Sundays on Mark (17):

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections on Mark’s gospel

This week Mark 6:30-44: The Feeding of the 5000

The pericope begins with the disciples returning from their mission to the towns of Galilee and reporting in. It’s another hectic scene [I’d never noticed how often in Mark, Jesus hardly gets a moment and is constantly bombarded with people wanting a ‘piece of him’]. Another escape by boat to solitary place follows. But the ‘paparazzi’ are there first, waiting.

Jesus’ reaction is not one of weariness, frustration or short temper but of ‘compassion’. The sheep without a shepherd image echoes occasions in the OT when Israel was leaderless. He recognises their sincerity and ‘thirst’ for his teaching. He has come to seek and save the lost. He is the good shepherd.

This is no staged event, but, like many miracles, simply a response to an immediate need; in this case, food for thousands of people who hadn’t really been planning a picnic and a day out in a remote wilderness [only the men are mentioned – good to know 1st century Palestinian men were hopeless at thinking ahead and preparing picnics too].

The miracle is one of God’s generosity and provision – all who ate were satisfied. But even more, in good Markan style, it is Christological; revealing more of the identity of Jesus. While the disciples are involved at every stage by Jesus and almost invited to see the significance of the bigger picture behind the miracle, they fail to do so. There are strong parallels here to Moses; the wilderness, mannah and the people of God. Here is a God’s Son, a second Moses, leading the people in a new exodus.

Jesus the shepherd looks after spiritual and physical needs. The 12 extra basketfuls are obviously symbolic. Mark does not spell it out – but here is a sign of a new Israel being formed by her long-awaited Messiah.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as you showed love, compassion and care to those who needed it, help your people  to do the same. May your church be known for a holistic gospel; of meeting both physical and spiritual needs in your name. Amen

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

30The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34When 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.

35By 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. 36Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

37But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’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.”

39Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41Taking 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 set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42They all ate and were satisfied, 43and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.


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