If we’re honest, we have to admit that what we see with our eyes doesn’t line up with what we know to be true. The world around us is so needy. Our own experience testifies to this problem, as does news from around the world. Poverty, injustice, war, disease, broken families, and greed are just a few of the many issues facing humanity. As believers, we realize that these things are merely symptoms of a cause: sin. We also realize that there is but one remedy for the cause: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we realize that there is hope: God is creating a new heavens and a new earth and will obliterate these very problems. But again, what we see around us sometimes leads to doubt about our future hope.
The disciples of Jesus experienced the same doubts. Mark presents them to us in his narrative as sometimes fearful, sometimes skeptical. But, he also presents them as loyal. Despite their shortcomings of faith, the disciples obey Jesus’ commands. One such command was given in our recent expositions in Mark – to go and replicate Jesus’ ministry. We saw them preach, heal, and cast out demons in the beginning of Mark chapter 6. After a parenthetical story about John the Baptist’s demise, we return in verse 30 along with the disciples, who tell their Master all about their exploits.
Jesus then reveals his compassionate care for his disciples as he tells them to come away and rest. The group, however, can only enjoy a short-lived respite because myriads of needy people find them and gather around them. The reality that the needs of the world are inescapable is becoming more clear. One can imagine the disciples are exhausted at this point. Jesus, himself fully human, does not allow any exhaustion to overcome his compassion. He looks at the crowd and has pity. He sees them “as sheep with no shepherd.” He teaches them. He cares for them. He meets their needs.
When evening came, the disciples were ready to send away the crowd so they could find something to eat. They asked Jesus to send them away. Then Jesus turns it around to give a very intriguing command: “You give them something to eat.”
Can you imagine what went through the disciples’ heads? “Us? Feed this crowd? There’s like 5,000 people here. Should we go spend money on food? How can we do this? All we have are five loaves of bread and two fishes. The need is just too great! It would take a miracle to do what Jesus is asking as to do!”
And, of course, Jesus performs that very miracle. We know the story. Jesus feeds five thousand, providing satisfying sustenance to a great crowd with only 5 loaves and 2 fishes. But why does Mark include this story at this place in his narrative? This miraculous story is a stark reminder that indeed with Christ all things are possible. The needs of this world are not greater than the power of the Savior. When Jesus commands his disciples to go and do something, he will provide the means by which they can do it. He can be trusted.
As you read the narrative of Mark 6:30-44, go beyond the moral of a typical Sunday School lesson. Think about the times you are tempted to doubt the task to which God has called us. Think about the gravity of all that is happening in your life and in the news and think about the fears you have in wondering how in the world God can possibly redeem people from this mess. And then, think about the compassion and the power of Jesus Christ! Think about how he can take something small, like a few pieces of food, and take insignificant people, like a crew of 12 uneducated men, and meet the needs of 5,000 people. Think about how small his following began, and how they “turned the world upside down” so that you are following Jesus Christ in the year 2020!
The disciples didn’t need to go buy food, spend lots of money, or do any tricks to meet the needs of people that day. Likewise, we need not go beyond the simple means of grace God has given us, turning to marketing strategists, entertainment programs, or watering down the gospel message, to accomplish the task God has given us. All they needed and all we need is Christ. And he is enough.