Seventeen years ago today (April 1st, 1985), Sports Illustrated published an article by George Plimpton that described an incredible rookie baseball player who was training at the Mets camp in St. Petersburg, Florida. The player was named Sidd Finch (Sidd being short for Siddhartha, the Indian mystic in Hermann Hesse's book of the same name). He could reportedly pitch a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. The fastest previous recorded speed for a pitch was 103 mph.
Finch had never played baseball before. He had been raised in an English orphanage before he was adopted by the archaeologist Francis Whyte-Finch who was later killed in an airplane crash in the Dhaulaglri mountain region of Nepal. Finch briefly attended Harvard before he headed to Tibet where he learned the teachings of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa" and mastered "siddhi, namely the yogic mastery of mind-body." Through his Tibetan mind-body mastery, Finch had "learned the art of the pitch."
Finch showed up at the Mets camp in Florida, and so impressed their manager that he was invited to attend training camp. When pitching he looked, in the words of the catcher, "like a pretzel gone loony." Finch frequently wore a hiking boot on his right foot while pitching, his other foot being bare. His speed and power were so great that the catcher would only hear a small sound, "a little pft, pft-boom," before the ball would land in his glove, knocking him two or three feet back. One of the players declared that it was not "humanly possible" to hit Finch's pitches.
Unfortunately for the Mets, Finch had not yet decided whether to commit himself to a career as a baseball player, or to pursue a career as a French Horn player. He told the Mets management that he would let them know his decision on April 1.
In response to the article, "Sports Illustrated received almost 2000 letters in response to the article, and it became one of their most famous stories ever. On April 8 they declared that Finch had held a press conference in which he said that he had lost the accuracy needed to throw his fastball and would therefore not be pursuing a career with the Mets. On April 15 they admitted that the story was a hoax." The first story having been printed on April 1st -- April Fool’s day. 
Well, today is April 1st. And I have an unbelievable story to tell you today. I’m going to tell you the story of a man who fed more than 5,000 people with fives loaves of bread and two fish. I’m going to tell you the story of a man who walked on water, without sinking. Some think that it’s an April Fool’s joke like the story of Sidd Finch. But, such is not the case. This is true. This is reality. It really happened.
We will be looking at the book of Mark, chapter 6. Our text this morning begins in verse 33. Once again, we will get a glimpse into the power of Jesus. This is what the entire first half of Mark is all about. It’s about showing who Jesus is. In chapter 8, we’ll turn the corner to see what Jesus came to do. But, here in the first half of Mark, we are getting a glimpse of the power of Jesus. And nowhere does His power shine through like in our text today.
Now, Jesus didn’t merely show His power to show off His power. He wasn’t an exhibitionist, merely going around showing how great He was. Jesus wasn’t the circus, performing miraculous deeds merely to gather a crowd. No, His displays of power were expressions of His heart for people.
In our text this morning, we will see that Jesus showed His power because He had compassion. He had compassion upon the people who were coming to Him. He had compassion upon the disciples who were struggling in the boat. He had compassion upon those who were sick and in need of healing.
My message this morning is entitled, "Compassion and
Care." The compassion of Jesus leads Him to care for others. The first way that He
cared for others is that, ...
1. He Taught Them (verses 33-34)
Let’s pick it up in verse 33, ...
The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
Picture the scene. After some busy days of ministry, Jesus and His disciples had gone to a secluded place to rest. And yet, they never got there, because the crowds watched them go and ran on foot to intercept their boat when it was about to land (verse 33). By the time Jesus and His disciples arrived on shore, there was already a large crowd awaiting them (verse 34).
They had just left a large crowd to find some rest. And now, they came to another crowd. It’s like they were going on vacation. And on the way out the door, the phone rang telling them that there was an emergency at work which resulted in no vacation at all.
My tendency in such a situation would be to be irritated with the crowds. Surely, this was the same temptation of Jesus. But, Jesus wasn’t irritated. Instead, He was moved with compassion. Verse 34 tells us, "He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them." That is, His bowels moved in tender pity for these people.
The reason is given: "because they were like sheep without a shepherd" (verse 34). That is, they were directionless. They were "lost and helpless, without guidance, nourishment, or protection". 
