February 5, 2023
Stop Running On Empty
All of this flows particularly out of three other stories. Two of which were the events of the day and night before. But those stories are very connected the story of Moses told in the Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
All of these stories, like all of the Bible are centered in Jesus.
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.
This crowd in v22 is made up of people from the “5000 plus” He fed from a boy’s lunch of barley loaves and dried fish the day before.
Now Jesus is back in Capernaum, his headquarters during the past year.
These people had not only experienced and enjoyed the miraculous food, but they had connected Jesus with the Moses story and particularly Moses’ prophecy.
Moses had led God’s people out of slavery right into a wilderness with no food. It took the powerful hand of God to defeat Pharoah and the Egyptians, but it would take even more wonders to provide food and water for them in this wilderness journey.
2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,
3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Hunger and fear of dying from it can produce a panic and irrationality made worse as it spreads through a large group of people.
4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.
12 “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’”
13 In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp.
14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground.
15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.
Forty years they had this bread from heaven. Moses near the end of his life reminded them …
11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments …
He lists many kindnesses and acts of grace God had given them including …
16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know …
That manna continued for the people of God all the way till their first harvest in the Promised Land. Joshua 5:12
So Moses has lead the people to freedom and through Him they were provided food and water. Their whole history and heritage is tied to these events.
Passover was the annual national patriotic remembrance of this. The Jewish people subjugated by the Roman empire, long for liberty. Jesus has become widely known for his miraculous acts, healings of all kinds of diseases. And yesterday he, like Moses, fed an impossibly large number of people in a place where they was no food.
And Moses himself said:
Deuteronomy 18:15-18 ESV
15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—
18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
At Passover season, a time of national patriotic ferver, among a people looking for messiah who will bring us freedom, looking for the prophet who speaks the word of the Lord powerfully and is like Moses …. Who produced bread from heaven.
These are not stupid people. The second Moses is here!
14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
And they were right!
At the end of that same day Jesus sent his 12 disciples off in the only boat on the shore and then told the crowd “you are dismissed” Mark 6.45, go home. He then hikes up a mountain to be alone and pray.
But they don’t go home or at least a lot of them do not. They camp out. They saw Jesus send his disciples away, and Jesus go up into the mountain. Next day they look for Jesus, they think he must still be around.
He’s not. They do not know what had happened during the windstorm out on the lake that night.
Moses not only fed God’s people in the wilderness but before that He had led them through the Red Sea. Hopefully you have read the story or at least seen the movie. Pharoah who had relented to let the Israelites go changed his mind. Sent his chariot forces after them. In the worst situation possible, trapped with their backs to the Red Sea and not a pontoon bridge anywhere to be found.
“Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord”. The waters part, the Israelites walk across a dry river bed. The Egyptian army follows, the walls of water come crashing back. Pharoah has met his Waterloo.
Now, 1400 years later the 12 disciples find themselves stuck, 8 to 10 hours of hard rowing, trying to cross lake Galilee with an unrelenting wind allowing them to get nowhere. Sometime after 3 am, the darkest hours of the night, Jesus comes to these men.
He does not part the waters. Jesus, the “second Moses” is the creator and sustainer of the universe, He walks on top of the waves.
At the sight of Jesus, these 12 exhausted, frustrated disciples become a little cluster of whimpering men. Their first thought is he must be ghost. Maybe something worse. They are terrified until He speaks.
This too has a Moses connection. When God called Moses to lead his people out, he had identified himself “I am who I am”. When the Jews translated that phrase from Hebrew to Greek in the Septuagint, it was the Greek words … eimi ego …
Now in the darkest most bitter windstorm these men had ever faced, Jesus speaks that same words … eimi ego … It is I. Do not be afraid.
They witnessed a great miracle, but more importantly they saw the sign. They saw more clearly who Jesus truly was.
So back to the crowd. They want to be with Jesus. That’s good. They have already made the connection that it appears Jesus is the coming Prophet Moses said was coming. That’s good. But they have not received Him, trusted Him the way the disciples had done that night.
V 23 tells us about how at least some of them made the trip to where Jesus is.
Other boats from Tiberias came near the place.
5000 peole need ferry service. Lots of Uber boats show up to give a ride.
But note again how writer describes the place. It was
where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.
Jesus had given thanks. The people were glad to for the food, but thankfulness, and personal trust in the One who fed was not what was moving this crowd.
When they get to Capernaum, can’t figure out how Jesus got there.
So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
Jesus does not answer that question. He knows their hearts.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
He say “you ate your fill”. The word he uses generally described the way animals eat.
Catfish video at pier.
It is not a small thing that before we eat a meal, we bow and give thanks to the Lord who gives us everything. It is not a small thing that meals are meant to be a time of fellowship among others.
Jesus is saying don’t eat and consume like mere animals.
27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
We need food. Literal food. And somewhere to sleep and clothes to wear.
Remember Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
When we consume God’s gifts like we are mere animals, we are not satisfied. Jesus is saying Work for food that satisfies, that lasts.
