The New Math – Jesus Style!

This sermon can be watched or listened to at!

Have you heard about the new math? Math problems used to be simple: 1+ 1 = 2; 2 + 2 = 4. In fact, I kind of thought I was good at math until my fourth grader started bringing his math homework home and I had to start Googling the terms he was using to find out their meaning. (As an aside, my children’s accelerated math shows that Temple Baptist Christian Academy has strong academics. Something for you to consider if you have children.)

I remember when I was in school I questioned whether I would ever use what I was being taught. Sadly, math is not something we are good at or maybe I should say we only like addition. Our debt based culture thinks that 0 – 1 = 1. In other words, if I have nothing (no money to purchase something) but borrow money for a purchase then I still get to add it to my life as a positive gain. But if you keep subtracting from what you don’t have, this adds up to a great negative number. Whole national economies are on the verge of collapse because they have not understood this simple truth about math. God warns us in Romans 13:8, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law.” Why is it so important to get out of debt? It comes down to what we celebrated last Sunday: Jesus loved His neighbour – us – and paid our debt of sin. Now that we are free spiritually, this should be also demonstrated physically. One of my goals is for us as a family and as a church family is to be debt-free. Our Muslim neighbours understand the principle of Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” and this is why they don’t go into debt as a rule. Think about how much more we could love our neighbour if we were out of debt. We could reach more of the poor in our community. Did you know that over 800 families in Cambridge use the food bank every month? We could change their lives not just with food, but also more importantly with the Gospel. And then think what we could do internationally – many people already died today because they don’t have the food or medicine to survive. Think about how we could train and send more Christian leaders out into the world – more pastors and missionaries. We could plant churches who plant churches who plant churches. We could give our physical plant here a facelift.

But maybe you just see a mountain of needs and expenses? This is how the disciples felt in Mark 6:33-44! People were a problem to dismiss, not an opportunity to deliver God’s love. Maybe you feel that way? You’re tired. You’re family requires one constant need after another. The dentist bills, the grocery bills, the utility bills – it all seems so insurmountable. It must have felt insurmountable for the disciples when they saw the masses coming at them once again. What made it worse was that the disciples were tired and hungry, which always makes you lose perspective. They just wanted to spend time with Jesus and each other. In Mark 6:30-33, “The apostles gathered together with Jesus, and reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves. The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them.” Put yourself in the disciples’ sandals. Jesus had sent them out in pairs to preach repentance, cast out demons and heal the sick. They had just had a very non-stop, busy season of ministry, they were exhausted and hadn’t even had time to eat! Notice that even though Jesus called them to rest, to a cruise on the lake, but they couldn’t outrun the people; they couldn’t outrun the needs. I am starting to learn that the needs won’t run out until heaven. I always thought you could just get ahead and complete your work, and then you can chill and do what you want. However, there is always one more need isn’t there? Are you feeling tired? Are you feeling overburdened? Jesus is calling you to a powerful new way. Jesus is calling to teach you His New Math. Let’s read about it Mark 6:33-44. Read Mark 6:33-44!