Their leaders had failed to lead them and guide them. And so, they were left to grope in the dark. They were coming to Jesus desperate for something. And right there in verse 34 you can see Jesus’ response. "He began to teach them many things." This is the head for my first point this morning. He Taught Them (verses 33-34).
Notice that it was His compassion that moved Jesus to teach them. The solution to those without a shepherd is to guide them and to teach them.
Now, it’s not that these people were without teachers. Certainly, these were Jewish people, who had their priests and Rabbis. Sadly, they were like the shepherds of Israel described in Ezekiel 34. "'Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? ... They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.'" (Eze 34:2,5-6)
This is who Jesus encountered -- a lost flock with no shepherd looking out for them. And Jesus saw their trouble, noticed their situation, and felt compassion for them. And so, "He began to teach them many things." This is how Jesus expressed His compassion. By teaching them, and thereby helping to guide them in the right way.
Now, we don’t know exactly what Jesus taught them on this occasion. But, we do know how Jesus taught them. He taught them for a long time. There are two clues in the text to tell us so. The first comes at the end of verse 34, "He began to teach them many things." The only way that you can teach "many things" is to teach for a long period of time. The second clue comes at the beginning of verse 35, "When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him." In other words, Jesus taught them "until it was late." The only way that you can do this is if you teach for a long period of time.
Now, as a preacher, I’m comforted by these words. Jesus preached long sermons. But, perhaps even more so, I’m comforted by the fact that the people didn’t leave. My bet is that they were hanging on to every word that Jesus was speaking. They were hungry for the word of God.
You don’t run halfway around the lake to listen to somebody only to leave early. That’s like saving up money to go to the NCAA Final Four Championship game (that will be played tomorrow night in New Orleans - Kentucky vs. Kansas). You pay for the plane tickets. You pay for the hotel. You pay for the tickets. And then, imagine leaving at half-time. You aren’t going to do that! You are staying until the end!
This was the attitude of those who were listening to Jesus on that day. As Jesus spoke, He was dripping words of wisdom. He was speaking words of life, and the people were being helped as they were taught. They weren’t going to go anywhere. They weren’t going to leave Jesus. When the battle raged between their bellies and their souls, their souls won! They preferred to listen to Jesus hungry, than to leave Jesus and have their dinner.
The application at this point is obvious. How hungry are you for God’s word? Do you long for it? Do you love to hear it taught? Do you read your Bible? Do you read books to help your Biblical understanding? Do you listen to others teach the word on CD’s or MP3’s? Do you enjoy hanging with those who can teach you the way of the righteous? Is your hunger and thirst for righteousness? (Matthew 5:6). Or is your hunger and thirst for mere physical food?
The people in Jesus’ day didn’t want to leave the preaching of the word. They wanted to hear it. And so, they sat hungry. They didn’t leave. Which led to another problem. Which leads to my second point.
Not only did the compassion of Jesus lead to his care in
teaching them. But, His compassion led to His care to feed them. Here’s my second
2. He Fed Them (verses 35-44)
The story begins in verse 35, ...
When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and it is already quite late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."
This may seem cold-hearted by the disciples of Jesus, telling the crowds to go away. And yet, it was actually a very kind thing to do. They knew that it was late. The sun would soon set. They knew that the crowds had been with them for quite some time and would be hungry. Since they were in a desolate place, the only way for them to get food would be to leave and go into the villages, where they might be able to purchase some food.
But, Jesus had some other plans, ...
But He answered them, "You give them something to eat!"
OK. So picture yourself at a large sporting event with several thousand people in the stands, and Jesus turns to you and says, "Give them something to eat." Do you know how expensive a hot dog and a large soda pop is? Do you know how much it would cost to feed a stadium of thousands? $20,000? $30,000? This is what the disciples said to Jesus.
... And they *said to Him, "Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?"
As the disciples surveyed the crowd, they calculated that it would take two hundred denarii to feed so vast a crowd. A single denarius was one day’s wage. Two hundred denarii represented eight months pay for a day laborer! There is no way that the disciples had this sort of money. There is no way that they were able to do what Jesus told them to do.
