Sermon delivered October 23, 1999

by Pastor Kent Crutcher

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.
In our youth song book is a song that is often used by Pathfinder Clubs as a theme song.

We Are His Hands

We are His hands to touch the world around us. We are His feet to go where He may lead. We are His eyes to see the need in others. We are His voice to tell of His return. We are His love burning in the darkness. We are His love shining in the night.
-Jeff Wood

Turn with me to Mark 6. Here, we find a familiar story where Jesus used the hands of others to do what He could have done Himself. This story is found in all four Gospels signifying the impact it made on the Gospel writers. They all remembered this story well. I challenge you to read it from all four gospels and put the whole thing together, because, everybody adds their own details to it to flesh it out. That's a little bit of what we're going to do today. Our Scripture came from Matthew, so we're going to be looking at a couple of the others. So, let's read from Mark 6:30 to 44. I'm going to read the complete story.

Mark 6:30-44 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him . "This is a remote place," They said,"and it's very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and buy themselves something to eat."

But He answered, "You give them something to eat."

They said to him, "That would take eight month's of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"

"How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."

When they found out, they said, "Five--and two fish."

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up into heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve baskets of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

What a story! As I read this story, I became struck by 5 words: "He had compassion on them." Jesus had compassion on them because "they were like sheep without a shepherd." Jesus was moved by compassion; some would have been moved by irritation! This rushing crowd had completely spoiled the whole purpose of the trip. Jesus and his disciples, according to Mark, had need of quietness. But when they got to the lonely place, it was no longer lonely! It was trampled over by a milling mob.

How natural it would have been to be impatient and Jesus could have said; "Can't they leave me alone for just one hour?" But looking at the crowd, there was only one emotion in His heart, compassion. That was the effect a crowd always had on Jesus. He saw a crowd, not through the eyes of one who counted life dear to Himself, concerned for His own comfort and plans; but through the eyes of one who came to seek and to save those who were lost, who came that men might have abundant life.

Which comes most naturally to us, irritation or compassion? Irritation. Good answer. At least it seems true to me. At four-thirty one morning my phone started ringing, and ringing, and ringing. I thought it was all a bad dream. I could just hear this phone in the distance, and finally it occurred to me: My phone is ringing. I got up and I answered the phone. It was the police. My church had been broken into once again. Did I have compassion at that moment? NO! I was greatly irritated. I didn't care who had done it, or for what reason. Somebody had woken me up because they had broken into my church in Atlanta. So, I got in my car and I drove over to the church. In the meantime they had already captured the guy and taken him away. I never saw him. When I got there I had to talk with the sheriff and the police, and I was irritated. Then I went into my office and I saw my desk, and there was a can of beans that had been taken out of the store room. The homeless man had been sitting at my desk eating a can of beans. My irritation turned to compassion for a little while. Then I found out he had been making 1-900 calls on my phone, five hundred dollars worth. The police said we did not have to pay that, but the person at the other end of the 900 number called my treasurer and made a few threats.

I was amazed how quickly my irritation turned to compassion when I ... Wait a minute. Here's a guy that was hungry and he was homeless. By the way he had miss-dialed a number. When he was trying to dial 1-900 he dialed 911. That's when they came to take him away.

How easy it is to have irritation with people. When they get in our way, when they cause us to block our plans, fail to respond to our wisdom. The disciples were irritated. They said, "Send them away!" They could see no solution to the problem but to dismiss the people. "There's no way we can feed them. We need to rest. Lord, just send them away." But the compassion of Jesus extended to the crowd's physical well-being as well as to their spiritual well- being.

Note the contrast between the disciples and Jesus. They looked entirely to the possibilities outside the situation for a solution. Jesus said that the emergency could be met from within their situation. Not by imported aid, but by their own resources and by their own faith.

In every generation there are these two continuing classes of peoples and attitudes; those who are looking for something from without, and those who are looking for something from within.

Jesus said very clearly to His disciples, "They are your responsibility." "You give them something to eat." But then, He took it upon Himself to share the responsibility with them. The same thing happens today. Every command of God implies the power needed to carry out the command. We commonly say, "His biddings are our enablings. If He's going to ask you to do it, He's going to make it possible for you to do it.

From a human point of view, it was absurd to think of finding bread to satisfy the needs of such a throng within walking distance and before nightfall. The command given to the disciples could have be seen as foolish as His earlier command to cast their nets out into the clear water in the middle of the day to catch fish.

