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10. And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.
11. And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.
12. And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place.
13. But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people.
14. For they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company.
15. And they did so, and made them all sit down.
16. Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.
17. And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets.
There are so many things in the gospel of Luke that I struggle with from time to time that I have to pass over some because this is sermon #25 in this series already and I probably could stretch it out until no telling when if I didn’t skip over a few things, so I’m coming tonight to look at this great event when Jesus fed the multitude.
I want to talk to you about “How to Have a Miracle.” You can look at this great miracle that we’ve read about and can see the developments that really led up to a tremendous, miraculous ministry from Jesus and His disciples. Look at the setting for this miracle or for any miracle. It seems as if this is an unusual time and unusual place for the miraculous power of God to be demonstrated. In the first part of this chapter the apostles had been sent to preach and to heal and to cast out devils and they had returned with stories and testimonies of great triumph and victory in their efforts. Then Jesus calls them away to get alone privately for a time of rest and renewal and to look at what they’ve done and where they’ve been to just take note of all that has happened. So they go way out of the city into a desert country place expecting to be alone and to spend the entire day just talking and sharing together and renewing. You see, people who are in ministry and who labor and especially people who really care – give pastoral care – if they don’t find times for rest and renewal, they can suffer burn-out very quickly, very easily. Jesus was aware of that and He expected to have a day of rest with His disciples. But they were denied that because the people heard about them and where they were. They came and they followed them and they found them. Thousands came. With their pressing needs they came. That’s the way the people come. They always are driven because of great needs that they have. They want to get to wherever Jesus is. That’s one of the great attractions about Christ. Wherever He is, people push to get there to hear His voice, to feel His touch, to be in His presence, to see what is going to take place next.
Miracles usually take place in the context of ministry to the needs of people. This can be spiritual needs and physical needs as in this case. Because they spent a whole day preaching the Kingdom of God, Jesus is preaching and teaching and then He healed all that had need of healing. So it was a day of ministry of preaching, teaching and healing all day long. Usually I say it again, miracles take place in the context of ministry to people meeting their needs. Miracles are not just to demonstrate and show off some person and his talents perhaps. Miracles come because of compassion that flows out of the heart of someone who is concerned about the needs of people and who is willing to spend and be spent for that cause regardless of what the stress may be or what the situation may be.
I want us to look at this particular miracle that took place and just see how it developed. I think we can learn some lessons that will be helpful for us to understand how the Lord would indeed work miracles through our own lives. I want us to look, first of all, at the disciples’ dilemma. First of all, they had a great sense of urgency because the Bible says the day was wearing away. Sundown, evidently, was near. I suppose everyone was tired and weary and hungry by now. As the sun was getting ready to go down, the disciples said, “We’ve got to do something about this meeting and get this crowd dismissed because we have not been able to have our own private time with Jesus and rest.” So they came to Jesus with instructions. They said, “Lord, send the multitude away because they need to go and find lodging and food and find a place to get it because we are here in a desert place. There is no hope of them finding anything to eat here.”
I want you to look for a moment. This is a drastic mistake that the disciples are making when they came to Jesus to give Him instructions. In the first place, they were seeing tremendous impossibility before them. It was a problem of crowds of people that needed care that they could not handle. They had needs that they could not supply. The sensible thing to do would be to dismiss this crowd. Send them on their way and have them care for themselves. In other words, the church, the disciples were on the spot because of people with needs. I think this is the way of it in so many cases. The church in our day is still on the spot because of the many people who have needs. They have needs that need ministering to. Sometimes the attitude is ‘send them away.’ These disciples seem to be pretty good at this. There is another occasion that we have seen where they said to the Syrophenician woman, “Lord, send her away. She is crying after us.” We don’t mind some people coming to us, but if it’s problem people and people with great needs, well then send them away. I can’t imagine all of the things that come up in the hearts and lives of people that send out messages and send out vibrations telling people to go away. All kinds of unwritten messages go out that say “Go away. We don’t want problem people here. People with real needs, we don’t want them here. Get rid of them.” They said send them away. Let them go take care of themselves. They may have rationalized and figured it all out and said this is really the best thing, the human thing to do is to go ahead and have somebody take charge and dismiss them and let them go. But I wonder if it wasn’t just real human and maybe even a little bit carnal to just realize that the thing to do is to get Jesus to take care of this problem and send the people away.
