In Green Pastures
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In Green Pastures

Mark 6:30–44  (ID: 2721)

As Jesus and His disciples went to a desolate place to rest, they were followed by a large crowd. Jesus compassionately took time to teach and miraculously feed five thousand men. Alistair Begg teaches us that we, like the five thousand, are sheep without a shepherd and desperately need Christ to provide our every need—most importantly, our need for reconciliation with God.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Mark, Volume 3

Prophet, Shepherd, Healer, and Provider Mark 6:6–8:21 Series ID: 14103

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn to the Gospel of Mark and to 6:30. Again, the Bibles are around you, if you would care to use them. I encourage you to do so. Mark 6:30:

“The apostles gathered [round] Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’

“So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

“By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ‘and it’s already very late. Send the people away so [that] they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’

“But he answered, ‘You give them something to eat.’

“They said to him, ‘That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?’

“‘How many loaves do you have?’ he asked. ‘Go and see.’

“When they found out, they said, ‘Five—and two fish.’

“Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.”


Father, we humbly ask for your help as we turn to the Bible together, so that you will conduct that divine dialogue whereby God the Holy Spirit is at work within our lives, speaking into them through your Word via the voice of a mere man, so that we might hear from you. This is our earnest longing, humble expectation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Well, as you can see, we’re returning to our studies in the Gospel of Mark and resuming from where we were. The disciples have returned—returned having been dispatched, as we saw at the previous section in 6:12. And there Mark had told us that they’ve gone out and preached that people would repent, and they had healed. Then there was the record of the beheading of John the Baptist and the interaction with Herod himself. And now Mark continues, picks up the narrative, telling us that the apostles have returned, they have gathered around Jesus, and just as we might expect, they are “report[ing] to him all [that] they had done and taught.”

Jesus’ Concern

And then Mark tells us that as on a previous occasion where the crowd had become so unwieldy, the hubbub here is such that Jesus expresses his concern for his followers by suggesting to them that they go for a retreat. And there is just a lovely and wonderful invitation that is recorded there at the end of verse 31 that ought not to be missed—especially ought not to be missed by those of us who think that we can always do more, and that by doing more we will be far more effective, and that while other people may take time to rest and to relax, that’s just because they are not really as good as we are, and we are the ones who can keep going forever. We are the original Energizer Bunnies.

Well, Jesus apparently was not particularly interested in that as a strategy, and you will notice his invitation: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” When I was a student, we had “quiet days” at college, and somebody would come in and help us to be quiet for a day. It was an interesting notion, and it worked pretty well. It was a reminder to us that in the midst of studying the Bible and studying theology, it was distinctly possible that it could all become an academic pursuit, somewhat arid and somewhat removed from our own needy, stony hearts. And it was on more than one occasion that the person who had been charged with the responsibility of guiding us through that day would turn to this final sentence of Mark 6:31: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

May I commend it to you, for those of you who have prided yourselves on being workaholics, for those of you who think that it is a disservice to everyone and everything to turn off your cell phone, to shut down your internet, to be quiet and alone. All work and no play does not only make Jack a dull boy but actually makes him a downright nuisance to everyone in his proximity. And the same is true for ladies. God knows exactly what he’s doing. That’s why he gave us the Sabbath within the framework of the creation ordinances. And Jesus himself, Lord of the Sabbath, recognizes what he’s doing here as he encourages his disciples in this way.

So, they went “by themselves,” verse 32 tells us; they got into a boat; and they went to “a solitary place,” or “a remote place,” as it’s referenced in verse 35. And the reason for their going is understandable, but their plans were thwarted. And the reason their plans were thwarted was largely on account of the success of their preaching tour. They had gone out through the towns and villages, as Mark has told us, and as a result, they had become notable, and people would have identified them, recognized them, as the ones who had been preaching in their village or the ones who had been responsible for the healing of a friend or a family member. And so Mark tells us that, in verse 33, this growing crowd “ran on foot from all the towns,” and they reached the destination of the boat. Before the boat docked, the crowd had already arrived.

And so their plans for a retreat were forestalled. And I don’t think it is my fertile imagination that lends the notion that the disciples would have been somewhat disenchanted with this and that they may have said to one another, “Some retreat this was! It lasted as long as the voyage, and the voyage wasn’t very long. And we haven’t hardly gone anywhere at all, and look, all these people are back bothering us again.”

