Taking care of what is needed

“As Jesus came ashore he saw the large crowd and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he taught them many things.” (Mark 6:34 NET).

Jesus cared about people. When he saw this crowd – a large crowd at that – he felt for them. They needed a shepherd, someone to guide them. So he did, by teaching them many things.

And that caused the problem. It became too late – definitely too late for anyone to get anything to eat. There were no McDonalds they could go to (or even fish and chips) – they were in the middle of nowhere. Jesus’ disciples thought they should get rid of the people: “This is an isolated place and it is already very late. Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something for themselves to eat” (Mark 6:35-36). In other words, “it’s not our problem.”

Jesus then made it their problem: “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37). How often are we like the disciples? We don’t want to have to deal with people’s problems. “Send them away” may not be said, but often this may be how we feel. But God wants us to take care of each other, especially when life isn’t going well.

The disciples objected: “Should we go and buy bread for two hundred silver coins and give it to them to eat?” (Mark 6:37). The “silver coin” mentioned here in Greek is a “denarius”. It was worth one day’s wage for a laborer. Two hundred would be more than half a year of wages. In other words, “we don’t have that kind of money!”

Jesus took control of the problem. “‘How many loaves do you have? Go and see.’ When they found out, they said, ‘Five – and two fish’” (Mark 6:38). You can be sure that they did not believe that this was enough. It might feed two or three people at the most. But there were thousands there – it was a large crowd.

Jesus had the people sit down in groups of hundreds and fifties. He then took the food that had been gathered, looked up to heaven and gave thanks, and then began to break the food into pieces. He gave these to the disciples who gave it out to the crowd.

Who would have thought so many could eat and be so satisfied starting with such a small amount of food? “They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces and fish that were left over, twelve baskets full. Now there were five thousand men who ate the bread” (Mark 6:42-44).

For Jesus, this was not anything difficult to do. After all, he created everything out of nothing (see John 1:1-5). Multiplying what already existed would not have been a challenge. But by doing this, he showed that he was deity.

We can learn from this the need to not only teach people, as Jesus did that day but also to take care of physical needs they may have. When both are needed, both need to be given. Often it is easier to react as the disciples did. But that did not help anyone.

“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,’ but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (James 2:16).

“But whoever has the world’s possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person?” (1 John 3:17)

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Photo by Jon Galloway: Church of the Heptapegon – traditional site of where Jesus fed the 5000.

Readings for next week:
18 February – Mark 6
19 February – Mark 7
20 February – Mark 8
21 February – Mark 9
22 February – Mark 10

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