Week 6: READ: Mark 6:30-56
Do you remember a time when you did something on a “shoestring?” For those of you too young to be familiar with this saying, it refers to having fun or doing a project around your home for just a few dollars. It is quite amazing how far a couple hundred dollars can get you if you are willing to borrow what you do not have, like a sleeping bag and tent, email a few extended family members or friends to couch-surf for a night along the way, and if you have a cook stove and eat low down on the food chain. Some of our family’s most memorable vacations are those when we went on the cheap, involved the kids in the thrifty adventure and just made the most of our time together.
The twelve returned from their mission but there is no record of what they experienced in the field as they went from village to village. Instead, Jesus tells them it is time to retreat, rest and refocus. They again return to a boat to find a deserted place along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Unfortunately for them, people were so eager to listen and receive healing or to have demons cast out that they anticipated where this boat was headed and beat them there on foot. The fact that they landed on the shore of a remote location indicates that the gathered crowds had nowhere to buy food.
While the twelve suggest inhospitable solutions like sending the crowds away to go and seek out their own food, Jesus sees the crowd as a shepherd views his own sheep fold. A shepherd always watches out for the needs of his sheep like looking for green pastures and still waters where the sheep can find water. Jesus puts the demand to meet the need back on his team. After considering how much bread they would need to purchase to feed the crowd, they look to their own resources: five loaves of bread and a couple of fish.
Among Jesus and his twelve, five loaves of bread and two fish may be enough to at least satisfy them for a while. It would certainly not be a filling meal but ample to alleviate hunger. But among 5000 men? Here is another example how Jesus was like the great prophets of the Old Testament. The prophet Elisha urged a man who had twenty barley loaves and fresh grain to set it before one hundred hungry people in a land marred by famine. The food was far from sufficient to meet the needs of the people. In a prophetic utterance, the man of God said “Thus says the Lord,” give them the food. Like the feeding of the 5000, there were leftovers (2 Kings 4:42-44).
A widow with two children came to the prophet Elisha because creditors were coming to take her children as slaves because of her debt. Elisha asked what she had in her house and all she had was a jar of oil. She was instructed by the man of God to go into the house and start pouring the oil into empty vessels. As she poured the oil kept coming until all her empty vessels were filled with oil. Elisha told her to go and sell this oil and pay off her debt and she and her children could live on the remainder (2 Kings 4:1-7).
After the prophet Elijah had a confrontation with the evil king Ahab who took Jezebel to be his wife, Elijah predicted a drought. What made Ahab so evil in the sight of the Lord was that he worship all types of pagan gods. What follows during the drought are two stories about how God provided for Elijah. In the first story, Elijah was instructed by God to go to the river bed called Cherith, east of the Jordan. He drank from the river and ate in the morning and evening the meat and bread brought to him by a raven (1 Kings 17:3-7). Eventually, the drought dried up the river bed and he needed to relocate.
Next, the Lord told Elijah to go to a village called Zarephath in Phoenicia, near the Mediterranean Sea. God sent him to stay with a widow who he met at the gate of the city gathering wood for one last meal for herself and her son because she only had a little oil and meal left to make bread. Then she and her child would simply die. Elijah told her to make him a little cake first and bring it to him to eat, then do likewise for herself and her son. Until the day that the Lord sent rain, God provided enough oil and meal so that they never went hungry (1 Kings 17:8-16).
One of the key principles of mission is that God has given us all the resources we need to accomplish God’s work. Sometimes we have the resources ourselves but more oftentimes, we need to look and discover all the resources that surround us. Elijah discovered that God could provide through a widow in a gentile country. They never got rich but they always had enough for today. Jesus taught his followers to pray: Give us THIS DAY our daily bread. All we need is enough for today.
God provides all we need for today. The resources we need may be the people of the church, the church building and property, it could be our neighbors, the neighboring school, other churches, community leaders, businesses and industries, and other civic organizations. Let us dare to look beyond ourselves and see the bigger picture of what God wants to accomplish to bless this community and the people in it. It takes relationships, faith to see possibilities and the willingness to look outside the box.
A closing thought on Jesus walking on the water (6:45-52) and additional healings (6:53-56). After the big miracle of feeding 5000 people, Jesus sent his disciples on their way by boat. He walked up into the hills around the Sea and sat down to pray. Retreat, renewal and rest are an important part of recharging your battery before the next situation. Jesus modeled that for us.