Jesus’ Compassion

I think inferentially, the reference to Jesus in verse 34 and his response is there for us in marked contrast to what must inevitably, I think, have been the response of the disciples. And here, then, Mark tells us that the concern of Jesus for the Twelve is more than matched by his compassion for the crowd. And if you’re taking notes, you might just simply want to write down “his concern” and then “his compassion.” And look at how its described for us: “When Jesus landed” and he “saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

This is an apt picture. I think it’s apt in terms of the picture itself. It is also apt in terms of an understanding of the Old Testament. In the first instance, the people may actually have looked a bit like a crowd of sheep—perhaps the sunshine on their headdresses, on their robes, that probably were light to deal with the impact of the sun and so on. They may just have looked—if you squeezed your eyes together, it may almost have appeared as if they had a great crowd of frightened sheep that had gathered where the boat was docking.

But as I say, it was also apt insofar as this is a picture that is given to us in the Old Testament. And Moses is described in Numbers chapter 27 as asking God for a successor to himself, someone who will come and lead the people in and lead them out, so that they “will not be”—and this is a direct quote from Numbers 27:17—so that they “will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

And when you read the Old Testament, you discover that one of the ways in which God is described is in this shepherd motif—that he is the one in Isaiah 40 who “tends his flock like a shepherd.” “He gently leads those that have young,” and “he gathers the lambs … close to his heart.”[1] And what Mark is actually saying here—for those who have eyes to see it and to pay attention to it in reading the Gospel—is “Here is the very shepherd of Israel. Here is the ultimate fulfillment of that which God had been describing all the way through this unfolding drama.” And he looks out, and he sees the people, and he, of course, is the shepherd of the sheep. Who else would have such compassion?

And the word here for “compassion,” as we’ve noted before, is a strong word. It is a word that is attached I think almost singularly to Jesus in the Gospels, and it is not representative of a superficial intellectual response, but rather, it is a gut-level response. The Greek verb is splagchnizomai, and it references that which takes a man or a woman at the very core of their being, so that it was actually in their innards that something impacted them. And Jesus looks on this crowd, and it’s at the very core of his being that he responds.

Well, if he responds with such compassion, what, then, would we expect to be the sentence that follows? I bet you don’t think the sentence that does follow. “Because they were like sheep without a shepherd,” and here’s the sentence: “So he began teaching them many things.”

“So he began teaching them.” I think in the twenty-first century, if this had been the case, somebody would have said, “Jesus then said, ‘Let’s all have a group hug. Let’s all get together and rub each other’s backs,’” or something like that. Or “Let’s all just cozy up to one another and tell each other how wonderful we all are to have assembled in this way,” and so on. “Surely it’s enough that we made our way through the challenges of the surrounding countryside and arrived here. Why don’t we just enjoy the luxury of this?”

No, Jesus seizes the opportunity to teach. Why? Because he’s a teacher. This we’ve seen from the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel. He steps forward, and he proclaims the good news of the kingdom of God, urging people to repent and to receive the good news.[2] He heals some people, and as a result of that there is a huge uproar and great accolades which follow. He goes away in the early morning hours to do what he has urged his disciples to do here, to come away and to rest awhile. His disciples come and find him around 1:37, and they say to him, “Hey, Jesus, things have gone remarkably well, and everyone’s looking for you.” And he says, “Let’s get out of here, and let’s go to the other surrounding villages, for that is why I have come.”

The greatest need that we all have is for the preaching and teaching of the Bible. That is why God has given, as gifts of the ascended Christ to the church, pastors and teachers.

And as Mark gives to us the story of Jesus, we find that Jesus is a preacher, that he is a teacher. And whatever was taught here must presumably be in accord with that which was his overarching theme—namely, the kingdom of God. And it is, I think, legitimate for us to imagine that what he provides in Luke chapter 24 to the disconsolate disciples on the Emmaus road he may well be describing even in embryonic form for these people that he finds in this situation around the lakeside, teaching them from the Old Testament, from Moses, and from the Psalms, and from the Prophets all the things that are there “concerning himself.”[3]

Can you imagine what a wonder it would be for these Jewish people to gather and for him to take them in an overview of the Old Testament Scriptures and to be saying, “And when you look here and you see this prophet who comes and speaks unerringly, that is me, and that’s why I’m preaching to you. When you look here and you anticipate a king who will reign on David’s throne forever, that’s me. I am the King of Israel. When you imagine one who will suffer and bear the sins of people, that is me. I will eventually go and suffer for the sins of my people.” And you can imagine that as the afternoon hours roll on, that the people are absolutely amazed, astonished, intrigued, drawn in, equipped, spoken to by this preacher.

