Bread for Dirty Hands

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 2/23/2020

I’m calling this sermon “Bread for Dirty Hands.” Practically everyone loves bread. Even those who are gluten-intolerant, have found ways to enjoy bread. If you are like me, you can relate to a fellow Lakesider, who experienced significant weight loss. To celebrate, he treated himself with a basket of scrumptious Texas Roadhouse rolls! I put on weight just looking at the basket.

A few years Lara noticed how fond I was of Texas Roadhouse rolls and set out to mimic their recipe. She goes through so much work. The hardest part is the yeast, the leaven. If you don’t get the yeast and temperatures just right, the bread doesn’t rise, and comes out flat. Whenever Lara makes bread, she obsesses about the yeast. She’s on pins and needles waiting for it to rise. She wants it to taste just right. Now I’ve been a bit of a slow learner. But when Lara goes through all that trouble, she has very high expectations. She insists that not a single crumb be left in the basket. There have been a few times Lara’s noticed I wasn’t eating her rolls with quite the same enthusiasm as the Texas Roadhouse rolls. It’s a miracle, that I’m still able to stand and talk like this. 

Now whether you realize it or not, I’ve just given you the whole structure of my sermon and out Bible text this morning. If at any point you get lost… look for the bread, look for the leaven, and look for the crumbs! Our text this morning spans from Mark 6:30 to Mark 8:21. I know that sounds like a lot, but Mark intends us to read these verses as a single unit. This is one of those weeks when you are going to want to huddle with your small group and talk about The Bread, the Leaven, and the Crumbs. See pages 893-898. There is no way in the world, in a single sermon, I’m going to do these verses justice. But I want you to see them as Mark intends… as a whole unit of thought. 

First, The Bread. We all know that bread can have a literal and symbolic meaning. Bread can refer to most anything we need for life. And not just for physical sustenance, but also for spiritual life, everlasting life, eternal life. Now as we’ll see you can take something really good like bread, but if a little bad yeast works through the dough, it wrecks everything. In the gospel of Mark, the Twelve cannot grasp the spiritual meaning of bread. They cannot grasp how Jesus Himself is the true bread that comes down from heaven. They cannot grasp 1 John 5:12, how, “He who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son does not have life.” In crisis after crisis, Jesus repeatedly shows them his power, but they are so hard of heart, and so slow to learn, and so reluctant to trust Jesus. You will see how frustrated even Jesus gets with them! 

The first crisis Jesus reveals Himself within is HUNGER (Mark 6:30-44). The Apostles have come back from their missionary journey. They’re excited. They’re reporting all they’d said and done. They’ve been out days, maybe weeks, running on adrenaline. In Mark 6:31 Jesus recognizes that look in their eyes and says, “Come away to a remote place and rest for a while…” 

But there is a problem. “… many people were coming and going and they did not even have time to eat.” In Mark 6:32-33, Jesus tries to evacuate the Apostle by boat, but the people onshore are watching them, and race ahead on foot to their landing spot. The disciples can’t catch their breath! They’re totally spent! These enormous crowds keep welling up everywhere they go. 

Jesus’ attitude is Mark 6:34: “He has compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.” Yes they have physical needs but they also have profound spiritual needs. It’s too short-sighted to only respond to a person’s physical needs. They need real preaching, teaching, discipleship. Our first temptation in the face of overwhelming need is to jettison spiritual teaching. True compassion is responding to the totality of a person’s need. But the disciple’s attitude is Mark 6:35-36: “Jesus. We know you’re the Energizer bunny. You just keep teaching and teaching. It’s getting late. Land the plane. If you can’t say it in thirty, its not worth saying. Send these people off to get their own food. There is some hostility. 

Now it doesn’t even cross the disciple’s mind to trust God with their own HUNGER, must less the crowds. So in Mark 6:37 Jesus says, “You guys give them something to eat.” There are at least 5000 people and the disciples don’t have a dime of change. After frisking the crowd, they only come up with a meager five loaves of bread and two lousy fish. Ben Snider and Cody Pope might be satisfied eating stale bread and sushi, but not these disciples! 

Now pay close attention. In Mark 6:41-44 the CSB says, “He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves.” And then notice this: “He kept giving them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. Everyone ate and was satisfied. They picked up twelve baskets full of bread and fish. . . [some] five thousand men.” That bread is flowing out of Jesus’ hands like Manna out of heaven, like bread from a Texas Roadhouse kitchen. Basket after basket, just as fast as it can be passed and eaten, and plenty of leftover to take home afterwards! If you saw bread multiplying out of Jesus’ hand, would it cause you to trust Jesus with your Hunger? 