Regarding the stadium full of people, you just might have the ability to feed everyone if you have a credit card that allows you to put that much debt on it. You might be trying to pay it off for a few years, but you might be able to feed everyone. But, the disciples had no resources. Not only didn’t they have the money. They didn’t have any concession stands nearby to purchase the food, even if they had the money. They were off in the wilderness.
And yet, the compassion of Jesus for the crowds was great. He saw how they remained with Him. He saw how they wanted to learn from Him. So He pressed on, looking for a way to feed them.
And He *said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go look!" And when they found out, they *said, "Five, and two fish."
Can you imagine it? The disciples go away to see how much they have. They went seeking any food that anyone had with them, and they return with two small fish and five small loaves of bread. That’s all they have. They don’t have two hundred denarii. All they have is a two small fish and a few loaves of bread. Perhaps it could be a snack for the disciples, but no way would it feed the multitudes that had gathered that day. And yet, here we see the miraculous power of Jesus on display.
And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass.
It is as if Jesus took over at this point. The disciples weren’t much help. And so, Jesus instructs everyone to sit down on the green grass. Which, by the way, is a clue as to when this took place. It was sometime in the spring, after the winter rains and before the scorching sun would turn the plants brown, as it does every summer.
They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.
Surely, this had some administrative benefits. You can mobilize 50-100 people much easier than you can thousands of people.
And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. There were five thousand men who ate the loaves.
Do you realize the power of Jesus? He fed five-thousand men. In Matthew’s account of this story, he mentions that "there were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children" (Matthew 14:21). In other words, there were more than five thousand people in this crowd. You should add women and children to the mix. How many were there? 10,000 people? 15,000 people? Possibly 20,000 people?
Do you have any idea how much food this is? I have a friend who runs a catering business. I remember calling him one time in reference to this miracle. I said, "Bob, I have a strange question for you. I’m curious about Jesus feeding the 5,000. I know that you are in the catering business. Could you tell me what it would take for you to feed 5,000 people?"
With his catering business, there are usually two items on the menu: chicken and pork chops. If requested, he can also serve fish fillets. With the chicken or pork chops, come baked beans, coleslaw, bread and drinks. His entire business is very streamlined.
He told me that there have been a few occasions when he has fed 5,000 people, like when he has taken his business to the county fair and the weather has cooperated. He told me of his business running at maximum capacity. He sets up three double-sided serving lines. So, there are six lines of people serving up their food. It takes nine people to work on the serving lines -- several on the grill, several checking the supplies of beans and coleslaw and bread. Additionally, he needs some cashiers and some people serving drinks. With this set-up, he can run about 1,000 people per hour through the lines.
And then, he tried to figure out what it would take to serve only fish and bread. Guessing low, he said, "We’ll need 5,000 fish fillets. At 6-8 ounces each, this is 2,000 pounds of fish. We’ll need 6,000 rolls of bread, because 12 rolls of bread serve 10 people. His rolls are probably half the size that the loaves were. So, we are talking 250 dozen loaves of bread!" This is no small dinner party!
And how did Jesus make this? What does verse 41 say?
And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed [the food] and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.
The best understanding that we get here is that Jesus was spontaneously creating more fish and more bread to give to His disciples. The bread and the fish kept coming out of His hands. Whenever the disciples came to Jesus, He always had more bread and more fish for them to distribute to the multitudes. Without a grill. Without an oven. Jesus was giving out everything that was needed.
What a great picture of the power of Jesus. Whenever there was a need, Jesus was there to meet the need. No, it’s better than that. The resources that Jesus has far exceed what we need.
They all ate and were satisfied,
When I read this, I think of what takes place when my wife and I go out to eat at a restaurant. The portions that I order are usually so massive, that I have to force myself to eat enough to get them down. Yvonne normally brings home some of her portion in a box. And then, the waitress comes by and says, "Any room for dessert?" Yvonne and I always look at each other and then turn back to the waitress and say, "No thank you. We are stuffed." And then, we walk out of the restaurant, with bloated stomachs, feeling fully satisfied.
This is how the people felt after Jesus fed them. Jesus didn’t make dessert for them. They didn’t have room for dessert. This is clear in verse 43, ...
and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish.
