The Lord's Day Morning
January 10, 2010
“Jesus Is More Than Enough”
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 9. As we continue our way through this great gospel, we come to a passage which deals with the feeding of the five thousand. It's a passage which has obvious bearing on the Lord's Supper. It's a passage in which Jesus’ compassion is on vivid display, especially in contrast to His disciples, who are not so much incompassionate as they were practical. It's a passage in which the power of Jesus is own display. Quite deliberately, the disciples are powerless to do anything about the situation that confronts them. Jesus lacks no such power and displays it vividly. And of course finally, the provision of Jesus is on display in this passage. It's that which we will especially attend to, but I'd ask you to look for each of those things as we read the passage today — Jesus’ compassion, and His power, and His provision. But let's pray before we read God's Word.
Our Heavenly Father, every word of Scripture is given by inspiration and every word is profitable. That means that there is never a time when Your Word is read in our hearing that it is not able to and meant for our edification. We ask then that You would open our eyes to behold wonderful things in Your Word and that by Your Holy Spirit You would see, You would cause us to see, that Your Word is true and that it is good and that it is for Your glory and it is meant for our growth in grace. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
This is God's Word:
“On their return the apostles told Him all that they had done. And He took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed Him, and He welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to Him, ‘Send the crowds away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.’ But He said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish — unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. And He said to His disciples, ‘Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven and He said a blessing over them. Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.”
Amen and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
Some of you are here today fighting a battle in your soul to believe that Jesus is more than enough and that battle is being fought for different reasons. Some of you have lost something or someone and that loss has invited you into a battle to believe whether Jesus is more than enough because that loss is great and precious. And you need to remember what Catharina Von Schlegel taught us a quarter of a millennium ago — “Be still my soul, your Jesus can repay from His own fullness all He takes away.” But you’re in a battle nevertheless.
Others of you are in a battle to believe that Jesus is more than enough not because of what you've lost, but because of what you have. You love what you have so much and you’re hanging onto it what all that's in you and it means more to you than anything, even Jesus. And you believe Him and you believe His Gospel and you know it ought not be that way, but oh the desire to keep what you have is so powerful. It may be good, it may be really good what you desire, what you have — maybe not so good — but oh you want to keep it and oh you treasure it. And you need to remember that “fading is the worldlings treasure, all its boasted pomp and show. Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion's children know.”
Some of you are fighting a battle to believe that Jesus is more than enough because of what you don't have but what you desire and it's something, anything, other than Him, other than His kingdom. And you need to remember what you just sang this morning in the opening hymn —
“Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also,
the body they may kill; God's truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever.”
But whether you’re fighting a battle this morning to believe that Jesus is more than enough because of what you've lost, or because of what you have, or because of what you want, or all three, this passage was written for you. Because the precise point of this passage, the thing that Luke wants us to learn, and the precise point of the Lord's Supper — reinforcing the point that Luke wants us to learn — is that Jesus is more than enough, more than enough. And so we need to attend to it.
I could focus your attention on Jesus’ compassion this morning. Isn't it on clear display? Jesus has learned that John, His cousin, has been beheaded. We learned it in the passage just before this when we read it the last time we were together. Matthew tells us explicitly that John's disciples had come to Jesus and told Him that John had been beheaded and that Jesus took that occasion to attempt to withdraw from the multitudes and be by Himself. You can understand that. You would have needed time to reflect. This was your cousin, this was your friend. You loved him, you respected him, you said that he was the greatest prophet who ever lived. And you knew that his death meant that your death was that much closer. But when Jesus got out of the boat the crowds were waiting for Him. Look at verse 11 and look at verse 13. What's Jesus’ response? My response would have been, “Go away! I need time to think!” Luke tells us “He welcomed them and He taught them and He healed them” and then finally verse 13, “He fed them.” Do you see the self-denying, self-sacrificing compassion of Jesus on display there? His response and His actions served to impress upon His disciples and upon us the mandate for a self-sacrificial life and ministry. God did not put us here to serve ourselves. If His own Son denied Himself to serve others He put us here to serve others.
William Hendrikson, the great New Testament commentator, says this —
“The needs of people, sick, ignorant, disconsolate, and hungry meant far more to Him than His own convenience and ease. So He healed their sick, this in spite of His own need for rest and their earthly materialistic motivations. It must not escape us that by doing this under such circumstances He was also setting an example for the disciples, and in a sense, for the entire church throughout the ages.”
And so if we were going to concentrate on the compassion of Jesus in this passage I think we’d learn at least two things. One, we’d learn how we're supposed to be — like Jesus, locked in like a laser beam on the needs of others and not with our attention focused on ourselves. And I think we also learn this — when we are in circumstances that tempt us to doubt the compassion of Jesus for us, we underestimate Him, because if in these circumstances He could look out on a crowd of people that He did not know and had no relationship with and have this kind of compassion on them, can you possibly doubt Jesus’ compassion for you?
We could focus on the power of Jesus in this passage. Isn't it clearly set forth? Jesus turns to His disciples in verse 13 and He tells them, “You give them something to eat.” The disciples response is, “How? We can't. We can't do what You’re asking us to do. Surely Jesus, You’re joking. We can't feed all of these people.” But Jesus’ response is, “No problem. I can.” Surely the contrast is deliberate. Jesus didn't ask His disciples to do this because He thought that they were able to do this on their own; He did this to make a point. You see, the disciples recognition of their inability to carry out Jesus’ command is not incidental to Jesus’ reason for asking them to carry out the command. In fact, it's precisely the point. Jesus wants His disciples to understand that they don't have what people need, only He does. And they can't give what people need, only He can. And He can do it in spades. He has the power to do it.