Let me just pause and say: the greatest need that we all have is for the preaching and teaching of the Bible. I know that sounds self-serving when it comes from a pulpit. But it is absolutely true. If that were not the case, God would not have given, as gifts of the ascended Christ to the church, pastors and teachers.[4] He would simply have said, “Look, you’ve all got a Bible; go away and read it. You’ve all got a Bible; go away and study it by yourselves. You all have a Bible; go away and have a little group to yourself.” But he didn’t say that.

Why? Because the Bible explains itself, but it doesn’t wear its explanations on its sleeve. And he has entrusted some with the responsibility of teaching the Bible. And those who teach the Bible are to be those who are themselves taught by the Bible. And it will become very obvious to a congregation whether their pastors are learners—whether their preachers are the recipients of preaching or whether they are just the disbursers of secondhand information that they have ferreted out of books and places that they’ve discovered it.

In the last two months, I’ve had the responsibility of reviewing a very, very helpful book called The Priority of Preaching by an Englishman by the name of Christopher Ash. And I went to it this week when I came to this sentence—“So he began teaching them many things”—and I went again to a note that I had made. On the top of page 62, I wrote in my own inimitable scribble, “You’re a preacher, not a commentator.” I wrote that to myself: “You’re a preacher, not a commentator.” And this is what Ash has to say: “The commentator … has to work hard to tackle all the complexities and obscurities, all the details. But that’s not the preacher’s job. The preacher’s job is ‘to spread himself to his heart’s content’”—it’s interesting he puts that in quotes—“‘to spread himself to his heart’s content’ on the great clear central truths of a passage.”[5]

Now, if that sounds like “The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things,” then you should be encouraged. There are at least two of us: Christopher Ash and myself. It is always a temptation to do the commentator’s job in the pulpit, so that we show off our learning but end up saying so much that we leave people confused. Lloyd-Jones used to recount the anecdote of a woman listening to an enormously intellectual preacher. When asked if she enjoyed the sermon, she replied, “Far be it from me to presume to understand such a great man as that!”[6]

William Griffiths, a fiery preacher on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales in the early and mid-nineteenth century, who had a great passion for clear, powerful preaching, used to make notes on other sermons. Of one he wrote, “Not able to make anything of the sermon—persuaded that a hundred years of such preaching would produce no saving effects.” Okay? So when it says that Jesus “had compassion on them” and “he began [to teach] them,” it doesn’t just say, “And the people said, ‘Oh, that’s not what we were looking for,’ and they began to go away in droves. They all drifted off.” No, the appearance is that the crowd is growing even as he teaches. Because by the end, there are five thousand men, gathering for whatever reason and finding themselves under the instruction of Jesus—a necessary instruction, because the priests and the teachers of the law were failing in the task, just as God had prophesied in Ezekiel chapter 34: that the prophets were gouging the people; they were not telling them the truth, and so on. And it was imperative that these people would learn the story of the kingdom.

Conflicting Ideas

Now, it is at this point that the disciples get up on their high horse. And in verse 35 we have what I suggest to you is the summary of conflicting ideas. I confess that this is not a great outline this morning, but it’s enough for me. His concern for the disciples, his compassion for the crowd, and then the conflicting ideas that are before us in this dialogue that follows.

You would find it quite helpful to read it out loud on your own. It’s a “They said, he said, he said, they said” kind of thing. And it is one of the instances in the Gospels where the disciples just don’t get it. We can say that with absolute authority because Mark tells us in verse 52—which, God willing, will be next Sunday’s study—in verse 52 that these guys had not got it. They just didn’t understand “about the loaves.”

There is definitely something ironic about this interchange, but I think more than that, it is disrespectful. You may not agree with me here. You don’t have to agree with me here. I don’t want to do the disciples a disservice. But I think they are disrespectful in the way in which they respond to Jesus.

