In this week’s sermon, as we continue our series through the Gospel of Mark, we encounter one of the most important and well-known of Jesus’ miracles; the feeding of the 5000 (Mark 6:30-44). In this story, we read how Jesus and the disciples, along with a crowd of around 15,000 people are in an isolated place, with no McDonalds nearby, and darkness quickly descending. The disciple’s panic, begging Jesus to dismiss the crowd, seemingly overcome by the thought of spending all their savings on a big seaside dinner party. Jesus, however, comes to the rescue, producing a plentiful feast from the leftovers of lunch, multiplying two fish and five loaves of bread into a banquet for thousands. Indeed, crisis averted, grumbling bellies quieted, and appetites satisfied.
But maybe as you ponder this story and look around at the rampant starvation and malnutrition in our world, you wonder if God sees, or if He even cares? Maybe you are thankful that Jesus fed the hungry crowd in Mark 6, but you wonder about the millions of people today who are starving? What about them? If God could do it then, why doesn’t He do it now?
The problem lies, I think, in our conception of Jesus’ miracles and their purpose. You see, Jesus did not perform miracles, such as the feeding of the 5000, to prove to us that He has the power to solve all the problems in the world with the snap of His fingers. Jesus’ performed miracles to show us that God’s Kingdom was breaking into this broken world, that light was coming into the darkness, and that the curse of sin was being reversed.
You see, starvation is not a food problem, it is a sin problem. Right at this moment, there is more than enough food to feed the world’s population, but there is not enough “compassion” (Mark 6:34). In other words, the fault does not lie with God, the fault lies with the sin-sick human race, who, instead of exercising good stewardship of the world’s resources (Gen. 1:28-30), have more often than not hoarded food, mismanaged resources, and squandered money. God sees this, God cares, and so He has done something about it.
God sent Jesus into the world to redeem us from the curse of sin (Rom. 5:12-21) and to launch His cosmic restoration mission, where He will expunge not simply starvation from the world, but greed, and selfishness, and cruelty, and all that stands at the root of the world’s ills (Rev. 21:5). This means, those who have been redeemed by Jesus, are agents of God’s new creation in this present, sin-sick world (2 Cor. 5:17).
So, the answer to the question is in Jesus’ command: “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37). This is more than (though not less than), supporting a sponsor child. This means, more fully, that those who have been made a “new creation” must be prepared to stand up against the evil structures and powers that still dominate much of our world, and they must be prepared to challenge them in the name of Jesus. This is precisely what William Wilberforce did in his long struggle for the abolition of the slave trade, and this is precisely what we are called to do in the face of poverty and starvation.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” [2 Corinthians 5:17]