FEEDING HIS FLOCK
Faithful God, change both excites me and frightens me. May my security be in You. Open me to You anew.
Read MARK 6:30–44
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
New International Version (NIV)
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“He tends his flock like a shepherd” (Isa. 40:11). We should always be grateful for the shepherd’s loving care.
I suspect that most of you reading these notes will be able to recount today’s story without looking at the text, but I wonder if you noticed the absence of the boy who appears in John’s Gospel (John 6:9); the remarkable lack of reaction of the crowd, almost as if they were oblivious to what had happened; and the apparent lack of response of the disciples.
I wonder also if you noticed something else. Yes, the miracle is about God’s miraculous provision for the people, but did you notice the statement that Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were “like sheep without a shepherd” (34)? Unlike Herod and his style of leadership (14–29), Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11,14) who feeds his people so that they will be satisfied and not be in want (Psa. 23:1).
God had promised through the prophet that he would raise up a shepherd who would care for his flock (Ezek. 34:23), and in this account that is precisely what Jesus demonstrates. He is the Shepherd that God promised, who will gather his people into a renewed community, providing for their needs abundantly so that all
are satisfied, even to the point of leftovers (42,43). The disciples do not understand. They miss the significance of what the feeding miracle demonstrates about the person of Jesus (Mark 6:52; 8:14–21).
Are we any different? In our familiarity with this story we may easily focus on the bread and miss the significance of the Good Shepherd who acts in compassion towards his people and provides for them in abundance. Of course, despite the miraculous provision of food, the people will get hungry again, but we can remind ourselves that the Good Shepherd who feeds his people is himself the “bread of life” who satisfies completely not our physical hunger but our spiritual hunger (John 6:35).
Jesus satisfied both the physical and spiritual needs of people. How can we, as God’s people, seek to provide for both?
Lord Jesus, You are my shepherd. You have watched over me and provided for me so many times. I return to You my grateful thanks.