Read Mark 6:30-44
The disciples had been sent out by Jesus in pairs to proclaim the gospel of repentance. With Jesus’ power they had healed the sick, cast out demons and preached repentance to many. And now returning to Jesus, I have no doubt that though they were weary and tired, they were also excited. They were excited to tell their master all that they had seen. Would he believe them? He had to believe them – it was with his power they had acted. And so to Jesus they return, yet they cannot immediately tell Jesus everything that has just happened. They don’t even get a chance to rest. The crowds who are desperate to hear from Jesus won’t leave them alone, not even for a day.
And so Jesus, out of compassion for his disciples, invites them to leave with him on a boat to find a place of rest. But it’s no good, those still on the land weren’t willing to let a chance to come into contact with Jesus go so easily, and recognising where they were going, they ran on foot to his planned destination, gathering people from nearby towns on the way, so that by the time the disciples and Jesus come to the place they planned to rest they are faced with a crowd great in number.
The disciples have been on the road for months, preaching the gospel, sleeping in other people’s houses, living off the generosity of others, being in the public eye continuously. All they desire is some time off. Some time alone with their master. A chance to share what they have done, and yet here waiting them, in their place of supposed quietness are crowds.
I’m not sure what the disciples said as they saw the crowd but I’m pretty sure if I was there I would have been grumbling “just go home”, but then Jesus stands up to address the crowd. ‘This is it’, the disciples might have been thinking, ‘Jesus will stand up for us, he will tell them to leave us alone to give us rest’. But he doesn’t. No, instead Jesus looks like he is in physical pain, and he turns and explains – I can’t send them away; they are like sheep without a shepherd. And there beside the lake, Jesus begins to teach the crowds.
The afternoon wears on, it gets late and the disciples approach Jesus again: “Master you have to tell the people to go home, they have no food, we have no food, it would be unkind to keep them here any longer”.
And with masterful simplicity Jesus simply turns to the disciples and says, “You’re right, you should feed them”.
The disciples respond with bewilderment and confusion “With what? Food to feed a crowd this size would cost eight months wages!”
I wonder if it is with the same exasperation that the disciples speak to Jesus that he responds to each of their questions. He continues with his simple responses: “Go and see how much food there is.”
And so the disciples go moving through the crowd asking everyone if they have any food, and the sum total of their efforts is five small loaves of bread and two fish. A mere snack for the average adult. It must have been with triumph that the disciples return to Jesus – ‘surely this will show him that we were right, that there isn’t nearly enough food to feed a crowd this size’.
And yet faced with the knowledge of just how little food they had, Jesus gives a bizarre command, “Get the people to sit down in groups of fifties and hundreds, tell them to get ready to eat.”
And this is why I think the disciples are awesome – they get the impossibility of the task, their doubts are obvious and yet with obedience they do as Jesus tells them to. They get the people to sit down, they promise them food and after Jesus gives thanks and breaks up the tiny portion of food, they begin to hand it out.
How incredible it would have been to be there. To see the tiny amount of food offered but the baskets full of leftovers. The bible record five thousand men ate that day, and countless more women and children were among that crowd, and yet at the end when everyone had eaten there was still food left over.
The point is obvious; to experience the miraculous we need to be obedient despite our doubt.
- What stood out for you in today’s story? Do you have any questions?
- After Jesus blesses the food he gives it back to the disciples and he tells the disciples to feed the crowds. What does it mean for you to take what little you have to offer and use it to serve others?
- What seemingly small thing could you do this week to serve someone else?
- How has your life looked more like what everyone else’s does and less like what King Jesus says it should look like? Is there anything you can do to change this?