Blessings For Thanksgiving

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This coming week we are going to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Turkey  day.  When we picture the holiday today we generally see overeating and football as the two greatest pastimes.  I guess I should also mention Macy’s Thanksgiving day Parade.

In the last few years we have seen a disturbing trend. Now the stores open on thanksgiving day encouraging us to rush in and fight over those deep discounts just one day earlier.

What happened to the rich traditions of this holiday?  The name of this holiday is Thanksgiving.  Shouldn’t we be giving thanks?

I want to look at one of Jesus’ miracles and see what things we can truly be thankful for.

Mark 6:34-44 New American Standard Bible (NASB)[1]

34 When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35 When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they *said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?” 38 And He *said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they *said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. 44 There were five thousand men who ate the loaves.

⇒ As we see in verse 34 we can be thankful that Jesus came as a compassionate loving savior. ⇐

Notice how Mark describes Jesus’ compassion.  He sees the crowd like sheep without a shepherd.

Just this week I was reading a passage in Ezekiel which gives a stark description of sheep without a shepherd.

Here God calls on Ezekiel to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.

Ezekiel 34:1-6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)[2]

34 Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. 4 Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. 5 They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. 6 My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.”’”

They were sickly, diseased, starving, broken, lost, enslaved, and food for every beast of the field.

It was no accident Jesus came to be standing on that field watching the crowd approach.  He came to fulfill a promise He made.

We can find that promise in many places in the Old Testament.  

Ezekiel 34:11-12[3] we hear Him directly promise to come as a shepherd.

11 For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.

In the opening of Mark’s description of this miracle we see Jesus’ shepherd’s heart. So we can be thankful that as a shepherd He came with great loving compassion to gather His sheep to Himself.

The next thing we see in this passage is Jesus came to meet our every need.

The obvious part of this story is that Jesus performed the miracle of feeding 5000 people, but as we examine this event we see Jesus didn’t just provide bread for the day. As a matter of fact this miracle came at the end of a very long day.

So what happened during the rest of the day?

Matthew tells us that Jesus healed their sick.  Here in Mark we see “He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. “ verse 34.

In luke 9:11[4] we read:

11 But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.

Jesus didn’t just meet their temporary needs. All the day as He was healing the sick He was also teaching them the truth about the kingdom of God and eternal life.

That is the way He is with us today.  All the while He is meeting our earthly needs He is also guiding us on the path that leads to an eternity with Him.  

⇒ We can be thankful that Jesus came as a compassionate loving shepherd seeking His sheep. ⇐

⇒ We can be thankful that Jesus meets all our needs and His plan for us is an eternal destination in His kingdom. ⇐

The next thing we see about this day is that when the day was late the disciples came to Jesus and told him that the crowd should be sent away to find food for themselves.

This is how Matthew, Mark, and luke tell us how it happened in their gospels.  I just want to say that they they tell the story in a way that does not flatter themselves here.  In a way they did have concern for this great crowd of people, but in light of the lack of resources the disciples were willing to abandon the crowd to fend for themselves.

Mark 6: 36 says they told Jesus to: “send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” .

On the other hand John tells us what Jesus wanted to teach His disciples in this situation.

John 6:5-7New American Standard Bible (NASB)

5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, *said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.”

Notice the first thing Jesus asks Philip.  He said: “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?”.  Right in this question we see Jesus challenging the  disciples to stop thinking about abandoning the crowd to their own resources.

In other words Jesus was challenging the disciples to think differently.  He wanted them to experience the compassionate loving shepherd’s heart from the perspective of the shepherd.

This challenge is in keeping with the new commandment Jesus gives His disciples in John 13:34.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.[5]

So what is it this challenge Jesus gave to His disciples and by extension to us?  He wants us to look outside of ourselves and have His heart when we see the sinner’s plight.

Paul gave this very same challenge in Ephesians 4:21-24.[6]

21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

This is a very difficult challenge so what is there to be thankful in that?  

