FEEDING FIVE THOUSAND
Of all of the miracles which are recorded during the ministry of Jesus, only one is described in all four gospel accounts. It is the one which we find in this chapter - the feeding of the five thousand.
This was an especially significant miracle. It was significant because it involved the most number of people. It had the most eye-witnesses. It also had the most volume. The only other miracle that ever came close to it was the turning of water into wine. Bread to the multitude; wine to the wedding guests. Bread and wine - He still offers it to us.
The setting for the story took place in a time of retreat - a time when Jesus was seeking to get away from it all.
RETREAT TO A LONELY PLACE
And the apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught.
And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat).
And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. (Mark 6:30-32).
It had been a time of great activity. There was a growing intensity to the ministry of Jesus that reached its culmination as He sent the Twelve out on a short-term mission trip.
Now they are back. They have done a good job and they are tired. And so, He determines to take them away from the crowds. They will go to a lonely place so that they can recharge.
Have you ever suffered from burn-out? You can come to the point when you are tired and just can't get the emotional energy to go on. At such a time, you need to find a lonely place. You will find Jesus waiting for you there.
THE COMPASSION OF THE CHRIST
And the people saw them going, and many recognized them, and they ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them.
And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:33-34).
It was one thing for Jesus and His disciples to make plans to get away from it all. It was another thing to accomplish it. They got away from the crowds, but the crowds did not get away from them.
Jesus could have gotten angry at the multitude. After all, they were intruding at a time when they were not wanted. The office was closed and Jesus and His disciples were going on vacation. Couldn't they make an appointment?
Instead, the reaction of Jesus was one of compassion. He saw their needs and He felt for them. He cared. The Christ event is the evidence that God cares. He did not stand aloof from humanity. He became involved. He was involved in the discipleship of the Twelve. And He will be involved in a ministry to the masses.
THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE CHRIST
And when it was already quite late, His disciples came up to Him and began saying, “The place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?” (Mark 6:35-37).
Imagine the scene. Jesus and His disciples have left the crowded cities and have made their way to a lonely place. They were followed by the crowds, so instead of spending the day in rest and relaxation, Jesus and His disciples have a day of teaching.
Now at the end of the day, the disciples are tired and hungry. And they aren't the only ones. The people are getting hungry as well. And so they come to Jesus with a suggestion. It is that He send the multitude away to surrounding areas where they will be able to purchase food.
The plan of the disciples is entitled: “Every man for himself.” But Jesus has another plan. He says to them, “You feed them.”
This was an impossible request. I can picture their consternation. They pull out his pocket calculator and begin punching buttons: “Price of hamburgers multiplied by 5000 equals 200 denarii.” A single denarius was considered to be an average day’s wage. At this rate, it would take all Twelve disciples working for three weeks could make enough money to make the purchase demanded by Jesus.
This was an impossible situation. But Jesus has the answers to those kinds of situations. He is trying to teach you something in the midst of your impossible situation. And it is in the understanding of that lesson that impossible situations become bearable.
What is your situation? No matter what it is, don't forget to look for the lesson. Listen for the instructions of the Christ. Listen, because Jesus has the answers to the questions that trouble you.
You see, this situation did not come about by mere chance. It was brought about purposefully. It was brought about to manifest the power of God. The same is true of your situation.
THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE CHRIST
And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they said, “Five loaves and two fish.”
And He commanded them all to recline by groups on the green grass. 40 And they reclined in companies of hundreds and of fifties.
And He took the five loaves and two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. (Mark 6:38-42).
The grass is green. The sun is low in the sky. The cool breeze is blowing off the Sea of Galilee. The disciples are quietly obedient in organizing the people into groups of 50's and 100's. They may have been weak in faith, but they still OBEYED. And as a result, God will do something wonderful.
Having problems believing? Have a difficult time in the faith department? Welcome to the crowd. There is a lesson here for you. It is a lesson for when you find it difficult to believe. When you are having trouble believing, obey anyway. Obey as though you believe, and eventually you will find strength for your faith.
The disciples obeyed the words of Jesus. He has them divide the people into workable groups. There is a prayer of blessing.
I cannot help but think that the disciples were peeking during the prayer to see where the delivery trucks were going to come from. And yet, when the miracle takes place, we are struck by its simplicity. The heavens did not open. Trumpets did not sound. We are not told how Jesus did it.
We simply read that the disciples begin to disperse the food. And there is more food. And still more. And people are getting seconds. And there is still more.
It isn't that Christianity has been tried and failed, it is that it hasn't been tried.
His courage is sufficient for you.
His presence is sufficient for you.
- in sin?
His grace is sufficient for you.
- in need?
His abundance is sufficient for you.
THE ABUNDANCE OF THE CHRIST
And they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. 44 And there were five thousand men who ate the loaves. (Mark 6:43-44).
When it is all over, the disciples begin cleaning up. Twelve disciples. Twelve full baskets of food. One for each disciple. Do you see the lesson? It is a lesson in abundance. Jesus is not just sufficient for our needs. He is ABUNDANTLY SUFFICIENT.
The reason that the disciples are assigned this cleanup duty is so that they will learn this lesson. They had wondered earlier where they would get enough food to feed the multitude when there was barely enough food to feed themselves. They may have thought, “If we give what we have to everyone else, then we will have to go hungry.” Instead of going hungry, each disciple will end up with a load of food.
The disciples were being taught a lesson. It is the same lesson that we need to learn. It is the lesson that Jesus is sufficient for our needs.
Dr. David Livingston, the famous missionary-explorer to Africa, had a medical condition which required a regular diet of milk. He kept a goat which supplied the necessary milk. Dr. Livingston was praying one morning and he told the Lord, “Everything I have is Yours, Lord.”
He was visited that same week by the tribal chief and he noticed that the chief was eyeing his goat. Desiring to show God's love, he took the goat and gave it to the chief. In return, the chief presented him with the staff which he was carrying.
Later that day, Livingston confided in one of his friends, “I don’t know why I was so stupid as to give my goat away. All I have to show for it is this stupid stick.” His friend replied, “You don't understand. That isn't just a stick; it is a scepter. You no longer own one goat. Now you own all the goats in the village.”
When we come to the Lord in faith, giving Him our lives, we find that He has given us a scepter in return. And we have been walking around, thinking that it was just a stick.