Please read and engage with this great text ... Mark 6:30-44.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
1. Jesus’ response to the crowds – he “had compassion for them” … WHY? Because they were “like sheep without a shepherd” (v.34b) i.e. wandering and lost. Jesus and his disciples had withdrawn to get a bit of peace and quiet … to restore themselves a bit. We then read that, “many were coming and going, and they [i.e. Jesus and his disciples] had no leisure even to eat” (v.31b). There was a bit of pressure on them. We cannot actually choose the moments in which someone else is going to need us. It is often going to be inconvenient. Interesting that, for Jesus, the needs of the crowd (v.34b) outweighed the disciples’ need for rest. There was a need to withdraw, but, here at this time, a greater compulsion to engage.
Jesus acted out of pure compassion, and at the same time modelled for the disciples how to act out of the same compassion.
People are often “like sheep without a shepherd” … lost in the midst of the cycle of everyday life, lacking direction and purpose, weary and fragile from the journey, vulnerable to pressure, possibly falling into negative behaviour patterns and various addictions e.g. drugs, pornography, violence. The crowd was looking for hope. And, Jesus had “compassion for them”! This compassion in Jesus led to him pausing and teaching the crowd, and, from Matthew and Luke, also healing the sick. Jesus’ compassion is something deep from within him … a real ‘gut-reaction’, based on disappointment that a person’s struggle has got so desperate – not in any judgmental way, but rather filled with a desire for restoration. Because Jesus was like this, he simply could not turn the crowd away!
2. The people’s response to Jesus – they hunted him down (v.33) … WHY? They were looking for something; they had recognised all was not quite right with their lives. The only definite clue we get is in John’s telling of this incident: “A large crowd kept following [Jesus], because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick” (John 6:2). Not just miracles of healing – but “signs” i.e. an act that points to a greater reality. And there was a desire to discover what this ‘greater reality’ was.
We might do things in worship that the general community person thinks is strange (e.g. communion), however hopefully in the way this is done it will point to an even greater reality … because we are seen to mean it and it touches us deeply. Also, sometimes a self-sacrificial act – putting someone else first – may be so unusual (so counter-cultural) that it tends to point to a greater reality.
3. Two different responses to the challenge of hunger:
(a) The disciples – “send them away” … too deserted, too late, too many people, too hard (v.35-36)! We might easily sympathise with the disciples’ problem here, but … what about Jesus’ response to them (v.37a – not very sympathetic)! One more try – too expensive! 200 denarii just for enough bread for this crowd – 6-9 months wages for a person. I think Jesus reacted very negatively to the suggestion of sending people away. This lacked an understanding of the moment, and lacked faith in the person they were with.
(b) Jesus – “you give them something to eat” (v.37a). Now this sounded a bit challenging to say the least. But the point was this … it wasn’t about the disciples’ resources, but about God’s resources. Sometimes we might get bogged down in our own perceived limitations or our seeming lack of resources. What was available that day? Five loaves of bread and two fish. Humanly speaking, nowhere near enough. In Matthew 14:17 the disciples say … “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish”. In John 6:9 the disciples say … “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Of course we would doubt our own human capacity to respond to such a large crowd. But that shouldn’t lead to doubting God’s capacity to respond. Especially not when God in Jesus was present!
Jesus handled the loaves and fishes, looked up, blessed them and broke them … trusting God for the outcome. This resembled the Jewish custom before meals of giving thanks for God’s provision – whatever that was. This is another example of how a heart filled with thankfulness (rather than discontent) can sow tremendous seeds and be ready to cooperate with God’s intentions. An unchallenged focus on what was lacking would have left the crowd ‘unsatisfied’. However, ultimately, the disciples agreed to pass around the bread and fish, and look what happened!
4. The miraculous distribution. Enough food for everybody; everyone was filled and satisfied. Not only that – leftovers … 12 baskets worth! Enough to feed the 12 tribes of Israel … representing all humanity. John records Jesus saying, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost” (John 6:12). How did this functionally happen? As the disciples followed what Jesus said to do – set the loaves and fish before the people (v.41), everyone got what they needed. The disciples were the functionaries – God provided the resources. The disciples had to do their part … “you give them something”, then God blessed the outcome.
5. What are the implications of all this??
(a) The possibilities are endless (in blessing other people)
(b) We are never short of the resources we need
(c) Opportunities abound – people “like sheep without a shepherd”
(d) We should simply trust in God –Jesus fed these people through his disciples. He gave the food to them to distribute to the people. In this way, the disciples had to trust the Lord for everything they distributed, and could only give as they received. They were put in a position of total dependence upon the Lord, and God uses people the same way today. We must never believe our resources are too little to serve God, for God delights in taking humble, seemingly insignificant people, and using them for His glory. Little becomes much in God’s hands. [from: Noddy Sharma, National Director, OM Australia.]
6. What do we need to take seriously??
(a) Do we feel Jesus-style compassion when we see need? What do we need to do if we don’t naturally feel this way??
(b) Are people ‘hunting us down’ – are our lives (& activities) “signs” of a greater reality?
(c) Is our faith repressed back into our own limited capacities, or do we see the bigger and immense potentialities of God? Do we need to read this text every day for a while??
(d) Are we willing to partner with God in ministry and mission?