Twelve baskets, probably one for each disciple, as they went around helping with the cleanup. These baskets were wicker baskets used for food. We don’t know exactly how big they were. Perhaps they even varied in size. But, the point is this: after everyone with satisfied with the food that they ate, there was more food picked up than what they started with. And, perhaps more significantly, each disciple was able to witness the power of Jesus first-hand. They all saw that Jesus had begun with five loaves and two fish. And, they all saw their baskets overflowing with leftover scraps.
At this point, the application naturally comes. Do you see the power of Jesus? Do you see the compassion of Jesus? Can you say with Paul, "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus"? (Phi. 4:19). He can feed thousands of people with five loaves and two fish! And if you think about it, Jesus can feed thousands without any loaves and fish.
You know how Jesus makes bread, don’t you? He says, "Bread." You know how Jesus makes fish, don’t you? He says, "Fish." He’s the one who spoke the world into existence, saying, "‘Let there be light’; and there was light (Genesis 1:3) "‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures.’ ... and it was so" (Genesis 1:24).
So, why do we doubt that Jesus could do this on the earth? Why do we doubt that Jesus is willing and able to supply all of our needs today?
Let’s move on to my third point. We have seen the
compassion of Jesus express itself in His care to the masses by teaching them and by
feeding them. And now, by helping them. Or, as I have in my notes,
3. He Helped Them (verses 45-52)
After feeding the multitudes, ...
Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.
I’m not sure why Jesus did this. Perhaps Jesus didn’t want a repeat scene -- He and His disciples leaving in a boat, only to have the crowds follow around the Sea of Galilee, so that they would be present when they arrived on shore. They needed rest, which they never got in this trip. Perhaps Jesus sensed his own need for some time away by Himself to pray.
At any rate, Jesus was on the mountain, praying. The disciples were in the boat, rowing. Let’s read the whole story, beginning in verse 47, ...
When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He *came to them, walking on the sea;
Jesus had compassion for His disciples, and so He came to help them. It seems like every time they are on their own, the disciples struggle in their faith. Remember when Jesus was asleep on the boat? (4:35-41). The disciples were struggling with the wind, filled with unbelief.
In chapter 9, we’ll see Jesus on the mount of transfiguration with Peter, James and John. While they were on the mountain, the disciples below were attempting to cast a demon out of a little boy, but were unable to do so. Later, Jesus will chide them for their lack of faith (9:19), saying that the demon could only be cast out by prayer (9:29). And this again is no exception. With Jesus and the disciples apart from each other, they again have their battles with unbelief.
Notice carefully how Jesus helped them. He didn’t come right away. You track the time, and verse 47 has us in evening when the sun is setting. This is probably around 6pm. The next time reference comes in verse 48, "at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them." There were four watches in the Jewish night, each lasting for three hours. The first began at 6pm and went to 9pm. The second watch was from 9pm until midnight. The third watch was from midnight until 3am. And the fourth watch was from 3am until 6am.
Jesus was on the mountain praying from 6pm until the fourth watch,
sometime after 3am. This was some 9 to 12 hours. I would contend that His disciples
were on the sea the entire time -- 9 to 12 hours straining at the oars.
It doesn’t take too long to row across the Sea of Galilee (13 miles long and 8 miles wide), especially when you are in the north, merely swinging a few miles toward the east, still on the northern shore.
The disciples had left for Bethsaida (on the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee, just past the Jordan river). But, they eventually ended up at Gennesaret (on the western shore). I believe that the storm took them off course.
But, I want for you to notice the help of Jesus. He didn’t come right away. Instead, He let them strain at the oars for hours before He came. This is often how love works. The parent who comes to help the child at every whimper isn’t loving the child. No, that parent is creating a co-dependency which isn’t healthy.
My son right now is working towards getting his drivers' license. He needs 50 hours of supervised driving time before he can get his license. And so, every chance that we get, I let him drive. He’s constantly asking me, "Can I go?" He’s at a stop sign, watching the traffic go. When he thinks that it’s clear, he says, "Can I go?" He’s in the left hand turn lane, waiting for a hole in the traffic. When he thinks that it’s clear, he says, "Can I go?" He’s turning right at a red light, but he has a green arrow. He thinks that he can go, but he’s unsure, so he says, "Can I go?"