What I want to say to you is that miracles don’t happen when we just instruct Jesus, wanting to get rid of the problem or the challenge that we are faced with. A lot of our praying is like that. We want to tell the Lord where all to go, whom to visit, whom to heal, whom to save. We would send Him all over this world every few minutes in our prayers if that’s the way things got done. But we know that’s not the way things get done. Things get done when people, instead of instructing Jesus, they report for duty and say, “Lord, what do you want me to do about this?” So, in response to their instruction, Jesus gave them a tremendous challenge. Now the Bible is filled with stories like this where people come up against a real dilemma and they don’t know which way to turn. They don’t know how to handle it. The Lord gives them a personal challenge to become involved in the answer to this problem. He says to them simply, “You give them to eat. Don’t send them off hungry and tired and weary. You give them to eat.” The Lord has a way of approaching us with impossible things for us to do. He has a way of challenging us with the impossible. One reason He does that is so that we will know that we cannot do it by ourselves, but that we will somehow turn things over to Him and He will get in with us and we can get in with Him and working and the miraculous will take place!
That’s the reason most of the time He tells us to do the impossible thing. It’s easy to hear the voice of the Lord when He tells you to do some little thing that will be no effort, no stretch of your imagination or no reaching out with faith. But when He tells you to do something that is impossible in your own power and you have to rely on Him, then He gets the glory. Amen! So He said, “You give them to eat.” I think that is still the call to the church in our age. There is a hungry, weak and starving world out there. The Lord is still saying to the church, “You give them to eat.”
I’ve already said we’re talking about spiritual things and physical things as well, so it’s a two-pronged approach here. Jesus is concerned about physical needs, hungry people, poor people, people who can’t take care of themselves. He is concerned about them. So He comes with this challenge. You look in the Scriptures and read almost all the miracles in there, most of them somebody is given a tremendous challenge. Like the man by the Pool of Bethesda and Jesus said, “Wouldn’t you like to be made whole?” He started like these disciples making disciples, making excuses and then Jesus had to give him a command.
It was so human for them to respond like they did to this tremendous challenge. When He said, “You give them to eat,” they began to offer excuses. When you put together John’s account and Mark’s account, you come up with some very interesting insights into this great event. Andrew has found a lad that just has a lunch of five loaves and two fishes. He says, “There is a lad here who has these, but what are they among so many?” Now I like Andrew. He is resourceful. He knows how to bring his brother to the Lord. He knows how to do all kinds of things, but he also is somewhat of a realist. Even though he has an eye for seeing what’s going on, even a young boy who has a lunch, he still faces the reality and says ‘What are these among so many?’ How many times I have heard that voiced over and over by people in churches? Who are we among so many and with such a great task and such a great challenge? Well you can find out quickly who you are if Jesus can take charge and get you in His hands like He did those loaves and fishes.
He is a Master at multiplying things! So after they had counted up what it would cost to buy just a little bit of bread for all this crowd and figured it out, they came out very short. You can’t feed many people on five little barley loaves of bread and two fishes. With the money we’ve got in the treasury even to buy one little morsel of bread for all of these people. Oh, how human we are when it comes to figuring out things and what God can and cannot do. You see, one thing we’ve got to understand, we don’t reason and figure things out the way the Lord does. When He instructs you to do something, He has the power to make it possible. That is a marvelous thing. It may look impossible to us, but to Him, He has the resources – divine resources.
Miracles come when you stop instructing Jesus and telling Him what to do and you get yourself in a place that He takes charge. The great thing is for the Lord Jesus Christ to be in charge. So He brushed away their excuses and paid no attention to them and He took charge. He began to give instructions. That’s different. When the Lord is in charge and He instructs, that’s a whole lot different then. I think God must have a humorous vein some way or another. I think this is a funny picture. Here are these great apostles and great evangelists who have just returned and the devils have been subject to them and they’ve had great evangelistic campaigns and they’ve come off out here to get rest. They’ve got it all figured out and you know what Jesus has them doing? He turns the whole bunch into ushers! I like that! You know sometimes the ushers see more miracles than the apostles. They know what’s going on. He said, “I want you to arrange these people. Have them to sit down in companies of fifty.” Now that’s going to take awhile. Can’t you just hear what some of the apostles were saying under their breath? “I tell you what, John. This beats all I’ve ever seen. I’ve always thought whatever the Lord said to just do it, but this looks crazy to me. I’m tired and worn out. We’ve been out here all day. We’ve seen thousands of people healed with miracles and yet here we are, He’s got us arranging people and getting them to sit down.” I probably would have been plodding along and fussing every step of the way! They made them sit down by 50s the Bible said. And then after the excuses are gone and Jesus has given a command, almost all miracles are followed by a command. The challenge is given and then a command. When the command comes and people obey, that is when the miracle takes place. That’s how you have a miracle. You get in the place where the Lord can talk to you and instruct you and you report for duty. You obey and the miracle will take place.
