Mark 6:30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled; 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
It’s interesting how this story is famous for feeding the five thousand, however, if we look at the beginning and the end, it appears to be about much more. Yes, Jesus does this incredible miracle of feeding the five thousand, but why? The story opens by telling us about the apostles who are sharing with Jesus about “all that they had done and taught.” He had recently sent them out to minister, town by town and instructed them to take very little with them so that they would learn about his care and provision. They return to him, probably excited but also a bit worn out from the journey.
This is the opening scene — excited, but weary and hungry disciples. Jesus has a plan for them. He is going to take they away to get some rest so they got in a boat to go to a deserted place to rest and relax. The problem was that the people saw where they were going and when they arrived, they were overwhelmed at the sight. More and more people arrived and finally we know that there were at least five thousand men, not counting the women and the children.
While Jesus was planning to care for the disciples, he looked up and saw this huge crowd, “and he had compassion for them.” Jesus, along with his weary disciples spent the day teaching all these people but it was getting late and now, not only were the disciples hungry — but so was the whole crowd. This was a deserted place because that’s how Jesus and the disciples had planned it — to go and be alone — but there was no food to be bought — let alone if they had the money. They had already figured it out that it would cost more than 6 months of an average salary to feed all these people and they certainly didn’t have that!
Jesus had been trying to teach them about provision. They had just returned from their trip where Jesus had sent them out and told them God would provide. They wanted to share the stories and tell how that was true — and that people had been healed. But before they could talk about all that God had done and how he had provided, THEY needed to figure out how to feed these people.
The story is again about God’s provision, yes, for the crowds, but very much so for his disciples. They themselves had very little to offer God. Who were they? Just a rag-tag group of fishermen and tax collectors! To feed this huge crowd there was so little — just five loaves and two fish. Jesus took the simple little things of this world and he blessed them. The result was that the disciples had everything that they needed to minister to this vast crowd — AND there was one basketful of food left over for every disciple.
The story opened with the disciples’ need — and ended with the need being met when they participated in Jesus’ ministry in the world.
This is God’s unique provision.
Lord, please help me to participate in your mission without fear. Amen.
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