Chapter 6:33-44 (ESV) - Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
Question to consider: Besides loaves and fishes, what food did Jesus give them?
After the disciples returned from preaching in the villages of Galilee, healing the sick and casting out demons, they spent time together in fellowship to marvel at what God was doing in Israel. At this point Jesus told them they should all go to a quiet place where each could spend time alone with God for rest and refreshment. Mark wrote that they hadn’t even had time to eat, and even though Mark doesn’t mention this, they in fact had not even had time to grieve the death of John the Baptist. Considering about half of them were John’s disciples before meeting Jesus, it had to be devastating, and even Jesus would have been impacted by the death of His cousin.
Rather than getting rest, they were met with a crowd. Moses proclaimed to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8:3, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Though the miracle in this passage centered around loaves and fishes, the emphasis here was on the need for the true word of God, for these people were like sheep without a shepherd.
I find it interesting that even though Jesus told the disciples to go off by themselves to rest and eat, there is no indication that they had any food. We find out from John’s gospel that even the five loaves and two fish came from a young boy in the crowd. From John’s gospel, we find out that all of the disciples were discussing the need for the crowd to get something to eat, but I have to wonder if Mark’s quote was from Peter, “Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” I only say this because Jesus’ response, “You give them something to eat,” reminds me of another conversation that Jesus would have with Peter after His resurrection.
Jesus said to Simon Peter the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep." (John 21:17)
When Jesus told Peter to “Feed my sheep” upon restoring him as an apostle, I have to wonder if He was reminding Peter of this day and the many sheep who needed him to be a shepherd to them.
After the exhausted disciples finished serving the crowds, Jesus made sure there was enough left over for each of them to get their own basket of food.
Dear Lord, thank You for caring for Your disciples in this way. May we be shepherds of the flock that’s in our care, willingly and eagerly serving them through You. Amen.