One of the benchmark events of Jesus Ministry is found in all four gospels. That tells me it is important.The event centers around a crowd of about 20 thousand people, a little boy and his kid’s meal from Long John Silvers, and this final principle of giving in our series “One Church”. The Principle of Multiplication.
Now, the principle of multiplication is applied throughout scripture in many different venues. We see the strength of God’s nation multiplied as a few men enter into battle against thousands, yet they were victorious. We see one voice on the day of Pentecost multiplied by the power of the Holy Spirit so that thousands understood the message in their native language. Next month we are going to look at the multiplication that occurs when one person shares the gospel with one other person and thousands are ultimately reached.
Today, we are looking at God’s multiplication of those things, resources if you will, that are released to Him, given to Him and ultimately blessed by Him for His purposes.
Mark records in chapter 6, verse 30, that the disciples have been out for days healing the sick, driving out demons, teaching about Jesus. They are tired, they are hungry and so Jesus puts them on a boat, they sail to the other side of the lake where they can get some rest. But the crowds follow them. Jesus see’s the crowd and has compassion on them, says something like: “they are like sheep without a shepherd” and so he spends the rest of the day caring for this crowd that grew to over 5000 men, plus women and children, an estimated 20,000 people.
In verse 35, it’s late in the day, the sun is starting to set, there is a break in Jesus teaching and activity and so the disciples come to Him and say: “it’s getting late. Send them away now so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But Jesus says to them in verse 37: “You give them something to eat.”
Phillip had already done the math.He said “That would take 8 months wages. Are we going to spend that much?”
Jesus said to him “how many loaves do you have?” and before they could answer, he said “Go and see.”
I want you to do something with me for a moment. I want you to take a quick inventory of what God has made available for your use. The bible tells us that everything we have belongs to God – so what Has gone made available to you? Car, house, food, clothing, relationship, church family, phone, cable tv, electricity, …..
Now, beside each of the things that you listed, how many of those things have you acknowledged God for? Have you given the first of to Him?
John tells us that there was a little boy in the crowd with 2 fish sticks and 5 hushpuppies in a Long John Silver’s kid’s meal sack with a Sponge Bob Square Pants action figure. Perfect!” “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish….” (John 6:9)(NIV)
You, of course draw the short straw, so you have to report back to Jesus the exciting news about your food collection efforts. Now, surely Jesus will send the crowd away while you are figuring up your own meal order from Pizza Hut wondering how far you will have to walk before you get cell service to place your order… Right?
And then Jesus says it. He says in verse 60 “have the people sit in groups of 50 or 100.” And what follows would be funny if you weren’t so hungry. 12 guys trying to organize 20,000 men, women and children into groups of 50. Herding cats would have been easier.
Finally, everyone is seated and in verse 43, Jesus takes the kids meal from Long John Silvers, Holds the hushpuppies in the air and gives thanks, he blesses them.
Now, we laugh at the disciples and their dilemma, because we understand, don’t we? When God tells us to bring the first of what we have been given, what we have, and lay it at his feet. Do we not feel, at least the first few times we do it, that if we give God what He asks of us, the first fruits, the tithe, what is left will never be enough?
The disciples bring this boys sack lunch to Jesus. He says “that will work”, he prays thanking God for what he has provided, breaks it into pieces, and hands it back to the disciples. Can you image what someone like Peter was thinking as he looked down at that half piece of bread? He had handed Jesus a whole piece and only got half back. But Jesus said “I’ve blessed it, now go give it away.”
Peter walks away with that half piece of bread in his hand and obediently, brakes it in half the same way he had seen Jesus do it, and hands half to someone in the crowd, then breaking the piece he had left into half again and half again and half again…. And in verse 42, you know the outcome. Maybe you don’t. Mark writes: “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. Over 20,000 were fed that day.”
Now, listen, this is what I’ve missed about this remarkable event in the dozens of times I’ve read it. The miracle of multiplication didn’t happen in Jesus hands, it happened in the disciple’s hands.
I want us to see the whole picture here. Jesus has just sent the disciples out days earlier without a change of clothes, without money, without reservations at the hotel. He wanted them to experience the reality that He would provide everything they needed. And as they went He did. It was his power that healed the sick. It was His power that drove out demons, it was His power that brought people to repentance. And on this day before a crowd of 20,000, as they let go of the food, the miracle happened…
Something must be blessed before it can multiply. Bring it to God.
A couple of interesting facts. Barley loaves and fish was a poor man’s lunch. This boy is poor, yet he was willing to give it all. I think this is one of the reasons why Jesus tells us that we many times have to come to him like a child, because a child doesn’t do all the calculating, he doesn’t put limits on God. A child simply goes all in.