Actually, I think they’re a pretty disrespectful group by and large. For example, if you think about it, in the previous incident I mentioned to you, after Jesus has gone away by himself, when the disciples come and find him and say to him, “Everyone is looking for you,”[7] I think probably it was more in that tone rather than “Hey, everyone is looking for you!” I think it was “What do you think you’re doing here, Jesus? We got the thing started last night; we’re ready to go. Everyone is looking for you. The whole place is charged up and ready. Let’s go!” Jesus says, “We’re outta here. Let’s go somewhere else.”[8]

If you don’t agree with that one, what about the one on the boat, when they waken Jesus up to ask him a question? What’s the question? “Hey, Jesus, don’t you care if we drown?”[9] Now, that’s disrespectful in any language. And later on, they presume to know the mind of Jesus in relationship to the children, because when the people bring the children to Jesus to have him touch them, they say, “Get the kids out of here. This is not what Jesus wants to be doing.” And Jesus says, “Fellows, button it up. Bring the little children, suffer the little children, to come to me.”[10]

You don’t tell your master what to do. He tells you what to do. He’s the teacher; we’re the pupils. We don’t give Jesus orders.

Now, but we don’t want to be too hard on them, because they’re pragmatists. Verse 35: it’s all very pragmatic. It’s all very sensible. These fellows, some of them would have been hired by McKinsey or Booz Allen. They could have made a lot of money with this kind of ability—a phenomenal ability for pointing out the obvious and charging a phenomenal amount of money for doing so. Sorry, that’s just a joke for the people who have ears to hear who are in the congregation. But anyway.

“By this time, it was late in the day, so [the] disciples came to him.” And here we go: “This is a remote place,” they said.

“Wow! Tell me something I don’t know,” Jesus might have said.

“And furthermore, it’s already very late.”

“Yeah, okay, good.”

“Now, Jesus, here are your directions: send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

That is disrespectful. You don’t tell your master what to do. He tells you what to do. He’s the teacher; we’re the pupils. We don’t give Jesus orders. We like to: “This is how we’re going to reach this family, Jesus. This is how we’re going to accomplish this, Jesus. We just want to let you know our plan and then just have you join in with us. It would be a terrific encouragement if you could.”

That’s what they’re really saying. And they’re surely unprepared for the reply in verse 37. What a zinger this is! It’s absolutely super, isn’t it? They’ve got this wonderful plan laid out: “They can all go away, get themselves something to eat, and maybe we’ll get our retreat now.” That might have been part of their thinking: “If we can get them out of here, then we’ll get the retreat that we were supposed to be having before these folks all showed up.” Do you ever wonder if your pastor feels that way? Keep wondering.

“But he answered, ‘You give them something to eat.’” In other words, he confronts them with a situation that is absolutely beyond human resourcefulness. Once again, there’s a flashback to the Old Testament. You wouldn’t know this unless you’d been reading Numbers, but in Numbers chapter 11, Moses cries out to God, and he says, “Where [shall I find] meat for all these people?”[11] And God intervenes in the wilderness and provides manna. And once again, here they are, out in a remote desert place, and the same question comes: “What do you expect us to do? Pardon? You want us to give them something to eat? Do you realize how much money it would cost? Do you know how much a wedding reception costs? Goodness, look, five thousand people? If it were possible, it would be crazy, and it isn’t even possible.”

Now, maybe they thought that would end the story right there. But it doesn’t. Jesus follows up. He says, “How many loaves do you have?” They must have said… So he says, “Go and see.” And “when they found out,” they came back, and “they said, ‘Five—and two fish.’” Now, again, I don’t want to do a despite to these dear souls, but I can imagine them coming back going, “See? See? We have five and two fish. Case closed. We told you, time to get rid of them.” You know, that’s… We’re done, aren’t we? What? You want us to sit them down? What would we sit them down for? Okay. Okay. Well, let me try and get you together in groups now, please. He wants you all to sit down. Don’t ask me why. Just sit down. This is bad enough being a disciple without you starting on me. Now, just get yourself organized. Come on.” And John says to Peter, said, “What is this? This is embarrassing. I mean this is going to be… If this is embarrassing now, wait till we start giving out the food. Then it’s going to get really embarrassing!”

