Mark 6:35-44 CEV
When it was late in the day, his followers came to him and said, “No one lives in this place, and it is already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the countryside and towns around here to buy themselves something to eat.” But Jesus answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We would all have to work a month to earn enough money to buy that much bread!” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves of bread do you have? Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” Then Jesus told his followers to have the people sit in groups on the green grass. So they sat in groups of fifty or a hundred. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish and, looking up to heaven, he thanked God for the food. He divided the bread and gave it to his followers for them to give to the people. Then he divided the two fish among them all. All the people ate and were satisfied. The followers filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of bread and fish. There were five thousand men who ate.
In John, we find that the fish and loaves belonged to a little boy.
“Here is a boy with five loaves of barley bread and two little fish, but that is not enough for so many people.” John 6:9
This parable is one of my favourites. I think because I have seen the little that I have offered to God multiplied in my life many times over. I find myself understanding all of the people in this parable at different moments in my life.
I have been the disciple. I have come to the end of a long day of ministry and have been tired and weary, when another need would offer itself to me and I felt like I had nothing left to give. A time when I just wanted to go home, go to bed, and rest my weary heart. I have felt the frustration at those moments of just wanting a break from the demands and pressures, but the need was calling and Jesus was telling me to stop looking at what I lacked and to offer what I had. It is not an easy thing to do in those moments. The flesh fights and screams, but obedience to what God is asking produces the multiplication in our weakest moments.
I have also been a member of the crowd. I have been in need. I have had places where even though I had been receiving spiritual food I had physical needs. Those needs were weighing on me and pressing on my heart. My body was tired from the day long spent waiting for the provision. I have understood the guy in the crowd and the need for both spiritual and physical nourishment. I am not referring to natural food, although it could be that. I am referring to personal need. The need for financial provision, the need for friendship, the need for understanding, the need love and acceptance, the need for direction, or answers to a troubling situation in my life. They needed provision at the end of their day. I have understood the need for provision many times. I can related to the guy in the crowd.
Then in John 6 there is the little boy. I may not get him perfectly, but I do understand him. I have stood at moments in my life when God has asked me to give all. He did not ask for one loaf or one fish, but for everything. I have been at moments where I did not have much to give but God has asked me to give what I had. Sometimes it has been money, other times it has been my time. There have also been moments where I have said to God, ” What can you really do with this life?”. He has responded to my heart, “Offer it, let me break it, and bless it, and see what I will do with it.”. This is not about how much I offer, but whether I give what I have and let him do what He can with it. I have seen him multiply my resources, and my life. He wasn’t looking for big, he was looking for commitment. I can understand the boy with the loaves and fish. I am a girl with the same.
I love this parable. I feel like it is my story. How can I apply this? I have friends, family, neighbours, and maybe even some strangers waiting for me to refuse to give up on them just because the day has been long spent. They are waiting for me to give life and trust God for the multiplication. Only He can do that. I offer. He multiplies.
Sandy says:January 16, 2014 at 6:56 pm
I can really relate to the disciples. I would react exactly the way they did. I would see no possible way that the five thousand could be fed. The only solution would be to send all the people home with a heartfelt apology. However, over the past number of years with the Seeds mission I have been trying to be more patient and not react until I see what God has in mind. I have been amazed at how he always provides and most often in the most unusual ways. As he proves himself over and over again I have become more comfortable not to fret, although my instinct still is to want to find a solution. I need to learn to rest in the knowledge that If you are in His will He will work it out.
Sue says:January 17, 2014 at 12:10 am
Sandy, I definitely see you as one of the disciples this past week or so. You’re facing an incredible task. But the disciples didn’t feed 5,000. They fed groups of 50 and 100 until the entire crowd was fed. I think God is smiling and saying “well done” as you minister along with the rest to the groups of 50 & 100’s. What you are doing in SVG right now is an example of what the disciples did once they accepted God’s plan and direction. You’ve caught His heart & compassion in ministry. And I know He has seen the way you are willing to be His solution rather than looking for a solution. You encourage me.
Pat McRae says:January 16, 2014 at 7:27 pm
I can definitely identify with the disciples! “Say what! You want us to feed 5,000 +?” But these same disciples had just returned from amazing ministry opportunities where they had seen the Hand of God move in miraculous ways. Now challenged with a new situation they take their eyes off Jesus and focus on what they don’t have, 5,000 with 5 loaves and two fish does not compute in man’s eyes. I don’t see a rebuke this time just instruction, take an inventory. Ok 5 loaves and 2 fish, now have the people sit down. Me, I would be thinking, good idea I can get away before they realize there is only enough food for one small boy. But I see obedience on the peoples part, to sit down expecting to receive and on the disciples part in handing out what was available.
