Text: Mark 6:30-44 ; John 6:; Matt.14 ; Luke 9
Proposition: Jesus tests our faith that we would rightly see Who He is as the source for our life and faith.
Introduction: How are you at handling tests? When someone says to you in full seriousness that there will be a test on what you are being taught or instructed in, what is your response? Do you resent the test as a waste of time, an insult to your capabilities, an intrusion of authority over you? What about the tests that come unannounced, the pop quiz’s that you don’t expect? These usually show up as that which is meant to test what is resident knowledge, not crammed in knowledge. It’s meant to test the level and quality of that which is within you, kind of like the way you check the oil in your car. You pull out the dip stick and it tells you how much oil is in the engine and the color of the oil tells you how much contamination has made its’ way into the oil. So when you lift the hood on your car to check the oil are you thinking, “Hah, this will be a pop quiz that it wasn’t expecting, I’ll take it by surprise! No, you’re thinking more about the effective operation of the car as you watch out for contamination. Let’s read a passage of Scripture that talks about the way God tests people, particularly as He performed a miracle that most didn’t even recognize as a test. Turn with me to Mark 6: 30-52, as we read about the only miracle that Jesus performed that is described in each of the four Gospels.
When God Chooses to Test Us, Timing is Everything. God has an exquisite sense of timing, it comes from His foreknowledge and His wisdom and His sense of humor and even His sorrow. It was “After these things” things like the death of John the Baptist (Mark 6: 30,31), things like the disciples returning from their first assignment, things like an endless stream of people coming for help or healing. After these things they cross the western edge of the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida to take a break. But as they arrive in this desolate place the crowds have gotten there first. The timing was for a rest but they walked right into 5000 hungry, hurting, hoping people. In John’s gospel (6:4) it tells us that the Passover was just about to happen. What would be the significance of the Passover as it relates to what Jesus is just about to do? Was the timing of this miracle meant to coincide with an event that marked the former deliverance of this people, would their appetites be whetted not only for food but for a Messiah? When God tests us it never seems to be the right time, it’s often inconvenient and difficult to even recognize as a test. Yet God does test us to expose the quantity and quality of what lies within us, to expose the degree of contamination in our souls, in our faith. He tests us so that what He already knows about us would now become evident to us as well.
When God Chooses to Test Us, Circumstance Is Everything. It says that Jesus “was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd”. That’s the circumstance, people who are like sheep without a shepherd, lost, hungry, vulnerable. So for hours Jesus feeds, cleans, protects and loves the sheep. The circumstance is that Jesus and the disciples are exactly where God wants them to be. They are able to give and care for the people in a way and at time of need that no one else could. They are the perfect choice for what’s needed. That’s the circumstance, now comes the test. As daylight is starting to fade, it is the disciples that advise Jesus that it is quitting time. Send the people away so they can find something to eat and a place to stay. In John 6:5,6 it says, “He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat? But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.” Look at the question, and then listen to how Philip responds. “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” The question was, “Where are we to buy bread that these may eat?” It’s a question that seems to presuppose there’s enough money, it’s just a matter of finding a source of the food. It was a test. Philip misses the source question and immediately falls into the money angle. Even if we had a great little Italian bakery just over that ridge, it would take more money than we’ve got, it’d take 200 days wages. At today’s minimum wage rate that would be about $11,200. Clearly the circumstances were formidable, it seems they almost always are for God’s tests to really achieve what He desires. Overwhelming need, exhausted ability, solutions that weren’t really solutions at all, these were the circumstances that God employed. The circumstance prompted Jesus to give a clue, to give a nudge, to ask a source question, where is the source of bread, the source of supply for 5000 people? When it comes to our circumstances the supply isn’t usually bread, it’s more like financial balance, relational harmony, personal health, inner fears. Do our circumstances also add up to a test that is meant to really be a source question, to reawaken our belief in the all sufficiency of Christ? Is it possible that if we don’t hear what Jesus is asking us we too will give the wrong answers, we too might get frustrated with Jesus’ lack of understanding the facts of the circumstance. When God chooses to test us circumstance is everything.
When God Chooses to Test Us, Obedience is Everything. Then Jesus says a most frightening thing to the disciples. When confronted with the impossibility of the needs of others Jesus commands three things of these disciples. First He tells them, “You give them to eat.” Literally in the Greek it reads like this, “Give to them you to eat.” The word order in Greek emphasizes the pronoun ‘you’. It’s a frightening thing to hear from Christ, it awakens our fears of not being able to fix it, of not being enough, not having enough bread, money, time, or perhaps even a will to give more of you. The second command of Jesus is phrased as a question, “How many loaves do you have? Go look.” It’s a test, can you count what God has already done, given, opened or saved in your life? What do have right now that is part of what God intends to use. Sometimes our response is a little short sighted, like Andrews in John 6, “…five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” That’s the inventory, is it crumbs and bones or is it a test that is asking you to risk seeing what you can’t yet see. The third command of Jesus is, “Have the people sit down.” There is a great risk here, the expectation of people that something is about to happen and the disciples are the ones who are on the front line. Three commandments, 1. Give to them you to eat 2. How many loaves do you have? Go look 3. Have the people sit down. Do each of these three commands of Christ call for obedience? The answer is definitely YES. What was such obedience going to lead them to discover?
- That the source of that much bread came only from the creating power of Jesus.
- That the little which I have and which seems useless or even problematic, is really more than what I thought it was.
- That astoundingly, God deliberately intends to use people who at that point in time don’t know what He is about to do.
- That the test is not about results, ie full stomachs. It’s about Who I really believe Jesus to be. Do I advise Him or does He command me?
- The tests of God are always people specific, some are meant to see the test and others will not even have a clue there was a test going on.
- The tests of God will always reveal to all the sovereign power of God, twelve baskets of scraps don’t go unnoticed. For some it meant food for tomorrow, for some it meant a god who could be used, for others it awakened their minds to look up and ask, “How did He do that, Who is He?”
In timing, circumstance and obedience God’s tests expose the quantity and quality of what lies within us, that what He already knows about us as to faith, hope and love would now become evident to us as well.