This was certainly an astonishing miracle! Just think about this: there were probably over 10,000 people there including women and children. They were all stuck in a desolate place and it was quite late. The disciples understood the challenge – they knew it would probably take them 6 months of wages to be able to buy food for such a large crowd. And Jesus takes the 5 loaves and 2 fish and multiplies them to feed probably 10,000 people and guess what….they have 12 baskets of leftovers that are collected in the end.
What was the point of this miracle? We know that Jesus wasn’t trying to gain popularity. We know that he wasn’t trying to entertain. Jesus performed this miracle to reveal His glory as the Son of God.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 long years. How did they survive for so long? Because God provided them with manna miraculously for 40 years. They didn’t have to work for it, but God graciously provided for His people. Similarly, Jesus Christ performs this amazing miracle to show how He is the true Son of God who provides for His people in a desolate place. He meets them at their physical need to point them to His divine nature as their Provider.
One of the ways by which I can show my love and concern for my wife is by providing for her. It’s what I promised on our wedding day. When I said to my wife “With this ring I wed thee” I implied that I take the responsibility for providing for her physical needs, leading her spiritually and being with her emotionally. As husbands we are just trying to imitate the attitude of Christ who provides for his people.
I think one of the encouragements I got from this passage is to realize that this is the same Jesus who fed the Israelites in the desert. He is the same one who fed the 10,000. He is the same who provided for my every need from the time I was born. He’s faithful every time. What does that mean for us as believers?
a) Acknowledge His care and provision by thanksgiving
When we say grace before our meals, we do that because we remember and realize His love and care towards us to provide us with food every day.
b) Whole-heartedly submit to Jesus
There’s no other response than to fully submit and love the One who faithfully provides for our every need. You can trust in His instructions and commands for you because of His loving care.
Returning back to the first question I asked. Why should you follow Jesus? What motivates you to follow Jesus? Can you confidently follow Him? Yes, you absolutely can. Because He cares enough to give rest to our weary souls, He cares enough to be our Shepherd even though we once deserted Him, and He cares enough to provide for our every need – physical, spiritual, emotional and mental needs. What more reason do we need to follow Him?