The familiar story of Jesus feeding the 5000 is not just an account of a miracle. It is a learning moment when Jesus challenges his disciples to feed the crowd. If we live in a ‘walls down’ world, we will sometimes feel overwhelmed by the needs around us. Jesus models some key principles that will help develop an inner resource (roots down) for such a time.
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
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 6:34-44)
Note that the disciples’ instinct was to remove and avoid the problem (vv.35-36). But Jesus challenges them to do something about it, even though he and they knew they didn’t have the natural resource to do it (v.37). Jesus will often take us to places that are beyond us so we can learn and grow. He does tell them, however, to start by getting really clear on what natural resources they do have (v.38). We start with what we do have not with what we don’t have. God often starts with asking us what we have in our hand (Ex.4:2). We start by using what we have, doing what we can do, taking at least the next step forward – and trusting him for the rest. Jesus meets the needs of the crowd but he takes charge and leads with quiet authority. He is not driven by fear, anxiety or by being pushed around by others’ fears or demands. The three things he does do (v.41) show us where his life, values and way of thinking were rooted.
- Looks to heaven – this is where his hope came from; his confidence was established in his relationship with his heavenly Father
- Gives thanks – his focus was not on what they lacked but on what they already had; an attitude of gratitude develops a deep trust and grows faith in us, setting us up for miracles
- Breaks bread – he is motivated by other-centered, sacrificial love that is ultimately going to take him to the cross. Love proves to be the greatest resource we have.
A life rooted in hope, faith and love prepares us for the moments when we are beyond our natural resources.
Questions for Discussion
- What did you learn from this story?
- Have you ever felt a demand placed on you that you did not have the resource to meet? What did it feel like?
- What are some of the unhelpful reactions and thought patterns in moments like that?
- How do we strengthen these roots of hope, faith and love?
- Keep on reading through the gospel of Mark
- Consider using some of the Lent resources we have advertised, including one based around Mark.