May the joy of your salvation fill your mouth with gratitude and praise of the living God, even as He fills your hearts to overflowing with His love by His Holy Spirit.
Filling up the edges
All the under shepherds failed. The kings failed. The leaders of Israel failed. So God promises to come and shepherd Israel Himself.
Ezekiel 34:14–15 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD.
Jesus is revealing that this is not a merely a poetic flourish. God’s promise to shepherd Israel is incarnational. I’ve said Jesus embodies and parabolically lives out the history, prophecies and promises of God. But what does that mean?
Jesus is revealing Himself to be the true Shepherd of God’s flock. Jesus is revealing that He Himself, is THE Shepherd, the Lord; Yahweh Himself.
Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Everything that follows is parabolic. Its living metaphor. Its fulfillment. Jesus is living out Psalm 23 as a witness to who he is himself and who the triune God is.
Jesus sits the crowds down and begins to “teach them many things,” verse Mark 6:34.
Psalm 23:3“…He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake…”
The news of John’s death is making the rounds. The righteous are meeting a bleak end at the hands of the wicked authorities.
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
God promised to be the shepherd of Israel and Jesus is revealing Himself in very great detail, to be that Shepherd.
Mark 6:35–38And 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.”
The disciples felt compelled to call Jesus’ attention to the lateness of the hour and the scarcity of provision for the evening meal which was close at hand.
Jesus knows where they are. Jesus knows how many people are there. Jesus knows who in that crowd has a bologna sandwich and who doesn’t.
Jesus is not unaware of the circumstances which put the crowds and disciples in great need.
God does not usually lead us to see a need, unless it is in his mind to meet that need, often through us, unwilling though we may be.
The disciples were utterly unprepared for Jesus’ instruction to provide for the needs of the multitude.
This is evident from the astonishment expressed in their question about purchasing bread, which is disrespectful in tone, and points unmistakably to the impossibility of complying with Jesus’ order.
Jesus’ refusal to let the issue rest by insisting that they count their reserves of bread forces the recognition that the situation was beyond human resourcefulness.
Five small barley loaves and two salted or roasted fish were insignificant in the presence of so much need, and the disciples echoed Moses’ cry of anguish in the wilderness: “Where shall I find meat to give to all these people?… Shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to satisfy them?” (Num. 11:13, 22).
Jesus is the living embodiment of Israel’s history. Just as Moses cried out to God in the wilderness, so too the disciples cry out to Jesus in the wilderness. Who is Jesus equal to, in that comparison?
The disciples are tired. They were offered rest, but instead they are now called to greater labor in more difficult circumstances than even their preaching mission.
What kind of rest is Jesus offering his followers? The disciples have no compassion and though the crowd wanted to follow them, they want to send the crowd away. They don’t see the crowd as leaderless or as a ministry opportunity.
They see the crowd’s need, not as an opportunity to serve, but as an opportunity to rid themselves of the burden.
Jesus’ version of rest for faithful followers is more labor alongside of Himself. And oh, how we grumble. Haven’t we done enough? What about my needs? My concerns?
What’s of further interest, is the actual factof the miracle is not recounted and cannot be described.
Whether the bread increased in the hands of Jesus or in the hands of the disciples who distributed it was not considered important to relate. The Kingdom of God in action.
Jesus still used these grumblers and ingrates to perform miracles for the masses. Heartening.
Mark 6:39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.
Psalm 23:1–2The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
Green grass beside the lake of Gennesaret.
Mark 6:40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. This is an echo of Exodus 18:21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.
Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
The disciples took up twelve baskets of leftovers. Jesus provided for the whole crowd, but 12 baskets of leftovers were taken up for disciples. 12 represents the nation of Israel but also, the 12 disciples would not be provided for as the journeyed on. Jesus provides for His people, His flock, and since armies march on their stomachs, Jesus provides for the spread of the Gospel.
Compare toExodus 16:15–18 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.
Jesus doesn’t just provide for their need but provides even more. Something greater than Moses is here. Greater teaching. Greater power. Greater provision.
Mark 6:42–44 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.
Five thousand men was an immense gathering since large neighboring towns like Capernaum and Bethsaida had only 2000–3000 inhabitants each.
But we know from Luke that there are women and children. The estimates are closer to 15-20 thousand people.
In the eyes of the people Jesus remained an enigmatic prophetic teacher (cf. Ch. 6:14 f.), because they don’t seem to be aware that a miracle occurred.
But he should have been recognized by the disciples as the Son of God, at whose disposal are all of the riches of his Father.
The people fail to perceive who Jesus is and they do not understand him. The disciples do not understand him although they were given an abundant opportunity to experience who He is. Like the Exodus generation, they are slow to perceive, quick to fear circumstances more than God.
That is why they alone are reproved for their hardness of heart and their failure to grasp the meaning of the miracle of the loaves in the subsequent narrative (Chs. 6:52; 8:17–21).
Failing to grasp the miracle. Failure to follow the shepherd, to comprehend, to thank, to obey, to honor the great shepherd of our souls.
Around the Web
A compelling movie about the state of Seattle.
For the Fruitful Planting of God’s Word (Mark 4:20)
Almighty God, and most Merciful Father, I humbly submit myself to you and bow down before your majesty, praying form the bottom of my heart that the seed of your word, which you have sown within me, may take such deep root, that the burning heat of persecution may not cause it to wither, nor the thorny cares of the life choke it, but that, as seed sown in good ground, it may bring forth thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold, according to he direction of your heavenly wisdom. And, because I continually need to look for many things, from you hand, I humbly ask for your Holy Spirit to direct my requests, so that they may proceed from truthful intentions that are in agreement with your most blessed will.
GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE
Friday, April 19, 7pm at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell