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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
Title:Entrust yourself to the One who can really care for all your needs
Text:Mark 8:1-21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 5
Hymn 7:9 (after the law)
Psalm 23
Hymn 9
Psalm 149

Reading: Isaiah 25
Text: Mark 8:1-21
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,


What’s the best feast you’ve ever enjoyed?  There must have been some occasion that you can look back on and you can say, “Wow, that was a real feast.  The folks hosting that one didn’t hold back.”  Maybe it was a wedding or a graduation or anniversary.  Well, the best feast that you’ve ever enjoyed will never compare to the feast described in Isaiah 25. 


In Isaiah 25, we read about God preparing and hosting a feast.  It’ll include rich food.  It has aged wine, indeed the finest of wines.  It also has the best meats – think of the best steak you’ve ever had and it doesn’t even compare to what God has on the menu at his feast.  The menu is incredible, and so is the guest list.  God promised that this feast would not be for just one people, for one nation, but for all peoples.  There’s no ethnic or racial profiling at the door of this banquet; all tongues, tribes and nations will be present.


Isaiah 25 is a vivid prophecy of the age to come and the marriage feast of the Lamb.  It’s a prophecy that begins to come to fulfillment in our text for this morning.  The Lord Jesus had fed a huge crowd before.  That was in Mark 6.  But in Mark 6, it was very clear that this was a crowd of Jews, God’s covenant people.  Jesus had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd – that kind of language was used in the Old Testament to describe the people of Israel when they didn’t have any leadership.  Here in Mark 8, the Lord Jesus is still in the Gentile region of the Decapolis.  He demonstrates again that his care and compassion extend to the Gentiles too.  Christ has the willingness and the ability to take care of the needs of everyone.  That includes you and me. 


So, I proclaim to you the Word of God:


Entrust yourself to the One who can really care for all your needs


We’ll see:


1.      A miraculous feeding

2.      A misbegotten request

3.      A mysterious parable


As I just mentioned the Lord Jesus was in the region of the Decapolis.  That was on the east side of the Sea of Galilee.  This is where the healing of the deaf and mute man took place at the end of chapter 7.  Before that, the Lord Jesus had been in the region of Tyre, also a Gentile region.  These passages all have that thread running through them.  It’s readily apparent that the Lord Jesus also has concern for those still outside the covenant with Abraham. 


A large crowd had gathered around him and had been following him for three days.  Presumably he was teaching and healing, as he often did.  At a certain point, Jesus called his disciples to himself and said that his heart was breaking for all these people because they were out of food.  And if he sent them away, many of them would probably faint on their way home.  Now remember:  he’s saying this to these disciples who were with him a short while ago when he fed the 5000.  The Lord Jesus has compassion on the crowd.  You might expect his disciples to be in the same place.  When Jesus says this, you might expect them to say, “Well, why don’t just do what you did for the 5000?  In fact, Lord, please do what you did for the 5000 – take care of all these hungry people like we know you can.” 


The Lord Jesus has compassion on the crowds, but his disciples don’t.  They don’t get the hint.  Instead, they say, “This is a remote place and where can anyone possibly get enough food for all these people?”  What they mean is, “Lord, just send them away anyway.”  No compassion.  Maybe they’re cold-hearted because these crowds are Gentile – these are the heathen dogs.  Maybe the disciples were just cold-hearted anyway.  Certainly they weren’t any more compassionate when the crowd was Jewish.


It can be difficult to sustain compassion over the long haul.  There’s this phenomenon known as “compassion-fatigue.”  You see so much suffering and heart-ache and eventually you can become immune to it and cold to it; sometimes it seems there’s no other way to cope.  That can even happen when you’re dealing with the suffering of some one you love.  Compassion fatigue can deaden you and make you stop caring.  How do you combat compassion fatigue?  Loved ones, our text points us to Christ who perfectly showed compassion.  He did that for all who believe in him.  The law of God requires us to show compassion for our neighbour.  We do it imperfectly, Christ has done it perfectly for us and he has also paid for all our failures with his blood and death.  So, first of all, look to Christ and know that your struggle with compassion is also covered with his work.   Then of course, there’s also the fact of your union with Christ.  Looking to him in faith, your life is to reflect his life.  Your attitude is to reflect his attitude.  His compassion becomes your compassion.  If we look to him, he will give power through his Spirit and guidance through his Word, so that we can sustain compassion over the long haul. 