It is interesting to note that Jesus was planning to walk past the disciples in the boat and get to the other side (v. 48). Similar to the storm on the sea in chapter 4, they are afraid and he calms the storm. Honestly, I do not find much personal application for my life in Jesus walking on the Sea. What ties this story to the feeding of the 5000 is the left over loaves mentioned in 6:44 and 6:52. The disciples, like the path in the parable of the sower, had hard hearts (5:52; 8:17).
In 5:53-56, we have Mark’s summary of the crowd rushing to Jesus as they get ashore to have him heal the sick. This continued as Jesus and the twelve went from village to village and even to farms (v. 56) for more healing.
Is there a difference today between wants and needs? It has become very confusing today because of our rapidly changing world. Technology and social media is dramatically changing our lifestyles, communication patterns and the speed of information. Are cell phones a want or a need? Better yet, with pay phones and land lines vanishing, it may make cell phones a need but how about smart phones? Do we need to have instant access to the internet all the time, everywhere? Are selfies and videos of everything we see needing to be recorded? Video cell phones are capturing so much of what is going on in our world that they become a mini-news outlet. Are they a want or a need?
While smart phones are not on the lowest rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which includes food, shelter, water, and clothing, it could be argued that it is on the second rung which has to do with safety. Whether it is the pings on a cell tower that prove useful to a homicide investigator or the instant access to call 911, cell phones provide some security.
In this new day of communication on social media, a smart phone is an important way of networking and relating with people. This qualifies as the third rung which is love and belonging. This implies connecting and relating with people which is the very thing smart phones do quickly and quite well. Texting, tweeting and Facetime will never replace face-to-face communication, yet it serves a good purpose. Perhaps after all, on some level, smart phones are a basic human need.
This has everything to do with the idea that God provides. In Hebrew, God provides is Yahweh Yireh (in the KJV it is Jehovah Jireh). The concept of the provision of God is seen in Genesis 22:14 where Abraham has taken his son in obedience to God to Mount Moriah (the same location later identified as Mount Zion in Jerusalem) where he was going to sacrifice his only son Isaac to God. Abraham said the Lord will provide – and provide God did – a lamb in the thicket for sacrifice.
The story of the feeding of the 5000 is a story of God providing food for the hungry. Jesus took the few loaves and fish and it multiplied to meet the need. Many of the soul sowers I think of are women. There is Martha in the gospels who gets a bad rap because she was all about creating a meal to feed her friend and guest, Jesus. Who said Martha could not multitask by both preparing a meal and listening to Jesus teach? Jesus also had a group of women who provided for him and his disciples out of their finances so that they could eat and have strength to do ministry (Luke 8:1-3). There was Lydia in Philippi, Macedonia who provided for Paul and Timothy out of her means while they were in Philippi preaching and teaching about Jesus (Acts 16:11-15). She ran her own business and became perhaps the first Christian in her village. She and her household were baptized. She opened her home to them to eat and sleep while they were there.
There are many examples of soul sowers in the Old Testament as well. Rahab the prostitute, who is another business woman, who opened up her home in the walled city of Jericho to the two Jewish spies (Joshua 2:1). When the king came looking for them, she hid them at her own risk. Later, she helped them escape over the wall to safety (Joshua 2:6-16). Rahab went above and beyond in helping these men in God’s name be safe.
Another example is Ruth, the daughter-in-law of a Naomi, a Jewish woman. Both Rahab and Ruth were gentiles who helped by providing what they could to Jews. Ruth accompanied Naomi back to her home country and village called Bethlehem. Ruth risked herself in a foreign country to go and harvest grain along the edges of the fields to provide food for Naomi and herself.
What is of further interest in the lives of these two gentile women is that they are listed in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). Rahab becomes the mother-in-law of Ruth when she remarries Boaz, Rahab’s son. In addition, Ruth’s grandson is David the King of Israel and he is Rahab’s great-grandson. Jesus comes from a family of great courage and generosity. These characteristics are not lost on Jesus either.
- Who comes to mind when you think of an example of providing for the needs of other people – not just your own family? This is a person of generosity.
- How did this person provide for others? What do you think motivated them to give beyond themselves?
- What would be an example of when you have seen God at work in providing for you or your family?
- How might you respond to today’s lesson?