The Second principle of multiplication is this. Only what is given away can multiply.
In this example here in Mark chapter 6, the disciples had the bread and the fish in hand. It has been blessed, and so it had the potential to multiply. But if they had just eaten it themselves, it would have remained five loaves and two fish. It would never have multiplied. They would have had a couple of bites of food each instead of full stomachs and 12 baskets of leftovers. They had to give it away so that it could multiply.
But let’s be honest. Sometimes: What we have is something we don’t want to let go of. Even though we know, we have seen example after example of how God works when we do let go, there is something inside of us that wants to hold on to it. Maybe it’s fear. We aren’t sure how God is going to respond and when he is going to respond? Maybe it is just outright selfishness – Give an inch, someone will take a foot. Right?
For the disciples – the first thing that pops out of their mouth
is “it’s going to cost eight months’ wages to feed these people – are you really sure you want us to spend that much money?” Let me ask you. Are you a reservoir or a channel of God’s love, power, resources? Has God not entrusted you with everything you have for a purpose bigger than yourself? Has He not promised that if you trust Him He will throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour down blessing after blessing on you?
On the flip side, sometimes We are unsure if God can use what we have to offer.
Some of us really feel this way. It isn’t just an excuse we throw out. We really don’t believe God can use what we have. We aren’t sure he can work with our marriage, with our parenting skills, we aren’t sure that our talent is what His Kingdom needs at the moment, or we feel our gift is too small, it won’t make a difference.
In John’s account verse 8 says “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:8-9)(NIV) Sometimes what we have to give seems insufficient for the need.
Look at the impact of one child’s gift to Jesus. A sack lunch that fed 20,000 people. Verse 42 says “They all ate and were satisfied.” They got full. The sheep without a shepherd met a shepherd. A boy who had nothing but a sack lunch learned that he can’t out give God. The twelve who stepped up to pass out the bread in faith had plenty to pass out.
Now, here is one last piece to this principle of multiplication. And that is We must trust God with the final outcome.
You want to experience multiplication in your life, then you have trust God completely. You have to live in His blessing by giving to Him first. You have to let go of what He has blessed you with in the first place. You have to trust that what God is up to He will finish it.
The apostle Paul wrote to the early believers in Philippi and said you can count on this, you can take it to the bank, “you can be confident that what God began in you he is faithful to bring it to completion…” (Philippians 1:6)(NIV) We trust that his death and resurrection opened the way for our salvation. We also need to trust him with our lives here and now.
Verse 43 says “the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.”
I always thought Jesus had the leftovers collected to demonstrate the power his ability to multiply bread and fish. But after feeding 20,000 people with five loaves and two fish, I think his ability to multiply fish and bread were proven without the leftovers.
Is it possible, that the God of the universe is simply saying, “when you trust me with what you have - whether it is control, money, an addiction that you aren’t sure you can give up, your family, I will give you something in return that is far greater than what you had on your own. Even if all you have to offer is your sack lunch, you will walk away not only full, but with leftovers to spare.” Think about the leftovers with me for a minute. The people in the crowd who wondered if this was really the messiah - did their faith grow? I think it did. What about the people who were hungry every day? You think they went home worried about where their next meal would come from? I think they realized that God had a hand in providing their daily bread. What about they people who were broken, whose relationships were in disrepare, who had lost children or family members to disease? All this talk about eternity was a little more real because they knew that God could provide this.....
When you and I let go to God and he multiplies, we leave a mark, people around us are encouraged, given hope.
Verse 45 says, “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.” It’s interesting that Jesus made his disciples get in the boat and leave while he stayed behind to finish the work. But if you think about it, it makes sense. There comes a time when we’ve done what God has asked of us and we simply step into the boat and let Him finish what He is going to do. After all, God is the One who specializes in Final Outcomes. Isn’t He?
God’s interested in the final outcome in your life. 2000 years ago he clothed himself with humanity, he came and walked among us, he demonstrated his great power in ways even greater than this event we talked about today – he conquered death and the grave. Now he is seated at the Father’s side asking that we trust Him, that we come to repentance and follow Him. 5 loaves and 2 fish feeding a crowd of thousands, is nothing to the One who made you and then gave you the choice to come to Him.
If you don’t have a church family, I would love to see you at MCC this week. It is an exciting time as we see God multiplying the number of children, teens and adults that are coming to know Him. He is also doing some amazing things as we trust Him with our commitment to double our physical space at Memphis over the next couple of years. Come and see what God wants to do in your life and relationship with Him.