The second crisis Jesus reveals Himself within is HELPLESSNESS (Mark 6:45-52). Later that night, Jesus dismisses everyone. He “makes” his disciples get on a boat, says, “good-bye,” and goes up a mountain to pray. Well into the night, their boat was in the middle of the sea, and Jesus looks out and sees the disciples “straining against the oars, the wind is against them” This is real life stuff! When have you strained and strained against the oars—yet to no avail. Your marriage sinking. Your family, job, career, finances, hopes, dreams, plans, future ... Time running out. Waves threatening. Water flooding in. Your crying out into the darkness, but it feels so useless. 

Mark 6:48. Praise God! Jesus saw them! But Jesus isn’t so happy. “…Very early in the morning he came toward them walking on the sea and wanted to pass by them.” [WHAT! He saw them but wanted to keep going! “When they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately Jesus said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. Then he got in the boat with them and the wind ceased. They were completely astounded!” 

Now why in the world did Jesus want to walk past them? It’s simple. This isn’t the disciples first rodeo! They were caught in a storm way back in Mark 4:35-41. Do you remember how they marveled that even the wind/waves obeyed Jesus? Jesus was expecting them to have learned something, but NO! Mark 6:51-52 says, “They were completely astounded, because they had not understood about the loaves. They hadn’t understood from the last storm!) Instead, their hearts were hardened.” 

The third crisis Jesus reveals Himself within is HEALTH-CARE (Mark 6:53-56). After Jesus and his disciples land on dry ground, Jesus is immediately recognized. Mark 6:55-56 says, “[People] hurried throughout that region and began to carry the sick on mats to wherever they heard Jesus was. Wherever he went, into villages, towns or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch just the end of his robe. And everyone who touched it [the end of his robe] was healed.” 

Mark has such a peculiar way of presenting Jesus. Jesus doesn’t just “give” Bread. He IS the source of bread. He doesn’t just calm storms, He IS the source of peace. He doesn’t just heal, He IS the source of resurrection and life. The disciples have a front row seat yet fail to connect the dots. Instead of trusting Jesus, they're scratching their heads. 

Now, if ever you have doubt about the patience of God, lets review. How many times does Jesus let the disciples get caught in a storm? How many times does Jesus let the disciples get caught in hunger, to teach them to trust God with all their needs? How many say one? How about two? How about three? 

In Mark 6:30-44 we have the feeding of 5000. But then in Mark 8:1-10 we have the feeding of 4000! In the first instance, the disciples go hungry a day. In the second, they go hungry three days! In both accounts Mark tells us that Jesus has compassion. But what’s going on is Jesus is trying to get through to his knucklehead disciples! After the feeding of the 5000, they should have known to turn to Jesus right away. But no! They’re so dull! Jesus even plays dumb with them, to help the figure it out! In Mark 8:3 Jesus says “Hmmm… if I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a long distance. What ever shall I do? Hmmm… guys?” But his disciples are as dumb as ever. They say, “Where can anyone get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so many?” They frisk the crowd, but this time only have seven loaves and a few small fish.” Good gravy! Once again, Jesus multiplies the bread! 

Now we’ve had two storms. We’ve had two mass bread feedings. Who thinks the disciples have finally learned to trust Jesus for all their needs? Nope! In Mark 8:13, Jesus and the disciples get back into a boat. And here we go again! Mark 8:14 says, “The disciples had forgotten to take bread and had only one loaf with them in the boat.” OOPS! 

Now it’s in Mark 8:15 that Jesus says, “Be careful … Watch out for the yeast (the leaven) of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” The disciples are so confused. They think Jesus is scolding them for not having enough bread! Mark 8:17-21, “Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. 20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” 21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” *Friends, don’t laugh. We can be just as slow, and hard of heart, not trusting Jesus for daily bread, for peace, for healing and life. 

The Bread, the Leaven, and the Crumbs. So do you remember? Follow the BREAD? But then we talked about how a little bad yeast can work its wait through the dough and ruin the Bread. In Mark 7 Jesus warns about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Scribes. Here is Jesus the bread of life. But the religious leaders tell Jesus’ disciples, “Hey guys, you can’t eat bread with unwashed hands. You have to follow our rules and traditions. There is a certain way you should wash your utensils, and cups, and plates and pitchers and kettles… There is a certain way you should recline at the table, so your hands don’t get contaminated.” 

These religious leaders are total hypocrites. In Mark 7:6-7 Jesus says, “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, [they are] teaching as doctrines human commands.” Jesus goes on to point out how they love talking about Moses and the Law, but they don’t keep Moses’ Law. For example, Moses said, “Honor your father and mother.” The most obvious/basic duty of any decent human being is to take care of your parents in old age right? The Bible says if we’re not willing to care for our own flesh/blood/family were worse off than unbelievers! But these religious leaders had a peculiar tradition. By invoking the word “corban,” they could absolve themselves of any/all responsibility of caring for their parents. “Corban” was tantamount to declaring, “I’m already offering so much to God… I can’t also care for mom and dad.’ I exempt myself!” 

