September 2nd

Lessons in Faith 

4Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." 5He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve
7Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil[1] spirits.
8These were his instructions: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them."
12They went out and preached that people should repent.

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
30The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31Then, 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."
32So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34When 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.
35By 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. 36Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."
37But 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?"
38"How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."
When they found out, they said, "Five--and two fish."
39Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41Taking 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. 42They all ate and were satisfied, 43and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

Jesus Walks on the Water
45Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
47When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50because they all saw him and were terrified.
51Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
Mark 6:4-12,30-52 NIV

In this chapter of Mark, Jesus taught powerful lessons on faith.  As the true teacher that he was, Jesus taught his disciples with real-life examples.  How extraordinary those examples were!  Far from being super spiritual, his disciples had difficulty grasping the concept of faith.  We can learn much from what Jesus did and how the disciples responded in these examples.   

At the beginning of the passage we find Jesus in his hometown, encountering skepticism, offense and unbelief. Amazingly, Jesus was not able to do any major miracles there because of the peoples’ lack of faith.  From this we can see how unbelief can thwart even the Son of God’s efforts to minister.  This makes sense when we consider that unbelief is faith working in the negative.   Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:27 NIV), so we can conclude that nothing is possible for those who don’t believe!  I imagine the disciples were perplexed by Jesus’ apparent failure to do major miracles. They may even have entertained doubt concerning his deity at that point, but Jesus intended to use the opportunity to teach them the dynamics of faith.    

The first lesson in the series was how to rely on God’s provision and power for both ministry and physical provision.  He gave them the spiritual authority to defeat the enemy and demonstrate the power of God’s kingdom. Jesus sent them out with explicit instructions not to bring the things they would need for the journey.  They obeyed and discovered first hand how powerful living by faith can be.  “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (13).   

Jesus continued the faith lesson upon their return.  Facing an impossible logistical challenge of feeding 5000 people in a remote area, Jesus tested the disciples to see if they would trust in God by faith for timely provision, or in the money they apparently had.  They still weren’t “getting” the faith concept completely, so Jesus stepped in and demonstrated the supernatural power of faith that multiplied the bread and fish to feed the people superabundantly.  Interestingly enough, there were enough leftovers to provide each disciple a basketful of evidence that faith works! 

After that major miracle, one would think the disciples would be catching on to the concept of faith.  Jesus then sent them out into the boat for the next opportunity to exercise faith. Apparently Jesus had hoped they would have engaged their faith by rebuking the storm and/or rejecting the fear of drowning.  They did neither, because their hearts “were hardened.”   

Jesus had a lot more work to do with the disciples.  Based on the accounts in Acts, we know that they did overcome their hardened-heart conditions (ex. Acts 2:42-47) and walked by faith just as Jesus had done.   

I believe there is much we can draw from in these examples to apply to our own “faith-training.”  I can see my attitudes often reflected in the disciples as they struggled to grasp what Jesus was showing them.  If we can rise to the challenge of trusting in God and the authority he has given us in Christ, instead of our worldly position, money or power, we’ll begin to soar as the eagles of faith he created us to be.   Consider what Isaiah wrote:

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NIV 

Questions for further thought:

Prayer

“Lord Jesus, thank you for your challenging lessons of faith. Thank you for the written account of what you did and how you taught the disciples.  Lord I confess that I have failed to live by faith in that I’ve relied on _______________ (list) instead of on you.  I repent from fearing _________(list), instead of trusting in you and the abundant provision and power that you have already given me.  Please help me overcome fear and begin to walk in faith.  My desire is to soar like an eagle in faith, just as you did when you were here.  Thank you for giving me the Holy Spirit, who will help me, train me and guide me along the way.  I yield to your Spirit now.  Please continue your renewing work in me today, so that I may be the person you created me to be.  Thank you, Jesus!  I praise you now and forever, Amen.”