This is the same ideas as what he said to the Samaritan woman. John 4:13-14
… “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The crowd wants the gifts but they do not care much about the Giver.
God’s Gifts disconnected from God who gives them do not satisfy.
They leaves us hollow and empty. Cratered on the inside.
This crowd misses the point. Much like the woman by the well missed it at first.
John 4:15 she said
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
This crowd never seems to get past this level of understanding. They make the Moses connection, but that only excites them because all they can see is another free meal.
Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
The gifts of God are so easy to take and divorce from the One who gave it.
Listen, every good thing in your life is a gift from God.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights …
So quickly we separate the gifts of God from the glory of God.
Every moment our lives are filled with blessings that should lead us to praise of him.
Instead, we consume the gifts and fail to acknowledge the Giver. We miss the meaning the gift is pointing us to.
When you do that … take God’s goodness and use it to feed your own hunger without giving glory to God … you make the gift hallow, you empty it of its real substance.
Because the gift has been hollowed, it does not give the satisfaction it was intended to give.
So you need more and more of it. You may well find yourself engorging yourself on the gifts of God and even though you have stuffed yourself full you are more miserable, empty and aching than when you started.
Friends, the poorest of us live in utter opulence.
What we have is unparalleled in all of human history.
Yet we are sadder and dissatisfied in more ways that make no sense in light of the provision we have been given.
· Take any gift God gives,
· separate it from God and his glory,
· and then very likely begin to abuse it
· and finally pervert it into something disgraceful.
We sit down to eat a meal. We stop and we give thanks to God. We acknowledge Him.
If you divorce it from the prayer of thanksgiving you can become obsessed with the gift of food.
Constantly stuffed but never satisfied.
Music was given us by God.
We employ it throughout our worship. We should.
Yet so much of our cultural perversity, the rot of this age is embodied and celebrated and promoted in music. We have access to it like no one ever before, it floods our lives.
We so often disfigure it and make it a tool of Satan.
So much of the most popular songs, read the lyrics, stand in direct contraction to the Word of God. They promote corrosive lies. So much is debauched and disgraceful.
We gorge ourselves with it but are left empty robbed of the abundance of our souls we long for.
Wealth. Money is God’s gift to you. It is not a bad thing to do well in business, to thrive. Be grateful for it. Not wrong to save money and have an inheritance to pass off to your children; to joyfully support Christ’s church, provide for the work of God and the care of the saints and the spread the gospel.
But when you divorce your possession from gratitude to God …. You can have all the wealth in the world and be a hollow little wretch on inside.
Sexuality. it was God’s idea. He designed it, he gave it to us to produce something glorious, our families, our growing congregations of the church. Our nation.
Yet we have made a disgrace of it. We are drowning in misplaced twisted erotica that enslaves and disappoints.
So it goes. This applies to all God’s gifts.
Separate it from glory of God, from gratitude to God and it becomes something that enslaves and empties you.
You can think you are filling your bank account and finding financial freedom and in fact only be adding more shackles.
Kent Hughes in his commentary recounts the story of the 1930s the most famous living author was William Somerset Maugham.
He was an accomplished novelist, a great playwright, and a short story writer.
In fact, his novel Of Human Bondage quickly established itself as a classic.
His play The Constant Wife has gone through thousands of stagings.
In 1965 Somerset Maugham was ninety-one years old and fabulously wealthy. Royalties were continuing to pour in from all over the world despite the fact that he had not written a word in years.
His fame seemingly was on the upsurge. He received an average of 300 letters a week from his fans. He was experiencing incredible success.
But how did Maugham respond to his success? What had it brought to his life?
We gain an insight from an article written by Maugham’s nephew, Robin Maugham, after he visited his uncle before his death at his uncle’s fabulous villa on the Mediterranean.
I looked round the drawing room at the immensely valuable furniture and pictures and objects that Willie’s success had enabled him to acquire. I remembered that the villa itself and the wonderful garden I could see through the windows — a fabulous setting on the edge of the Mediterranean — were worth L600,000. (It cost him L7,000.)
Willie had 11 servants, including his cook, Annette, who was the envy of all the other millionaires on the Riviera. He dined on silver plates, waited on by Marius, his butler, and Henri, his footman.
But it no longer meant anything to him.
The following afternoon, I found Willie reclining on a sofa, peering through his spectacles at a Bible which had very large print. He looked horribly wizened, and his face was grim.
“I’ve been reading the Bible you gave me . . . and I’ve come across the quotation: ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’
I must tell you, my dear Robin, that the text used to hang opposite my bed when I was a child. . . .
Of course, it’s all a lot of bunk. But the thought is quite interesting all the same.”
That evening, in the drawing room after dinner, Willie flung himself down onto the sofa. “Oh, Robin, I’m so tired . . .” He gave a gulp and buried his head in his hands. “I’ve been a failure the whole way through my life,” he said. “I’ve made mistake after mistake. I’ve made a hash of everything.”
I tried to comfort him. “You’re the most famous writer alive. Surely that means something?”
“I wish I’d never written a single word,” he answered. “It’s brought me nothing but misery. . . . Everyone who’s got to know me well has ended up by hating me. . . . My whole life has been a failure. . . . And now it’s too late to change. It’s too late . . .”
