Mark 6:30-44 tells us that the apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 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.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 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. 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. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 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?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 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. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
I’m just thinking on paper here, but did you notice that when they returned from the mission, they’re called “Apostles”, but in verse 35, they’re disciples? I wonder if their titles are in sync with what they’re doing? Jesus did mentioned elsewhere “A leader will earn his title through serving others.” For example, you’re a Pastor because you pastor. You’re not called a Pastor first – or maybe this is just showing that the titles are interchangeable? Maybe we’re being reminded that regardless of what our missions (or titles) are, we’re always to also be Jesus’ disciples? Or maybe I’m just thinking too much into this.
Notice also the importance of needing rest in an isolated place. I mean, people will always need teaching/preaching to, but the workers must also take some time off. Notice also Jesus’ compassion and His understanding of needing rest:
- To go off by Himself
- To go to a quiet place and get some rest
Even with the extreme urgency of Jesus’ mission, He still recognized and introduced them to the need to recharge, rest up, eat and build up strength.
Sometimes, plans to rest are delayed by need. Jesus saw them as sheep without shepherds, scattered around, no place to go, no one to lead them, and spiritually thirsty. Remember also that for Pastors, there’s no such thing as a vacation (or retirement), just temporary relocation of mission. Verse 35 opens it up:
- The disciples were so busy that they missed lunch
- They got into a boat to travel to a place by themselves, away from the people, to eat and rest.
- But when they got there, they were faced with the need to work…or at least, delay their meal a little longer.
- So by now, they had missed lunch, it’s past dinner time, and these guys want to eat.
- This would explain why they “told” Jesus to send the people away to get food for themselves.
Here, it sounds like they were concerned about the people, but in fact, they were actually more concerned about themselves (which would explain why Jesus rebuked them). For remember:
- They were already hungry when they left to go there
- They were looking forward to some down-time with Jesus, but then suddenly all these people show up and are waiting for them.
- So their vacation is now delayed, as well as their lunch break.
So this time, they weren’t just hungry, but they were also cranky and tired, so they told Jesus to send the people away in a way that makes it sound like they’re concerned about the people. But Jesus, knowing their hearts, knew that they were really just thinking about themselves, their needs and wants, so He challenges them saying, “You give them something to eat.”
Their response in verse 37 confirms this: “What? That would cost almost a full year’s salary! Do you expect us to go and spend that much on food and give it to THEM?!” In other words,
- ‘You’re crazy, man! That’s a lot of money!’
- ‘I worked hard for this cash. I’m not going to spend it all on THESE people.’
- ‘My money is my money, for me to spend as I wish. And I don’t wish to spend it on bread for a bunch of strangers.
- homeless people
- church leaders
- dirty, smelly, ugly people
(Let me know if you’ve never said (or thought) any of this when approaching a homeless person).
But Jesus felt they were important enough to put His rest-time aside in order to teach them (I doubt this was a savior-roll symptom, even though He is the Savior. The theme here is “Compassion”). Jesus was testing their hearts for hospitality and service: “A leader will earn his title through serving others.”
Ministry is not a job with a time clock. Ministry is also not a 9-5 job – we’re never off the clock. But your ministry’s focus must be for the lost, not your money or yourselves. I’ll admit, I get burned out and tired from “doing ministry” sometimes, and I try to take a break. But even when on vacation, I’ll often find opportunities (necessities) to talk with somebody about Jesus.
The point that Jesus is trying to make here though is not that they should never rest, for we know that even Jesus often sneaked away at night to pray by Himself. We also know this because such was the reason they left in the boat in the first place. Jesus’ point is also not that they should put the mission above their own need for food (I know this from experience) or rest. What I do believe Jesus’ points are here, are:
- Compassion must be at the heart of your ministry
- Authentic love and concern for the lost/others must be in your hearts and minds
- Don’t be selfish.
The thing about this though is that these days, I wonder if Jesus wouldn’t be seen as irresponsible or a workaholic, or even prideful, as a celebrity? ‘Your own workers are hungry, but you seem more concerned for these others. Feed first your family, let them rest, then they may help you teach these other people.’ But Jesus never sinned, so there must be something else going on here.
Thought: When the 12 returned from their mission, they reported on all that they had done and taught, but didn’t say anything about the people’s responses…it was all about them. Now, their focus was on themselves and their own hunger, not on people or their spiritual hunger. So this whole day, their focus was on themselves.
What or who is the focus for your ministry? (we all have ministries, even you)
- Big Church? (vs. Many saved and sent out?)
- Lots of money to buy things? (vs. funding many missions and ministries?)
- Popularity/fame among other churches (vs. glory to God alone?)
- Power (vs. opportunities for service?)
- Self (vs. Jesus?)
Jesus’ focus was on the lost people and His mission. Jesus had great compassion on them, and so He put their needs before His own.
I mean, you’ve got to figure, these 12 (11) would later carry on (continue) Jesus’ mission. He needed them to understand that others’ spiritual needs were so much more important/urgent than their own physical needs. Especially, they needed this training because in about 3 years, many of them would experience such trials (physical hardships) and would need to remember the focus of their mission to keep them going. Like physical training: You’re hungry, weak, tired, in pain, etc. But you’ve got a mission so much more important.
As with today, many are driven by how they feel. If they feel tired, weak, hurt, hungry, etc., they’ll change their focus to fulfill them. But Jesus’ mission will try us on those feelings and regardless, there is a deeper need. As with Elijah, God had a mission for him. He was tired, depressed, hungry, afraid, lonely and just wanted to die. But God sent His angel to feed and care for Elijah, and gave him a mission.
Understand, ministry is not (nor supposed to be) about comfort, it’s about mission, and sometimes you’ll be pushed past your limits. Now also, if you don’t have compassion for those to whom you’re sent, then no matter your abilities, no ministry will be fruitful. Your heart must be broken for those you’re sent to save. If it is, then nothing will deter you from sharing Christ with them, not even hunger, fear, fatigue, pain, threats, etc.
- Putting your own needs before others with ministry sometimes shows that we may not recognize others’ immediate need of knowing Jesus. Do we recognize this need? If so, then how are you doing at making it a priority?
- When you’re on your way to something planned, how do you respond to somebody’s obvious need of knowing Jesus? Do you respond as Jesus did, or as His disciples did?
In the end, Jesus not only fed them spiritually, but also physically…the needs of both groups of crowds.