Our Lord Jesus had compassion and for that reason he asked them about the number of loaves.  There were seven and also a few small fish.  He then gave orders for everyone to sit down and he prayed and gave thanks and then the food was distributed.  Everyone ate and was satisfied.  The Lord Jesus took care of their physical needs.  Undoubtedly, he had been taking of their spiritual needs through teaching, but here again he shows that he takes care of the whole person, soul and body, spiritual and physical.  We have a Saviour for the whole person and that’s something we should never gloss over or take for granted.  He cares about everything in our lives, absolutely everything.  His concern is for all our needs. 


Then, after everyone had eaten, the disciples picked up the leftovers.  According to one Jewish source, it was common after banquets and feasts to pick up the leftovers that were at least the size of an olive.  There were seven huge baskets full of these leftovers.  That’s a picture of the overflowing compassion of Christ, also for those who stranger to the covenant and the promises of God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  There was more food at the end than at the beginning and everyone came away satisfied, over 4000 men, women and children.  He fed the 5000 Jews and now he feeds the 4000 Gentiles.  Amazing.  It’s not only amazing it’s also prophetic of the way in which Christ will soon gather, defend and preserve a people for himself from all tribes, tongues and nations.  They will all be gathered by him and fed by him and all will be satisfied in the ways that are most meaningful and important.


That day everyone was satisfied and his work among them was finished, the Lord Jesus finally dismissed the crowd. He and his disciples got into a boat and headed out across the Sea of Galilee.  Mark tells us that they went to the region of Dalmanutha.  Nobody really knows where that is exactly, but it’s probably somewhere on the western shore of the lake.


The western shore would be where you would expect to again run into the Pharisees.  There they were and they began to dispute with Jesus about religious matters.  Their intentions were not genuine and that’s clear from the fact that they were out to test Jesus.  Mark tells us that they asked him for a sign from heaven.  If you think about it, this is a rather strange request.  If we leave out the things Jesus did in the Gentile regions, there’s still quite a list of amazing things that Jesus did or that happened to the Lord Jesus.  If you want a clear sign from heaven, it’s hard to beat the voice that was heard at his baptism, “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.”  When he goes to Capernaum, he drives out an evil spirit.  Later in Mark 1, he heals a man with leprosy.  At the beginning of Mark 2, he heals a paralytic.   Think about the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue ruler in chapter 5.  Jesus brought back her back from the dead.  More examples are readily at hand.  There had been plenty of signs from heaven about who Jesus is and the authority that he bears.  However, all of those hadn’t satisfied the Pharisees.  What more did they want?  What would have made them believe that he was the Son of God, the Messiah?  Nothing.  They had their minds made up and their request for a sign from heaven wasn’t genuine.  Their request was misbegotten – it was inappropriate and out of place, coming out of sinful hearts set on destroying the Christ, set on showing him to be an impostor worthy of death. 


It’s no wonder then that the Lord Jesus reacts the way he does, with a deep sigh.  He asks why they’re looking for a sign.  Why do they need to ask when there have already been so many signs?  Then he says, “I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.”  This is actually an oath in the original, it’s something like, “if a sign will be given to it, may God strike me dead.”  Or you could even say, “As if a sign will given to this generation!”  When Jesus says this, he’s referring to the kind of signs that might satisfy the Pharisees at that moment.  He could do all kinds of signs, but nothing will satisfy them.  They’ll never get the sign that makes them believe that he is the Christ, because their hearts were hardened against him. 


Many people are still like that today.  I’ve heard people say things like, “I’ll become a Christian when God gives me a sign from heaven.”  The atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell once said something like that too.  He said that he’d believe in God when he heard a voice from heaven telling him everything that was about to happen in the next 24 hours or something like that.  But do you really think that Russell would have given up his atheism?  Or would he more likely have dismissed the voice as being a strange dream or a freak hallucination?  Any explanation other than God.  God has given plenty of signs of the truth in this world and in the Bible.  Unbelief is not due to a lack of information, but a lack of willingness to listen to the God who is there and is not silent.  Unbelief is not an intellectual problem, but a moral one.  Unbelief is rebellion against God and everything that he has revealed.  Unbelief is unethical and it’s sin and it’s a sin that we often have to fight against too.  It’s a sin that we combat by constantly going to the Word of God, seeing the signs that have been revealed there and believing them because they’ve given to us by our Father.  The signs are there today and they were there in the days of the Pharisees too.  They simply refused to believe them.       