Can you imagine? I mean, don’t miss the humanity of it. Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We can’t give them something to eat.” Says, “That’s okay. Let’s get the people in groups. Let’s get ready for the feast.” What a feast! How different from the feast in Herod’s place that has just been described, the great banquet with all the people, all the jet-setters. No satisfaction in that feast! Just a miserable orgy of lostness. But this is a feast. Basics, but it’s going to be wonderful.

And there they’re seated. There’s another flashback here, incidentally. You’ll have to just go back and read the Pentateuch, and you will discover that Moses also was encouraged to put the people together in groups like this.[12] “And now,” he says to them, “let’s get these people put together, and let’s get them fed.” And so you will notice that “Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass.” “On the green grass.”

Now, you should be up on this now. You should be doing this yourselves. I’ve given you enough hints. Where are we? Psalm 23: “The Lord’s my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me sit down in the green grass. He leads me beside the still waters.”[13] You see, Jesus, the shepherd of the sheep, says, “Now, let’s just have them all sit down here in the green grass.” He’s not simply the healer of the individual. He’s not simply the preacher who touches one life and changes it. He is the Lord of all. He’s the shepherd of Israel. He’s the King of creation. He is not bound by the rules of normal experience, of what is possible and what is impossible. And a shame on all the commentators who try and explain away the miraculous in this, from William Barclay on, as to how it was that there wasn’t really a miracle at all, and nobody had a clue what was going on, and everybody just went in their pockets and found old sandwiches and things like that, and then eventually everybody got something to eat, but there was nothing miraculous in it at all.

Well, how helpful is that, huh? It’s not helpful at all. Wouldn’t you expect the Lord of creation, who created DNA, to be able to handle this? There’s no reason to go into the details of it. Incidentally, there’s no indication that the crowd actually knew it was miraculous. But the disciples certainly did, ’cause they’re the ones who knew there were five and two. By the time you got to row 15 in section 43, you’re not going to really know what’s going on at the start of it all. All you know is that by the time it came to pass the plate to you, you ate your full. You got your fish, and you got your bread. It’s fantastic!

Jesus is not simply the healer of the individual. He’s not simply the preacher who touches one life and changes it. He is the Lord of all. He’s the shepherd of Israel. He’s the King of creation

You see, what it says, it cries out down through the ages:

Have you got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Have you got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible.
He can do just what no other can do.[14]

In fact, it is the strategy of God to bring us to the end of our human resources so that we and others who watch us may know, “This is God’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”[15]

That’s why Paul is able to finally say, “Okay, I have a thorn in the flesh. Okay, I know you’re not going to take it from me. I will more, therefore, gladly glory in my weakness than in my strength, because when I am weak, then I am strong.”[16] When you say, “You give them something to eat,” and we say, “We have nothing to give them,” then you’re ready for God’s dramatic intervention. And that’s how it goes. Jesus took them; he blessed them, as would be true in any Jewish household; he gave them to his disciples; they distributed them to the people.

And we have to finish up, but you will notice that he does the same with the fish. I think it’s so wonderful, that sentence at the end of verse 41: “He also divided the two fish among them all.” “He also divided the two fish among them all.” A ludicrously inadequate supply in the hands of a reluctant distribution team. Right? A ludicrously inadequate supply in the hands of a reluctant distribution team.

God is God! Notice: “They all ate.” They were all “satisfied.” And all the leftovers were collected.

Oh, I think there’s just a touch of humor here in this “twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.” I don’t know whether it is, as was true in certain eras, that each of these disciples would have had his own basket, in the way that everybody today seems to have a backpack. And as the crowd is all fed and the disciples are sitting there looking somewhat sheepish—which is appropriate, given the context—and one of them is brave enough to say, “Jesus? Jesus, what would you like us to do now?” He said, “Well, why don’t you just go pick up all the stuff that’s left over?” “Left over?” “Yeah. Put it in your basket, and then come back and see me.” And they came back, and each basket was filled with the provision necessary for the next step on the journey.

You see, when you read the Bible, when you read Mark’s Gospel, realize what’s happening here. We are being introduced to Christ, the Messiah, he who is himself the Bread of Life, upon whom people eat, receiving him in faith—he who, just as the bread was broken, would one day have his body broken in order that those who come to trust in him would have their sins forgiven and would have life that is truly life.

