SERMON TITLE: Unexpected Death
TEXT: Mark 6:14-29 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s great to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
And we’re in the final week of our Unexpected series — a series in the gospel of Mark where we’ve been seeing Jesus do and say things that are unexpected. And last week, we learned that there’s a cost that comes with our obedience in obeying Christ’s command to go and tell others about him.
And I want you to remember the setting of last week’s story. Herod had thrown a banquet — a lavish feast. And there were politicians and military generals — the movers and shakers of society — at his banquet. So keep Herod’s feast in mind as we read our story for today. Because our story is a different kind of feast — it’s a feast that Jesus hosts — and the two feasts couldn’t be more different.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
So if you have your Bible please turn with me to Mark chapter 6. We’ll be looking at verses 30-44.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
Here are the words found in Mark 6. Beginning in 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. 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.” (Mark 6:30-44 ESV)
No animal is as dependent on someone to care for it as sheep are with their shepherd.
Without a shepherd, sheep wander aimlessly and get lost.
Sheep don’t eat unless a shepherd shows them the good places to find food.
They’ll die of thirst if a shepherd doesn’t lead them to water.
They’re defenseless against predators without a shepherd around to protect them.
To survive, sheep need to experience the self-sacrificing compassion of their shepherd.
So you can probably imagine that being a shepherd is hard work. It’s never-ending. It leaves you tired at the end of the day — making it a job that requires much rest for — without it — the shepherd won’t be able to keep up with all that the sheep need.
And something interesting about the work of a shepherd is that it’s a job that comes with great emotion. From the joy because of the birth of a lamb to the anxiety that comes from an attack of wolves to the sadness and grief that comes with the death of a sheep — being a shepherd is an occupation full of emotion.
And that’s what it means to be a shepherd of sheep. It means hard work, it means much needed rest, and it means the experience of many emotions.
And Jesus views the people in our story as sheep who need to experience the compassion of a shepherd. But not only are the people in this large crowd to be thought of as sheep — all people are — because Jesus views all people — including you and me — as sheep who need a shepherd. All of us need to experience the compassion of Christ — who is God’s Shepherd.
And if you’re a Christian, you’re a sheep under Christ’s care. And Jesus, our Chief Shepherd — has appointed under-shepherds to represent him to his people. We call these shepherds pastors — or elders — in our church.
But even if you’re not a Christian, you’re still in need of the compassion of Christ. You need someone to protect you, and guide you, and lead you. You need someone to give you the hope you long for — hope that only God’s Shepherd can provide.
SHOW THEM CHRIST’S COMPASSION
And the point for us is this. Because people are like sheep without a shepherd, we must show them Christ’s compassion. We — followers of Jesus — must show all people Christ’s compassion.
We see this in verse 34.
“When he (that’s Jesus...) 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. ” (Mark 6:34 ESV)
Because people are like sheep without a shepherd, we must show them Christ’s compassion.
Every person needs to experience the compassion of God’s Good Shepherd. We need his guidance and care. We need him to feed us and lead us to water. And for many modern day people — this is offensive — because we don’t like to think of ourselves as dependent on anyone.
“I’ve got this” and “I can take care of this myself,” are mantras popular today — even among Christians. But this picture — of God’s people being sheep — is found throughout the Bible. This image — of people being utterly hopeless on their own — is seen in both the Old and New Testaments.
Let me show you one example. We’re near the end of Moses’ life. Moses has been the leader of God’s people for decades and now he’s about to be taken from them and Moses is concerned about the people. What will happen if another person doesn’t rise up to lead them?
And, “Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, 16 "Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd." 18 So the Lord said to Moses, "Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” (Numbers 27:15-18 ESV)
As sheep need shepherds the people of God have always needed leaders among them — anointed and called by God — to guide, lead, and protect them. So to be a Christian is to be a sheep who needs God appointed leaders — God’s shepherds — to guide, care for, and lead you.
But there’s an exciting word — back in verse 34 of Mark chapter 6 — that I don’t want us to miss. Because — let’s face it — being called a sheep is kind of humbling. Being told you need a leader over you goes against our American independent spirit. So what word excites me? The word compassion.
Jesus’ compassion is one of the most beautiful things we discover in the Bible. In fact, the word translated in English as “compassion” — in verse 34 — other than being used in two parables — this word is only used to describe Jesus — no one gets this word associated with them except Jesus.
Let me show you three examples of Jesus’ compassion found in our gospel.
“And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean." 41 Moved with pity (pity is the same Greek word as compassion — meaning Jesus was moved deep within himself and...), he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, "I will; be clean." 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” (Mark 1:40-42 ESV)
“In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 "I have compassion (there’s our word — Jesus had compassion...) on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away."” (Mark 8:1-3 ESV)
One last example. “And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion (there’s our word again — have compassion...) on us and help us."” (Mark 9:20-22 ESV)
Which Jesus does.
The compassion of Christ moves him to touch someone with leprosy — someone considered untouchable by society.
Jesus’ compassion moves him to feed a large crowd who had nothing to eat.
And it’s the compassion of Christ that moves him to help a desperate father.
And in our story, we see Christ’s compassion once again. And it’s his compassion — his beautiful compassion — that we’re to show people.
So how do we do this? How do we show people Christ’s compassion? That’s the question we’re going to answer. And we see three ways we can show people his compassion. The first is this.
WORK TIRELESSLY FOR JESUS
Because people are like sheep without a shepherd, we must work tirelessly for Jesus. We must work tirelessly for Jesus. Look with me in verse 30.
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. (So they’ve been out working hard for Jesus.) 31 And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while." (They’ve been working tirelessly and need some rest. And they were also tired because...) For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to (do what? The work — the disciples have been doing — was so time consuming they didn’t even have time 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.” (Mark 6:30-33 ESV)
Because people are like sheep without a shepherd, we must work tirelessly for Jesus as we show them his compassion.
So the twelve disciples are back. Last time we saw them, Jesus had sent them off to expand his ministry work. And the first thing they tell Jesus when they get back is, “We did what you told us to do — we’ve been working hard for you.”
But did you notice the cost of their obedience — we talked about the cost of following Jesus last week — but look at the cost for the disciples. In verse 31 we read that as soon as they returned — having done what Jesus had told them to do — they were so busy they didn’t even have time to stop and eat. They had no leisure time. They just got back from being sent out only to find themselves working tirelessly for Jesus.
And I don’t really know how I can help us comfortable — and I’m talking to myself here as much as I am to you — I don’t know how to help us comfortable American Christians realize that there’s a tireless work that’s expected of every follower of Jesus. To be a Christian is to be someone who works tirelessly for the accomplishment of Christ’s mission.
And I know that some of us are tired. But what’s making you tired?
Working tirelessly for Jesus or working for your employer or to get straight A's or to get more Instagram followers?
Working tirelessly for Jesus or working for the American dream?
Working tirelessly for Jesus or working to give your kids a better life than you’ve had?
Now hear me out — working hard for your boss isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not ultimate.
Straight A’s are great, but no one’s ever asked me what my GPA was in college — and now that I’ve said that someone’s going to come up and ask me what my GPA was in college.
The American Dream isn’t the worst thing you can live for, but the American Dream and Jesus’ mission rarely go hand-in-hand.
And wanting to give your kids a better life than you’ve had is admirable, but not at the cost of being too tired to work with all your might towards the accomplishment of Christ’s mission.
And part of the tireless work that we’re to do is to show people Jesus’ compassion.
We do this by loving them and by telling them the truth.
We do this by giving them a glass of water and by offering them a drink of the Living Water.
We do this by caring for the poor, the orphans, and the widows.
We do this by sacrificing what we spend on ourselves so we can support those who are going and sharing Christ with those who’ve never heard of him before.
And we even go ourselves — into all the world to preach the gospel — showing Christ’s compassion to all people as we work tirelessly for Jesus.
But don’t ignore the exhaustion of the disciples. They’re tired. They need rest. They’ve worked hard for the Lord because the people were like sheep without a shepherd. And these people need to experience the compassion of the Good Shepherd — Jesus Christ — through them.
And because people are like sheep without a shepherd, we must work tirelessly for Jesus as we show them his compassion. But there’s a second way we’re to show people Christ’s compassion.
REST FULLY IN JESUS
Because people are like sheep without a shepherd, we must rest fully in Jesus. We must rest fully in Jesus. Look with me in verse 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 (Basically the disciples say, “Look Jesus. You want us to get some rest and the only rest we’ve gotten was during the boat ride on the way over here. And the crowd was waiting for us when we got here — so we’re still exhausted. I mean, they could run here faster than we could get here by boat. So before it gets too late, we really need to do something about dinner for these people.” And in verse 36 they tell Jesus to…) 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?" (“Jesus this is a ridiculously impossible thing you’ve just told us to do. Two hundred days worth of paychecks won’t even cover the cost of food for these people.”) 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.” (Mark 6:35-41 ESV)
Because people are like sheep without a shepherd, we must rest fully in Jesus as we show them his compassion.
Now we’re finite creatures — so there’s only so much work we can do before we need to rest. In fact, sometimes we go beyond what God’s asked us to do and we reach a point of burnout. And I think the disciples are close to that point because — earlier — Jesus sent them away in order to do ministry work — and now — the disciples want to send the crowd away so they can stop doing ministry work. At some point, we all reach a breaking point if we don’t stop to rest.
And Jesus knows they need to rest, so it’s his turn to work. But don’t miss this: Even though Jesus does the work, he still does it with his disciples.
They’re exhausted. They’ve worked tirelessly. And now they have to rest fully in Jesus even as he tells them something else to do. They don’t have the strength to go out and feed these people on their own, so they have to rest in — think trust in — Jesus’ power to provide food for all of these people. Remember — when he sent them out — Jesus told them to trust in his provision and — now that they’re back — he wants them to continue trusting in his ability to provide for — not only their needs — but even the needs of this large crowd.
And the best opportunity to rest in Jesus — to trust in his power — is when he commands you to do the impossible. And that’s exactly what he’s done to the disciples. “You give them something to eat.” “But, uh, Jesus. We don’t even have lunch for ourselves. And, by the way — I’m sure you’re aware of this — but it’s going to take a lot of money to buy these people dinner and you told us to leave our money bags at home when we left on that journey you sent us on. So, yeah, ummm…we’re not going to be able to do this on our own. It’s impossible.”
And that’s the thing about Jesus’ commands — sometimes they are impossible. Have you ever heard someone say, “God will never give you more than you can handle”? Well this story proves that’s not true. And in the Bible — and in church history — we see people do the impossible because Christ commanded them to do so and they trusted that he would be with them.
Some have sold all of their belongings and given the money to the poor.
Others have left their home country to go proclaim the gospel in countries where Christ is not known.
Others have learned difficult languages in order to translate the Bible for the people who speak that language.
And others serve in the nursery here at Gateway which — for me — is the most “I need You to be with me” Jesus serving opportunity we’ve got.
But that’s what it means to follow Jesus. You obey his commands — even the ones that are impossible. Because when God commands the impossible it means he must show up and do something with you for it to be accomplished.
So the disciples divide the crowd up into groups of fifty and hundreds. If Jesus doesn’t do something, they’re going to look foolish — which brings us to another important lesson: Faith in Jesus always requires obedience. And obedience to Jesus’ impossible commands always requires risk.
And when God commands the impossible it means he must show up and do something with you in order for it to be accomplished. And the size of the risk you’re willing to take is based solely on the size of your faith in believing that Jesus is with you.
And that’s exactly what happens in our story. In the whole crowd of a few thousand people, only one kid has got something to eat — we learn from the other gospels that’s where the fish and bread come from — a little kid. And I appreciate an observation by a pastor.
“So here’s a little kid, this must be a standard boy’s lunch. Five crackers and two fish. You take the fish, you put it on the crackers, that’s lunch. Which is a good indication that out of this whole crowd there was at least one mother who — [when she saw her] little kid running off to go see Jesus — she at least had the foresight to give him something to eat.”
And through this boy’s lunch, Jesus did the impossible. The disciples rested in his power as he provided all that was needed to accomplish the impossible task — the feeding of thousands of people with only a few pieces of bread and two small fish.
Now don’t miss the important application for our lives. No matter how insignificant you think you are — or how little you think your gifts and talents are — Jesus can do the impossible and multiply what you bring to him so that thousands upon thousands of people experience his compassion through you. If he can take a little boy’s lunch and feed this large crowd, what might Jesus do through you if you were to rest fully in him — so that others experience his compassion through you?
Because people are like sheep without a shepherd, we must rest fully in Jesus as we show them his compassion.
One final thing for us.
DISPLAY OUR JOY IN JESUS
Because people are like sheep without a shepherd, we must display our joy in Jesus. We must display to them that our joy is in Jesus. Look with me in verse 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.” (Mark 6:42-44 ESV)
Because people are like sheep without a shepherd, we must display that our joy — our satisfaction — is in Jesus as we show them his compassion.
Now before we get to our joy, let me explain a doctrine that we see here. The doctrine is what theologians call “God’s common grace.”