But Jesus wanted to work through His disciples. He wanted to use their hands. God works through men to meet the physical and the spiritual needs of their fellow men. This principle is fundamental to the great Gospel Commission!

How to solve the disciples dilemma. Jesus asked, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." The disciples had left two things out of their thinking; their own resources and the power of God. These are frequently left out. The whole matter of "overlooked resources" can be, and has been a tragic hindrance to the advance of the kingdom of God. Over and over in all the centuries, disciples of Jesus have said in the presence of great need and opportunity, "we have nothing;" when, as a matter of fact, they did have something which might have been put into God's hands for His use.

What if every person that follows Jesus said, "Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee?" What could happen if everyone gave their lives, resources, and talents to the Lord's use? I get excited just thinking about it! What if everybody said, "I'll do whatever I can and whatever way all at the same time." I think God would be here in a day or two.

Well, Jesus had already spoken to Philip regarding the problem of providing food for the multitude. Like Peter and Andrew, Philip was a native of the area. Since that of Bethsaida was but a short distance from them, Philip, presumably, would have known where to secure food if anyone did. He was sincere, but slow to believe. This was evident more than once during his association with Jesus. This opportunity was probably given to him to strengthen his faith.

But it was Andrew who apparently took Jesus at His word. He set out to discover what food was available. The hesitancy of Philip, and the willingness of Andrew to step out in faith are again in stark contrast.

Look at John's version of this story. Turn with me to John 6. John adds the element of where this food actually came from. John 6:7 Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" Another of His disciples, 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?"

It was Andrew who made the discovery of the simple lunch one lad had brought for himself, and relayed the report to Jesus. When we come upon Andrew, he is efficiently doing something helpful for someone. But even he see the absurdity of the situation. Look again at verse 9. "Here is a boy with five SMALL barley loaves and two SMALL fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

It was not enough for Andrew to wonder about one lunch, it was a SMALL lunch, to feed so many. How far can this possibly go?

The boy sounds as if he were too young to have been there with any very serious purpose. He was probably there because of the excitement. I can imagine him playing in the street and some of the other kids, "Hey, did you hear who's coming? You know, that man that heals people, Jesus. Hey! Let's go see Him!" I can imagine him getting caught up in the excitement. Wait! Let me go ask my mom." He runs to his house and his mother says, "I guess that would be all right. But, here, before you go, let me fix you a lunch to take along." So she put together enough food for him for the day and allowed her son to leave.

What a different world we live in today! Now, I'm a parent of small children. I won't let them out of my sight! People are afraid to let their children out of their sight for fear of what might happen to them! It's sad that we live in that kind of world. That's why it was such a strange sight at the flea-market in Collegedale last Sunday morning. I arrived about 7:45 a.m. to look for a used tool chest. The crowd at that early hour was amazing. Transactions were already being made. Many were still setting up their booths. Cars and trucks were still pulling in with trailer loads of things to sell. Not finding a tool chest, I started back to my truck.

That is when I saw him. I saw a little boy, I guess that he was less than two years old, walking around in the midst of the chaos. All by himself! Well, he wasn't alone, there were a thousand people there. I could tell that he wasn't alone, just wandering around where the cars were pulling and going back and forth. Of all the people that were there, nobody seemed to be with him. Being a father of little ones, I decided to keep an eye on him and guard him from the vehicles. I looked everywhere for a frantic mother looking for her child but I saw none. I just saw people looking at the wares, looking for something to buy. And there's this boy wandering around in the road. He seemed greatly unconcerned and very happy. So I followed him, protecting him from traffic as he toddled along, totally unafraid. Still nobody looking for him for fifteen minutes. Finally he wandered into the path of three ladies that also looked at him wondered why he was alone. I saw that they had taken charge of the situation and this youngster was in more capable hands than mine, so I left him in their care.

We don't do that today, but she sent off her small child to see Jesus. This mother allowed her son to join the throng that day, never knowing that people would still be talking about it two thousand years later! I can't help but imagine that the boy was close to where Jesus was. After all, he probably did everything he could to slip through the crowd in order to be close to the great Teacher. He may have even heard them discussing the need for food. But it was Andrew who discovered, "Here we have a boy with a small lunch." He offered his small lunch with the faith of a child and history will never forget it. I wonder what happened when he told his mother the story that night. "Mommy, you won't believe what Jesus and I did, today!" She probably didn't believe him until she heard the rumors running through the crowds. "Do you know what Jesus and I did today?" When is the last time you went home and said that? "Look what Jesus and I did today!" How exciting to have Jesus working in our lives.

