Loaves and Leaven (Mark 8:1-21)
Topic: Sermons Passage: Mark 8:1–8:21
First, a quick thought on the weekly heart prep. Most weeks, I give a quick summary or teaser of what I’m planning on preaching. But this week is a little different. This week, the passage not only has words that point us to the Lord, but its point also is instructive in how we prepare our hearts to come to worship. There’s a lot happening this Sunday, and I wanted to preach a little to myself and to all of you prior to the sermon.
You might be feeling like you’re experiencing déjà vu. This week’s passage, Mark 8:1-21, starts with another miraculous multiplication of bread and fish. No, Mark hasn’t managed to recount the same miracle twice. This is a different feeding in a different area after a different length of teaching to a different mix of ethnicities. Instead of predominantly Jews in the feeding of the 5000, we have a predominantly Gentile crowd in the feeding of the 4000 in Mark 8.
This second feeding gives us a rare glimpse into the disciples’ growth in faith. In Mark 6, the disciples were skeptical that anything could be done to feed the people. Jesus responded by blowing their minds. Now here in Mark 8, how do they respond to Jesus asking them to provide food for the crowd? They simply acknowledge that they can’t possibly feed these people. By acknowledging their powerlessness and leaving it at that, they’re putting the ball back in Jesus’ hands to see what he will do when they aren’t up to the task. This is a humble and faithful response! They’re looking to Jesus to provide the solution.
But after a somewhat tense encounter with the Pharisees, the disciples seem to have completely missed the spiritual point of the feeding. They had grown in their expectations for the spectacular, but they hadn’t dug deeper to uncover what the spectacular pointed to, namely Jesus being the provider and sustainer of life. They were blind or just desensitized to spiritual truths that Jesus was trying to teach them. In some ways, we’re just like them. We have the Gospel, and we often let it wash over us. It’s spectacular and awesome, but how often do we actually take the time to meditate and discern the depth of what it means for our lives? This Sunday is pretty full. It’s a communion Sunday. We have some special things planned, and we have a fellowship lunch too. It would be easy to get distracted by all the things that are happening. It would be easy to go through the motions of listening to the sermon and taking the Lord’s Supper without really discerning the wonder of being united to Christ and what that means for our lives. But to do that would be to miss the whole point of coming to church. Let our fellowship, our celebration, our joy come from what brought us together in the first place, Jesus, the one whom we desperately need not only to save us, but also to nourish us.