I love what Matthew Henry says — “Ministers can never fill people's hearts unless Christ fills their hands.” In other words, even faithful ministers of the Gospel have nothing to offer you unless Christ puts it in their hands because Christ is what you need. You don't need anything that I can conjure up. All I can offer you is what Christ has given me to offer you — Himself, the Gospel, and all His benefits. My friends, that if vital for us to understand in the Christian life and ministry. When we come up against circumstances that are so heartbreaking, that are so bottomless — have you ever looked at a situation and said, “This is a bottomless pit. I can't fill this up.” — When we come up against circumstances in the lives of others in ministries where we say, “Lord, I am totally overmatched. There's nothing that I can do here,” that's exactly where God wants us to be.
You know, so often in life and ministry we come upon a situation and immediately we come up with a game plan — “I can do this, Lord. I can do A, and B, and C, and we can do this and we can do that and we can take care of this.” And we think that that's how it's supposed to always be, when in fact, that's never how it is because the only thing they need is something we can't give. All the power for serving others, living the Christian life, and doing Christian ministry — for feeding the sheep — comes from Him, the chief Shepherd, the Shepherd of the flock and from Him alone. And we have nothing to offer but what He gives us to offer. And we could meditate on that for a long time too.
But here's the thing I want you to zero in on and you see it especially at the end of this passage. It's Jesus’ provision. Jesus tells the disciples to have the multitudes sit down in groups in fifty and He takes the five loaves and the two fish and He prays a prayer of blessing and then He begins to hand out to His disciples what they are to hand out to the multitudes. And in verse 17 you see that the result was — everyone ate, everyone was filled to the full, everyone was satisfied, and there was food left over. And this, my friends, you understand, is a picture of the provision of Christ for His people. Jesus’ provision of all the soul needs of His people is graphically illustrated in this miracle. In feeding the multitudes, Jesus intends to show that He alone is able to supply all our needs — material and spiritual. He Himself is the source of life and He is able to give this bread because He is the Bread of Life.
But the miracle points beyond the specific gift of bread to the giver of that gift, God the Son, who provides for body and soul. Yes it's a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. You remember the children of Israel in their time of need in the wilderness were starving and they needed a supply of food and what happened? God provided them the bread of heaven. And what was the point? God was their Supplier and He would supply all their needs. And here was Jesus providing bread for the multitudes.
Or we think of the story of Elijah and the widow and with flour and oil and the production of everything that she needed. Or we think of Elisha and the feeding of a hundred men with barely cakes. Over and over in the Old Testament there are these miracles of food provision which show that God alone is able to supply what we need and He is able to supply it abundantly so that when Moses was first telling the children of Israel about the manna, he had to tell them what to do and not to do with what was left over because God's supply was going to be so abundant. And Christ, in providing the bread and the fish in such an abundance that twelve baskets of fragments were left over, is indicating that He is sufficient to provide for our needs now and forevermore.
I love what Matthew Henry says — “Those whom Christ feeds, He fills.” He never leaves you with room for just one more piece of pie. When He feeds you, He fills you. There is always a super abundance. He always leaves over twelve baskets. That's how generous He is in His provision.
If you read John's gospel, you learn that though this multitude loved this provision of bread and food, the multitude didn't get it about Jesus. They didn't get it. And I wonder if there are some among us today that don't get it. You know the reason we don't get it is because we don't see what our real need is and we don't adequately believe that Jesus is able to fill it. We have our eyes on something that we've lost or something that we have or something that we want, and for a moment, just for a moment — even if it's a contradiction of everything we believe — we think that it's that which we've lost or that which we have or that which we want that will fill us. And so our eyes aren't even on Jesus for the provision of our soul needs. And God in His kindness comes and He says, “Child, I know that you can't touch and taste and smell and see My promise, so here's what I'm going to do — I'm going to put it in your lips. I'm going to put it in your mouth. You’re going to be able to smell it. You’re going to be able to taste it. You’re going to be able to see it. You’re going to be able to touch it. Because My promise is more real than the air that you’re breathing and it's more real than any other food that you taste. It's more real than the chair that you’re sitting in. And the need that I can fill is what you really need. And what you think you've lost, and what you think you have, and what you think you want, if it's anything other than Me, is not what you need.”
And then of course the other struggle in the wake of our losses and the things that we want to hold onto and the things that we desire, is that we do not believe that Jesus can be enough. And don't you see that this miracle is just a picture of the truth that Jesus is more than enough? It's so easy for Him to provide this food for this crowd, so easy, so easy. Do you not know that it is easy for Him to supply all your needs? It's easy for Him. There's no question of His power to provide for you. The only question is — do you believe that, that He's more than enough?
William Guthrie, the author of The Christian's Great Interest, once said that “when the believer looks in faith to Jesus Christ she, he, says, ‘Less would not satisfy, but nothing more could be desired.’” Because that's when we look in faith to Jesus, we know that He's more than enough. And that's what this table is about. It's to assure you, it's to confirm to you, that Jesus is more than enough.
Lord, this message is so, so simple. So many in this room could have taught this message, but the older that we get Lord, we realize that as simple as this message is, we need to relearn it over and over again because we're in a constant battle to believe it. And You’re so kind because You’re such a loving Heavenly Father and You’re such a good Teacher to ask us over and over again to come to Your table and You say to us, “I'm going to put My promise on your lips and in your mouth and inside your body so that you won't forget that in this costly offering of My own Son I have given you a rich supply of more than you will ever need. You’ll never exhaust Him. He’ll never run out.” And Lord, You've been feeding Your people for two thousand years now and the bread and the wine has never run out because He's more than enough. Help us believe that. In Jesus' name. Amen.