20 – An Incredible Meal
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
- Apostles: Those who have been sent. Another name for the twelve disciples
How would you expect Jesus to react as these people followed him everywhere?
In what ways does a shepherd look after his sheep?
We have already been presented several times with the fact that Jesus is the King. The astonishing connection which is often made in the Bible is between the King as the leader of the people, and one of the most lowly in society – the shepherd. The Old Testament often describes the people of God as sheep who need a shepherd. A shepherd has great responsibility for his sheep, he leads them, watches over them, defends them, feeds them, and even gives his life for them if necessary.
When Jesus looks at this crowd who have followed him in order to listen to him, he realises that they are like sheep. They need someone to look after them, to show the way to them and to provide for their needs. And that is exactly what he does. He begins by telling them that which they need to hear and then in a completely miraculous way feeds 5000 men (not to mention women and children) with 5 loaves and two fishes.
However, Jesus wants them to see more than the fact that he is a good teacher who is able to provide a feast for his followers. This passage includes a number of echoes from the Old Testament. Firstly, he gets people to sit on the grass. Mark makes a point of noting that the grass is green. This reminds us of Psalm 23. There God himself, is the shepherd who makes people lie in pastures green. The second thing that Jesus does here is to give bread to a great number of people in a very lonely place. This reminds us straight away of the way in which God himself fed the Israelites with manna whilst they were in the desert. Jesus Christ is the Lord God, the Good Shepherd and the King who cares for his people.
Do you think there is a reason why Jesus teaches the people before he feeds them?
Why do you think that Jesus creates so much food that there are baskets left over?
to the Great Shepherd to watch over you and to give you the food that you need, both for your body and your soul.