July 18, 2010
Follow the Leader!
Jesus and the Happy Meal
Welcome to the feeding of the 5000!
How many of you kids like McDonalds? What is your favorite thing there? The Happy Meal! I brought a Happy Meal today. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could make this one Happy Meal feed everybody here? Jesus did that once—He took a small boy’s sack lunch and with it He fed over 5000 people. We’re going to read the story today and I’m going to talk about Jesus and the Happy Meal. But first we’re going to sing and tell Jesus that we love Him!
Introduction and offering:
This summer, we are going through the gospel of Mark in the New Testament. Months ago, when our creative team was thinking about this story—the feeding of the 5000—and what we do for this service, we thought, “Let’s do it.” The story is about a huge outdoor picnic, so let’s do it. About 5000 people come to Life Center on Sunday, so let’s do our own version of the feeding of the 5000. And we’ll have some fun together. So that’s how we got here.
In the story, Jesus teaches the crowd, and then feeds them. I’m going to read the story, give a short teaching, and then we’ll eat. Here’s the story.
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
Pretty cool. They start with five loaves and two fish. John’s gospel tells us that it was five small barley loaves—think buns—and two small fish—think sardines. John also tells us that these belonged to a boy—it was one boy’s small sack lunch—a Happy Meal. Jesus starts with one boy’s small sack lunch, feeds 5000 men, not counting women and children, and there are 12 baskets of leftovers! Pretty cool!
The big question for me as I read this story is “why did Jesus do it?” When the day grew late, and the crowd became hungry, what would you have suggested Jesus do? Send them home! The disciples’ suggestion to “send them away” was entirely reasonable. It was the only practical, sensible thing to do.
ILL: Imagine if we were all here today and it’s just church, not a picnic, so there’s no food. After church, we’re all hanging out, talking, having fun, and lots of us start to get hungry. One of the staff comes up to me and says, “Joe, people are getting hungry.” What am I going to say? “Tell them to go home and get something to eat.” Duh! It’s obvious.
They were in a remote location and it was getting late and the people were tired and hungry; but they were all within walking distance of home—just like we’re all within driving distance. No one was going to starve. No one was going to die. There was no emergency. So why did Jesus do it?
It could be that Jesus fed them out of compassion. It says that Jesus had compassion on them and started teaching them; maybe He fed them out of compassion as well. Later, in Mark 8, when Jesus fed the people again, he was motivated by compassion then. So it could be here too that Jesus feeds the people out of compassion.
And that is a beautiful thing. Jesus cared that people were hungry, and it moved Him to do something. Jesus cares not only about our souls, about our spiritual life; He cares about us—all of us. He cares if we’re hungry or sick or discouraged or in need. He feels compassion for us, and His compassion moves Him to care for us.
Don’t be afraid to bring your physical needs to Jesus and seek His compassion. And don’t be afraid to let compassion move you to feed the hungry, or care for the needy.
So it could be that Jesus did this out of compassion; but I think it’s something else.
I think Jesus was training His disciples. At this point in His life, Jesus was in training mode. He has just the disciples out on their first preaching tour and they have just returned, and they have gone away with Jesus to rest, and (I think) to debrief. Jesus was in training mode, and He used this as a teaching moment. What were the lessons for the disciples and for us?
You do it. (Repeat after me.)
The disciples come to Jesus with a reasonable suggestion: send the people home to get something to eat. And Jesus shocks them by saying, “You do it. You feed them.” This was an idea that had never crossed their minds. I guarantee that when the disciples huddled before going to Jesus, no one said, “I think we ought to feed this crowd.” It was not their responsibility, and not on their radar. Jesus blew their minds by saying, “You do it.”
Of course, they objected. And what was their objection? It would cost too much! “That would take 8 months wages.” That’s a lot of money! Have you heard this one before? “We can’t do that; it costs too much!” Lots of great ideas get squashed by this objection: we can’t afford it. We have a rule when we’re brainstorming ideas—we never let anyone bring up cost while we’re brainstorming, because it will kill creativity every time. Never let money stop you from doing what you should, what God wants you to do.
“You do it,” Jesus said.
Don’t assume that you should send people away; don’t assume that it is someone else’s responsibility. Maybe God wants you to do something.
ILL: When our first team to Kenya returned, we debriefed and asked them, “What are you going to do now?” One of them, Karen Richardson, had the idea of doing a run to raise money for clean water in Kenya. Karen had no money—she didn’t let that stop her; she went out and got corporate sponsors. She had never put a run together—she didn’t let that stop her; she went out and asked people who had done it to help her. Yesterday, 586 people ran or walked in the first Spokenya Run and raised more than $10,000 for clean water in Kenya! We’ll have some pictures for you next Sunday.
Karen didn’t think, “Someone else can do it.” She heard Jesus say, “You do it. You give them clean water. You put on a race.” And she did—despite all the obstacles, she did.
Almost a billion people will go to bed hungry tonight; they are not getting enough nourishment to survive. Over a billion people are drinking dirty water that is making them sick or killing them. Over 3 billion people are living on less than $2 a day. When it comes to feeding the hungry, to providing clean water, to alleviating poverty, many people want to say God, “Why don’t you do something about that?” And I think God says, “Why don’t you? You do it.”
When you see needs around you, do you ever think, “I wish someone would do something about that?”
That person needs help—I hope someone helps him.
That person needs prayer—I hope someone prays for him.
That person needs to know Jesus—I hope someone shows him Jesus.