So, the Lord Jesus turns his back on them and heads out on the water again with his disciples.  From the passage that follows this one, we know that they were now heading north on the lake, towards Bethsaida.  And as they travel, the Lord Jesus has an opportunity to teach them something valuable.  What they’re supposed to learn is also something important for us to learn. 


It all began when the disciples messed up and forgot to bring food with.  There were thirteen of them in the boat and only one loaf of bread.  Thirteen big grown men with big appetites and only one loaf.  It would have taken a few hours to cross the lake and they’d start getting hungry.


Christ sees a living parable before his eyes, a time to try and get something across to his students.  He warns them and says, “Be careful, watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”  Actually, our translation says, “yeast,” but we should understand that to refer to “leaven.”  There’s an important difference between yeast and leaven.  Yeast is what most people use today to make bread.  It occurs naturally, but you usually buy it in little packets.  The yeast is what makes the bread rise.  Leaven does the same thing, but it’s not the same thing.  Leaven was a small piece of fermented dough that would be used for making bread in the ancient world.  You would always save a little piece from the batch that you were working with for the next time.  But you had to be careful because leaven could become tainted, it could literally become poisonous and get you very sick.  You might take some bad leaven and that would be baked into your bread and it would be bad news.  So leaven often became a picture of something evil, something poisonous.  So, when Jesus says watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, he’s warning his disciples that there’s something evil with these people, something that will poison you, something that’s bad news. 


Leaven was a symbol of evil.  It was also a symbol of pervasiveness.  Leaven works its way through the whole lump.  It infiltrates and does its work on a large scale.  If the leaven is bad, that large scale work is nasty.  The Lord Jesus was warning his disciples about the teaching of the Pharisees and of Herod. 


The Pharisees were hypocrites.  Hypocrites are literally people who wear a mask, pretending to be something they’re not.  The Pharisees pretended to be godly and to care about God and his will.  They gave the impression of being very strict.  The reality was something different.  They had made the law of God too easy and missed out on the deeper concerns of the law.  By making the law too easy, they also made the gospel unnecessary.  Who needs a Saviour when you can keep the law yourself?  Who needs the gospel when the law is easy?  Their teaching was deadly and poisonous. 


Herod and his followers too were also hypocrites.  They pretended to be rulers of the Jews.  Herod was an impostor king, not really Jewish and not really caring about the Jews.  The King of the Jews thought himself above the law of the Jews, above the law of God, and that’s why he married his brother’s wife.  Hypocrisy loves company and so it’s no wonder that the Pharisees and Herodians were banding together to find a way to have Jesus killed.  The Lord Jesus warns his disciples against the dangerous leaven of the Pharisees and Herod.


But when he does, his warning is met with confusion.  This parable is mysterious.  They don’t get what he’s talking about.  For some reason they think that he’s speaking about their lack of bread.  They come back to the immediate problem facing them in the boat and can’t see the big picture that the Lord Jesus is referring to.


At that point, the Lord Jesus could have abandoned them as hopeless cases.  He could have said, “I’m out of here,” and he could have stepped out onto the water and walked to shore and found other disciples who were brighter.  But he doesn’t.  He not only has compassion for the crowds, he also has patience for his disciples.  So he teaches them further.

He asks them a series of questions.  The questions are meant to get them thinking past the immediate situation and to the big picture that he’s speaking about.  So he says, “Why are going on about bread?  Are you still in the dark?  Are you still not getting it?”  He alludes back to Isaiah 6 and what he said about the parables in Mark 4.  The secrets of the kingdom of God are given to the disciples, but to those on the outside everything comes in parables.  The disciples are now confronted with the possibility that maybe they’re the ones on the outside.  Jesus is saying, “You’re not on the outside, are you?”  You need to get it, you need to understand the secrets of the kingdom of God.  They’re mysterious and sometimes hard, but you need to get it.  And so he asks them about the leftovers and how many baskets were left each time.  With the 5000 there were twelve small baskets.  With the 4000 there were seven big baskets.  The disciples have no problem remembering these numbers.  Then he leaves them with the question, “Do you still not understand?”


