Tuesday, April 16th. Mark 6:35-44

When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’ But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?’ And he said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men. Mark 6:35-44

 

Let’s not be too hard on the disciples here.

 

Yesterday we heard Jesus invite the disciples to spend some time in a deserted place for rest and reflection.  Deserted places seem like good places for such activities.  (There isn’t a whole lot else going on to distract us.)  Deserted places are great places to get away.

 

I’m actually writing this devotion, strangely enough, rather late at night (11:39 PM), literally from a desert place (Spirit of the Desert Retreat Center in Carefree, Arizona) where I am spending a couple of days with Clayton Faulkner, who serves with me at Faith.  We’re here for a conference put together by Church Innovations to talk about what it means to discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the life of our congregation.  (Enjoy the journey these hyperlinks will take you on…)

 

Today, while walking across the beautiful campus of the congregation we are using for our daily meetings, Clayton talked about how easy it is to see how a desert setting invites a kind of mysticism that we usually don’t experience in the freeway jungle of a city like Houston.  He’s right.  It does.  It always has.

 

Deserts are great settings for prayer but, if forced to find enough food to feed 5000 people, give me a Washington apple orchard or a Florida orange grove any day.  Thus, let’s not be too hard on the disciples here.

 

Imagine their shock when Jesus responds to them – YOU give them something to eat.  Can you see their faces?  See them looking at one another?  See them looking at Jesus as if he was…nuts?

 

What did Jesus mean by that question?  Was Jesus being facetious?  Was he kidding?  Or did Jesus see something in the disciples that they could not yet see in themselves?

 

We know this story.  We’ve all heard it many times.  We know it is the only miracle story to appear in all four gospels.  We know that Jesus takes five loaves and two fish and feeds a huge crowd.  We know that there are 12 baskets of leftovers and we’ve been reminded how this connects somehow to the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 disciples, and many other Biblical references to the symbolism of the perfect number “12”.

 

But today, let’s keep the meaning of this story very simple.  There is a time when great teaching serves a crowd very well…but hungry people need food, not just a great story.  And maybe what Jesus saw in the disciples was their potential – a potential that could only be unlocked as they found themselves faced with the opportunity to do that which they clearly could never possibly do on their own.

 

For then, not only then but especially then, when we are at the end of our ropes and our resources, might we be especially open to remembering that there is never a moment when Jesus isn’t with us and therefore never a moment when we won’t have the resources we need to do what we are called to do.  Because Jesus will supply them.

 

The open question remains…will we have the compassion to notice the hunger in the crowd…and the willingness to share the resources at our disposal, using them for God’s purposes?

 

Let us pray: Dear Lord, thank you for this story.  Thank you for this promise of abundance which flies in the face of our fears of scarcity.  Thank you for the reminders of your presence, your power, and your provision. Instill in us that confidence that trusts you, even in the face of that which overwhelms us, and the willingness to share what we have been given toward the feeding of a hungry world.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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One Response to “Tuesday, April 16th. Mark 6:35-44”

  1. Sabra Says:

    I also thought this was Jesus’ way of telling them that this is one of the things that he will “require” them to do when he is gone (at least physically not with them) … that he wants them to “feed” his sheep.

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