30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. 35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[a]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” 39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
While this is a very familiar story to me, there are a couple of things that have jumped out to me in my reading of this passage, as the Holy Spirit is teaching me about ministry during my reflection.
1) This passage follows on from Mark 6:7. The Disciples had been sent out by Jesus in pairs to practice and teach on what they had learned from him. Applying a newly learned skill is tiring! The disciples were likely exhausted from their ministry journey and Jesus identifies this in them, so he suggests that they go away and rest.
2) Over 5000 uninvited guests follow them to a remote place on foot! These followers show that even though opposition to Christ’s ministry was growing and he had recently been somewhat unsuccessful in his home town of Galilee, (Mark 6:5), people have clearly started to realise that there is something special about Jesus.
I wonder if a portion of the followers that are chasing after Jesus were people who were impacted by the ministry journeys of the twelve. The passage does not say, but there is clearly an explosion in the number of followers who are interested in Jesus and what he has to say and do, which could be attributed to the 6 groups going into different places in the local area and telling them about Jesus.
I am also struck by the timing and the scale of the miracle and the fact that the disciples don’t really grasp it as a miracle (Mark 6:52). I wonder how often I miss God’s amazing miracles that happen right in front of me because I have hardened my heart in tiredness from serving Him!!!
Lord, may I be able to be like the disciples and tell people about you so that they turn out in numbers to hear your voice and experience your power. Lord help me to go beyond the limitations that the disciples faced in weariness and enable me to be regenerated in mind, body and spirit by Your Holy Spirit so that I do not harden my heart.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware