Monday 01 February 2016

Bible Book:

“And he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (v. 35)

Mark 6:34-44 Monday 1 February 2016

Psalm: Psalm 26


The feeding of the five thousand is onemiracle which occurs in all four Gospels, although it is likelythat the account here in Mark's Gospel is the earliest. It'stherefore one of the best known of the miracles performed by Jesus,but Mark's account makes it clear that the miracle is about muchmore than how Jesus makes five loaves and two fishes spread amongthousands of people.

The initial setting draws on parallels withMoses and the Exodus story. The crowds have followed Jesus into thedesert places because they are desperate to hear more of histeaching; and Jesus has compassion because they are "like sheepwithout a shepherd" echoing Moses' words (Numbers 27:17) and emphasising Jesus' role asthe good shepherd. As it gets late it becomes clear they arewithout food and at this point the disciples ask Jesus for help(verse 36). His initial response is for them to sort this outthemselves, but when they struggle to respond Jesus assumescontrol. He takes the few loaves and fishes they have found, getsthe disciples to organise the seating arrangements and suddenly ittranspires there is enough and to spare, as there are 12 baskets offood leftover.

Reading this passage in detail draws out thedeeper symbolism at work. The language of Jesus' actions - hetakes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread (verse 41) - foretellsthe words used in our Communion prayer and draws out theEucharistic significance of what is happening. The organisation ofthe 'men' into companies of 50 or a 100 (verse 40) has a militaryfeel (and we can recall how in the Gospel of John's account it isfollowed by an attempt to make him king (John6:15)). And the 12 baskets collected up afterwards (verse 43)perhaps point to the restoration of the 12 tribes of Israel.

So this is no simple miracle story, howeverthat might be understood. Rather, it's a story which raisesprofound questions about who Jesus is, how God's kingdom is at workin and through him, and how his followers (then and now) arechallenged to respond.

To Ponder

  • How do you understand the feeding of the 5,000? Is it aphysical or spiritual meal - or both?
  • What does Mark's account suggest about the part that we havetoplay in God's miraculous work?
  • What implications does this story have for Christiansresponding to a hungry world?
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