Nothing is Ordinary in the Kingdom of God.

Posted: April 8, 2013 in Mark, Sermon Manuscripts

Good morning! Mark six is where we’re going this morning. Mark chapter six. We’re going to cover a very familiar historical account of one of Jesus’ miracles- one of His biggest, in fact. It was the biggest in Galilee, to be sure. Anyone who’s ever heard of a flannelgraph can probably recall childhood memories of crowds of people, fish, and loaves of bread slapped against a flannel board. Ringing any bells with anyone?

That’s right- we’re at the feeding of the 5,000. And what used to be a simple childhood story has become for me this week a story with so much depth that it’s amazing. So many things in play here, such an obvious display of Jesus’ divinity, sovereignty, and grace…it’s hard to even know where to begin.

I struggled as I put this sermon together to figure out the “big” picture, as well as how we can best apply it in our lives today. Quite frankly, one message cannot and will not do justice to everything going on here. So let me just put in a shameless plug for our Community Groups, where we’ll be able to discuss things that I simply don’t have the time for this morning.

But I want to frame today’s message within the context of this convoluted question: If the Kingdom of God is a present reality, and if we as God’s children are now within this Kingdom, and if the resurrection has granted us supernatural new life in Christ, and if a miraculous cutting out of our old, dead spiritual self has happened, and if God has placed within us a new man created in true holiness and righteousness…then where is the power, presence, and person of God in my life, now?

‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I didn’t heal any sick people this week. I didn’t raise anyone from the dead. I didn’t talk about the Kingdom of God and see God radically transform hearts before my very eyes. I didn’t perform any miracles that led to all of Crozet knowing that I’ve been given power and authority by Jesus.

When I look at the pages of Scripture and compare myself to what I see Jesus’ disciples doing, a lot of times I feel like a loser. And so naturally there are thoughts coursing through my mind, like “maybe Jesus doesn’t work like this 2000 years later,” or “what if I’m doing this whole Christianity thing wrong?” or “what can I do to experience the supernatural?” “Does it even happen anymore?”

But then I have to get after myself, because when I look at the rest of God’s Word, and I look at the work of God in my own life, there is no denying this fundamental truth: nothing is ordinary in the Kingdom of God. Nothing. Sometimes, though, we’re blinded to it. Or we miss opportunities to experience the supernatural.

So the question for us this morning isn’t where has the extraordinary and supernatural gone, but rather what can I do to experience it? Can it still be seen? Have I blown my chance?

Hopefully before we leave this morning we’ll have answered these questions as we look at one of Jesus’ greatest miracles. My goal is for us to leave here having learned Four Secrets to Experiencing the Supernatural.

We’ll ask and answer some other questions along the way, but I’ll tell you up front that it’s going to take some work. It’s going to take some thought. It’s going to require us- all of us- this morning to envision the scene set before us.

Listen for the birds crying in the air, the sounds of waves lapping at a boat. The excited murmuring of thousands of people. Try to smell the springtime grass. Feel it between your fingers. Don’t just listen to the narrative. Join it.

As our text picks up in verse thirty, we find “The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.” If you recall, Jesus had commissioned His disciples and sent them out to the surrounding towns and villages, preaching repentance and performing many of the same miracles that Jesus did.

We don’t know exactly how long they were gone, but we know that the rumors of their works had covered the region, and wherever they went people were healed, the dead were raised, and the Gospel went out. Now, they’re returning to Jesus, six teams of two, to report on what they had done and taught.

They’ve been busy, and they’re tired. They didn’t have the luxury of driving from town to town- they walked. 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.

What’s amazing here is that Jesus recognized their need for rest. It was a need that He Himself experienced on multiple occasions. Remember when He was so worn out that He passed out in a boat in the middle of a storm?

Jesus was no stranger to weariness. He knows that ministry is hard, that Kingdom work is tiring. His disciples were so bombarded by people seeking miracles for various reasons, and telling Jesus what all had happened, that they hadn’t been able to eat and were getting hungry.

Come on, boys. Hop in the boat- let’s go relax a bit. You need to rest. You’ve done great.

Not so fast, Jesus. By now your whole crew is recognizable, and you have six teams of men leading people your direction. Mark tells us that 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. As one commentator put it, “some track star guessed where Jesus and His men were headed and raced there ahead of them, alerting each town they passed that Jesus was coming.”

Whoever Jesus’ PR agent was, they were good at their job. By the time Jesus reached the shores just outside of a town called Bethsaida Julius, he went ashore [and] 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.

There was no quit in Jesus, was there? He’d spent a lot of time catching up with the disciples, they were worn out, all were hungry, Jesus had to be an emotional wreck adjusting to the murder of John the Baptist, all they wanted to do was rest, and yet here is this great crowd, ready to continue draining Jesus of His time, energy, and emotions.

And Mark tells us that Jesus “had compassion on them.” This word in the Greek means to be “moved in the bowels.” It’s that gut-wrenching feeling you get when you see people in need- and not just see people in need, but connect with it. It wrecks you. It binds you to that person and drives you to act.

I want to remind you this morning that Jesus was not simply a passive observer of the human race during His incarnation. He was one of us. And He loved us. He hurt with us. He was hungry with us. He was tired with us. And yet He never withheld Himself from us.

Jesus sees this multitude and it crushes Him inside, because He knows. He knows they’re like sheep without a shepherd. You know what happens to sheep without a shepherd? They die. They can’t clean themselves, feed themselves, find water, travel, or defend themselves from predators. They can’t even pick themselves up off the ground if they fall on their back. They’re pitiful, helpless, hopeless, and miserable without a shepherd.

Might surprise you to learn that the phrase “sheep without a shepherd” is mentioned frequently in Scripture as the way God sees Israel.

You could argue that Jesus has a special love for His bride, much like we do our own spouses. I agree with that, and I believe Scripture is clear that Jesus’ love for His church has no rival, save for the love He has for His Father, and for the Holy Spirit. But there’s no denying that Jesus loved even those who would eventually call for His execution, those who would stop following Him even directly after this encounter.

Jesus loves this crowd, He hurts for them, He cares about them, and so He begins to teach them. Yeah- most were going to let His words go in one ear and right out the other, but there were some who would get it. There were some who were His.

Picture Jesus standing there on the shore, stretching His tired legs and helping His disciples out of the boat. Looking around, He sees thousands of people milling around, hoping for miracles, with no regard for the needs of Jesus and His men.

He was hungry, he was tired, He’d told His men they were coming to rest- He needed a rest…and yet the needs of the people outweighed His own. As it always did. And so He teaches them. And teaches them. And teaches some more.

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.” Pretty clear problem, right? Um, Jesus? We’re not exactly in the city center right now. It’s past time to eat, it’ll be dark in a bit- tell them to go home, ok? And if they can’t make it home tonight, let them at least find a place to eat and stay for the night. Let’s call it good, get back to our R&R, whaduyah say?

37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” Now here’s where things get interesting, because I don’t think Jesus was throwing out an impossible command just to highlight the need for His own power. Let me explain what I mean.

Jesus had given His disciples authority to raise the dead, heal the sick, and proclaim the Gospel with power. Here, in His presence, with His permission, they were commanded to feed this enormous crowd. Had they acted obediently with faith, I can’t help but believe they would have been able to feed them.

They aren’t thinking on that wavelength, though. That they could actually do this went right over their heads.

And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” To be honest, it was a sarcastic response. Yeah Jesus! Sure, no problem. Let’s just buy almost a year’s worth of bread and give ‘em all an appetizer, huh? 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.”

So what now, Jesus? We just combed this crowd looking for food (and I still can’t believe that we’re talking about this)- there’s one kid here with food, one boy with a kid’s lunch. Five “loaves,” if you want to call it that. More like pitas. And a couple small fish.

They had obeyed Jesus, perhaps in hopes of discovering more food than what they had. But the secret was out- there simply wasn’t any food. Nothing, that is, except for this boy’s lunch. And now we’re in the middle of the first secret to experiencing the supernatural, which is this: faithful obedience in the ordinary. Faithful obedience in the ordinary.

Last Sunday we baptized four people- two of whom have been Christ-followers for years, two who are recent converts. I know of others who have come to faith in Christ through the ministry and influence of Life Journey Church…but that does’t happen by itself. Our church does not exist in a vacuum, you are the church! Two years ago there was no LJC, there was no Walt Davis, and now almost 40 families are plugged in and connected to this dream of spreading God’s fame to our neighbors and the nations.

And we are spreading His fame! If you believe otherwise, just ask those who were baptized last week! God is supernaturally drawing together for Himself this growing assembly of believers known as Life Journey Church, and He is doing it through community group leaders, co-leaders, group hosts, groups, musicians, a/v technicians, JourneyKids volunteers, food servers, greeters, setup and teardown crews, and the countless other ways in which you have come together to serve as the body of Christ.

God is doing extraordinary things here in Crozet and our surrounding communities, and He’s doing it through your faithful obedience in things that may not seem supernaturally spectacular when viewed alone.

Want to see more of God in action? Be faithfully obedient in the mundane, in the seemingly unimportant. But remember, nothing is unimportant in the Kingdom. Nothing is ordinary.

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. Let’s be honest here for a second. If I had been there, and I had known the predicament these hungry people were in, I’ve got to say that I would have questioned this. Why bother putting them in groups we can serve when we have no food, Jesus? Yet still His disciples obeyed and had this crowd of people sitting in groups of fifty and a hundred.

By this point all eyes are on Jesus. We’re sitting down, it’s been a long day, we’re tired, we’re hungry, we see no food, we heard your disciples asking around- they have no food…what’s the deal?

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.

Man, I wish we could get inside the minds of Jesus’ followers right here. Standing before this crowd of thousands, Jesus holds this lunch his disciples ganked from a kid, and staring into the heavens He blesses it before God…and what? Now we’re supposed to pick a lucky winner to give this food to as a snack?

Yet incredibly enough as the disciples begin to distribute this food they’d been given, something like half a pita and 1/6 of a fish each, the supernatural begins to occur as Mark tells us, “42 And they all ate and were satisfied.” “Satisfied” doesn’t do it justice there. They were stuffed. This was an “All you care to eat buffet” going on, and they were getting it done.

I love what John MacArthur says about it. He notes that in this Divine act of creation by Jesus, the barley loaves He’s creating, the fish He’s creating, these are elements of creation untainted by the Fall. There is no stain of sin touching this food, and because of that it’s no doubt the best fish the crowd had ever tasted, the most delicious bread. This was a precursor, the faintest image, of what is in store for God’s people in the coming new creation.

Mark tells us that “43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.” These faithful disciples, skeptical and wavering at times they may be, were left holding a basket for each of them, loaded with fish and bread. And as they stood there, holding this food somehow created by Jesus, I wonder if they were weighing what they knew about Jesus against this.

Yeah, He’d raised the dead. Yeah, He’d healed the dead. But this? The ability to create? No one does that but Yahweh.

And I wonder what the crowd thought. This massive crowd, this last group who experienced this kind of power on such a large scale. Mark tells us that “44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.” That’s 5000 men. The text doesn’t mention how many mothers, sisters, wives, and children were in the mix. Some scholars estimate that this crowd was at least 15,000 large- possibly as large as 25,000.

One boy eating five loaves and two fish, adults doing at least twice that…crunch the numbers and it would have been something like 200,000 loaves and 80,000 fish in that crowd. This was a miracle that couldn’t be faked. There was no denying the power of Jesus here. And I would venture a guess that many of us here today have experienced things in life where God’s involvement was undeniable.

But it doesn’t always involve crowds of thousands of people, does it? Because if that’s the only way we expect to see God in action, we’ll rarely see Him. That leads us to our second secret to experiencing the supernatural, which is this: Realize that the supernatural doesn’t always come with flashing neon lights.

I’d like to share one such story with you this morning. I believe I shared this once before, when we met at Old Trail, but it’s definitely worth repeating.

Last month in a message, I told you that I had resigned my job last year as a Student Pastor to join Walt here in Crozet, and I did so with very little support in place. My home church was gracious enough to give me a two-month transition period during which I could build my support network, take care of housing, spend some time with my students, etc.

You can imagine how fast and chaotic those two months were! In the final month there, which was July of last year, I wrote a daily entry in my blog that showcased God’s faithfulness and sovereignty and we made the transition to Crozet. I would encourage you to read through it sometime.

God is still working in supernatural ways, and He does it to bless us- not for our perfect obedience, but because we’re His children and He has a distinct plan for each of our lives.

But please, be sure to get this third secret to experiencing the supernatural: Understand that God’s moving isn’t contingent upon our obedience. This is what I mean: Jesus’ disciples didn’t exactly obey Jesus’ command to feed the crowd, and also the same crowd that was blessed turned on Him the next day.

How many times in Sunday School did we learn that the moral of the story is that if we have childlike faith and give God our lunch, He can do mighty things with it? That is Old Covenant thinking! In the New Covenant we don’t have to earn God’s favor or perform in ways that cause Him to shower us with Grace.

Is it true that actions come with consequences? Absolutely. Is it true that obedience to God enhances our joy in Him? Of course. But to think that God will only move in supernatural ways in your life if you have perfect obedience is only going to rob you of your joy, because no one obeys God perfectly. That was that point of the Cross. And yet still God blesses. Still God works miracles. But it’s about His glory…not about your stellar track record. ‘Cause let’s be honest…we’re not that impressive.

As our band comes forward, let me share with you this fourth and biggest secret to experiencing the supernatural: It doesn’t get any more supernatural than what we’ve experienced personally in the New Birth.

Here’s what set this miracle of Jesus apart from the others He had done: Jesus wasn’t taking diseased fish and making them well. He wasn’t taking dead fish and bringing them back to life. Jesus used His Divinity to create, to bring into existence something that had not existed prior to His work.

And He’s done that very thing in us. Jesus didn’t simply resuscitate our spiritually dead self. He could’ve, no doubt. But equally certain is that fact that in our fallen flesh, we wouldn’t have made it far at all before again falling into temptation and rebelling against God.

No, God is at work among us doing so much more than that. If we’re united to Christ by faith, we are a new creation. That is something within now in our regeneration that did not exist prior to our conversion. And as our minds slowly, so slowly!, grasp the reality that God no longer sees our sins and failures, that He cannot be displeased with us because He sees us as He sees His own perfect Son Jesus, as we set our minds on the things of the Spirit, the flesh will follow.

Want to see the extraordinary and supernatural work of God? Look at yourselves, church. We are His prized creation, His glory put on display. We are the embodiment of Jesus as we function as His bride. That is miraculous.

You’ll notice as we go through Mark that there isn’t a whole lot of “do’s” in our messages. Don’t get me wrong- there are some “do’s”. And if we wanted, we could take each message and end with a list of “do’s” and “dont’s,” but I don’t think that’s the purpose of our Gatherings. Our goal isn’t to bring you in with your burdens, lay more on you, and send you on your way. We want the grace of God to remove them from you.

So these next few minutes aren’t going to focus on action items, other than these two…the first is this: Ask God where He’d have you obey. I’m not going to tell you what God wants you to do- but I want you to be open and listening for Him to tell you what He’d have you do, how He’d have you further His Kingdom here through Life Journey Church.

And the other thing is this- in these few minutes I want this truth to sink in, and sink in deep. This is our JourneyMarker for the week: Nothing is ordinary in the Kingdom of God. Nothing. Daily, whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re experiencing the supernatural work of God.

It’s there in our obedience as we see God use us- it’s even there in different forms in our disobedience as a testimony of God’s grace. It might not have flashing neon signs, but it’s there, and I know it’s there because in our salvation we’ve experienced the God of the Universe drawing us to His Son, cutting out from us the old man, the spiritually dead God-hating rebel within, and giving us a new life united to His Son through His Spirit, so that for the rest of our lives we will be conformed outwardly ever-increasingly, into the image of Jesus. It doesn’t get much more supernatural than that.

Nothing is ordinary in the Kingdom of God.

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