One thing we can’t escape is that all of Paul’s epistles are salted liberally with expressions of great joy in his being called to be like Christ.

  So

⇒ We can be thankful that Jesus came as a compassionate loving shepherd seeking His sheep. ⇐

⇒ We can be thankful that Jesus meets all our needs and His plan for us is an eternal destination in His kingdom. ⇐

⇒ And we can be thankful that Jesus challenges us to be like Him. ⇐

As I said before this is a difficult challenge one could even say impossible.

There is no one could say about it.  This is an impossible challenge.

Look at Philip’s response to Jesus in John 6:7.

7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.”

I looked up denarii whis plural for denarius.  One denarius in that day was one day's wages.  So what Philip was saying was that almost ⅔ of a year’s wages would barely be enough to give everybody just a little taste of bread.

I am sure Philip said what he did with as much exasperation as could be imagined.  

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the other disciples muttering under their breath you tell Him Philip.

So how did Jesus respond?

We see that in Mark 6:38.

 38 And He *said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they *said, “Five, and two fish.”

I couldn’t tell you how many times I came to an end of myself and said to the Lord What is it You want of me.

What is so amazing is just how patient He is.

He doesn’t yell.

He doesn’t get impatient.

Instead He patiently asks What do you have.

So the disciples go out and find a lad who has 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.

If 200 denarii was not enough how would 5 loaves and 2 fish meet the need?

This reminds me of Gideon who started with 32 thousand troops only for God to whittle them down to 300 before he went into battle.

In verses 39-41 we read:

39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.

Picture this the disciples tell the crowd to sit down in small groups.  Then Jesus stands before them with a kid’s lunch.

I am sure there were some sitting at the back of the crowd thinking Yea Right!  They’re going to run out of food before they reach the end of the first group.

Just imagine their eyes getting as big as saucers as Jesus keeps breaking that bread and fish into the first disciples basket.

Then He keeps breaking that bread and fish into the next disciples basket, then the next then the next until all the disciples were carrying bread and fish to the people.

When their baskets were empty they came back and Jesus started filling them again, and again, and again.

This was a marathon miracle.

Remember there were approximately 15 thousand people in that crowd, and if 1 loaf fed 3 people then the basket loads of bread would have been equivalent to 5 thousand not counting the fish.

Just to get an idea of the scale of this 5 thousand loaves of bread would fill just a little over a semi truck trailer.

You know like the ones you see going down the road with stuff mart painted on the side.

What did Jesus do here?  

He took the what is possible (5 loaves and 2 fish) and made it grow and grow and grow until it met an impossible need.

Notice He didn’t take 3 of the loaves and 1 fish.  He took it all.

What we can learn from this is that when we give Him our all He will take it all and meet our impossible need.

⇒ We can be thankful that Jesus came as a compassionate loving shepherd seeking His sheep.  ⇐

⇒ We can be thankful that Jesus meets all our needs and His plan for us is an eternal destination in His kingdom. ⇐

⇒ We can be thankful that Jesus challenges us to be like Him. ⇐

⇒ And we can be thankful that when we give Him our all He will work the miracle of transforming us from within to make us like Him. ⇐

In verses 42 to 44 we read.

 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. 44 There were five thousand men who ate the loaves.

Not only was everybody satisfied but there was bread and fish to spare.

I can’t express what we can be thankful for here any better than Paul did in Ephesians 3.

Ephesians 3:14-21 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

14-19 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner reinforcement—that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ—and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled through all your being with God himself!

20-21 Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine—to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen!


[1] Mark 6:34-44 (NASB). https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+6%3A34-44&version=NASB

[2] Ezekiel 34:1-6 (NASB). https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+34%3A1-6&version=NASB

[3] Ezekiel 34:11-12 (NASB). https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+34%3A11-12&version=NASB

[4] Luke 9:11 (NASB). https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+9%3A11&version=NASB

[5] John 13:34 (NASB). https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+13%3A34&version=NASB

[6] Ephesians 4:21-24 (NASB). https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+4%3A21-24&version=NASB