Do I want to see abundant, more then enough provision for my needs? Then I need to bring what I have to Jesus with expectation and obedience to follow His instructions.
Another thing that stood out to me was when people go to pray they say”bow your heads” but Jesus lifted His face to heaven. Why? Because that is where the Father is. Maybe we should also lift our faces to heaven. Maybe then we would have our eyes off the situation and on the One Who provides from His abundance and grace.
Susan Craig says:January 16, 2014 at 9:04 pm
As a child I loved this story because it was a young boy with a lunch his mother must have prepared for him who provided the means thru which this miracle would be performed. Children usually are looking to adults to provide for them-not the other way around. For him to desire to share his lunch so unselfishly for the Teacher to use was so sweet. I wonder what his mother thought when he came back home with his story of the miracle Jesus performed with the simple lunch she had provided lovingly that morning for her son. The way children can exaggerate at times,did she believe his story?? The fact that Jesus used a child for his miracle was very special to me when I was young. I also felt that I was important to Jesus and could be used by Him even tho I was young. The fact that there was so much food left over shows that Jesus provides for our needs to the full and even overflowing!!! What a wonderful,generous Provider!!!
Sue says:January 17, 2014 at 12:31 am
That you focused on the role of the child brought a smile and some memories. You mentioned that God using a child in this story made you feel like you were important to God as a child yourself. I think it is also an example of how God uses what He pours into our lives to minister to others. I remember during our time at ‘X’, God using you to minister to the children at church. I can’t help remembering how you spoke to them, assuring them that God had a special interest in them.
I can see you as the disciple bringing the young boy to Jesus with his lunch. Some of the others might have overlooked a handful of fish and rolls, thinking what good would a child’s imagination do among so many. Andrew saw the child’s gift to Jesus … and the child’s faith. Thanks for the reminder of how important it is to be an ‘Andrew’ in the life of a child.
Sue says:January 16, 2014 at 11:05 pm
I also have played the role of the disciples.
The disciples were quick to send the crowd away to meet their own needs. In my quick, judgemental way, I wonder how much was concern for their own comfort and safety as it was concern for the needs of the crowd. And then I look at the big picture … their big picture … what they had experienced leading up to this evening in question.
Sure they had seen a few miracles … bodies healed, storms calmed, etc. but then they had been sent out in pairs (without their mentor) to apply what they had learned. They went out to minister and were not disappointed. They came back on a high, eager to tell Jesus of their adventures. But while they were gone the news of their success angered the local politicians to the point of costing John (the Baptist) his life. Then, Jesus had no sooner seen to their need for rest & sustenance when they were on their way to minister again … this time with the Master. Their journey thus far had been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.
I’ve been there. Certainly not to the point of these ministers of Jesus’ message … but I know what it is to be exhausted both emotionally and physically. When my body & emotions are spent it is easy for fears to appear much bigger than they need to be. It is easy to act on edge and abrupt. It is easy to lose sight of Who is at my side. At those times I’ve been guilty of wanting the ‘crowd’ to go away. How wonderful it would be to find a way of escape.
Their ‘mission field’ was desolate, and isolated … and it was late. The disciples were isolated and tired. Just one more need .. one more person needing prayer, one more person needing healing, one more … . I know how the disciples felt when they wanted to send the crowd away to find their own food and rest. I’ve felt that way myself. I’ve had to count the cost of ministering to those in need and have found myself coming up short. Like the disciples, I had quickly forgotten that Jesus had just supplied my own needs and ministered to my own weariness. And like the disciples, at this point I had lost sight of the fact that even in the best of times I had no power to minister apart from Christ.
Jesus wasn’t content for the disciples to focus on their own weariness and needs … and He isn’t content for me to focus on mine. That isn’t to say that He isn’t compassionate. He has never failed to meet my needs, although at times I’ve failed to recognize Him at work.
He sent the disciples out into the crowd to discover the ‘gifts’ among the crowd for the occasion & bring them to Jesus. The disciples were concerned about the immediate need of the flesh. Jesus used the immediate needs of the crowd’s flesh to show a compassionate response and utilized their gifts.
As a disciple I have to ask how willing I am to be sent out among the crowd, to use my own gifts to help someone else discover their gift and bring it to Jesus. Am I willing to rely on the rest that Jesus provides to equip me to minister? Can I take that and use it to discover, nurture and bring out a gift in someone else? Or am I more likely to say it can’t be done because I am just too tired. To do so is to deny Jesus work within me and through me. To do so is to claim that it is all about me … my strength, my power (as if there is such a thing).