I love how Jesus who had hit the pause button with His disciples, quickly hit the play button again when He saw the people. Think about this. Transition from thinking like a fatigued follower of Jesus to a shore-bound seeker of Jesus. Imagine that you weren’t in the boat with Jesus. You were on the shore. Jesus was out of reach. You would be running to see the miracle worker Jesus. If you wanted what the disciples already had, you might be tired but you wouldn’t give up. If you’re here today seeking Jesus, there’s a message there for you. Don’t give up! Jesus will come! Your need drives Jesus! It drove Him to the Cross. You see, “Whenever someone is lost or alone, God’s reaction is always to ‘go’ and to ‘send.’”[1] In my own life, I was tired from a busy Easter weekend but God gave me numerous opportunities this week to spend time with people who are far from Jesus. Jesus living inside me through His Holy Spirit re-energized me. Jesus in you seeking the lost will invigorate you. Are you discouraged? Ask Jesus to live through you and love will fill you to seek Him and the ones He is seeking. To be honest, you will have more to do but actually have the strength to do it! Having less to do isn’t the solution, having more to do with the Spirit will give you what you need. Notice Jesus in verse 34, “When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” Picture the crowd on the hillside as Jesus’ feet hit the seashore. Would they not look like sheep? Except they didn’t have a shepherd! Who will lead them to greener pastures? “The principal task of a shepherd is to bring sheep to food and water.”[2] And so Jesus immediately feeds them with what matters most – His Word! “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4) Jesus was fulfilling Scripture when He stopped His mini-vacation and went to the people running to Him. Instead, of running away like some of us might be tempted to do, Jesus became the man Moses, 1500 years beforehand, had pleaded for, “Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, “May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd. So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” (Number 27:15-18) Moses was to anoint Joshua as a shepherd. Now in Mark 6 the new Joshua, in Aramaic Yeshua or you know Him by His Greek name Jesus, whom was full of the Spirit and anointed by God the Father, came ashore to be that Good Shepherd for you.

Jesus was “preparing a table before them in the presence of their enemies.” (Psalm 23:5) The problem was that their enemies had just been in the boat with Jesus. Anybody who wants you to get away from Jesus is an enemy even if they have spent time with Him. “To the disciples, the crowds were a problem, perhaps a nuisance, but to Jesus, they were a sheep without a shepherd.”[3] The disciples didn’t want to be shepherds but sheepdogs! They wanted to drive the sheep to what they thought were greener pastures. The people had become a program to manage. The disciples told Jesus, “The place is desolate and it is already quite late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:35-36) The disciples wanted to send the crowd to the local McDonald’s and Swiss Chalet. Besides, this would have generated a boom for the local economy. Think of those towns surrounding those music festivals in the summer and how they profit so well. Maybe in the disciples’ minds, they were thinking that they were doing the most caring thing for the people? Jesus just needed a little help. You know “God helps those who help themselves.” Where is that in the Bible? It isn’t!  We think that if we do everything we can then God will make up the difference. However, God’s math is: Everything – Jesus = Nothing! Jesus knows this and this is why He lovingly turned the tables on the disciples and called them to help.  Jesus tells the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37)

Notice that it wasn’t the people complaining. If the people wanted to choose physical food over spiritual food, they just would have left. However, they were getting their spiritual bellies full. Oh, may we never cut people off from being fed by Jesus. May we never repel who Jesus is attracting. God is bringing people here who aren’t like us. They haven’t spent as much time with Jesus as we have but that doesn’t mean we are better. Who was actually feeding on Jesus’ words at the time – the crowd or the disciples? The crowd! We know the disciples were legitimately hungry from serving everybody (v. 31) but they had let their physical needs distract them from their ultimate need. When this happens in our lives, it is dangerous! We start to tell Jesus what to do. We start to help Him and feel the need to point out the obvious to Him. Like the disciples who felt they needed to remind Jesus of the late hour and the remote place. But as Thomas Oden reminds us, “The one who made time does not regard the hour as late.”[4] While on earth, it is never too late for Jesus to act. The question is whether we are going to be a part of the solution or the problem?

The solution is that the place of desolation is also the place of provision! The wilderness has always been the place where God provided the manna. Or to put in terms of God’s math: 0 + Jesus = Everything![5] This is the major spiritual principle in the universe. Nothing exists without the Lord. It started when God created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo). It continued when in our rebellion we could do nothing to earn God’s favour, but with faith in Jesus our nothing has become everything. And as one pastor says, “Embracing the everything that Christ brings us in the gospel, we’re free to give our own everything.”[6] But first we must stop looking to our own resources. The disciples tried to scramble and pool together what they had. In Mark 6:37 they ask, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?” It actually came to over half a year’s wages since a denarii was worth one day’s wage for the common worker. That is a pretty sizable chunk of change. Maybe the money was leftover from the miraculous catch of fish? That would be ironic, especially when later on the boy offers up his two fish. We don’t know where the disciples came up with this figure but what is important to realize is that still wasn’t enough. It was sort of like our good works. It might be sizable, but not enough to cover what is needed. We still fall short of the glory of God. I think the strategy is that we need to stop scrambling for earthly sources and start seeking the Resource giver!

