He did it twice. Fed thousands of hungry people with a few loaves, that is. Twice and still the disciples didn’t get it.
Comparing the two incidents when Jesus feeds the multitudes in the Gospel of Mark, here’s what I see:
Mark 6 (the first time):
- Jesus calls the disciples away to rest.
- A crowd meets them and Jesus has compassion, teaches until it is late.
- Disciples: Send them away; it’s dinner time.
- Jesus: You give them food.
- Disciples: Are we supposed to find money to feed them all?
- Jesus: Give me what you have.
Mark 8 (the second time):
- The crowd is hungry.
- Jesus calls the disciples and presents the dilemma: he can’t send them away.
- Disciples: Well, there’s nothing here in this desert.
- Jesus: How many loaves do you have? (7)
- After distributing those, he takes their fish, too.
Then after two breathtaking demonstrations of power and generosity, both times the disciples forget (see 8:14–21).
What’s up with that?
The disciples seem self-centered, blind, uncaring. In Mark 6, their rare time alone with the Lord is disrupted. Enough with these others, they seem to think. Send them away! I can imagine them thinking Come on, Jesus; you, yourself, told us to rest.
In Mark 8, it seems the disciples are part of the crowd. This time, Jesus doesn’t call them to rest, he calls them to himself to notice the needs around them. The disciples don’t share his compassion, though. They see only the desert around them; they see only the lack of food.
Am I the same?
I want to condemn their hardness of heart but instead, as I read I’m convicted:
How often do I jealously guard my expectation of rest, and banish the needs of others? What if the Lord wants to give to me so that others might receive?
How often do I zero in on the impossibility of a situation? On my dryness, or insufficiency? On the overwhelming needs?
When I’m flush with goods and time on my hands, I’m eager to give. But when I’m not: how often do I push the needs of others away, or ignore them? How often do I say to the Lord, “send them away” or “there’s no hope here”?
How often do I forget what he’s done in the past?
How often do I forget who he is?
There is another way
As I ponder these two passages, another comes to mind:
A wedding reception where it’s getting late and there’s nothing left to give.
A mother who notices the need. Who has compassion on the guests. Who simply takes it to her son: “They have no wine.” Then tells the others, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:3,5).
Lord, give me that kind of faith!
© 2022 Sarah Christmyer
What do you hear in this story? Come into the Word with me! Listen to Mark 8:1–8; ponder it and allow the Lord to speak to your heart in this lectio divina audio.
Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash.