Mark 6:30 – 43
30The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42And all ate and were filled; 43and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
Jesus had just learned of the death of his friend (Luke says John the Baptist was his cousin, but Mark does not make that connection). The disciples return from their mission and are anxious to tell Jesus all that they had done and taught. And the crowd continues to press all around. Jesus sees that they all need a break! There are times when we need to take time away, time to rest and relax, pray and contemplate; time to reconnect our spiritual lives with God. And so Jesus says “come away to a deserted place and rest a while.” And they get into a boat and set out to a place that should have been a quiet, deserted place where they could rest!
But that was not to be the case. Their vacation, or sabbatical, was immediately interrupted. The “crowd” had figured out where they were going and arrived there as soon as they did. Jesus felt for them (had compassion on them), and he began to teach them many things – Jesus immediately forgot his own need of a time of grief, a time to rest, when faced with the needs of the people. The disciples were tired, however, and ready to be rid of this crowd. As evening approached they saw an opportunity – they came to Jesus, saying, send the crowd away so they can go into the villages and find themselves something to eat. But Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” Looking at their material resources, the disciples decided that they did not have enough money to buy bread, and reported to Jesus that they had only five loaves and two fishes. And Jesus told them to have the people sit down on the grass – and they did – and Jesus blessed the bread, and broke it, and gave it to them to pass out to the people. And all of them ate, and were filled (some translations say “satisfied”). They had fed 5000 men (plus the women and children), and still they took up 12 baskets of pieces that were left over.
The disciples did not yet have faith enough to believe that Jesus could do what was beyond their resources to do. Sometimes, even for us, we begin to doubt that our resources will meet the need we feel called to meet; and when we doubt, we sometimes fail to try the mission – we too want to send the people away.
There is a connection in this story to Jesus’ mission, and to Moses. Jesus was to establish a new covenant with the people – Like Moses he fed the people with bread in the wilderness. There is also a connection to his last supper, when he would again break the bread. He gives of himself when he feeds the people in the wilderness. Do we give of ourselves to serve him?
There is a chapel in the place where this miracle was said to have occurred, a place called "Tabgha". On the floor is an ancient mosaic, of a basket of bread and two fish. (photo attached)