MAIN TEXT: MARK 6:30-44
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
Mark was a skilled writer that used artistic forms and strong theology to communicate who Jesus is. He goes to great lengths to show the misunderstanding that existed among those that encountered Jesus. This theme of secrecy is teaching readers to see that Jesus cannot be known for who He is until the cross. Only at the cross can Jesus be rightly known, not as a great moral teacher, not as the noblest person who ever lived, not as a miracle worker, nor as an answer to a pressing question in the world. At the cross Jesus is revealed as the suffering Son of God, whose rejection, suffering, and death reveal the triumph of God. Only at Golgotha can Jesus be rightly known as God who reveals Himself to those who are willing to deny themselves and follow Him.
Today’s text reveals the identity of Jesus in a massive and direct way. It was a remarkable day in Israel. Possibly only the resurrection of Jesus from the dead confronts His deity more plainly. Only God could feed 5,000 men plus women and children with a five loaves and two fish. This miracle, along with the resurrection, is the only two miracles recorded in all four Gospels.
According to John 6:15, this miracle had such an impact on the crowd that they attempted to take Jesus “by force to make Him king”. Jesus refused and stayed the course to the cross – His divine destiny.
After interrupting the narrative of Jesus sending out His disciples with an account of the execution of John the Baptist, Mark returns to the apostle’s trial mission. They come back to Jesus to give a report on what they did and taught in His name (verse 30). They were tired and hungry and Jesus invited them to get away and rest (verse 31-32). The crowd followed them (verse 33).
Have compassion on others
When Jesus went ashore and saw the crowd, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (verse 34). The Bible often pictures Jesus as a Shepherd and us as His sheep (Psalm 23).
Here are some New Testament references. Jesus is:
- the rejoicing shepherd who goes after one lost sheep. (Luke 15:4-6)
- the good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. (John 10:11)
- the chief Shepherd who honors His servants. (1 Peter 5:4)
- the great Shepherd. (Hebrews 13:20)
- the Shepherd Lamb who guides us to the springs of living water. (Revelation 7:17)
We on the other hand are portrayed as stupid sheep who cannot take care of ourselves and cannot save ourselves. Without a shepherd, human sheep face the desperate situations of this world. Without Jesus our Shepherd, we have questions with no answers, distress with no relief, guilt and shame with no deliverance, tears with no consolation, and sin with no forgiveness.
We desperately need a shepherd – One who is compassionate and able to provide for us and protect us. We need a Shepherd Savior! God’s people in the Old Testament often needed a shepherd and were often in need of guidance, nourishment, protection, and help. Now when the people are once again lost in the wilderness, “ a desolate place”, the Good Shepherd Jesus has arrived to spiritually guide them and feed them by His Word. His compassion moves Him to meet their greatest needs - which were spiritual.
His compassion is first for our souls and our spiritual needs (Mark 8:36). However, He also cares for our body and our physical needs. Jesus instructs us to meet the physical needs of others (Matthew 25:31-46). As His people today, we must also care for people’s both spiritual and physical needs. Meeting social needs is a natural outgrowth of the gospel.
The disciples recognized the need of the crowd to get food. Historians estimate that adding the number of women and children to the 5,000 men would make the crowd size 15,000 – 20,000! This makes Jesus’ response to them, “You give them something to eat”, even more outlandish (verse 37). He wants His disciples to be involved in meeting both spiritual and physical needs – the whole person.
Seek to meet the needs of others
It is one thing to recognize a legitimate need. It is another to do something about it (James 2:14-17).
Do what only you can do. Jesus’ command seems unreasonable and insane. The disciples, full of unbelief, obey instructions. They calculate that it would take 200 denarii – eight months wages – to feed the crowd. They don’t have that kind of money. Strike one!
Jesus asks them what they have (verse 38). The answer: five loaves and two fish. John 6:9 teaches us that these sardines and crackers were given by a young boy. All they have is a boy’s lunch most likely packed by his mother. Strike two!
The problem was clearly beyond their resources. But Jesus intervenes. He commands them to get organized in groups of fifties and hundreds (verses 39-40).
Trust Jesus to do what only He can do. God loves to demonstrate His power and sufficiency in our lives. Often He allows problems to invade our lives that are far beyond our abilities or resources to handle. Why does He do this? He wants us to look to Him. Your situation is not simply a problem, but an opportunity to trust the Father and glorify His name.
Jesus now serves as the Host of the messianic banquet. The desolate place becomes a place of plenty. Like Moses met Israel’s physical needs with manna and quail, a greater Moses, who is not only the “good shepherd” (John 10:11) but also the “bread of life” (John 6:35), will now feed His people with an abundant feast unlike any they have ever known.
“And they all ate and were satisfied” (verse 42). None left hungry. His compassion is overflowing. His provision is satisfying.
We must learn that a little can become a lot with Jesus! Following this banquet, the leftovers were gathered (verse 43) and there were 12 baskets full, one for each of the disciples.
Where we see lack, Jesus sees abundance. Where we see human problems, He sees and accomplishes divine possibilities. A little becomes a lot with Jesus!
The Bible is one big story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. His love was shown in this desolate place where He feeds 5,000 men plus their families. His love was shown as he rescued us on a lonely place on a hill called Calvary.
There is a great hero in the Bible. He is our God. He is our Rescuer. He is our Shepherd. He is our Savior. He is Jesus!
Jesus is our Shepherd!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 6:30-44
How did Jesus keep the feeding of the five thousand from being a mere social gospel? Was the miracle for the benefit of the crowd or for the disciples? (see Mark 8:16-21)
Have you ever known of a situation where the resources and manpower were clearly inadequate to complete the ministry task that God had unquestionably assigned? What happened?
What are some events that have brought you the most spiritual encouragement and prompted the most praise to God? Do these often arise of of impossible challenges?