Mark 6:30-44 30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 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. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 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. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 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?” 38 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.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 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. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
All the signs that Jesus had performed up to this point pale in comparison to the feeding of the five thousand due to the sheer number of people affected personally. Probably well over twenty thousand men, women, and children in Israel saw firsthand the Kingdom of God manifest within their midst as they ate from the five loaves and two fish that Jesus had multiplied. The mission that the disciples had been sent on by Jesus before this had obviously been quite successful. They were to preach the message that John the Baptist preached: “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” “Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ!” “Come hear Him!” And they were given authority from Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit to heal the sick and cast out demons. How exciting it must have been for them all! (Even for Judas Iscariot who would later betray Jesus.)
Due to the great success of the disciples’ mission, they had been so busy that they hadn’t had time to eat. Jesus had told them to go into an isolated place far away from all the towns and villages where they could rest. They went by boat over the Sea of Galilee but the crowds saw them leaving and ran ahead of them. Instead of dispersing the crowds so that they could rest, Jesus had compassion on them and taught them late into the day probably until it was starting to get dark. But now what should be done? The crowd in their haste to see Jesus had not come prepared to spend the whole day there. Almost no one had brought any food. Instead of just dispersing the crowds Jesus tests His disciples and tells them to feed the crowds. After all, Jesus had given them authority before to heal the sick and cast out demons manifesting the Kingdom of God. What would the disciples do? They should have known the Scriptures and realized what would happen but they only thought of solving this problem by worldly means. They estimated that it would take about 200 denarii (a denarius was a day’s wage) so about $20,000 to feed them for one meal and they would have to go buy the food elsewhere.
But how did God feed the Israelites in the wilderness in the past? Could the disciples not see that this real life situation they were in now was very similar to what had happened to Israel many generations ago? Israel had once been in bondage in Egypt. After God miraculously delivered them by sending ten plagues upon Egypt the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness before entering the promised land of Canaan and yet they did not starve to death. There were probably well over 2 million Jews that were sustained in an area where there was little food. How did they survive? Why did the disciples not recognize the same problem that Moses was faced with? In the wilderness God, the King over Israel, provided the Israelites a food called manna every morning (Exodus 16). It was a fine, flake-like food as fine as frost. And now Jesus, the King of the Kingdom of God, would provide miraculously for the crowd. The disciples should have recognized what Jesus was about to do. They had no power in themselves to feed the crowds but Jesus, as the Christ, would be able to. Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35). But Jesus does not declare this until later when he has returned to Capernaum. At this point, after Jesus performs this tremendous miracle, the crowds were going to make Him their king by force so He leaves them. Any other man would have welcomed this:
John 6:14-15 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
It would only be later when Jesus returned to Capernaum that Jesus would reveal the purpose of this miracle. It was so that He could declare:
John 6:35, 50-51 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. ... 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
To be in the Kingdom of God is to be united to Jesus Christ through faith and to be utterly and absolutely dependent upon Him for all that we are and all that we do. Because Jesus has done all for us in His death and resurrection, our life is in Him. We feed on Him and live our lives in obedience to Him and He reveals Himself to us and shows His loves to us. But this level of commitment is not what most people are looking for. The irony of Jesus performing the greatest public miracle in Israel is that it was after this point that the crowds began to no longer follow Him. Jesus’ hardest teaching immediately followed His greatest miracle:
John 6:66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
This level of commitment and dependence upon Jesus is not what most people want to hear. The unbeliever does not want to submit to Jesus Christ but is only interested in whatever benefits might come from Him. You can no longer live for yourself if you are going to follow Jesus. Every single one of us needs Jesus Christ as our Shepherd! We are absolutely lost without Him wandering our way through this world on a hopeless path to destruction! Jesus saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. Is this how he sees you? Do you belong to Him?
Pastor Murray Hack