Willie looked up, and his grip tightened on my hands. He was staring towards the floor. His face was contorted with fear, and he was trembling violently. Willie’s face was ashen as he stared in horror ahead of him.
Suddenly, he began to shriek. “Go away!” he cried. “I’m not ready. . . . I’m not dead yet. . . . I’m not dead yet, I tell you . . .”
His high-pitched, terror-struck voice seemed to echo from wall to wall. I looked round, but the room was empty as before. “There’s no one there, Willie.” Willie began to gasp hysterically.
This crowd Jesus fed were not the first to miss the point.
In Moses day, after the people had been given daily food from heaven for a long time, we read in Numbers:
4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!
5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.
6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
They are being fed by the bread of heaven. But there is No gratitude. No deepening trust in God.
They are overcome by intense craving. Their hearts are hollow, pointless.
John 1:14 is a great summation of John’s gospel.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Through the gospel of John, the apostle is describing Jesus. He is God made flesh, divinity inside humanity. As His divinity broke through John explains how they came to understand who He was.
When food is miraculously produced for 1000s, then He walks on the water and comes to them and says “I Am here… do not be afraid” they beheld His Glory.
But the crowd missed it.
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
They were steeped in religion, in the teaching of the Pharisees. Tell us what rules to keep, obligations to carry out.
“No”, Jesus is saying. The work you must do is not work. It is believe, trust, receive, come to Me as I have come and been sent to you.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me
Remember what Jesus says in John 14
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one COMES to the Father except through me.
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever COMES to me shall not hunger, and whoever BELIEVES in me shall never thirst.
Jesus is the great I Am. He has
· life in Himself.
· existence in Himself.
· being in himself.
· created beings brought into being by the word of God.
· contingent, we depend upon Him for our existence.
Jesus is the fixed point. All Creation is oriented in and towards Him.
Has life from himself.
For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
His feet stand on eternity. He is unchanged, unshakeable, unthreatened.
He is the opposite of the predicament disciples found themselves in on the lake. Tossed by the storm, their future uncertain, not knowing what was about to happen. Then Jesus walks up. The one who just is. The Great I Am. You are tossed about but I am.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
You know, the best place for learning who Jesus is not in some theological text book. Thank God for them, but where you truly come to know Him is often in the middle of the storms, the disasters crashing down you.
I know, we went over this last week, but I missed emphasizing one last but critical detail.
The disciples do something that the crowd did not do, and never does in this chapter.
So they were willing to receive Him into the boat …
Glad to take him into the boat ….
The word “receive” is the same word used in
John 1:12 NASB
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
A practical word for us this morning.
In the storms of life which mostly don’t happen on water, you may find yourself in a place where you are unexpectedly hit hard and it scares you to death. Our usual response is one of two things:
1. To flail about in irrational terror and grasping efforts.
Lifeguards are trained that a drowning person is very likely a dangerous person. They will in their desperation wrap up their rescuer, pin the arms of their lifeguard and both drown.
Logically if I am drowning, I should know to let my rescuer do his job. But if I’m drowning the horror submerges my logic and good sense.
Flailing and desperate, I make everything worse.
2. I have an almost opposite response. I just give up. I am overcome with despair. I’m drowning, this storm is so bad, why try?
In fact usually we fluctuate between those two responses.
If you are facing a storm like this, having feelings like this:
Last week I emphasized how important it is to remember Jesus knows and is coming to you. He has not forgotten you. He sees you and will get into the boat with you.
What I did not make clear enough is you must receive him into your storm, into your boat, into your mess.
Receive Him. Many of you know theological truth. You know the facts of Christ. You have all the data. But you can know all that and never get around to deliberately, actively RECEIVING Jesus into your need.
So they were willing to receive Him into the boat …
Welcome him into the boat. He can help you think clearly, overcome your despair, enable you to press on till the storm is done.
Yes, He can do more to calm the storm in two seconds than you can could ever fix by yourself.
Receiving, trusting, believing Him is the work you must do.
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives … he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
In the testing, in the need that seems impossible, in the storm that never seems to end look to Him.
A life in Christ is not a call to live in a kind of piety that ignores the hard issues of life. It is a way to face them and come to know the Sovereign God who is working through them and in you to grow you up into His fullness.
Remember back in John 6:5-6
Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.
He wanted Philip and the others to look at the problem. He has them counting the crowd and searching for available food.
Jesus does not call us to look away from or ignore the hard difficult realities of life.
But as we face them, he calls us to look to Him.
To remember he has not left us or abandoned us. He knows the situation. Remember who He is. The Great I Am.
As you do, deliberately, in faith receive Him and call upon Him, welcome Him into your need, crisis, problem, or storm.
Commit yourself to obey Him and His word in this situation.
No giving up. No flailing about.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Wait when He says wait. Move when says move.
Give thanks for all that He has already given you.
And pay attention as He blesses and gives and meets your need. Thank Him. Thank Him ahead of time for how He will see you through this hard place.