Get Hooked On Jesus
A sermon based on Mark 6:35-44
Sunday, July 23, 2017 – Pentecost 35
At the seminary, we had a class called homiletics, which is a class that teaches how to write and preach a good sermon. In that class, it was suggested that every sermon ought to start with a "hook." That is, every sermon ought to start with some quick story or illustration that will grab people, capture their attention, and get them ready to listen. Then you can reel them into the Word, if you will, and strengthen their faith by it.
You get that illustration well, don't you—that of a hook? Many of us are going to the Fergusons' this afternoon to try to snag some sockeye in the mouth… with a hook. That hook is what grabs them. Of course, once they're snagged in the mouth, you're not done fishing. That's just the start. Then you need to keep the line tight and keep reeling to bring the fish close enough to net it.
Today we hear a familiar account. It's a Bible story you've all heard before where Jesus miraculously feeds more than 5,000 people by multiplying a few loaves of bread and a few fish. (And he didn't need a hook, line, or yarn to get those fish!) J But that miraculous event recorded for us in Mark's Gospel, wasn't the end of what Jesus wanted people to know about him, it was really just the hook. He didn't do miracles like this just to fill bellies. He did them that people would come to know him as the God-man, so they would get hooked on him.
And though he may not do a miracle in your life, that's really Jesus' goal for you too: He wants to use the circumstances of this life—the blessings and the trials—to draw you to him. He wants you to get hooked on him and stay on the line until he reels you into heaven. Our Gospel lesson for this Sunday is found in Mark 6:35-44…
35 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. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."
37 But he answered, "You give them something to eat."
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 eat?"
38 "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."
When they found out, they said, "Five—and two fish."
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 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. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
What a cool miracle, huh? One kid of more than 5,000 people brought a filet o' fish Happy Meal to the long Bible Study that Jesus was teaching. And Jesus miraculously multiplied it to feed maybe 15,000 people! The text is clear that there were 5,000 men, that is males. So that's not counting any women or children that accompanied them. Can you picture Jesus' disciples passing out a free fish filet sandwich to every dipnetter on the beach?!
And what would that cost? Let's say the Happy Meal only cost $5. And let's say there were only 10,000 people. Still, that would cost $50,000 to feed them all! 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 eat?"
But Jesus didn't need to pass the offering plate to take a collection. He didn't need their money. He didn't need to send someone to the store. He didn't need the help of a vendor in a truck on the beach. He just took what he had—five loaves of bread and two fish—and turned it into more than they all needed. And more than 5,000 people didn't just get a nibble to tide them over, but "all ate and were satisfied." And they had 12 big baskets full of leftovers to boot! An impressive miracle, to say the least, right?
But what's the point of this miracle? Why did Jesus do it? Was his goal to end world hunger? To boost the economy? To allow them all to get a free handout anytime they wanted so they would never have to work a single day in their lives ever again? Well, that's what a lot of people wanted. John records for us in his Gospel how the people tried to make Jesus their king after such an impressive miracle. They thought it would be great if he would do this same miracle every day. Can you imagine how wonderful life would be with free food for everyone in the country and enough leftovers to export and make a little cash besides?
But that wasn't what Jesus wanted. He didn't want to solve every problem in this life or let people have their best life now because he knew that such lives of comfort and ease would be terrible for them spiritually. With every need met without work, with every comfort just handed to them, the people would see no need for God. They would think that they already had all that they needed, when what they really needed was forgiveness. If they were too comfortable, the line might go slack and he'd lose them forever.
Jesus wanted the people to get hooked on him—to see him for who he was: the God-man, capable of miracles not because he was a prophet of God, but because he was God. And why did he want that? So they would come to know that as God, his death would be sufficient payment for all sins of all mankind. That's what they really needed. And that's the need he came to meet.
So what does all of this mean for you? Well, look at the blessings that God has showered on you! The fish are in! J You've maybe harvested all you need already. (It isn't a miracle, but it's pretty close isn't it, that Jesus sends hundreds of thousands of fish up the Kenai for so many people—a lot more than 15,000!—to harvest what they need for food?) And even if you don't like fish, look at all the other ways he has provided for all of your needs! You have stores within easy access, that have so much food it sometimes goes bad sitting on the shelves! You have enough money to buy that food from a job you can do by the gifts God has given you! You have so much more than twelve basketfuls of abundance beyond your needs. Just look in your garage if you don't believe me.
And why does Jesus give you all these blessings? Just to make you comfortable, complacent, and lazy in life? To give you so many good things that you think you don't need him? No! Of course not! But he gives you so much abundance to draw you to him in thanksgiving! He wants you to get hooked on him!
But how do we respond? We too often ignore those blessings that we consider "ordinary." We take them for granted. We feel entitled, like we deserve them because of how hard we worked to get them, instead of giving thanks to God for giving us the ability to work, the opportunity to work, the means to provide food and shelter and clothes, and so much more, we deserve none of it.
Or maybe, for you right now, it's hard to see all the blessings you have from God because of the trials and challenges you currently face. Maybe it's your finances, or a relationship with someone, or the lack thereof and the loneliness it brings, maybe it's a sickness, or just the drudgery of living in this sin infected world. But why does he let those things happen at all?! Couldn't Jesus step in with a miracle in your life and instantly make everything better? Ah… but he knows that that could make the line go slack and he might lose you eternally. So he let's those challenges, those trials, that pain, all draw you to him.
When you go fishing, sometimes you need to reel in hard and fast when the fish is coming at you. Otherwise the slack will let the fish off the hook. But other times you need to let the fish run and take out line. Otherwise, if you keep reeling, you'll snap the line and fish will get away. Well, Jesus is the master fisherman. He never gets it wrong. And Jesus wants you to stay hooked on him. So he'll use whatever it takes—sometimes blessings in abundance that move you to give him thanks, other times problems and pain that move you to cry out to him for help. But he does it all that you might stay hooked on him so he doesn't lose you for eternity.
So whether he gives you abundance or pain, know that he really is working all things for your eternal good. He's working for your best interest. And he's doing what's best for you. Because in the end, all that matters is that you know him as the God-man, not just a miracle worker who will give you your best life now, but as your Savior from sin, who, as God himself, could make sufficient payment for all the sin of all mankind by his perfect life and innocent death, who paid for your every sin to win God's forgiveness for you. As the God-man his death paid for all of your sin. You are forgiven by God. You are at peace with him. And though you certainly won't have your best life now, you will have your best life for all of eternity with him in heaven.
So how do we respond? We give back to him from the abundance of blessings he's given to us. You don't have to work 90 hour weeks just to put food on the table like our ancestors did because God has blessed you with so much! You have all you need and so much more! He's met your physical needs. He's met your spiritual needs. So give back some of your free time that you have only by his grace. Give back some of your wealth that you have only by his grace. Give back some of your energy and strength that you have only by his grace.
And don't just give of your leftovers. Jesus doesn't need your service. He doesn't need your money. He could just as easily multiply dollars as he did bread and fish. But he wants your heart. He wants your service. He wants your love. He wants you. So give him all that you are to show your thanks to him for the way he's provided for every one of your needs—your physical needs, and especially your spiritual needs. Stay on the line and keep the line tight until he reels you into his heavenly home. And then keep serving him by fishing for others. Who knows but God how he will use you to hook someone else? So let's keep fishing as we stay hooked on Jesus. In his name, dear friends, amen.