Jesus says, “You do it.” The world won’t change as long as we think it’s someone else’s responsibility! When you see a need, don’t assume someone else will take care of it; you do it.
I don’t think that Jesus expects any one of us to meet every need. We can’t. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And I think that too often I, like the disciples, can assume that it’s not my responsibility, that someone else should do it, and I miss out on the opportunity to see God do something incredible through me. Jesus was training His disciples to take action, and to believe that God could do something amazing through them when they did.
Turn to your neighbor and say, “You do it!”
Here’s a second lesson
God can do a lot with a little. (Repeat after me.)
Jesus took a Happy Meal, a lunch that was meant to feed one small boy, and fed thousands with it. He can do a lot with a little. I think Jesus was training His disciples to know that God isn’t limited by what we have or who we are. He can do a lot with a little.
How many of you ever feel overwhelmed by the needs around you? It’s easy to feel small and insignificant—because we are. It’s easy to think, “Why bother? What difference can I make? The needs are so huge, and I have so little to give.” But God wants us to know that He changes the world by taking our small gifts and doing big things with them.
ILL: On Saturday, July 31, we are going to do One Day’s Work. Would you say that there is a lot to be done in our community? More than we can do? Absolutely. In two weeks, on Saturday, July 31, we are going to do some beautification projects at two sites: North Central High School and along Sprague Avenue. We’ll board buses at Life Center at 8 AM and go to work at these two sites until 4:30, when we’ll return to Life Center for dinner and a party. We’ll come back tired and happy—we’re going to have a lot of fun together, serving our community. I hope you’ll join me. There is more information and you can sign up on our website.
Here’s the deal: it’s just two sites in our big city. In the big scheme of things, we’ll barely make in a dent. It’s not much. But Jesus loves to do a lot with a little. And I believe that in two weeks God will do some big things through the little things we do.
God can do a lot with a little. I think this is true in every situation.
You may not have much faith, but God can do a lot with a little. He said that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.
You may not have much money, but God can do a lot with a little. $35 a month isn’t much money, but when we use it to sponsor a child, God does a lot with that $35.
You many not have much strength, but God can do a lot with a little. Perhaps you are in a failing marriage and thinking of giving up; you don’t think you have the strength, the will to keep going. But God can take the little will you have and do a lot with it.
Think back to our story. The disciples didn’t have much: one Happy Meal. But what did they do? Three things.
First, start with what you have. Jesus asked them, “What do you have?” It wasn’t much, but it was something. When faced with difficult or challenging circumstances, we tend to think first of what we don’t have. We don’t have enough money, or knowledge, or people, or skill, or will. This was the disciples’ default answer: we don’t have enough to feed everyone. But Jesus didn’t ask them what they didn’t have; He asked them what they did have, because God can do a lot with a little. So start with what you have, and don’t worry that it’s not much.
ILL: We started Life Center with 40 people in a little building across the street from the jail; and most of those 40 people left in the first year! It wasn’t much, but God can do a lot with a little.
Start with what you have, not what you don’t have.
Second, bring it to Jesus. Jesus asked, “What do you have?” The disciples said, “A Happy Meal—five buns, two sardines.” Jesus said, “Bring it to me.” And then the fun started. A Happy Meal in my hands will feed one person. A Happy Meal in Jesus’ hands will feed thousands. When you bring what you have to God, then the fun starts. This is the adventure of being a Christian. It is offering what I have—which isn’t much—to Jesus, and seeing what He can do with it—which is a lot! So we bring our lives, our time, our gifts and abilities, our intelligence, our determination, our money and stuff—we bring it to Jesus to see what He can do with it. What do you have? Bring it to Jesus, because He can do a lot with a little.
Third, do what He says. After they brought the Happy Meal to Jesus, He told them what to do next. Have the people sit in groups. Pass out the food. Pick up the leftovers. That’s what Jesus told them to do—all pretty easy stuff, all very possible. And what did Jesus do? He prayed and thanked God, then He multiplied the food; He started giving them the food to distribute, and just kept giving and giving and giving. So Jesus did the miracle. Jesus did the impossible; He asked them to do the possible.
I think this is how it still works. Jesus asks us to do the possible, and He does the impossible. So we simply do what He says, and let Him do the rest. We do our little part and let Him do a lot with a little. God can do a lot with a little.
Start with what you have.
Bring it to Jesus.
Do what He says.
Jesus was training His disciples to trust God, to start with what they have and know that God is able to do a lot with a little.
One more lesson Jesus wanted them to learn:
Jesus is God. (Repeat after me.)
This, of course is the big lesson. “Who is this?” they asked after He calmed the storm. I’ll bet they asked it again after this. “Who is this?” This is no ordinary man. This is God in a bod; Jesus is God in the flesh, walking among us. And there is no predicting what He might do. They didn’t expect Him to calm the storm when they were about to drown; that blew their minds. They didn’t expect Him to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead; that blew their minds! And they didn’t expect Him to feed the crowd with a Happy Meal; that blew their minds. They expected Him to behave like any other man, and He kept behaving like more than a man and blowing their minds. They finally came to the conclusion that Jesus is God, and deserved their whole-hearted love, allegiance and worship.
Jesus is God. When you believe that, it changes everything. When you start following Jesus, you jump in the middle of this huge adventure. God will mess with your life! When you walk with Jesus, you’ve got to learn to expect the unexpected. We live on the edge of our seats, wondering what He might do next, or ask us to do.