These are tough words to understand, even today.  If you look at commentaries, there are a few different ideas of what Jesus was speaking about.  No one is quite sure.  But here’s what I think is the best explanation.  There were two pressing matters in the boat that day.  From the perspective of the disciples, they had a problem because they didn’t have enough bread.  They can remember the number of baskets of leftovers, but they can’t see that they have a breadmaker with them in the boat.  They were there when Jesus fed over 9000 people on two recent occasions and now they’re concerned that they only have one loaf in the boat?  Why don’t they just ask Jesus to feed them again?  Why don’t they look to him to take care of their physical needs at this moment?  He’s proven that he can do it in incredible, miraculous ways.  Why not entrust yourself to him?  So I think there is this aspect to what happens here and also the way that Jesus reacts to them. 


However, there is another aspect.  From the perspective of the Lord Jesus, he wants them to get beyond the issue of physical bread and physical hunger.  He wants them to be aware of the comparison between the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, and the leaven and the bread that he has to offer.  Their teaching is deadly and poisonous, filled with hypocrisy.  It’s like spiritual junk food that may fill you up, it may even taste good and make you feel good for a while, but ultimately it will kill you.  Jesus, however, is the bread of life.  His teaching is life-giving and life-affirming  -- it is the bread of sincerity, the bread that truly nourishes.  Think of what he says in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  The abundance of the leftovers is a sign of the abundance of life that Christ gives and that he is.  Instead of following the false teachers, why not entrust yourself to the one who can satisfy you with every good thing you need for body and soul, for life and death, for now and for eternity?                        


The Lord Jesus was teaching his disciples and us to throw ourselves on him for everything we need.  He is calling us to look to him and his care for us.  I can think of at least two ways in which this needs to impact our lives.  Maybe there are more, but here are at least two.  First of all, sometimes we face struggles and difficulties for which we need professional help.  There’s nothing wrong with seeking out that help.  I would encourage you to do so.  But at the same time remember that not all the help that is out there is truly help.  Just as in the days of the Lord Jesus, so also today there are those who will lead you astray.  There are those whose counsel is poison and ultimately soul-deadening, leading you away from God, rather than closer to him.  Their counsel is like junk-food, it temporarily satisfies, but ultimately leaves you worse off for having consumed it.  There is no neutral ground in counselling.  So, brothers and sisters, the bottom line is that you need to be careful to find help and counsel that is based on the Word of God and which points you to Christ as the one who can supply your every need. 


Second, on the flip side, maybe some of you that are involved in what are often called “helping professions.”  At any rate, I know for sure that many of you are parents, and some of you are teachers and elders and deacons.  On a regular basis, you’re called upon to give help and counsel and advice to people in difficult situations.  Especially if you’re in a helping profession, sometimes the people you’re helping are Christians, but sometimes not.  But whether or not they’re Christians, you’re united to Christ by faith.  He taught and gave counsel that was sound and based on God’s Word.  He pointed people to the true and full life, whether they were from the covenant people or not.  Remember in this passage the 4000 were not originally from God’s people.  He still fed them the words of life and the bread of life.  You’re united to him.  As a Christian in a helping profession you’re often in situations where you can point to the Saviour who gives life abundantly, the one who helps people to change.  Doing that can be difficult, and a non-Christian environment makes it all the more challenging, but loved ones, let me encourage you to look to Christ and trust his Word and trust his Spirit to lead you to do and say the right thing at the right time.  Pray for that guidance and seek it, and he will deliver.  Here too, he’ll show his compassion and give his help.  The Word of God guarantees it.                 


Our passage has some mystery in it, but there is also certainty.  The certainty is that the Lord Jesus feeds.  He feeds all who look to him, no matter what their ethnic background may be.  Our Saviour provides for the needs of the body.  Our Lord gives warnings and teachings which are meant to point us in the right direction.  He asks at the end, “Do you still not understand?”  That question is also for us.  Do we understand?  Do we entrust ourselves to him, to the one who can really care for all our needs, the one who has compassion?  Do you?  AMEN. 




Our Father,


We thank you for the compassion of our Saviour.  Help us to have that same compassion and love for those who are hurting and suffering, whether in Haiti or nearby in our own lives and families and community.  Father, we thank you for the teaching of Christ that is sincere and life-affirming, and life-giving.  Help us always to look to him and his perfect Word.  Father, please help us with your Spirit so that the food we receive and give is always nourishing, always abundant, always yours.  We confess ourselves to be totally dependent on you for everything.  We entrust ourselves to you and to your Son to care, to really care for all our needs in this life and in the next.                  

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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