In the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:15, cf.), Jesus makes it plain that it is the one-talent people who are most likely to falter and fail Him. And this on the ground that any thing they could do is so trivial as to be not worth doing. That way of thinking has disastrous consequences. It robs and hampers His ministry thru us.

If this world is ever to be won for Him, it will have to be done largely through the undistinguished services of simple folk, one-talent people with no outstanding opportunities, each throwing in what seems a very unimportant effort.

A toddler was crawling on his living room floor and there he discovered a button. Doing what all toddlers do, he put it in his mouth to check it out. What is it. Hmm, I'll see. It's not candy. It's smooth and nice. His mother was terrified when she heard him choking from the next room and rushed in to find her baby unable to breath. Not knowing the Heimlich maneuver, she got on the phone as fast as she could and dialed 911. A police officer received the dispatch and knew a short-cut to the address he had been given. What he didn't know was that the short-cut had been closed due to construction. When he arrived, all he could see was mounds of dirt and heavy equipment. It was too far for him to take the other route and get there in time. In despair, he jumped out of the car, pulled his hair and pounded his fists on the hood. He knew that the other route to the address would take to long and that the boy would die.

Seeing the policeman acting this way, a bulldozer operator jumped off his machine and ran over to see what the problem was. Upon hearing the story, he said, "No problem, follow me." He then preceded to drive his bulldozer, pushing the mounds of dirt to the side as the police car followed him. The policeman was able to get to the house on time and performed the Heimlich maneuver, the button popped out and the boy was saved.

Now, what if the bulldozer operator had thought, "That's a police affair. How could I possibly help a police officer. I know nothing about it. I won't get involved." What would have happened? A little boy would have died.

Well, that is not the end of the story. That night, when the bulldozer operator got home, his wife informed him that their son had nearly choked to death on a button but a policeman had gotten there just in time!

We do not know what our seeming small efforts might mean. We have little idea of how God can use our talents, our gifts, our time, our minuscule efforts and even our great efforts. I wonder about the little boy with the loaves and fishes. I wonder about his mother as well. She had no idea that Jesus would hold the lunch that she had prepared, in His hands. That thought was not going through her mind when she did something for her child, gave him a lunch. What she thought was an ordinary household task was the beginnings of a miracle.

Jesus broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to share with the people. Mark brings out that only the men were counted, five thousand men. We have no idea how big a crowd this was. Some have estimated if you added in the women and children it could be as much as twenty thousand people that were there that day. I did a little experiment. I sat down with a waste basket in front of me and I reached my hands into it, pulled them out made and this motion. Kind of like taking the bread out of the basket, tearing it, and handing it to someone. I did this for a hundred times to see how long it would take. It took me two and a half minutes to do that one hundred times. Doing a little calculating, I figured that if Jesus made the motions like I did, it could have taken over eight hours to divide the bread for twenty thousand people, not to mention the fish! I don't know how to divide a fish with your hands. There must have been more than one miracle taking place. This happened, I imagine, much more quickly than that. Jesus is all-powerful. Nothing is beyond Him.

Jesus never performed a miracle except to meet a genuine need. So long as there was need, the food kept on multiplying in His hands. This miraculous feeding was "one of the mighty works" of Jesus. The story is a wonderful picture of a tremendous truth of Christian history, that Jesus does multiply above measure.

Five loaves and two fishes in human hands, when placed in His hands and blessed by Him, have been enough again and again, to meet great and deep human needs. Our hands placed in the hands of Jesus can do more than our minds can ever imagine. He has always given back what was given to Him, enlarged and multiplied! Do you think that little boy went hungry that day as he gave up his lunch? I think he ended up with a greater lunch than he started with. He did not go hungry, and neither will we when we place our time, our talent, our resources in the hands of God. They will be enlarged and multiplied.

So, now what? What will we do? It is time! I can think of no better time in Earth's history! It is time to stop sitting on our hands and place them in the hands of Jesus, to start using them for Jesus!

-Jeff Wood

Opening Hymn: #223, Crown Him With Many Crowns
Scripture: Matthew 14:15,16
Closing Hymn: #572, Give of Your Best to the Master

We Are His Hands.WPD

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