What Jesus did was one of the most beautiful things that’s ever recorded in the Bible. First of all, He took the five loaves and fishes in His own hands. I want to tell you it is amazing what the Lord can do with whatever He can get in His hands. If He could get some of us in His hands, we would surprise ourselves at how He could work through us exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask or even think according to His power working in us. There are people here tonight that if you had said to them when you first started out serving the Lord, did you ever think you would ever have the influence, did you ever think that you would lead the people to God that you have? Would you ever think that the Lord would have used you as He has? They would have said no, that they never would have thought it. But looking back they understand that the good hand of God was upon them, bringing them to a place of miraculous ministry for the glory of God. Far beyond our imagination. Far beyond our faith or vision. Because they got in His hands.
The next thing He did when He got the loaves and fishes in His hands, He blessed it. Now that’s an important step. If you miss that step, you miss the miracle. Because you see, the next step is He is going to break it. But He doesn’t break what He doesn’t bless. That’s the reason some people never get broken and get their will surrendered to the will of God is because they haven’t received His blessing yet. Some people are afraid to say yes to God and open up their hearts and just trust Him completely. They are afraid that He will demand so much out of them. There was a man in the Bible who had that kind of attitude and when the Lord called for the reckoning day he said “I was afraid and I knew you were a hard master, so I hid it.” He never even attempted to use the blessing that he had received. Some people need to be blessed tonight. They need the power of the Holy Spirit to overflow their lives in a great and abundant way so that the Lord can then like bread, break them according to His own will.
So many of the words that are used in this passage are very much like what is used in the Lord’s Supper; the giving of thanks and looking up into heaven and blessing and then breaking and giving. After all, that is what all our lives is supposed to be all about, getting in His hands, being blessed of His glorious Spirit, then being broken to do His perfect will. Don’t look for miracles until you become broken to your own self and come alive to the will of God. When you become broken to His will, when you accept your own cross – because you see the divine will of God coming down on this horizontal, vertical plane and cutting across our will on the horizontal, where His will cuts across ours, that’s where our cross is raised up. Some people think it’s because they have to live with a lot of trouble or cantankerous husband or whatever. No, sinner people have problems like that. The cross has to do with becoming broken to His divine will. When you do, you’re coming to the place where you will listen to Him and you will obey Him and the moment He starts talking to you and telling you what to do and you start obeying Him and you start doing it, that’s when the miraculous power of God gets in operation.
The result of this great miracle is fantastic. All the people eat and they are filled and then there are twelve baskets of fragments left over. I am totally amazed at the magnitude of it all. If you tried to compute it with a computer, the thing would go crazy and probably blow up and burn out and say “Won’t compute! Won’t compute!” Because He can multiply zeros times numbers and come out with numbers. In our mathematics, if you multiply anything times zero, the answer is zero. But He has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the mighty. He has chosen the things that are not. Think just a minute. What are things that are not? Do you know any of them? Name one. They are just zeros. But He has chosen zeros to bring to naught, that old English word for zero, the things that are. God can multiply zeros and He comes out with answers. I don’t understand that kind of mathematics. You see God has the kind of mathematics that it doesn’t matter how many zeros you’ve got in front of your life or how many minuses, He can take His divine power and His will and cut right down across all the minuses and turn them into plusses. He knows how to multiply things that are nothing and turn them into glorious, miraculous reality. Hallelujah! I don’t know how He spoke the world out of nothing and it became something. I don’t know how He hung it on nothing and it stays there, but that’s the way He understands physics. I don’t understand this kind of physics. Speak a world into existence out of nothing and hang it on nothing and it stays there. But that’s the kind of mathematics that Jesus uses that can take five loaves of bread and two fishes – or whatever you bring to Him and put in His hand – and multiply and multiply and do something miraculous with it.
There is one simple formula. Miracles take place in your life when Jesus is in charge, when He gives you instructions and you obey. That’s when miracles take place! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
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