The Good Shepherd - a summary
Since we didn't have audio (or power) for this week's sermon, here's a short summary of the message from Mark 6:33-44.
The Good Shepherd
The LOST finale was this week. If you have watched at all, then you know the principal character is a man named Jack Shephard. His last name not at all incidental, but actually describes the role Jack takes on the island. He acts as a shepherd for the group of castaways - he guides them, protects them, and they look to him for leadership. At times in the series, when Jack is out of the picture or not fulfilling his role, the group very much becomes like "sheep without a shepherd" (Mark 6:34).
Jesus looks at this group of people and he sees sheep without a shepherd. When we think of the shepherd image, we tend to think of the more pastoral aspects (Jesus with a sheep slung over his shoulder, etc.) But here the picture is something more like a political or military leader. Ezekiel 34:1-6 describes a situation in which people suffer and are scattered under poor shepherds. And in Numbers 27:16-17, Moses prays for God to raise up someone in his place, so that the people will not become like sheep without a shepherd. This is what Jesus sees when he looks at these people - they are without a leader, and thus without direction or purpose.
We are sheep
Sheep are a good image, not just for the crowd in Mark 6, but for us as well. Sheep are dumb - and we are foolish in our hearts as well (Jeremiah 17:9). And sheep are helpless - likewise, we cannot save ourselves (Ephesians 2:1).
This is not a very flattering description of our nature, but it crucial to understand this if we are to really understand the gospel. As John Calvin said, "without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God." That is, if you don't know you are a sheep, you'll never understand your need for a Shepherd.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd
What Mark implies in Mark 6:33-44, John 10 makes explicit. Jesus says in John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd." We see Jesus acting as the Good Shepherd in this passage.
First, he has tenderness and compassion for the people (Mark 6:34). He allows for the interruption of his much needed retreat, he feels for them, and he acts on that feeling to provide for them.
What does Jesus give them? He gives them his word (he taught them), and he gives them bread (he satiated their hunger). His care for them was comprehensive. He understood both their spiritual needs and their physical needs, and sought to meet them both.
Mark's big question throughout is "Who is Jesus?" Mark's answer here is that he is the Good Shepherd. That is, he's the new and better Joshua. God answered Moses' prayer in a more full sense in Jesus - providing a leader who would lead his people out of a spiritual desert into the promised land of eternal life. We also see that Jesus is God in the flesh. In Ezekiel 34:11-16, God promises to rescue the people from the evil shepherds. And he will do so by himself becoming their Shepherd. So when Jesus understands himself to be the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), then he is identifying himself with God.
Putting this sheep-shepherd image together, we get a picture of the gospel. The gospel tells us that we are stupider than we thought (we are sheep), but we are more valued than we ever dared to imagine (he is our shepherd).
Living in light of this
We live this truth out when we consistently remember what God has done for us in the past. This starts with remembering the gospel. The people needed a Shepherd, and what did Jesus do? He gave them his Word, and he gave them bread. Jesus gives us these same things as reminders of the gospel. We have his Word in the Bible, which when we read it and pray for the Spirit to apply it to our hearts, the gospel is driven down deep into the center of who we are, affecting every aspect of our lives. We also have the Lord's Supper (compare Mark 6:41 to the Last Supper) - bread to remind us of the gospel. John 10:11 tells us how the Shepherd loves his sheep - he lays down his life for them. As you come back again and again to the truth of the gospel you receive power for today.
We also can eavesdrop on the future. Miracles are never just naked displays of power, but signs of the kingdom. Miracles are not suspensions of the natural order, but restorations of the natural order. Someday we will eat bread in the new heavens and the new earth. And the knowledge of that is bread for your soul today. As C.S. Lewis has said, "Christianity is a fighting religion." And we have strength to fight against the effects of sin and its curse because we know this is not the way God intended the world to be, and we know that Jesus will one day bring restoration as the kingdom comes in its fullness.
Jesus wants to use you now. He tells the disciples "You give them something to eat" (Mark 6:37). He helps them assess the situation so that they realize their resources are inadequate. And then he shows them that as we give him our inadequate resources, he will multiply them and meet then needs of the people. You must realize your resources are meager, but in the hands of Jesus they can be multiplied to bless others.