“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
The biographers of Jesus regarded the miraculous supply of food for a large crowd as a key event. Apart from the resurrection of Christ, it is the only miracle recounted in all four Gospels.
These miracles shows that God will provide when we are in need. Jesus was not transforming rocks into food, but multiplying bread and fish. He was doing instantly what he does constantly throughout nature. He was not breaking the “laws of nature,” but was demonstrating that he was in control of these “laws.” Christ’s power to feed a multitude, walk on water, and heal diseases all point to his identity as Lord of creation.
We’ve been going through the gospel of Mark, stopping at places where Jesus asked a question. The question before us now was addressed to ambassadors: “How many loaves do you have? What has God given you that he can put into service to himself?”
Mark 5::30-44 (ESV)
30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.
31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
The disciples returned from their mission and reported to Jesus. They reported two things: what they had done and what they had taught.
How they had lived and what they had taught were both of vital interest to Christ. He had given them precise instructions in both areas. This report would reveal their obedience to Him, the degree of commitment and effectiveness of each disciple. Jesus needed to know, for the salvation of the world depended on their lives and teaching. He was soon to leave all in their hands.
The pairs returned (apparently at a prearranged time) to Capernaum and gathered around Jesus, giving him their reports of all that they had done and taught. This marked the first time the disciples had gone out on their own, so quite naturally, they were full of excitement upon their return—telling stories, sharing together the thrill of preaching the message and doing miracles in God’s power. This had been their training mission, their “student teaching,” and Jesus to their stories and answered their questions.
Jesus told the disciples to take a break. He knew their weaknesses. There is only so much a person can do physically and spiritually; then the body needs rest and the soul needs refreshment. As if it were a new discovery, sports physiologists and motivational experts now preach the wisdom of hard work, then adequate rest. People who hope to accomplish big goals need this healthy rhythm for success and stamina.
Rest allows time for reflection, meditation, conversation, reading, and prayer. In all your work, take a little time to dream. Walk in the woods. Stare at the stars. Count your blessings. Sing a prayer of praise where only God can hear.
33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.
34 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.
A danger is losing sight of people who are as sheep without a shepherd. Again the scene is descriptive. As the boat approached the shore, Jesus stood in the boat watching the multitude clamoring for space on the seashore. He needed rest, and the disciples needed rest even more. But He was not annoyed or irritated with the people. Contrariwise, He was moved with deep, intense compassion because the people were as sheep without a shepherd. He could not turn from them. He could not send them away despite the need for rest. He could do only one thing. He had to meet their need; He had to teach them, so He began “to teach them many things.”
- Sheep without a shepherd are bewildered and wander about, not knowing where they are or where they are going. They get lost ever so easily, and cannot find their way back to the flock. So it is with people. People without the shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, are bewildered. They do not know where they have come from, where they are going, nor why they are where they are. They wander about, getting lost in place after place, never finding the way to true life.
- Sheep without a shepherd go hungry. They do not have adequate nourishment. They cannot find sufficient food to live. So it is with people. People without the Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, go hungry. They do not have the Shepherd of God to feed and inspire their souls, nor to satisfy their inner longings for peace, love, and joy (Galatians 5:22-23). They have only themselves to depend upon as they seek to meet their craving for life.
- Sheep without a shepherd cannot find shelter or safety. The sheep are exposed to all the dangers of the wilderness. So it is with people. People without the Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, are exposed to all that is within the world, and they are doomed. They are doomed because the beasts, the temptations and trials of the world, attack at every opportunity and destroy all who wander about.
Everyone can list a few things in their life which might fit into the category of “impossible.” Jesus had already shown His disciples some pretty “impossible” things; and great crowds of people were beginning to also take notice.
35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late.
36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 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?”
38 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.”
