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Mark 6:30-44 – The Feeding of the 5000

As we read through Mark’s Gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus, we have seen some miraculous things. Jesus did what no other person could do. In today’s passage, we will see that again in a very familiar account of The Feeding of the Five Thousand. But apart from the miracle, we will also see three concerns that Jesus had for different people. The first concern involves his disciples who had just come back from their tour of preaching and healing. The second and third concerns involve the multitudes of people who came to see Him a short time later. As we look at these concerns, let’s ask the Lord to help us to see His concerns and to have the same focus that He had. And let’s also ask Him to teach us what we should learn from what happened.

  1. Jesus cares about our rest (Mark 6:30-32).

    What does it say?

    Back in Mark 6:7-13, we saw that Jesus had sent out His disciples in twos to preach, heal, and cast out demons. In these verses, we see that they had completed their task and had just then returned to Jesus. Notice that they were called apostles here. This is a term that means “sent ones, agents, or messengers.” When they returned from their journey, they told Jesus what they had done and taught. What an exciting time this must have been for each of them. After hearing their reports, Jesus told them to go to a deserted place where they could rest for a while. At the moment, there was a large group of people coming and going. It was such a busy atmosphere that they didn’t even have time to eat. So Jesus and the apostles got into a boat and traveled to a deserted place where they could have both peace and rest.

    What does it mean?

    By telling the disciples to rest, Jesus was teaching them two things: (1) ministry is hard work and (2) rest is important. The disciples were excited to report what they had done. They had taught the truths given to them by Jesus. If you look back at Mark 6:12, you will see the content of their preaching. It was “that people should repent.” If you couple that message with the instructions Jesus gave them earlier (Mark 6:10-11), you can imagine that they were not always well-received. But they still were able to heal some people and cast out demons during their preaching tour. But something was obvious to Jesus. Even after hearing all of their excited reports, He could tell that this work had taken a lot of energy out of them. They were tired and needed to rest. This shows us that Jesus is not just concerned with ministry, He is also concerned about the need to rest.

    How does it apply?

    Jesus wants us to realize that ministry and rest are not incompatible. On the one hand, there is a great need to take God’s truth to those who have not yet responded with repentance and faith. That message is still something that needs to be heard by the world today. And we must understand that this will take a lot of energy to get the message out. It is not an easy task to call people to repentance and it will not always be well-received (as we saw from John the Baptist’s experience). However, with so many people needing to hear, we might feel convicted for taking the time to relax once in a while. But Jesus’ response to the disciples should convince us that God is also concerned about our rest. Think back to the seventh day of creation. After making the universe in six days, God took the seventh day off to rest. He wasn’t tired, but He did want to give us an example to follow. In the case of the disciples, they had worked hard and now needed to rest.

    The application here may need to be applied in two ways. First, are you doing the work of the ministry? If you are a Christian, it is your responsibility to preach God’s message to others and to help others as you can. If you are not doing this, it is time for you to start. God doesn’t want lazy Christians. Second, are you taking the time for needed rest? God wants you to take care of your body. If you don’t take the time to relax, you can get burned out. While some people like David Brainard worked hard for the Lord and died young, I wonder if they could have lasted longer if they had taken the time to rest. If you are a hard-working Christian, recognize what Jesus taught His disciples here. There is time for ministry and also time for rest.

  2. Jesus cares about our direction (Mark 6:33-34).

    What does it say?

    The first word in verse 33 is “but.” This indicates that despite Jesus’ plan to escape the busyness of the crowds something happened. In this case, the multitudes saw them departing the area. Mark makes mention of many knowing Jesus.7 Apparently, they knew Him well enough to know where He was taking the disciples. People joined this running crowd from the surrounding cities and ended up at the exact location where Jesus had intended to give his disciples some peace and quiet. When the boat landed at the shore, the crowd was there waiting for them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the disciples were a bit frustrated by this. Jesus had told them they should get away to rest, but the crowds were not letting them do this. But instead of being frustrated, Jesus had a different reaction. When He saw the great multitude, He was moved with compassion. He responded this way because the people were like sheep without a shepherd.

    What does it mean?

    Jesus is concerned about people and the spiritual direction they are going. When Mark says that they were like sheep without a shepherd, he is showing us that Jesus knew that they didn’t have any spiritual direction. They needed to be taught God’s truth so that they would know what God required of them. Albert Barnes does a good job of describing their situation. “They had no one to teach them and guide them. The priests and scribes were proud and corrupt; they despised the common people and neglected them.”6 With few other people speaking the truth, Jesus gave the people what they needed most—He taught them the truth.

    How does it apply?

    If you were to make a list of what is most needed by people today, what would be on the top of your list? You might write down things like morality, honesty, faithfulness, better leaders, fair wages, equal treatment, and many other things. But we learn here that the primary need for most people is to hear and understand God’s truth. When we watch television, we see many people searching for happiness in places that will never really satisfy them. When we watch politics, we see people voting for things that eventually make their lives worse. When we look at our public education system, we see crazy ideas becoming mainstream. What is it that people need today? They need to hear and then accept God’s truth. And if not from us, then who will tell them? Will you consider this week how you might lovingly speak the truth to the lost world around you? This was the solution used by Jesus and it is still the solution today.

