Mark 6:30-44 – Real Ministry
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him ALL that they had done and taught. 31 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. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
33 Now many SAW THEM going and recognized them, and they RAN there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 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.
35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 SEND THEM AWAY to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 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?” 38 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.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties.
41 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. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
Christians are called ---- to serve others. And today’s passage shows us what that means.
The story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 reminds us of the sufficiency of Christ in the face of overwhelming need. But that isn’t the ONLY message here. The ultimate takeaway for ME is - - I get a chance to see what REAL ministry looks like.
The disciples had just returned from their first ministry assignment. If you read the verses prior to these, you will find Jesus commissioning the twelve to take the gospel into the community. This was their FIRST opportunity to perform ministry without our Lord being physically present.
Not only did He commission them to preach, He gave them ability to perform miracles. This power would authenticate their message - proving that God was in it. For the first time in their lives, ordinary men could do extraordinary things. And in verse 30, they came back to Jesus with glowing testimonials of ALL the miracles they had accomplished.
But as successful as they were - they still had MUCH to learn about ministry. So what happens next will teach them what real ministry looks like.
Which made me think of our church. Some of you are being impressed by the Lord to serve in various capacities. Some of you have a hunger to see God do great things at our church and really want us to reach people. BUT before we can truly serve others, there are three lessons we must learn:
1. First, this story teaches us of the Power of Real Ministry in vv. 30-32… Where does the power to SERVE come from??? Look at verse 30...
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him ALL that they had done and taught. 31 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. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.”
I’m sure it blessed the Lord to hear their excitement as they recounted all the things they had seen and accomplished. But if you look closely, you will see something even MORE important than RESULTS: the Lord drew his disciples away from the crowds to a more private setting.
WHY??? Why was it so important that the disciples get alone with Jesus? I can think of three reasons:
First, because they needed rest – ministry is physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding. You've GOT to be at your very BEST when you serve. You can’t serve the Lord half-heartedly.
They had spent themselves in ministry… and they needed rest. Because the Lord knew that the devil will often use fatigue to discourage God’s servants.
We need rest too. Too often, we take the calling to serve to mean that we are to sacrifice our health and our families. But God is not in the business of destroying YOU in order to help others. He knows your needs. He knows that many people have failed in ministry because of fatigue.
What good is our “service” to others if the life of the one DOING ministry is a wreck? So Jesus pulled the disciples away in order to recharge their batteries.
An important reminder - because some of you may be in danger of cutting your effectiveness short because you think God would have you neglect your family and your health to serve people. The old adage, “I’d rather burn out than rust out” MIGHT sound spiritual, but if carried to its logical conclusion will destroy you.
One thing you have to learn when you serve is HOW TO PRIORITIZE and WHEN TO SAY 'NO.' We cannot be people of excellence if we have too many irons in the fire.
Second, I think Jesus called His disciples away so that they would not derive their significance from their success. Success can ruin a man faster than defeat. Because it makes us proud. It makes us think WE are the ones responsible for all the good that has been accomplished. The disciples needed a break from what they were doing so that they would remember that it is only through the Lord that we can do ANYTHING.
And, Third, I think Jesus called His disciples away so that they would see the true value of spending time with the Lord. Your ABILITY comes from HIM. Your STABILITY comes from HIM too. Without the Lord, we are nothing. We need that intimate connection with Jesus - IF - our acts of ministry are going to mean anything. Regardless your talent level – if you neglect your time with the Lord, it won’t be long before you run out of gas.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking - being BUSY for Him - is the same as - being WITH Him. You cannot be the servant God would have you be without the Power of Ministry - and that Power only comes from our walk with Jesus.
2. But not only does He teach us about the POWER of ministry, secondly He shows us the Perspectives of ministry. There are two perspectives of ministry in this text.
The Lord’s perspective – which is one of compassion. He saw that crowd as a BLESSING. The disciples perspective – which is one of convenience. They saw the crowd as a BURDEN.
You can see our Lord’s perspective in the fact that when He saw the crowd, “He was MOVED with compassion.” Real compassion ALWAYS moves. It is not enough to simply identify the need – compassion moves us to MEET that need.
He was compassionate because of their condition: Jesus saw them as “sheep without a shepherd.” This is significant for three reasons:
Sheep with no shepherd have no direction. They wander through life with no meaning or purpose – they search for fulfillment in all the wrong places, only deepening their misery.
If we are ever going to make a difference in the lives of people, we’ve got to SEE them as they really are. Their lives are in ruin, not because they are bad people - but because they don’t have Jesus. Instead of finding fault, we need compassion – to see beyond the rough exterior to a heart in need of the Lord.
Second, sheep with no shepherd have no Diet. All those people were starving – not simply for food – but for a relationship with God. They had tried to fill their appetite with the things of this world, but that gnawing hunger could not be satisfied without a personal relationship with the Lord.
We need to see people that way. It’s too easy to get turned off by the awful things people do. We need to understand that they ARE what they ARE because they have been feeding at the wrong trough. Inside every heart is a need for God - a desire for more than this life can offer. And people try to FILL that hole with everything from success to sex. But only the Lord can fill it.
And third, sheep with no shepherd have no defense. The shepherd always watched over his flock… always had his eyes on those sheep prone to wander from the safety of the fold and on those predators lying in wait for them. Even David, as a shepherd, had to fight off a lion and a bear that meant to harm his flock.
That’s our Lord’s perspective here – how He longs to protect us …how He cares enough about our condition that He never stops watching over us. How many times would WE have fallen, had it not been for our Shepherd?
That’s why we need to view people with compassion. They won’t be helped by our criticism – they won’t change from our judgment. We must LOVE those who need the Lord. - - That’s our Lord’s perspective.
But then we see the perspective of the Disciples – they saw that crowd as a burden. As the day faded into evening, the disciples were ready to send them away. Maybe fatigue had finally set in. Maybe they saw their chance to retell their stories to the Lord as spoiled. They saw this crowd as a burden – and they were ready for them to go away.
Needs have a way of coming at inconvenient times. Ministry isn’t like punching a clock in a factory. When Life happens, we’ve got to be prepared to help people. And it is only through the Lord that we can have the right attitude when called upon to serve.
3. And then finally, after showing His disciples the Power of Ministry and the Perspectives of Ministry, Jesus demonstrates the Principle of Ministry when he took the meager lunch of a little boy, blessed it, broke it, and fed a multitude with it. What’s more, He made the disciples go back and pick up the leftovers - 12 baskets full! There’s a lesson in that...
We are incapable, in and of ourselves, to make a difference in the lives of hurting people. We can’t change them, we can’t meet their needs. But the LORD CAN! It is ours to give Jesus what we have – and He will take it and bless it and meet the needs of others with it. In essence He is saying, “I’m not asking you to give me what you DON’T have…I DON’T demand of you what you CANNOT do…Just give me what you have and I will bless it and feed a multitude with it.”
If the Lord can take a little boy’s lunch and feed 5,000 men, surely He can use YOU in ministry. Don’t you SEE?? Our adequacy comes from Jesus!
Some lessons are hard learned. Ministry is not about the dynamic things or making a name for ourselves… Ministry is about serving people… and our power comes from the time we spend with Jesus.
Rather than viewing people as burdens, we should have a compassionate perspective.
And He offers us a principle – Your very best will never be enough to satisfy human need – but if the Lord is in it, He can take our meager talents, bless them, and meet those needs.
THIS is Real ministry.
Are you serving others? Are you using your gifts and abilities to serve people?? What if Jesus is looking at you, saying, “YOU feed them.” Will you??