Now God’s common grace is different from his saving grace. God’s saving grace — as you can probably guess — is the grace we mean when we talk about — and see in Scripture — God saving someone from their sin. It’s saving grace that gives a person new life in Christ — so people who experience God’s saving grace are who? They’re believers, right? Christians. Christ-followers. Disciples. Whatever you want to call them.
But common grace is different in that all people experience God’s common grace. Common grace is found in places like Matthew chapter five, where Jesus says, “For he (that’s God) makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45b ESV)
So God’s common grace is seen in how he allows both the just and the unjust — both the righteous and the wicked — both Christians and non-Christians — to experience his favor and blessing through rain that waters the earth and sunlight that gives life and warmth.
God shows His grace towards people who are in rebellion against him by allowing them to experience things like the love of a spouse, the birth of a child, or the beauty in hearing one of Mozart’s masterpieces.
The wicked don’t deserve these things — no one does — yet God — in his common grace — allows all people — even those who are in rebellion against him — to experience these blessings of grace. And in our story, we see God’s common grace in how Jesus feeds everyone in the crowd and not just his disciples.
Now us modern people might not marvel at this because we think, “Well of course Jesus would feed everyone — who wouldn’t do that?” And the reason we think like this is that we don’t really fathom the depth of our rebellion and wickedness against God. We don’t see ourselves as his enemies.
We see ourselves as innocent sufferers who deserve God to do good things for us — like feed us when we show up somewhere without lunch.
Or to lower our cholesterol even though we keep eating fatty cheeseburgers.
Or to fix our marriage even though we keep being a jerk towards our spouse.
That’s just how skewed our view is of God and of ourselves. We’re quick to blame God for bad things in our lives that we’ve caused to happen — like showing up somewhere with nothing to eat — we just expect that God must do something for us.
And even though not one person in this crowd deserves to be fed, every person experiences the common grace of God. All ate until they were full — their physical appetite was satisfied. And not only that but the disciples collected twelve baskets full of bread and fish so they’d have something to eat for lunch the next day. That’s the compassion of God as seen in his common grace — he not only feeds us — he gives us lunch for tomorrow.
So how does this connect to our joy? Well the only way that you and I will work tirelessly for — and rest fully in Jesus — so that others experience his compassion — is by finding our joy — our satisfaction — in him alone.
Not in what’s accomplished as we work tirelessly for Jesus.
Not in getting to kick your feet up every evening as you rest fully in Jesus.
Not in seeing him come through with some kind of miracle.
But instead, your joy is in Jesus because he is with you as you work and with you as you rest and his presence is the reason for your joy.
And being with Jesus is what matters most to a Christian. Being with him is what gives you hope. It’s what gives you peace. It’s what gives you joy. Because you know you’re nothing more than a sheep who wants to experience the compassion of your Shepherd who is always with you.
And this kind of joy — joy that’s found only by being with Jesus — is contagious.
It’s a “what’s going on in your life that makes you so different” kind of joy.
It’s an “I can work tirelessly for Jesus as I show others his compassion because I’m with him” kind of joy.
It’s an “I can rest fully in Jesus when he asks me to do the impossible” kind of joy.
And because people — all people — everyone of us — are like sheep without a shepherd — we — followers of Christ — must show them our Shepherd’s compassion. Because there’s nothing equal to experiencing the compassion of Christ.
Have you experienced his compassion? He’s offering it to you right now. Does his presence give you joy? He’s offering you joy right now. Let’s pray that you would receive the compassion and joy that Jesus is offering to you. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, remind us that Your Son — Jesus — is our Shepherd. And that we — all of us — are in desperate need of experiencing his compassion.
Jesus, just as you sent out the twelve — all who follow you today are sent ones. We’ve been saved to be sent out into the world to show people your compassion. We do this as we work tirelessly for you, for there are many people you love who have yet to experience your compassion. We do this as we rest fully in you — especially when you command us to do the impossible. And we do this as we display that our joy is in you, so people who are joyless see the joy that can be theirs through faith in you.
Holy Spirit, if there’s anyone here who’s longing to experience Christ’s compassion — I ask that you would do the work you do in people’s hearts. Give them new life. Open their eyes to see all that’s being offered to them in Christ. Guide them in repentance and belief. Save them from their sins and make them into a new creation.
Finally, Jesus, thank you. Thank you for your compassion. Thank you for your never-ending love. Thank you for your patience with us. The hope you give us. And your presence with us. It’s in your name that we pray. Amen.
BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: tired for the wrong reasons; desire to experience Jesus’ compassion or have a desire for joy)
Having experienced Christ’s compassion, may you go showing his compassion to others. Amen
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.