BRIEF INTRO: Imagine for a moment, if you can, being apart of the multitude the day that Jesus fed them with only five loafs of bread and two fish! See yourself sitting on the green grass with fifty or one hundred other people anticipating what was going to happen. Maybe you could see Jesus, maybe not, in either case you hear the murmuring of the crowds and it is getting increasingly louder.
It’s not a sound of fear, but one of joy! Soon, in the near surroundings, you can see the disciples going from group to group with something in their hands. You are not sure what it is but you sure are hoping it’s something to eat, after all, you’ve spent part of the day tracking down Jesus and His disciples after you saw them leave in a boat.
You have been with Jesus all day, listening to His teaching, it’s now late and too dangerous to try to go back home. Your belly rumbles with hunger. What could they be doing going from group to group?
That is where these people are at in Mark’s account. And we are about to jump into it and learn just how significant this story was for them and us today!
30 “The apostles *gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He *said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 And they went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
33 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. 34 When Jesus went [a]ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”
FOCUS ONE: The concern of Christ vs. the presumptions of the crowds
Here we find the disciples returning from a very successful mission (6:13; Luke 9:6). The backstory about Herod and John the Baptist was “sandwiched “ between their being sent out and their return. Now they are back and report all that had happened to Jesus. They had healed many, proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom repeatedly, and traveled many miles. They needed rest and Jesus recognized they that. So, he directs them to go away on a retreat, so to speak, to get some much needed rest. Jesus sends them to an unnamed place most likely near Bethsaida.
But, unlike Jesus and the concern that He showed for these faithful servants, the people chased after them, unconcerned, most likely not even entertaining the thought that they needed a rest, and caught up with, in fact, got to the other side ahead of them!
“While Jesus was showing concern for the disciples, the common people were not. They did not care how tired Jesus or the disciples were. Their minds were filled with what they wanted to get or see rather than what they could do for others. What should they have done at this point? Instead of just presuming that Jesus and the disciples were always ready for serving them, they could have asked. Even better, they could have used their eyes and seen the weary expressions and came up to Jesus and said, “I have noticed that you and your disciples are busy from before dawn until after dusk every day preaching to us, healing us, and serving us. You must all be very tired.” How can we serve you?
I am challenged with this aspect of the story. I shutter at the thought of how many times I have and most likely still do, presume upon the humble, obedient, and compassionate service of my church Elders and Deacons.
Another aspect of the story that needs to be highlighted is the evidence of how Christ discipled these men and why. Please take notice that when the apostles met with Jesus they were not talking about what Jesus had been doing or teaching, but what “they” had “done and taught.” “This is yet another passage that gives us a lot of insight into how Jesus trained the disciples. They were not just bystanders observing Jesus’ ministry. They were part of it. They participated in it.”
Participation comes in many forms: “Sometimes their participation was in deeper small group discussion after Jesus’ miracles/teachings. Sometimes their participation was in preparing something like the place for the Last Supper or later in this passage finding some food. Sometimes it was asking Jesus more questions. And here we see they were also going around teaching the Word. As effective as Jesus was, He was still just one person. He could teach big crowds, but He was still limited to one place at a time. To make a bigger impact that would stretch to the ends of the earth Jesus had to train others.”
12 “Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father”. (John 14:12).
Ironically they have no time to eat, but are used by Christ in feeding 5000 plus other people!
34 When Jesus went [a]ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35 And when it was already late, His disciples came up to Him and said, “[b]This place is secluded and it is already late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves [c]something to eat.” 37 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they *said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred [d]denarii on bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 But He *said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they *said, “Five, and two fish.”
FOCUS TWO: The confusion of the disciples vs. the plan of Christ
Can you see the irony in this? After all they had just done and witnessed, they could not grasp the scope of Christ’s divine power to provide for these people!
“The disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away so that they could eat. Jesus told the disciples to give them something to eat. Why? It was certainly an interesting request and the disciples responded like you might expect them too, which was to ask if they should buy food for everyone.” Could it be that Jesus was giving them an opportunity to show their faith by making a suggestion such as, “Jesus, we can’t feed all of these people…but you can. In fact, we learn from John 6:5-7 that Jesus was doing it to test them. He often tried to get them to think beyond the physical realities of what they could see and touch. Most of the time, however, this was a struggle for them.
They scan the landscape at come up with only five loafs and two fish, which should be no surprise to us that in Christ’s hands it abundantly supplied the need! Where did they get the loafs and fish from? John 6:1-14 – A parallel account mentions the boy who gave the loaves and fish. I often wonder if he was the only one that brought a snack with him that day. Were others being selfish and deceptive by keeping what they had to themselves? These accounts do not speak to that question, but I wonder how I, how we, would have acted in that situation!
39 “And He ordered them all to recline by groups on the green grass. 40 They reclined in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He gave them to the disciples again and again to set before them; and He divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied; 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces of bread, and of the fish. 44 There were five thousand [a]men who ate the loaves.”
FOCUS THREE: The compassion of Jesus satisfies a compelling need
Why separate into hundreds and fifties? “Jesus commanded them to sit down all in groups. As we see in 1 Corinthians 14:40, God is a God of order. Nothing generates chaos like free food. Jesus didn’t want a stampede or trampled people so He wisely made people sit down. If they wanted to receive the benefit from His miracle they had to do it on His terms. This is just like salvation. He offers it freely, but we have to accept it on His terms, not on our own.”
Jesus takes the food into His hands, looks up toward heaven, not towards the crowds, which expresses where are needs are met, and blesses the food. I am amazed at this next sentence: “He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples.”
I wonder how this actually transpired. Did the food keep on appearing in His hands? Did He keep producing it in His hands and incessantly pass it out or fill up the returning baskets? It is interesting and exciting o think about!
In this we should see an example of prayer for blessing the meals He so graciously supplies us. I believe 1 Timothy 4:5 helps us understand this better. By means of the word of God and prayer “nothing” that God created and has given to us for good should be rejected or taken for granted, but are supposed to be received with gratitude! Such gratitude is expressed in our following the example of Jesus and acknowledging God’s goodness in meeting our needs.
Many ponder why 12 baskets were left over? It is observed that those twelve baskets equal one for each disciple. It doesn’t appear rational to create or surmise some other reason for the left overs. Jesus did not forget about these men, these servants. He knows they were tired and hungry before this situation unfolded and He knows they are even more so now. He meets their needs!
Friends, we can always trust Jesus to meet our needs, temporal and eternal! GOSPEL