I was reading the feeding of the 5000 in Mark’s gospel today. It set me thinking.
Here’s the scene – the apostles had been sent out by Jesus to do ‘the stuff’. To cast out demons, heal the sick, tell people to repent. To do the stuff they had watched Jesus do and they did.
12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
Mark 6: 12-13
Now they have come back to Jesus and are telling Him about all they had done. Can you imagine how they must have felt? The excitement, enthusiasm, the vibrating bodies as they waited their turn to tell Him what they had done. But the people kept coming and going and so Jesus invited the 12 apostles to go to a quiet place and rest.
WOW one on one time with Jesus (well 12 on 1 but you get the picture). They must have been so proud – Jesus understood just how tired and hungry they must be after all that work. Maybe they thought He is going to reward us somehow. Maybe they thought He would reveal more secrets of the Kingdom. Maybe they were just looking forward to lying by those quiet waters. Into the boat and off they went. But the people saw, they recognised Jesus AND the apostles (the text says recognised them) and they ran to catch up to get ahead even so they were waiting when the boat landed.
Jesus saw the crowd and He had compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd. What other response would we expect? But we have the benefit of hindsight and I have heard people suggest that the Apostles were annoyed by the crowd because this was ‘their’ time. Maybe they were, maybe I would be. The text doesn’t actually describe the reaction of the Apostles until it gets late. Then maybe we can discern a touch of annoyance. The disciples set out their argument very rationally.
It’s very late. This is a remote place. Send the people away so they won’t be hungry. Sounds perfectly reasonable no? But the Bread of Life had other ideas. “You give them something to eat.”
WHAT? Maybe they did a double take. Maybe they looked at the crowd and then back at Jesus with dropped jaws. (paraphrasing) “You have to be kidding Lord, it’d take a fortune to feed all these people and don’t get me started on the fact there’re no shops around here.” Contrast that with Peter’s response here.
Jesus didn’t lose patience with them, or snap at them, or even sigh and show forbearance. He asked them to gather what they had and then fed the 5000+ with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. Leftovers filled 12 baskets. I wonder how coincidental it was that there were 12 disciples?
Let me labour the point. The chosen 12 had come back from a great, successful ministry trip. Full of healing and deliverance and preaching the gospel. They are looking forward to a rest, some quiet time to recover. Totally reasonable in my eyes, but the crowd doesn’t stop coming and going. And maybe, very much like me when my plans get spoiled, they were a bit annoyed. And missed out on the chance to multiply the bread themselves. I don’t believe Jesus would have asked them to do what they couldn’t.
They went on to do even greater things. But I wonder if they wish they had said what Simon (Peter) said when Jesus first asked him to do something ‘unreasonable’.
Because you say so, I will…
I want that to be my response. Always.