Going to the Resource giver will result in a seismic shift in your thinking. The former problem will become the solution. The drain will become the instrument of gain. “Human hearts and pocket books will be opened when we begin ministry to others.”[7] Last fall, there were some workers that were picketing on the busy intersection of Franklin Boulevard and Holiday Inn Drive, which just happens to be where our church and school is located. This was a potential nightmare for dropping off our students. However, do you know what we did? We went to the protestors and offered them coffee and cookies and the use of our washrooms. I was so proud of our Staff here how they pulled together to serve our community. One leader even took time from his work to engage in conversation with the protestors and talk to them about our ministry here. If we can see the problem as an opportunity for Jesus to do His work, He will take our little and make it big!

For the disciples, they found out they had 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus looked up to heaven and blessed it. What happened? It multiplied! Everyone ate and was satisfied. Their hunger was completely satisfied. There were even leftovers. Now, I don’t usually like leftovers unless it is lasagna. However, leftovers are a reminder of God’s provision. Most people in the world don’t have leftovers and I am not just talking about lack of food in the Third World. We in the West also don’t understand that with Jesus: 2 + 5 = 5000. We hang on to what we have and never get our baskets full. Instead, we need to understand: Little + Jesus = Extra! This is because Jesus is into multiplication! Numerous times in the Gospels Jesus talks about multiplication. We already learned a few months ago what Jesus taught in Mark 4:8, “Seed that falls on good soil, yields a crop which produces, thirty, sixty or hundredfold.” Another one of Jesus’ promises of multiplication is in Mark 10:29, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

The disciples were to pick up 12 baskets full as reminder not only of God’s provision of their physical needs but how Jesus was calling them to multiply themselves. Check out this chart![8] This is why I am so big on multiplying multipliers of Christ’s message. This is why I spend my early Tuesday and Saturdays investing in guys so they can multiply others with the Gospel. Addition is good but not good enough. We need to reach the whole city, the whole province, the whole country and the whole world for Christ. Jesus X You = Winning the World. It only took 11 + Jesus to save you! Let this chart sink in! At first you won’t see change. Jesus took 3 years with the disciples, but what happened? From Peter’s sermon at the Temple in Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago to the sermon at Temple Baptist Church in Cambridge today, the world has been changed! You have been changed!

Now, Jesus has a question for you. What do you have? He knows the answer but wants you to see your little and how it can become big with Him. Isaiah records the words of the Lord to us, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money on what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:1-2) This is Jesus’ New Math:

Everything – Jesus = Nothing (You have been trying your best and hoping God

will make up the rest. However, you need to understand that…

            0 + Jesus = Everything (John 15:5 explains this well. Jesus said, “I am the Vine

and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.)

            Little + Jesus = Extra (Your little with Jesus results in extra for others.)

            Jesus X You = Winning the World (Jesus now wants to multiply His work

through you. Who are you apprenticing to follow Jesus? Are you teaching them to

apprentice others?)

If you are stuck on the math equations, just remember that one thing remains. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and his love never fails. You were a sheep who lost your way. You had nothing and He didn’t give up on you. The Cross is where His broken Body became food for you and now the effect of the Cross goes on and on and on to save this world!

[1] Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson, Exponential (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 105.

[2] David Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 255.

[3] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 132.

[4] Thomas C. Oden ed., Ancient Christian Commentary – Mark (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 90.

[5] This term is adapted from Tullian Tchividjian in his must-read book Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011).

[6] Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 159.

[7] Garland, 260.

[8] The chart is found on page 23 in Keith Philips book The Making of a Disciple (Old Tappan: Revell, 1981).


2 Comments on “The New Math – Jesus Style!”

  1. Diane Henry says:

    Great Message Jon. Praying for you. Diane Henry

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