  3. Jesus cares about our needs (Mark 6:35-44).

    As we move on to this next section, notice that Jesus “first met their spiritual needs by teaching them. Then He met their physical needs by feeding them.”3

    What does it say?

    At the end of the day, the disciples wanted Jesus to send the people away. It was late and the people had not brought food to eat. Once again, Jesus’ response was different. He told the disciples to give the people food to eat. The surprised disciples must have opened their eyes wide at Jesus’ suggestion. How could they afford to buy enough food to feed so many people? They asked if Jesus expected them to spend 200 denarii to buy them food. “The denarius, the basic Roman silver coin … was the average daily wage for a farm laborer.”1 With that in mind, 200 denarii would be equivalent to working six days a week for 33 weeks. That would be a lot of money!

    Knowing that this was an impossible task, Jesus further questioned the disciples as to how much food was available. As the disciples asked the people about their provisions “they were brought to a sudden consciousness of their physical needs.”8 What were they going to eat? After searching around, the disciples found five loaves of bread (more like rolls) and two fish among all the people. “The Fourth Gospel records that Andrew brought the report that a lad in the crowd had the food with him.”8 He then told the disciples to have the people sit in groups of hundreds and fifties. Note that they sat down on green grass which probably indicates that it was springtime. “The arrangement made distribution of the food convenient and made it simple to determine the number fed.”9

    Once they were seated, Jesus looked up to heaven and blessed the food. “Jesus looked up to heaven, regarded as where God is (cf. Matt. 23:22), in dependance on the Father for a miraculous provision of food.”2 He then divided it among all the people. Take a moment to think about what happened. If you were to divide five loaves of bread and two fish to feed about five thousand people, how small would the pieces be? But that is not what happened. Jesus did not hand out tiny portions to everyone. Instead, He performed a miracle which turned that small bit of food into more than enough for all of the people to eat and be satisfied. And to enhance the miracle even more, there were twelve baskets10 full of the bread and fish after everyone had eaten.4 Perhaps this was what the disciples ate after serving the people. Mark ends the paragraph by saying that there were about five thousand people who ate the food that day.

    What does it mean?

    First, this passage teaches us that Jesus cares about the needs of people. By miraculously multiplying food from the five loaves and two fish, Jesus provided the physical needs of the people. They ate and were filled because He cared for them. But there is a second meaning here as well. Second, this passages teaches us that Jesus is God. Only God could cause such a miracle to take place. But when you compare what Jesus did to what is found in the Old Testament prophecies about Him, this becomes even more clear.

    Isaiah 40:9b-11 – “Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”

    This is the same Old Testament passage that began by describing John the Baptist preparing the way for the Lord (Isa. 40:3; Mark 1:3-5). In the verses quoted above, Isaiah called on the Jewish people to behold their God who would feed and shepherd them. As you look at Jesus’ compassion for the shepherd-less people and his subsequent, miraculous provision for their food, is there any question as to His identity? No, Jesus is the same One that Isaiah wrote about. He is God Who became man, Who had compassion on the people, and Who provided their food like a Good Shepherd.

    How does it apply?

    Once again, Mark points us toward not only Jesus’ care for people but also to His identity. He was completely convinced that Jesus was (and is) God. His miracles and actions point together to who He is. He is the Lord. Do you believe what Mark is trying to tell you? If you do believe that Jesus is God, it will change the way that you look at the rest of the Gospel of Mark. It will no longer be a study of a great man; it will become the study of God Himself. And if you come to the place where you believe that Jesus is God, you will be faced with another choice. Will you repent of your sin, put your faith in Him, and then begin to follow Him yourself?

Conclusion

Many of us have heard these stories about Jesus since we were children in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. Back then, we were amazed at what Jesus did. But now that we are adults, we begin to notice more than just the miracle. We can now see the other things taught by this event. As you recall, Jesus did three things that day: He (1) cared about his disciples and their need for rest, (2) He cared about the shepherd-less people and taught them, and (3) He cared for the hungry people and fed them. Jesus is still the same today. What He did for the people back then, He can do for us today. He can do that because He is God and because He cares.

Footnotes

1 Grassmick 130.
2 Grassmick 131.
3 McGee 187.
4 “It is pitiable to note how unbelieving critics attempt to turn the edge of these testimonies of our Lord’s creatorial glory by insinuating that, after all, it was just a case of each one sharing a lunch already provided with his neighbors who had forgotten or neglected to bring any—so that, as all ate together, it seemed to them as though the food had been multiplied in a marvelous manner!” Ironside 97.
6 Barnes
7 “In the original no object is expressed, but many manuscripts insert either him or them as the object of the verb. Recognizing the occupants of the boat, they perceived what was taking place.” Hiebert 175.
8 Hiebert 179.
9 Hiebert 180.
10 “The word ‘baskets’ (kophinoi) … denotes a small wicker basket such as the Jews used when traveling to carry their provisions in order to avoid eating Gentile food.” Hiebert 181-82.

Bibliography

Barnes, Albert, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible as viewed at https://www.truthaccordingtoscripture.com/commentaries/bnb/mark-6.php on 11/11/2023.

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

Ironside, H. A., Mark, Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers, 1969.

“What are the modern equivalents of biblical weights and measures?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=3456 on 11/11/2023.