35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
(Mark 6:35-44 NIV)
Today’s passage is a favorite for many – Jesus feeding the five thousand. This story is one of the few that is recorded in all four Gospel accounts. The impact of this event was evident to every one of the Gospel writers.
In our last passage, we saw Jesus gather up His disciples to give them some rest. They were so busy ministering that they didn’t even have time to eat. They boarded a boat and headed across Lake Gennesaret to a quiet wilderness spot. The crowd, still wanting more from Jesus and His disciples, anticipated where Jesus and the disciples were headed and ran around the top of the lake and were waiting for them when they came ashore.
Jesus, feeling compassion for the crowd that was as lost as sheep without a shepherd, began caring for them spiritually, teaching them many things.
As the end of the day drew near, Jesus’ disciples urged Jesus to send the crowd away so they could eat. Jesus, ever the teacher looking for the teachable moment, with a gleam in His eye told the disciples to feed the crowd.
The disciples responded disrespectfully and sarcastically, telling Jesus that even an entire year’s wages would not feed this crowd. The disciples were still thinking naturally, not supernaturally. They were looking to their own abilities rather than looking to the Lord for His provision. And being itinerant preachers, no one had that kind of money, even if they pooled all their resources.
Jesus had the disciples take an inventory of what they did have. All they could find was a poor child’s lunch: five bite-sized barley mini-rolls and two sardine-sized salted fish. Jesus took the meager meal and fed the entire crowd – five thousand men plus women and children (likely fifteen to twenty thousand people in total).
After everyone was full and satisfied, Jesus had the disciples gather up what was left so nothing went to waste. In Jesus’ perfect provision, there were exactly twelve lunch-pail servings left over – just right for His disciples to have their fill, also.
As I contemplated this amazing story, several things became evident. One was that the people being fed were totally unaware of the miracle being performed right before their eyes. The disciples had gone through the crowd to find food; the people likely thought they had scrounged up enough to share. The miracle was unmiraculous to the untrained senses and hearts.
The other thing that came to mind was the parallels of this story to David’s 23rd Psalm:
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:1-3 NIV)
- Jesus took on the role of shepherd for this wayward crowd.
- He satisfied their lack of spiritual and physical food
- He made them lie down (sit down) on the green grass (pasture)
- He led them beside the quiet waters of Lake Gennesaret
- He restored their soul through the quiet solitude of the wilderness setting
- He gave them guidance in righteous living by His example as host of this gathering
- He did all this to worship the Father as He broke the bread and gave thanks
If Jesus can do this unmiraculous miracle with something as simple as a child’s lunch, how much more can and will He do through us if we will simply allow Him to use us as He sees fit?
May we put ourselves in Jesus’ hands, allowing His to break us and supernaturally multiply our lives in others for His glory.