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
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 already very
late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding
countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.
But he answered,
You give them something to
They said to him
That would take eight months of a man's wages.
Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to
How many loaves do you have? he
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 to 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 basketsful of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
Mark 6:30-44 (N.I.V.)
All of us live by theories. We learn them very early in
life. Many of them are unprovable. They become encapsulated in
slogans, such as,
The early bird gets the worm. Some people
operate on the basis of the slogan,
Smile and the world smiles with
you; cry and you cry alone.
We may learn them from an important person in our
lives. Sometimes children come up with really wacky theories, such
Step on a crack and you'll break your mother's back. There is
As Good As It Gets. This is about a poor fellow who
operated on that theory. It's hilarious. He had a psychological
problem, you might say.
Another theory that we may adopt is,
If at first you don't
succeed, for heaven's sakes, give up! I'm going to talk about this
last theory in a context of our passage this morning. Jesus said to
his disciples, in effect,
We need some rest. We've been helping
people, healing and teaching. Come with me to a quiet place. You
know what happened? People saw Jesus and the disciples leaving for
this solitary place. As soon as his disciples arrived at their
destination, they discovered that many people had arrived there
before them. Thus, when Jesus and his disciples reached this quiet
place to rest, there was no quiet. There was no rest. The same
crowds from whom they were trying to escape were there as
well. Their plans were foiled.
The crowd was so excited to know where Jesus was going, they
forgot to bring food with them. Notice the response of the
disciples. They came to Jesus and said,
Jesus, the hour is late. We
did not ask these people to come here. Have them people go into town
on their own and buy some food. Have them be responsible for
themselves. The disciples had a point.
Jesus could have been very irritated.
Here I am, going around
teaching and healing; I'm tired. I need a break. I want a little
time away. However, he was not irritated; rather, he had
The crowd did not accept Jesus' possible unavailability. They
would not take
no for an answer. They were persistent. They said,
Jesus, we're going to follow you. We're going to demand that you
teach us and feed us and heal us. They were people who said,
first you do not succeed, stay at it.
Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania,
took some dogs and put them in a cage. One side of the cage was
wired to administer an electrical shock. On the other side of the
cage there were no shocks. Seligman found that there were some dogs
who, when shocked, would go to the other side of the cage. Whereupon
they would receive no shocks. However, he found there were other
dogs who would just passively stay on the same electrically wired
part of the cage and continually receive shocks. They gave up. They
were passive, sad, and lethargic. They would not eat. They displayed
symptoms of clinical depression. Seligman subsequently coined the
Jesus never presented the gospel as something that was going to
be easy. Jesus said,
Take up your cross and follow me; the way of
the cross is often a way of hardship. Christianity requires
sacrifice. It's hard sometimes. It requires suffering sometimes.
The adage by which we should live is,
I will not leave you until
you bless me. God, I really have this matter that's really bothering
me. I'm not going to take no' for an answer. I'm going to stay at
I know that some of you are struggling with various issues. I've
struggled with various matters myself. We may say to ourselves,
God, I'm not going to leave you until you bless me. I'm going to
keep hounding you. I'm going to stay after you. I'm not going to
give up. If at first I don't get an answer from you, I'm not going
to quit. What this often means is we live a life of active
waiting. We say,
I don't have the answer right now. I'm still
waiting. Keep at it. Don't become passive. Don't give up.
Both the disciples and Jesus wanted to retreat. However the crowd
was persistent. It would not let Jesus go. It demanded of Jesus,
Heal us, minister to us. And Jesus did. And he will minister to
us, if we don't give up. Amen.
The above is based on a sermon given by Carl Bickel on July 23, 2000.
© 2000 Carl O. Bickel