Now, I could answer Him every time, saying, "Yes. Yes. No. Yes." But, I don’t think that it would help him too much. He needs to learn to drive on his own when I’m not there. And if I’m answering his every question, I’m not teaching him to drive alone.
And as parents, our aim is to teach our children to live independently. To help them at every step of the way isn’t loving. There are times when we need to stretch them, so that they can live responsibly. And when it comes to the disciples, Jesus was seeking to teach them to trust in the Lord. So, Jesus let them strain at the oars for 9 to 12 hours in the storm.
This was the topic at our small group this past Friday night at our home. God knows the details of our lives. He has a plan for us. And when we pray, and our prayers aren’t answered in the way that we want, we need to trust that God’s plan is better than our plan. Too often those without faith in God will become bitter and angry and thankless, blaming God for their problems. When, in actuality, our unanswered prayers always have a purpose behind them. Perhaps God is building faith in us. They ought to drive us to trust and wait and submit to the Lord, hoping that He would answer soon, but content in His delay.
The mere fact that Jesus saw them "straining at the oars" (verse 48), is a demonstration that He knew fully what was going on. It was windy and stormy in the deepest, darkest time of night. And Jesus saw them several miles away. Matthew 14:24 tells us that they were many stadia away from the land; this is several miles away.
In perfect time, Jesus came. Verse 48, ...
... at about the fourth watch of the night He *came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and *said to them, "Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid."
What a great scene. Though the waves and wind were all around, Jesus came to them as if walking along a road in a stormy night. "He intended to pass by them" (verse 48). I don’t think that Jesus was going to leave the disciples alone. I think that Jesus was probably seeking to pass them by to approach them from a different angle so that all could see that it was Him.
Rather than finding comfort in the presence of the Lord, they were terrified. I don’t blame them in any way. If I’ve been out in the middle of the lake all night long and someone starts walking on the water toward me, I’m terrified as well. But, Jesus sought to calm their fears, saying, "Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid" (verse 50). Surely, it was easy to say, but very difficult to do.
But, this is what God is calling us to do. In the storms that come upon our lives, God calls us to (literally in the Greek), "Take courage; I am; do not be afraid." And you may be going through some storms and some difficulties in your lives with your family, with your children, with your job, with your health, with your house, with your cars. Jesus knows about it. Jesus has compassion for you. Jesus will care for you. But for you, it might only be the 2nd watch of the night. So, be patient and trust in Him.
I remember a friend of mine who was going through a very difficult time in his life. He had walked with the Lord for enough years to know that God was faithful even though the time looked bleak now. He often said to me, "God’s timing is perfect. He is rarely early. He is never late. He is always just on time." Such was the case with these disciples. Jesus didn’t come early. Jesus wasn’t late. Jesus was right on time, giving help exactly when they needed it.
He does the same in our lives as well. So trust Him.
We close this story with the last two verses, ...
Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.
This links this story with the feeding of the 5,000. They hadn’t learned their lesson. Even though each of them picked up the wicker basket full of scraps, they didn’t understand the power of Jesus. He was Sidd Finch. He was super human.
If He cared for the multitudes, and was able to feed 5,000, then certainly, He was able to rescue them from the storm that they faced. Sadly, they hadn’t learned their lesson. Sadly, we often don’t learn our lesson either.
The unbelief of the disciples is a theme in Mark. We will see them continue in their unbelief when they worry because they have no bread (8:17-21); when they don’t understand when Jesus told them of His death and resurrection in Jerusalem (8:32); when they can’t cast the demon out of the boy (9:14-29); when they argue about who is the greatest (9:34). They just didn’t get it.
This ought to be comforting to us. Often we can think that "if only I had been there and seen Jesus." But, the disciples were there. The disciples saw Jesus. The disciples saw His miracles. And they still had a hard heart. Oh, may God help us to believe that Jesus cares for us.
My final point is quick. The compassion and care of
Jesus is shown in that, ...
4. He Healed Them (verses 53-56)
When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore. When they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, and ran about that whole country and began to carry here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was. Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.
There isn’t much unique to comment here. Only that Jesus continued to pour out His care for the multitudes. Let us never forget. Jesus is our healer. We need to touch Him.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
April 1, 2012 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.