Tuesday 08 January 2013

Bible Book:

"As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things." (v. 34)

Mark 6:34-44 Tuesday 8 January 2013


In the Gospels we are often confronted by the scandalousabundance of Jesus' love for people. He responds to people's needsin a disproportionately generous way and thus is a model for thenature of God's love.

Today's story makes this explicit, as Jesus' abundant compassionfor people leads him to generous provision for their needs. Thepeople are like sheep without a shepherd, aimless and uncertain.The Greek (splagnizomai) tells us that Jesus is moved by such greatcompassion that his guts are churned; the love of God is so greatthat, when contained in a human body, it shakes it to the core. AndJesus responds by focussing his attention on the people, by givingof himself, providing the shepherding they need. This kind ofintense attentiveness to us and to our needs is characteristic ofthe love of God expressed in the life of Jesus.

So generous is Jesus' teaching that it grew very late and a newneed emerged in the people's hunger. Again, Jesus' response isexcessive. This is no mere symbolic meal, but a feast, for all ateand were filled. Eularia Clarke's painting, 'The five thousand' intheMethodist Art Collection captures the joy and fellowship ofsuch an ad hoc party. She pictures a crowd of people feasting onfish and chips out of newspaper, licking greasy fingers, feedingchips to babies, a child using his mother as a table, and peoplelying back full and stuffed on the grass. These people are full ofthe sense of wellbeing that comes from a good meal. Moreover,community has been created through the sharing of food andlaughter.

And there are leftovers. In the painting, there are piles ofchips that people are too full to manage. And in the version inMark's Gospel there are twelve baskets of leftovers (verse 43).Jesus doesn't just meet people's needs, but provides much more thanthey need.  In fact there is food left for other people.Symbolically Mark's Gospel suggests that the bread of life is notjust for the people of Israel - there is plenty for all. The pointis about ridiculous excess, for God is not afraid of beingridiculous.

To Ponder

  • Have you ever been moved to such compassion that it physicallyshook you? How did that make you behave?
  • We tend to think that it is reasonable to give proportionately.But have you ever received unreasonable, disproportionategenerosity? What effect did that have on you?
  • Have you ever experienced sharing and eating forming communityout of nothing? What was the nature of that community?
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