Topical Sermon on John 6, 11 and Luke 10
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 11/23/2019
©2019 by Maylan Schurch
(To watch the YouTube recording of this service, click the link just below. The sermon starts at the 59:45 mark.)
Please open your Bibles to John chapter 6.
Since this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving, I thought what I’d do this morning is to talk about why Jesus said thank you.
Now, we don’t have a whole lot of examples of Jesus saying thank you in the Gospels. Mainly, that’s because the Gospels don’t record casual, everyday conversation. If Jesus ate a meal at someone’s house, He certainly thanked whoever prepared it. He was grateful for a place to sleep on His travels. Even as parents expressed their gratitude to Him for blessing and dedicating their children, He probably thanked them for the privilege of being able to take those kids up in His arms and hold them for a bit.
But even though casual conversation isn’t recorded in the Gospels, we read a few places where Jesus did say thank you. And as I studied three of these events this week, I discovered that there’s a lot for us to learn, and be encouraged by. Let me show you what I mean.
John 6:3 – 11 [NKJV]: And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
If you’re taking down sermon notes, here comes Sermon Point One. Why did Jesus say “thank-you”?
Jesus thanked God to show He had faith that God would provide.
Because notice something very interesting, something I hadn’t slowed down enough to notice in the many times I had read this story. The disciples are doing desperate mental math, trying to figure out where they’re going to get enough money to buy food for these five thousand men, plus women and children.
Then the disciple Andrew, a very observant person, notices a little boy with five barley loaves and a couple of fish, and makes a comment which probably caused a bit of scornful eye-rolling from the other disciples.
So here’s where we need to notice the order of events. In verse 11, Jesus takes the loaves. And what’s the next thing He does? He doesn’t multiply and distribute all the bread, and then thank God, only after it’s clear that God has indeed satisfied these hungry people.
No, Jesus thanks God in faith. Jesus thanks God before the miracle happens. Jesus thanks God to show He had faith God would provide.
Somebody might say, “Okay, but is this really that big a deal? Jesus takes the loaves, prays a blessing, and multiplies them. Was His ‘thanks-giving’ really all that significant?”
Evidently it really was. Let me show you why I think Jesus’ blessing was such a big deal. The story comes to a happy conclusion. The people are fully fed, and extra food is gathered up.
The people decide that somebody who can multiply a lot of food would be the perfect one to have as their king, so they try to make that happen. But Jesus slips away from them, and eventually walks across the top of Lake Galilee’s water toward the disciples, who are on their way in a boat to the other side.
Let’s pick up the story in verse 22. Watch for a very interesting detail.
Verses 22 – 23: On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone—however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks—
Here’s what I think is really interesting. These people think back on what happened the day before, quoting part of verse 23: “ . . . near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks—”
Now why didn’t they simply remember that they ate bread after the Lord had miraculously multiplied it? What they remember is not only that they had a good meal, but that “the Lord had given thanks.”
It never struck me until this week how powerful that meal-blessing must’ve been. Maybe Jesus raised His voice so they could clearly hear His prayer of thanks to God. Or maybe, the sight of a man holding up a few small loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and thanking God for that food – such a small amount of food for such a large amount of people – maybe that was a memory they would never forget. Maybe some of them thought that He was going to eat that food by Himself, or maybe just share it with a couple of other disciples.
But no, Jesus makes it clear that He is first thanking God for this food, and suddenly, the disciples start hauling baskets and baskets and baskets of bread and fish to everybody.
Whatever it was that caused that “thanksgiving” prayer to remain in their minds, they never forgot it. They never forgot the thanking part. Maybe the dads in that multitude murmured thoughtfully, “Wow. I’ve got five hungry mouths to feed at home. I wish I could pray like that!”
And we need to remember that this prayer was the prayer of Someone who knew that God could provide.
Okay, what do I do now that I know this? How can we put this to work? Wednesday nights at 7:30 right here in the sanctuary, a few people gather here and pray. Some of these people tell us that they pray the same prayer in the same situation pretty much every day, and often the Lord answers that prayer.
But other prayers they pray just as often, but the answers are delayed. Some prayers are simply not answered–yet.
So as we see Jesus praying in faith that God will hear Him, I believe we should not shrink back timidly from praying the big prayers. I’ve often noticed that the prayers with the dramatic answers are the prayers which are prayed when the person who’s doing the praying has completely run out of options. There is just no other solution except a divine, supernatural one which will solve the dilemma.
So I would say that even in times of great need – especially in times of great need – we need to not only pray for the situation, but to thank the Lord for whatever He is about to do for that situation. Thank the Lord for what hasn’t happened yet, and for the amazing answer He will provide just in time.