Back in Mark 6:34 Jesus had compassion on the 5000 because they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were leaderless because those who should have been leading the masses to trust God, didn’t have the moral courage to trust God with their own needs, much less that of their aging parents! 

In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus describes what happens when we fail to trust God with our needs. He says, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.” Our hunger, our helplessness, our healthcare needs ought to drive us to Jesus. But when we don’t turn to Jesus, we turn desperate, we turn Mark 7:20-23 ugly. The yeast of the Pharisees is this… we can maintain the appearance of godliness while never actually, tangibly, trusting Jesus in much of anything. 

Now, the yeast of Herod is much the same. The yeast of Herod refers is our compulsion to place ultimate hope in political leaders, and political movements, and governments. No doubt people are in great crisis. But where is the solution? The whole account of Herod beheading John the Baptist ought to remind us how quickly, and darkly, political currents can change. 

I grieve how deeply the yeast of Herod has worked itself into the dough of Evangelicalism. The church isn’t seen as a compassionate group of people. We’re not seen, holding Jesus out to the world. No, we’re seen as a bunch of political carnival barkers. Instead of our faith, the world sees our fear. Instead of the character of Christ, they see Mark 7:20-23. They see the leaven of distrust, unbelief… They see the leaven of greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, class envy, slander, pride, and foolishness… all these things on full display. 

The Bread, the Leaven, and the Crumbs. Now let me end with this. Mark has a profound way of helping us come to terms with the human toll of unbelief/fear. In Mark 7:24-29, a Samaritan woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter. If you were a Jew, you considered every Samaritan a dog. You might let a dog go through your trash, but you certainly wouldn’t welcome them at your table. This woman knows all about the Jews contempt for Samaritan people. Fear is what causes us to devalue other. Like the disciples, we can be so quick to turn in contempt to our fellow man, the moment we feel our well-being threatened. Our attitude is, “ME FIRST. Me. Me. Me.” God sent them out and keep them away. 

Jesus says to this woman, “Wait a minute… you’re a Gentile… a Samaritan… is it right to take the children’s bread and throw it to their dogs?” The woman’s response amazes Jesus, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs!” Jesus, throw a few crumbs my way. This woman understands more than all the Disciples, all religious leaders in Mark 7, and probably most American Evangelicals. Not only does she trust Jesus, but her daughter was healed in that very moment. 


Scripture Verses

Mark 6:30-8:21

Worship Playlist

Christ Be Magnified by Cody Carnes

Great Are You Lord by All Sons & Daughters

Christ Is Enough by Hillsong

Never Gonna Stop Singing by Jesus Culture

Study Questions

  1. Bread is one of the most tangible human needs. Beyond food, what are some of the most critical needs people have? What is a big need that you see in the Springfield community right now? How would you dream that the church could respond to that need?
  2. Read Mark 6:34. We can be very hard on people with overwhelming needs. What insight does Jesus give about people in need? What is hard about shepherding people through need? Why is it easier to just give bread or throw a day wages at problems?   
  3. Read Mark 6:45-56 and compare it to Mark 4:35-41. What lesson were the disciples failing to grasp about Jesus? How might the crowds have reflected a deeper understanding of Jesus' power?  
  4. Survey Mark 6:30-Mark 8:21. How many times does "bread" or "yeast" come up in these verses? How does Jesus use bread as an object lesson to drive home deeper spiritual truths to the various groups of people?  
  5. What was the key lesson for the Twelve (6:30-56)? The 5000? The Elders (7:1-23)? The Greek woman and other 'unclean' people (Mark 7:24-37)? The 4000 (8:1-10)? The Pharisees and Herod (8:11-21)?  
  6. Sometimes our tangible needs can distract us from seeing deeper spiritual needs. How can we better respond to people at their deepest point of need and not only their immediate felt needs?  
  7. Of all the examples that appear in these verses, which story speaks to you the most? How is God inviting you to more tangibly trust Jesus as the Bread of Life?  
  8. Pray the week 7 prayer and take communion together.   

Apply It!

Resources

Prayer: Lord our God, King of the Universe, you bring forth bread from the heavens. You not only supply us our daily bread, but you have given us Jesus, the Bread of Life. We do not presume to come to you trusting in our own righteousness, but only depending on your mercy and grace. May our hunger for the Bread of Life be so great that other tangible needs never eclipse our deeper spiritual needs. As we find nourishment from Jesus, may we share that bread with those around us who are spiritually starving.