In reply to their question about going and spending an extravagant amount of money on bread, Jesus told them first to check out their resources. “Go and see how many loaves you have.” John records that the five loaves (round barley cakes) and two dried fish they found were from the lunch of a young boy (John 6:9). Apparently, in their hurry, no one else in the crowd had thought to bring along food to eat, or they were unwilling to share it. The young boy offered his lunch to the disciples (specifically to Andrew, see John 6:8), but again the disciples could see only the impossibility of the situation.
39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.
40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties.
41 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.
42 And they all ate and were satisfied.
43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.
44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
– From a Human Perspective.
With their limited, human understanding, these weary fishermen can see only a swelling sea of humanity threatening to wash over them. In verse 10 we’re told that this great multitude numbered 5,000 men. Including women and children, this figure could easily have been 8,000-10,000.
– From a Divine Perspective.
From Jesus’ point of view, the crowds weren’t an infringement but an opportunity–a chance to reveal His glory and, at the same time, stretch his disciple’s faith.
`Resources: there are six attitudes toward resources. It takes resources to meet human need. In consideration of this, there is a fact that needs to be acknowledged. Every person has something he can give. Every person can help and do something to meet a need when a need confronts him. The problem is not lack of resources nor a lack of ability or money or time. The problem is attitude—attitude toward the resources which one has.
- There is the attitude of questioning one’s ability to give (Mark 6:37). Jesus had just said, “Give them food.” The disciples were shocked and even disturbed with the instructions, for the crowd was enormous and the task impossible. They were already upset over the presence and burden of the crowd. Irritated, the disciples fired back at Jesus, “Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?” This amounted to about six months’ labor for the disciples. They did not have the money, so the request by Jesus was ridiculous to them. There was no way they could give food to meet the need of the crowd. But note something: the disciples forgot two things.
- They forgot that they did have something. The need of the crowd in this instance was for food, and the disciples had food for themselves (or at least enough money to buy food for themselves). Yet, they did not think to mention this fact. They were thinking only of what excess, what above their own needs they had to give.
- They forgot the power of God. They forgot that God loved and cared for these people as well as for them. They forgot that God would meet the needs of any and all, if only they would put what they had at His disposal. They forgot that God’s power could take little and multiply it.
- There is the attitude of checking to see what one can give (Mark 6:38). In response to the disciples’ impatience, Jesus remained cool, asking rather forcefully, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” The disciples checked and reported that they had five loaves of bread and two fish. Note two facts.
- They had resources that were overlooked. Why were they overlooked? Because the resources were so little. There was no possibility the resources could ever meet the need. In fact, two fish and five loaves of bread could not even make a dent in the hunger of five thousand men. In the eyes of the disciples it was impossible for the resources to do any good whatsoever.
- Jesus did not ask the disciples to check on how to feed all five thousand men. He asked them to check on what resources they had to give. They were to look at what they themselves could give, not at how the whole task could be done. Their eyes and perspective were to be on using what they had, not on the mammoth impossibility of the task. This is a critical point and it should be carefully noted when looking at the vast needs of the world.
- There is the attitude of organizing what resources one has so that they might be used (Mark 6:39-40). This is an important step Christ takes and it should be well noted. The hour was late. Darkness was rapidly approaching. Distribution could have easily become a problem. The people had to be organized into small circles or rows which left room for the disciples to walk between them and distribute the food.
- There is the attitude of being thankful for what one has and can give (Mark 6:41). What Jesus did was impressive. He took into His hands what they had, and He looked up to heaven and gave thanks for it. It was small; it was insignificant. It looked like it would do little, like it would be insignificant; but He took it anyway and looked up to heaven, and blessed it.
- There is the attitude of giving what one has (Mark 6:41-42). After giving thanks, Jesus took the food and gave it to the disciples to set before the people. And a miracle happened! The resource multiplied: all the people were fed and were filled (Mark 6:42).
- There is the attitude of being careful in the handling of resources (Mark 6:43-44). Very simply, Christ teaches that resources are not to be wasted. They are to be used day after day. When there is more than enough to meet one need, what is left over is to be gathered up to use elsewhere.