Now let’s turn back to the book of Luke to find another reason Jesus said thank you. Let’s go to Luke chapter 10.
Luke 10:1: After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.
And then for the next several verses He gives these trainee evangelists instructions, and finally sends them out. And they are stupendously successful in their mission. Watch what happens when they get back.
Verses 17 – 21: Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.
So what’s another reason Jesus said thank-you?
Not only did Jesus thank God to show He had faith God would provide, but Jesus thanked God for leveling the “power playing-field.”
One night just a few weeks after Shelley and I moved from Mill Creek to the neighborhood in south Renton where we now live, I was driving through our neighborhood, probably returning from a school board meeting.
As I say, it was night, and it was pretty dark. And as I drove along the street that would lead to our cul-de-sac, I saw what looked like a man in his 20s walking right in the middle of the street. And he wasn’t just walking. He would take a couple of steps and then leap wildly into the air, and then land, walk a few more steps, and lunge back up into the air. Those leaps were high ones, and from the gestures he was making, I could see that this was not track and field practice. For whatever reason, this guy was not in his right mind.
As I drove carefully past him, I was thinking, “What if I myself were out there walking, and met this guy? And what if he suddenly leapt upon me and started to beat me up?” I knew that there were certain drugs that would give people more than normal power, and that if somebody fought back at them, they would not be able to feel the blows of their opponent.
So what Jesus is thanking God for here is that this power against Satan and his devils was not granted to trained military men or mixed martial arts experts, but to ordinary disciples, the ones He had sent out to prepare these cities for the arrival of the Messiah.
Because when it came to the power and the deception of the devil, these 70 disciples would normally have been hopelessly unprepared – except that God had leveled the “power playing field.” He had supplied power where it was needed.
My sister Penny helps operate a food and clothing bank in Redfield, South Dakota, where we grew up. So she comes in contact with people who are often at the end of their rope, financially or otherwise.
And once in a while, when someone is in a real crisis situation, and Penny senses that a spiritual solution is needed, she will invite the person into her office and have prayer with them. And she has seen quite a number of answers to those prayers. And it seems as though the answers are the most rapid and dramatic the worse the crisis is. In other words, when people are up against the wall with nowhere to go, and ask for His help, that’s when God chooses to use His power most dramatically. Thursday night on the phone, she told us some of those stories.
Because Jesus tells us right here in Luke 10 that God can level the “power playing field.” “And now, let the weak say, ‘I am strong,’ let the poor say, ‘I am rich . . . .’”
So what do I do, now that I know this? Well, what you think? Does this world need people who are channels of God’s power? That’s a no-brainer answer if there ever was one. God needs people like those 70 disciples who are willing to go out and prepare the way for Jesus. And when those disciples come back, overjoyed at God’s power working through them, Jesus needs them to remember to not be boastful about that, but to be grateful that their names are written in heaven.
I think you and I need to pray more fearlessly than we do. I think we need to pray big prayers. I think we need to keep praying the big prayers we have been praying about, which haven’t yet shown results. We need to trust that God is able to handle any issue we bring to Him.
If you can at all make it to prayer meeting Wednesday nights at 7:30, please drop by. NOTE that we will NOT be having prayer meeting this coming Wednesday because of the Thanksgiving holidays, but we’ll be back the following Wednesday. If you can’t come to prayer meeting, go ahead and pray anyway. If you can’t gome to prayer meeting, go ahead and pray anyway.
But at prayer meeting, not only do you get a chance to bring prayer requests, and pray about them with other people, but you will also hear those breathtaking stories about how big crises and small crises alike are handled by the God who levels the power playing field in our battles against the devil.
To find a third reason Jesus said thank-you, let’s go back to the book of John again, this time to John chapter 11. John 11 is where Jesus raises His good friend Lazarus back to life after Lazarus has been dead four days.
As we join the story, Jesus has arrived back in Bethany, where Lazarus lives with his sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus of course has arrived too late to heal Lazarus, and Lazarus has already been buried in a tomb. Jesus finally convinces Martha and Mary to take him to the tomb, and even get somebody to take the stone away from its opening. Watch what happens now.
John 11:41 – 42: Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”
And then, of course, the miracle happens. Once again, the “power playing field” has been leveled. In the presence of Jesus, death is not an issue.
Verses 43 – 44: Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
So, why did Jesus say thank-you in this situation? He specifically tells us why. In verse 41 He says, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.”
In fact, let’s make that Sermon Point Three. Why did Jesus say thank-you?
