July 25, 2021
Order of Worship:
As we continue our series on Holy Meals, this week we’re taking a look at one of Jesus’s best-known miracles. We pray the Spirit would open our hearts to the lessons of the Word.
- The Feeding of the Five Thousand is one of the only stories found in all four gospels. As we know, the gospel writers each tell their story of Jesus a little differently; what do you think is so significant about this miracle that every author made sure to include it? Read the other accounts in Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-15. What do you notice that is the same? What’s different? Are there any details that stand out to you in a particular telling? What do you think the Spirit has to say to you today through this story?
- As Mark (and Luke) tells it, this scene follows the return of the 12 from their mission. They have been teaching, casting out demons, and anointing the sick among all the villages of the area (Mark 6:7-13). They’ve been hard at work in ministry among the people, and when they return Jesus tells them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest” (verse 31). We sometimes forget that with all the good mission work we’re told to ‘do,’ we are also commanded to rest (Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Why is rest so important to our spiritual life? Do you have Sabbath practices that allow you to rest well? What are they? How often do you retreat?
- Even though Jesus and the disciples are looking for a break in a ‘deserted place’ the crowds see where they’re headed and follow them around the edge of the lake. As Jesus comes ashore and sees the crowd, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (verse 34). The Hebrew word for compassion is רַ֫הַם which is the same root as the word for ‘womb.’ Jesus has a kind of deep, maternal love for these people who are hungry, not just for food but for his teachings of hope, mercy, and grace. So, even though he must be exhausted, he begins to teach them and continues until the hour ‘grew late’ (verse 35). How do you show compassion for strangers that you meet, even when you’re tired and depleted? How do you kindle that attitude of love toward everyone? How have you experienced Christ’s compassion toward yourself this week?
- As it gets later and later, the disciples come to Jesus and tell him to send the people away to “buy something for themselves to eat” (verse 36). He responds with a command that will be echoed at another shore-side meal; “You give them something to eat” sounds a lot like “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). The disciples reply, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them?” This question has to be rhetorical because: 1) the disciples don’t have 200 denarii – remember they’ve just returned from their mission where Jesus told them to take nothing: no bag, no money, only their sandals (Mark 6:8); and 2) a denarii was only enough to buy one person’s daily bread; 200 won’t feed 500 people, let alone 5,000! It seems like Jesus is asking them to do something impossible. Have you ever felt that way? What problems in the world do you care about but they seem too massive and overwhelming to know where to start? What do you think Jesus is calling you to do for those situations right now?
- The disciples only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish; a meager morsel they were probably planning to share for their own supper. But they offer it to Jesus, and then something incredible happens! “He looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people” (verse 41). You should once again hear echoes from another meal Jesus will share with the disciples – on their last night together before the crucifixion (Mark 14:22, Matt. 26:26, Luke 22:19). This meal by the lake also becomes a ‘sacrament’ – a visible, tangible sign of God’s invisible but ever-present grace. From their small gift, the power of the Holy Spirit manages to feed everyone, with baskets left over! Have you ever seen God take a small offering and make it multiply into something greater? What might Jesus be calling you to give or share with others?
The site on the shores of the Galilee where this story is traditionally said to have taken place is called Tabgha. There is a church there which was built around 350AD, and on the floor in front of the alter is an ancient Byzantine mosaic (pictured above). If you look closely, you’ll notice only four loaves of bread in the basket; the fifth loaf is on the Table every time the people gather to worship. It’s a way of inviting us into this story, to experience this miracle for ourselves and be fed by our compassionate Shepherd.
As we prepare to come again to celebrate communion ourselves this Sunday, I hope you’ll carry this story in your heart and learn from the Spirit what it has to say to you.
Peace to you all,
Pastor Maggie Rust