A hungry crowd, some anxious disciples, and the Teacher who
had one final lesson to show them.


 

When the day was far spent, His disciples came to Him and said,
"This is a deserted place and already the hour is late. Send them
away that they may go into the surrounding country and villages
and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat."  But
Jesus answered and said to them, "You give them something
to eat."

They said to Him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth
of bread?" But He said to them, "How many loaves do you have?
Go and see."  When they found out they said, "Five and two fish."

Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups
on the green grass. They sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in
fifties. When He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He
looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave
them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish
He divided among them all.

So they all ate and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets
full of fragments and of the fish. Now those who had eaten the
loaves were about five thousand men [{Matt 14:21} besides
women and children.]
                                                     Mark 6:35-44 NKJV, condensed


                              An Unforgettable Meal

A debate preceded the meal. They buy vs. you give!
The disciples: Send these people away so they can buy what they need.
Jesus: No, you give them something to eat.

The disciples lived in a cash economy. Everybody should provide for
their own needs and eat their own food. We didn't invite them. Send
them away to fend for themselves. It's their responsibility, their
dilemma; therefore they buy.

Jesus:   The problem is not them, but you. The answer is not buy, but give.
Disciples: Yeah, right! It would take a fortune to feed this crowd. Are we
                 supposed to go out and spend all that money just so we can
                 feed them one meal!

But Jesus did not have in mind to spend and buy anything.
Jesus: What do you have? Go and see how many loaves you can find.
The disciples returned with the answer: Only five, plus two fish.
With that meager fare in Jesus' hands, the miracle would begin.

You see, this great throng of people had heard Jesus teach all afternoon
about the kingdom of God, but they weren't really listening. When the
disciples passed through them asking if anyone brought food, they
held tightly to what they had, and claimed they didn't have a thing.
Like most of us, these people had a scarcity mindset. Within a wealth
of resources, they thought of themselves as poor. If they gave away
their food, they would have none for themselves. Besides it was
ridiculous to think the little they did have would make any difference.
Individually they didn't possess enough to get the job done, so no one
had anything to offer.

The kingdom of heaven, on the other hand, is modeled after God's
abundance, grace and generosity. By faith the weak can say,
"I am strong!" and the poor proclaim, "I am rich!" And the five loaves
and two fish can stretch a long, long way.

In the introduction to this passage, Jesus' compassion filled the air.
But there was a disconnect. Those in the crowd needed to learn it,
too. Jesus was about to demonstrate what their world would look
like if they treated each other with loving-kindness.

Is this a miracle of multiplication or of sharing? You be the judge.
Jesus commanded the disciples to have all the people sit in groups
where they could see and talk together, where they could look out
for each other and ensure that all received what each one needed.
Interestingly, the people sat down and got ready to eat before there
was any food on the table.

Jesus took the five loaves and two fish in his hands and looked toward
heaven. Then he gave thanks for what they had, broke the loaves and
fish into pieces, and gave it all to the disciples to distribute to the people.
The food passed from one hand to another with the same joy and
enthusiasm as the wave at a ballpark. Miraculously, everyone ate and
had enough. In fact there was so much food, the disciples collected
twelve baskets full of leftovers! Nothing was wasted.

As the people sat down, they moved from crowd to community. And in
this bonding, they discovered that the little they thought they had, turned
into much. The bridge between our scarcity and God's abundance is a
sense of  community. When we cross the bridge we find we are not
strangers and rivals, but friends and neighbors. Together we have
everything we need and are responsible for seeing that each person
gets a share.

Today, the world is still in need. There are still disciples--you, me, and
millions around the globe. And there is Jesus (now commonly referred
to as the Holy Spirit). Jesus raised a powerful question when he asked,
"How many 'loaves' do you have?" The question is just as relevant for us.
How much, not how little, do you have? Be careful with your answer.

No resource remains small when given to Jesus. Nothing is too meager
to be placed in his hands. We think we are not good enough, or smart
enough or talented enough, and so we are. But offer what you have to
Jesus and there will be more than enough. In your giving and in your
sharing, people will be blest.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: Would you have stayed for the meal when you heard the fare was 
                   simply bread and fish? Or would you have gone elsewhere to eat?

 

The disciples anticipated a problem if these people did not leave NOW.
            Why was Jesus so unconcerned about the setting sun?
            Tell how you identify or sympathize with the disciples in this story?

 

The disciples seem wise and practical in their response to the situation.
             How would you describe Jesus' attitude?
            Since the disciples wanted the people to go home, does that mean
                         they lacked compassion?
Which side of the debate would you have been on--they buy or you give?

 

The involvement of the disciples in this meal began when they tried to
answer the question, "What do you have?"
            Is that a good starting point for discipleship today?
            If Jesus asked you that question, how would you answer?

 

The disciples gave what they had to Jesus--the 5 loaves and 2 fish.
            In what ways have you done the same?
            Do you view your own gifts and graces in terms of scarcity or
                        abundance?
            Do you generally speak of how much, or how little, you have?

 

Describe one "miracle" you know about wherein a little that was offered
to God became much bigger than it was?
            If you were a part of the miracle, what part did you play?

 

You might have in your memory that the loaves and fish came from a
little boy in the crowd. That information comes from the 4th Gospel, John.
Only a child was willing to share his lunch.
            What does that tell you?

 

React to the question, "Is this a miracle of multiplication or of sharing?"
            Does it take away from, or enhance, the story either way?
            Would one be a greater miracle than the other?
What do you think happened to the 12 baskets full of leftovers?

 

This story is not about how to survive in the wilderness. It's probably not
a blueprint for feeding a hungry world, either.
            So what is the significance of Jesus feeding 5,000 men plus
                        women and children?
            What catches your attention?

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