Jesus thanked God to show He had faith that God would provide, and Jesus thanked God for leveling the “power playing-field.” And Jesus also thanked God for “deep listening.”
God isn’t a surface listener. God is a deep listener. Jesus Himself had been feeling deep emotion there as He walked toward the grave of His friend. Back when I was in church school, I learned that the shortest verse in the Bible is found right here in John 11. It’s John 11:35: “Jesus wept.”
So Jesus was feeling emotions, and God knew that. And Jesus knew that God was listening, not just on the surface level but a deep level.
This week I heard a public radio interview with the director of the new movie about Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood. The director said that she had watched Rogers’ PBS show as a child, and in preparation for working on the movie, she re-watched a lot of episodes with her son who I think is eight years old.
And she says that evidently, in real life, Fred Rogers was a deeply empathetic person, who would not only listen to problems people had, but would listen deeply, and would carry those concerns away with him, and pray about them. You could say that Mr. Rogers was a deep listener, who did his best to really enter into the heart of a person he might be talking with.
There’s a lot of “surface listening” these days. I have learned to revise the way I write emails to people. If you get an email whose subject line starts with the word “ALERT” in capital letters, that is me trying to get and keep your attention.
I have learned to shorten my emails. I have also learned never to include a “PS” at the bottom of my email below my name. Because as people are scrolling down on their phones or their computers, as soon as they see my name, they assume I am done communicating, and they won’t read further (and neither do I!). And I also am guilty of reading emails – especially long ones – much too quickly. But God reads all our “prayer emails,” from top to bottom.
So when I think about Jesus’ gratitude to God for being a deep listener, what should I do with that?
Well one thing I can do is to truly and completely open myself up to God. Since He listens deeply and carefully, I can be completely vulnerable with him.
Last night I read an article in the magazine Christianity Today, about how when Mr. Rogers entered the door into his television living room, took off his suit jacket and put on a comfortable sweater, and took off his shoes and put on a pair of slippers, by doing this, Fred Rogers was becoming vulnerable with his audience. These actions showed that Mr. Rogers was truly welcoming his viewers into his neighborhood. God does that to us.
And since God is a deep listener, He can instantly decide what you need and when you need it. The other day, Shelley and I were on the phone with my brother Chester and his wife Cindy. Chester happened to bring up a story about our dad, a story I vaguely remembered, but had never really known all the details. It’s a dramatic story, in a quiet way, and I believe it perfectly illustrates how God deeply cares, and how He understands and listens to us.
Our dad only attended high school for just one week, and then left to go back and help his dad pull the farm out of the tail end of the Great Depression. So dad did not earn a high school degree. He worked at a series of jobs in town, and always kept each job for as long as he possibly could.
What would be his last job was as night custodian at an institution for the developmentally disabled just north of our hometown. Dad liked that night job, because he was a solitary person, very shy, and night work gave him a chance to think.
Dad was always embarrassed by his lack of education. And this gave him low self-esteem. Even though he was a good Christian, and a wonderful father, and even though he prayed devoutly, he just could not shake this feeling of insignificance and uselessness.
So one night, there in the darkened hallway next to his custodian closet, Dad just opened his heart to the Lord. He said, “Lord, am I really significant to You? Am I really worth anything? Can you please show me that I mean something to You?”
The door to his custodial closet was standing part way open. Dad reached over with one hand and tried to close the door. But it wouldn’t shut –it wouldn’t even move. He could not make that door budge. He tried again several times. No luck.
So he shifted his position and leaned his shoulder against the that door, and pushed with all his might. But that door would not move. He checked on all sides of it to see if there was something blocking, but there was nothing there. That door was frozen into its position.
Then Dad happened to glance up. And there he saw, just above the door, a huge cobweb hanging down. So he reached into the closet and got something to brush that cobweb down with, and pretty soon it was all cleaned up. And then he tried the door, and it shut perfectly fine.
Dad stood there, stunned by what had just happened. He looked out a nearby window up into the sky. And then he said, “Lord, You are the God of the universe. But You sent one of Your angels down to put his foot against that door to keep it from closing, so that I would see that cobweb and get it cleaned up.”
As my dad told the story to my brother later, he said that cobweb was huge, and if somebody had happened to come along in the daytime and seen that cobweb, that would’ve reflected badly against the custodian. So dad understood right then that yes, the Lord considered him significant.
What about you?
Do you have faith that God will provide for you? Are you grateful that whatever He wants to, He can level the playing field so that you can battle the devil in the strength of the Lord? And can you trust that from within the tangle of your confusion and concerns and fears, God listens deeply and lovingly to you?