Mark 6:30 ¶ The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.
Mark 6:31 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.
Mark 6:42 And all ate and were filled;
Mark 6:43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.
Mark 6:44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
Mark 6:45 ¶ Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.
Mark 6:49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out;
Mark 6:50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Mark 6:51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,
Mark 6:52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
There is a sub-story happening behind the scenes in the feeding of the 5000. What is happening here is Jesus' care and concern for his disciples. As the scene opens we discover that the disciples are exhausted from their time in ministry. They are tired and they are hungry. Jesus tries to take them away from the crowds so that they can rest. He knows that they have had no break and nor have they had the opportunity to eat.
The crowds discover where the disciples and Jesus are and show up -- thousands of them! While the disciples are tired and hungry, so are the crowds. Jesus performs his miracle of the feeding of the 5000 but notice at the end, when they pick up the left-overs, there are twelve baskets full of broken pieces and fish. One basket for every single disciple. Yes, there was a miracle of feeding the 5000 and we tend to focus on that moment, but was that miracle really one that Jesus used to take care of his disciples whom he knew were tired and hungry?
Jesus continues to care for the disciples, making them get quickly into a boat. He wants them to get away with their food and head off to get some rest. Jesus will dismiss the crowds! During the night Jesus catches up with them out in the middle of the lake. They are scared to death at this vision of Jesus walking on the water and he steps into the boat and everything becomes calm and peaceful. But at the end we are told that "they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves." What did the loaves have to do with Jesus calming the sea? They had not connected the dots that everything Jesus had done that day had resulted in his care for them. They saw the loaves as a miracle for the 5000. It was a miracle of loving care for the disciples.
How often do we fail to see that God really cares for us? The disciples didn't understand about the loaves and I'm afraid that too often we don't understand what it is that God is doing around us. We look at the externals of circumstances and fail to see behind it all that God is showing his loving care for his followers.
It's easy to get burned out as a follower of Jesus Christ. There are always people who need love, help and attention in the world. There will always be people who need us to minister to them. There is something touching in this passage for the follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus knew the physical needs of his disciples and he worked hard to care for them. He knew they were hungry and he provided for them. He knew they were tired and he put them in a boat and sent them away from the crowds. Jesus knew that they could not be engaged in ministry 24/7 or they would have no strength or energy. He recognized that they had to have time to be alone.
Jesus knew their need for sustenance and he was ready to provide it for them. We need physical food on a daily basis, but just as much as we need physical food, we need spiritual food. Jesus knows this too and is ready to provide it for us, if only we would "understand about the loaves." The loaves were a symbol of God's loving care for his disciples and a promise that he would sustain them. We don't have to get burned out in serving the Lord. If we do -- then we don't understand. God loves us and he will provide for us but we must allow ourselves to be dependent upon him. Look behind the obvious and there we will find the continued and sustained love of God for all of his children.
Lord, thank you for your sustaining grace day in and day out. Amen.