This post is a condensed version of a message I preached last fall.
In Mark 6, Jesus calls the 12 disciples to go out and preach. As they were doing so, they were to minister to those they met. They were to take none of the comforts of life with them. They were to trust God to provide for them, and evidently, God did, because they returned! I can only imagine the exciting things they got to see during this time — healings, demons cast out, salvations, miraculous provision for their needs.
Now, they’ve returned to Jesus — excited, but undoubtedly weary. They’ve lived from day to day, walking, preaching, and serving, for an extended period of time. Jesus is aware of this, and wants them to be able to rest. So they try to steal away into the desert privately.
It doesn’t work — somebody spots them, word spreads quickly that the Master is leaving, and the people begin chasing them on foot! What a sight that must have been — hordes of people on land following thirteen men in a boat into the desert! As a matter of fact, they beat Jesus and His disciples to the desert!
Jesus sees them as they disembark, and does not have the heart to send them away. They’re longing to hear Him, and He is longing to teach them. As long as He held the truth, how could He hold it back, no matter how tired He was? Remember, He is now in a human body that can get tired as well. Perhaps the disciples are not the only ones that would like to rest. However, He is overcome by the need that these people have, and it was too much for Him to turn away. He had to begin teaching — so He did.
Now, imagine you’re the disciples. You’ve just come through a long period of ministry, pouring out of yourself to help others in need, traveling on foot with minimal provisions. Now, that has come to an end and you’re finally able to rest. You try to leave without drawing attention to yourselves, but someone notices, and calls out. Suddenly, you’re being chased by this huge crowd of people. I’m sure the disciples were calling out, “Row, row, row, let’s get out of here! Keep moving! Get this boat out on the open water!”
They arrive in the desert and are met with this large crowd. Can you just see them looking at Jesus, waiting for Him to send the crowd away so they can rest? But they see that look in His eyes that they’ve seen before — the look of mercy and compassion. He begins to teach again, and there goes their day of rest.
Time passes by. The people listen, spellbound, past suppertime and into the evening. Toward the closing of daylight, the disciples come to Jesus with a suggestion. “Send the people away, so they can go back to civilization, buy bread, and eat supper.”
I wonder if this was a subtle way of trying to get rid of the crowd. “The people need to eat. We don’t want to keep them from their food any longer.” Maybe what they meant was, “We need our rest! We’ve already wasted a whole day. Let’s send them away already.”
You know you’ve thought it before. Someone is at your house and you try giving little hints to get them to leave, “Oh, I don’t want to take up too much of your time.” Really, that’s not your thought at all! Really you want them to go so you can have time to do whatever is on your schedule.
Jesus’ answer must have floored them. “Give ye them to eat.” “Why don’t you serve them?” Already Jesus has messed up their schedule, and now after their long journey of ministry, instead of resting, He’s asking them to serve some more!
Then someone noticed their short supply. “Shall we go and buy 200 pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?” I’m told through my studies that a penny was about a day’s wages. If you work minimum wage for 10 hours a day, that’s $72.50 by our standards. Multiply this by 200 and that’s the disciples estimate: $14,500. Imagine God telling you to feed a crowd of thousands of people, and you say, “Oh sure, let me just go scrounge up $15,000 and go buy food for them.”
“Jesus, you just sent us on this trip with no money. Where are we going to get all the money to buy them this food?” They were looking at the insufficiency of their own supply.
Jesus’ focus, however, is not on what they don’t have, but on what they do. They brought their little fishes and bread to Him. Jesus tells them to make the people sit down. Can you imagine what they’re thinking now? Suppose someone told you to feed a crowd of 10,000 people, and you told them, “I have an apple and some French fries,” and they said, “Good, have them sit down and get ready to eat.” Wait, what?
“Um…Jesus, you realized we said 5 loaves, not 5,000, right?”
Jesus sits down, blessed the food, and gave the disciples the food to divvy out, and somehow, every time they reached into the basket expecting nothing but crumbs, more bread and fish were there. Can you imagine how that must have felt, handing out food that was magically appearing in your basket?
They all ate and were filled. Every single person was full. Remember, they’d been sitting all day listening to Him teach without eating. It was later than the usual supper time. They were hungry, and now they are feasting on 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish! Then, to top it off, they took up 12 baskets full of leftovers. That food was multiplied in the hands of the Lord immensely! Their measly supply became an overabundance in the hands of the Master.
When they looked at their supply, they saw a pathetic shortage. But when they gave what little they had to God, God multiplied it greatly and it was more than enough to meet the need that was pressing upon them.
I think Jesus was trying to teach His disciples more than “I’m a magic bread-and-fish maker.” Jesus was trying to teach His disciples that when you see someone with a need, rather than look at your own schedule and your own supply, look at it from God’s point of view. See what He might have on the schedule for you to do that day. Look at God’s supply — if He’s scheduled for you to meet that need, don’t you think He has the means to supply it? God’s schedule is what’s important, and God’s supply is far above yours.
God schedules divine appointments for us every day with people who have needs. Yet how often are we too busy or too broke in our own eyes to even realize what God could do if we surrendered ourselves, our schedules, and our supplies into his hands?