September 16, 2018 10:30 AM
Rev. Jeremy B. Stopford, Pastor

TODAY’S “SPECIAL”: “An Offering Funny”
A little child in church for the first time watched as the ushers passed the offering plates.
When they neared the pew where he sat, the youngster piped up so that everyone could hear: “Don’t pay for me Daddy, I’m under five.”

As we did several weeks ago, I would like to begin with the conclusion first. For all the incidents in the chapter – the feeding of the 4,000, the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod, the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida, and Peter’s confession of Christ – are all leading to the last 8 verses with their concluding thought, including “What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (v. 37). Starting with chapter 9, we will be in full gear toward the cross. Jerusalem lies ahead. There is no turning back. Jesus “hour” is coming, the hour for which He was born. And his disciples and the world will never be the same.
If you and I could be still for one moment of time, if we could but measure all of our lives in light of that one statement of v. 37, how would we measure up? Has my life been lived for me? Or has it been lived for God’s glory? Is the treasure of my life “all that I have gained”, or is the treasure of my life the Lord Jesus and His cross alone?
Tough questions to end – or begin – a message. But they must be answered. Either now, or when we stand in front of this same Savior. PRAYER

Here we go – look at Mark 8:1: “during those days another crowd gathered…”. The disciples would soon remember that it wasn’t so long ago when over 5,000 – plus women and children – gathered out far from the nearest McDonald’s. Did they remember those lessons that Jesus taught them then? Why, it seems like both the feeding of the 5 thousand and the feeding of the 4 thousand were, well, the same lessons!

A. In 6:31, the Savior orchestrated the details of the disciples’ lives by taking them to a solitary place. Here in 8:1, “another crowd gathered.” He was reminding them that every day, EVERY day, the routine occurs. Someone once wisely said, “real ministry isn’t that which is planned; it is that which appears to be an interruption!”. Did they remember the first feeding?

B. In 6:34, Jesus had compassion on the people – they were like sheep without a shepherd. And the Good Shepherd was right there with them! But the disciples wanted to send the people away because they had no food. Here in 8:2-3, the Savior anticipates their response from the first incident. They didn’t have a chance to say, “send them away”. Instead, He reminds them of the danger of sending these hungry people away to go a tremendous, tireless distance. And their response? “But WHERE can we get enough bread?”. Had they remembered the lesson from the first incident?
Do you remember Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:5: “make every effort to add to your faith.” I imagine Peter was looking back to those desert days when well over 9 thousand people were fed by disciples who were the true starving ones, starving for substantial faith – that which was a living faith.

C. Here’s another one. Look at 6:37: “you give them something to eat.” And, in 8:5, “how many loaves do you have?”. Can you see the Savior breathe a big sigh, thinking, “oh boy, here we go again.”
Have you ever had to learn a lesson TWICE? You would have thought we would have learned the lesson well the first time around! So we shouldn’t be so harsh on these disciples. BUT we, too, should learn from their shortcomings!

D. There are many more lessons that are similar. I do like the one found in both incidents. Look at 6:41 and 8:7. What makes the difference in both these happenings? Jesus gave thanks! Before the miracles came the thanksgivings!
OK, here comes the judgment question: how do you determine what things to give thanks for, to bow your heads and ask a blessing? Is it based upon price? If you got an ice cream cone on sale at Gilligans for only $1.00, do you have to give thanks? Or if you are having just a bowl of cereal at breakfast, or a sandwich at lunch, or leftovers for supper, do you have to give thanks? OR do you wait until special occasions, like Thanksgiving or Christmas? Did we learn the disciples’ lesson? Which came first, the provision or the blessing? Hmm. Jesus gave thanks – don’t you think we should, too?

Isn’t it great that the Savior likes to surprise His children? And in so doing, He draws His children to a more tender relationship with Him – IF they are attentive to the surprises He provides! Here we go:

A. Again, “another large crowd” gathers (8:1). This crowd is smaller, perhaps than the first “crowd”. There is an old chorus, “little is much, when God is in it.” And the prophet Zechariah questions us today (4:10), “For who has despised the day of small things?”.
What was the Savior doing? He was drawing His disciples’ attention to a rich lesson: true ministry isn’t the meeting of the large crowd. True ministry is the meeting of the individual need. In Acts 8, how many people did God send Philip to? One. Yet in the big picture of things, when that one came to know Jesus, he returned to his home country as a missionary on fire for the Lord. Do not crave the crowd when the Lord gives you the individuals to work with to make a difference for eternity!

B. Note 8:3: while we know now that there were over four thousand people there, the Savior knows about each of the individuals. Mark says, “some of them have come a long distance.” Jesus knows all of these 4,000. But He sees through eyes of eternity.
Do we see people through eyes of eternity? Or do we see them through eyes of what they can do for me, for our church, now? Hmm. Think on that one!

C. Finally, look at 8:5, “how many loaves do you have?”. Do you remember the story of Elisha and the widow who had no money with which to pay her debts? What did Elisha say to the widow, “what do you have in your house?” (2 Kings 4:2). And what was the widow’s response? “Your servant has nothing at all, except a little oil.” Remember, “little is much, when God is in it!”. And the Lord multiplied that oil to provide all the need of the widow.

ILLUSTRATION: The postal clerk here in Earlville somehow knows I love stories. She shared the story about a flood where an elderly gentleman was told to evacuate. He refused, saying, “no, the Lord will provide.” As the flood waters were coming in the front door, a rescue team came with a rowboat. He said, “no thanks, the Lord will provide.” Because of the rising waters, he had to rush up to the second floor. Another rowboat shows up. He says, “no thanks – the good Lord will provide.” Finally, the waters rose so high he had to retreat to the roof. A helicopter flew over him and lowered a ladder. He once again said, “no thanks – the Lord will provide!”. He drowned, and when he got before the Lord he complained. “Lord, I trusted you to rescue me, but you didn’t.” And the good Lord said, “I sent you two rowboats and a helicopter.”

The point is this: sometimes God’s provision is the faith right in front of our eyes. The disciples would learn this. And re-learn this. And re-learn this.
Even at the communion service, Jesus said, “this do in remembrance of Me.” These lessons are in the Scriptures because we need to re-learn them, too!

WHAT! I don’t need no more lessons, Lord! My 11th grade English teacher would cringe at the grammar. But the story of the feeding of the 4,000 leads up to the end of the chapter where our Savior announces what the next 8 chapters are going to entail: going to Jerusalem and the reason for His earthly coming, the cross.
Is God allowed to stop me in my tracks and teach me a new lesson, a personal lesson from the greatest Teacher ever? Or am I too busy anymore to hear the Father’s voice?
May the Lord give us grace in the remaining days He gives each of us to “be still and know that He is God.”
Close in prayer

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