Somewhere, hidden in the crowd was a gift, a resource that needed to be brought forth in order for Jesus to use it to minister to a greater need. Somewhere, in the crowds Jesus takes me into, whether it be an actual crowd or a virtual crowd, is someone with a gift or resource that is hidden beneath intimidation, a sense of inadequacy, shame or any of the other ‘stuff’ that the world lays on us. I need to be willing to risk the personal loss, the intimidation of society and the boundaries of man in order to minister with the same compassion as Christ.
Christ knew that someone in the crowd had the answer to the crowd’s dilemma. I think it is so typical of the upside down kingdom of God that this answer was found in the hands of a young child. My prayer is that my eyes would be open to the child holding the answer that Christ has provided. My prayer is that when my physical strength is lacking I learn to rely on His. No! That I go in His strength so that my own strength never becomes a factor. Not that we don’t have periods of legitimate weariness, but that I don’t let it be an excuse to refuse His request. When He requests, He equips. And I pray that I trust the One who sees the answer in the hands of a little one.
Jim Holmes says:January 17, 2014 at 12:59 am
It opens up the scriptures when we take on different characters in scripture, that is, take on their point of view. Perhaps we can even discern whether their response was physical or spiritual. A person’s direction and way of thinking is changed when we receive the Word of Life…when we have the “mind of Christ”. It is as radical as “seeing and doing what the Father is doing” as opposed to “seeing and doing what I want to do”. As a Christian…our mindset is “seeing and doing what Jesus is doing” for we have the “mind of Christ” and He is our Head…and we know that He knows and does what He sees His Father do. We are one…He in us, and we in Him, because we abide in the Vine. Let us take a look at Jesus in Mark 6:35-44. Just before this passage…many people had gathered together, having come out of the cities around that area and Jesus had compassion on them and taught them many things. This gives me the clue as to how I would like to picture Jesus…. He is the True Example as to how we should live the Christian Life. We need to place ourselves in His shoes…in the shoes of the most humble man ever to live on the earth…Who, we call the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As we look unto Him, who is the author and finisher of our faith…there is a work that He is doing in us…that is ongoing…and He will bring it to completion.
In saying that, let us step into Jesus shoes…the Jesus, who is the “Bread of Life”. Jesus had compassion on them and taught them many things. In other words, He had been feeding them…spiritually. The people were in a desert place…and we tend to think of this as being desperate and alone, without a shepherd…hungry, and cannot find the way. They had no bread. The world’s answer is to go and buy a lot of bread to feed the people. The “Bread of Life” answer is to multiply what He has already given us. Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. He alone is our Provision. He alone is the true and living Bread.
You and I are called “Ambassadors of Christ”…We present Jesus to the world that does not know Him. It is thought provoking to hear Jesus say…”Give ye them to eat”. The disciples thought as the world did. They were thinking about going to buy bread. Jesus, the true and living Bread…asked for what they had…5 loaves and 2 fishes….looked to heaven, and gave thanks, and the disciples fed 5000 men and all were filled. I find these following statements of “expectation on our part” similar: “Give ye them to eat” and “Where is your faith?” in the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat while the disciples were afraid of the storm. It begs the command “You do it”….”You do the impossible, for all things are possible together with God. Jesus wants us to walk by faith, that is to walk in the spirit, knowing and doing the will of God. Without the Bread of Life, we perish. The Bread of Life is multiplied in us, and we all eat of the same Bread…and are one Body, Jesus is the Head. These people had communion. What does this mean for me as a Christian? It is Jesus saying…You feed them. What do I have to feed them? What has He given me…taught me…fed me of the Bread of Life? Will I do as the rest of the world…and simply say, go buy your own, the world has plenty….or do I recognize that there is but One Bread, one Body, one faith, one Spirit….? Did we forget that Peter was asked 3 times about His love for Jesus and that 3 times Jesus responded with ”Feed my sheep”. Loving God is sharing the “Bread of Life”…the Miracle of Jesus Himself.
To finish, I would quote from John 6:35 …And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst..
Irma says:January 17, 2014 at 5:13 am
How often are like the disciples? They had just seen Jesus heal the sick,calm the seas and perform miracles before their eyes They must have been talking about all they had seen and heard to this point,!! Saying He is truly our Saviour ,the Master. Then when asks for food. They soon forget and looking at the crowd say How can this be done?
We too,like them have seen miracles in our lives and in those around us, but when the next need or challenge arises we too say How can we possibly do this? And maybe that same day we give testimony to miracles we have seen and heard. In all of this my prayer is that I will look to Him first and realize He is the same one who provided,comforted,healed and led me through the last big challenge . The crowds with needs will always be before us but He has the answer……not looking at the need I must keep my eyes on Him and their need will be met!!!