As we end this study and as we look out on this new year, can I just remind you of this, what I’ve tried to remind myself of: that God actually does specialize in situations and circumstances that are beyond human resourcefulness; that we can depend on him for everything.

I don’t know why it is, but I’ve been thinking a lot about dying this last ten days. I guess some people I know have died; the recollection of others. And when you think about a situation that is beyond human resourcefulness, there is nothing that stands in defiance of humanity more than death. And so the question is: Has anyone conquered death, and have they made a way for me to conquer death with them?

A fellow who used to be a doctor here in town—he’s been away for a while and is now at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School—sent me a letter this week in which he told me that his mum had died. And then he had these two wonderful sentences.

He says, “The way we grieve hangs entirely upon our belief regarding the resurrection. For my mother’s burial”—now notice the stark contrast here, and it is the right contrast—“for my mother’s burial either marked the end of a futile life rooted in a false hope or celebrated the life of a woman who lived according to the truth and is destined to live again in a new and glorious way, in a new order where everything is put to right.” In other words, either Jesus is the very Bread of Life and who eats of it will never hunger,[17] who drinks of him will never thirst,[18] or he isn’t.

And when we go out to share this good news in our communities, to take seriously the opportunity of engaging friends and neighbors and work colleagues with these truths, we need to do so also in the recognition of the fact that it is not the level of our spirituality that we can depend on. We can only do what the disciples did: “Why don’t you give them something to eat?” “Well, why don’t you take this and give it to them?”

Elisabeth Elliot puts it like this: “It is God and nothing less than God” we depend on, “for the work is God’s and the call is God’s and everything is summoned by Him and to His purposes, the whole scene, the whole mess, the whole package—our bravery … our cowardice, our love and our selfishness, our strength and our weaknesses.” He uses “as the instruments of His peace a conglomeration of sinners who sometimes look like heroes”—(“Hey, Jesus, we just wanted to tell you all the things that we’ve been able to do while we were gone”)—“who sometimes look like heroes and sometimes like villains.” (“Jesus, would you give these people, send them home so they can get something?”) For we are always merely old clay pots.[19]

So the encouragement is clear, isn’t it? If you and I are prepared to acknowledge before God that the responsibility entrusted to us to serve others immediately shows up our inadequacy and our emptiness, then if we will offer our open hands to him, he will place within our custody that which he has provided and allow us—surprisingly, wonderfully—the privilege of extending this to others.

I wrote in my notes a quote from a hymn. It goes,

Oh, use me, Lord, use even me,
Just as you will, and when, and where,
Until your blessed face I see,
Your [light], your joy, your glory share.[20]

Will you say that to God? First Sunday of the new year—teenager, housewife, businessman, scholar, artist, construction worker, mailman, banker, gardener?

Let’s pray:

Gracious God, look upon us in your mercy, we pray. Grant that we might come to you in our need and find that you are the Bread of Life, that we might come to you in our emptiness and find that you fill us with everything necessary for the doing of your will. We commend ourselves to you as individuals and as couples and families and, indeed, as a church family, asking that you will help us, wherever we are and whatever our lot in life, to live in such a way so that by word and by deed it may be apparent that we have committed ourselves to seeing unbelieving people become the committed followers of Jesus Christ.

And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one, today and forevermore. Amen.

[1] Isaiah 40:11 (NIV 1984).

[2] See Mark 1:15.

[3] Luke 24:27 (NIV 1984).

[4] See Ephesians 4:8, 11.

[5] Theodore of Mopsuestia, referenced in J. N. D. Kelly, Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), 95, referenced in Christopher Ash, The Priority of Preaching (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2009), 61.

[6] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 122.

[7] Mark 1:37 (NIV 1984).

[8] Mark 1:38 (paraphrased).

[9] Mark 4:38 (paraphrased).

[10] Mark 10:13–14 (paraphrased).

[11] Numbers 11:13 (NIV 1984).

[12] See Exodus 18:21–25; Numbers 11:16.

[13] Psalm 23:1–2 (paraphrased).

[14] Oscar Carl Eliason, “Got Any Rivers?” (1931). Lyrics lightly altered.

[15] Psalm 118:23 (paraphrased).

[16] 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (paraphrased).

[17] See John 6:35.

[18] See John 4:14.

[19] Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1981), 271.

[20] Frances R. Havergal, “Lord, Speak to Me That I May Speak” (1872).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.