Yesterday, we continued our series through the Gospel of Mark. I preached from Mark 6:30-44 which is the record of Jesus feeding the multitude of 5,000 men plus the women and children. The only miracle recorded in the New Testament from Jesus’ earthly ministry to be documented by all four gospel writers, other than the resurrection of Jesus, is this miracle of the feeding of the multitude. This is a significant miracle and one that sets the stage for Jesus to demonstrate the reality that He is the bread of life.
Jesus and the apostles were tired from the intensity of ministry, and Jesus called the apostles to join Him for a season of rest in a desolate region on the other side of the sea. As they crossed the sea, some people saw Jesus and the apostles enter the boat and depart, and they decided to run around the northern rim (an 8 or 10 mile journey) of the Sea of Galilee in order to follow the group.
When Jesus arrived and saw the multitude, He had deep compassion for them. He viewed them as sheep without a shepherd. If you add the women and children, depending on the number of children and family members, the crowd could easily have numbered over 20,000 people. They had no leader. They had no teacher. The religious establishment of the day was corrupt and full of legalism. Jesus had compassion for them.
In order to care for them, out of compassion, Jesus taught them. This was His method of showing love for people. His ministry was not a traveling circus act. His ministry was centered upon the teaching and preaching of the Word of God (Mark 1:14; Mark 2:2; Mark 3:14; Mark 4:1). Jesus didn’t call the Power Team to come and tear phone books or bend metal bars before the multitude. He didn’t call a traveling singing group to come and entertain the crowd. Instead, He taught them many things (Mark 6:34). Albert Mohler reminds us about Luther’s commitment to the Word:
In the course of the Reformation, Luther’s driving purpose was to restore preaching to its proper place in Christian worship. Referring to the incident between Mary and Martha in Luke 10, Luther reminded his congregation and students that Jesus Christ declared that “only one thing is necessary,” the preaching of the word (Luke 10:42). Therefore, Luther’s central concern was to reform worship in the churches by re-establishing there the centrality of the reading and preaching of the word.
In many ways, we live in an age where we need a renewed commitment for God’s Word. Many people believe it’s the Word of God, but they reject the sufficiency of the Bible. That may not be a public confession or doctrinal position that they openly embrace, but it’s visible in the methods of ministry in many churches. We would be shocked to know how many staff members and pastors sit around and talk about how to make the worship service more exciting or entertaining. Luther’s commitment for God’s Word was rooted in Jesus’ commitment to the Word of God.
The apostles lacked faith as the sun was starting to set and they looked at their geographic location and realized that they had nothing to feed the multitude and no means to supply it, so they thought. Their method was to send the crowds away, but Jesus insisted that the apostles were to feed the crowd. They were astonished and rather negative in their response to Jesus’ enquiry about how much bread they had available. Their response, according to Mark was, “Five and two fish” (Mark 6:38). If you look at Matthew 14:17 and John 6:9, you will see that their response was rather pessimistic.
Jesus commanded everyone to sit down in an orderly fashion and then He took the five bread cakes and two small fish and after praying, He broke them and had the apostles distribute the food to the entire multitude. Everyone ate until they were completely satisfied. In fact, Mark provides us with the report that they had twelve baskets full of broken bread and fish remaining. They had more left over than they started with – and everyone was satisfied. This was a creative miracle by Jesus – the One who spoke the World into existence ex nihilo was also capable of providing food for the entire multitude.
In John’s account, He went on after this miracle to make the definitive statement – “I am the bread of life.” The miracle served two primary purposes:
1. To teach the apostles to have faith in Jesus. Although they had witnessed Jesus heal the sick, calm a raging storm, tame a wild demon possessed maniac, and raise the dead, they still failed to see Jesus as the divine supply in their time of need. They focused on their remote location and the late hour rather than upon Jesus. How is this similar to how we live life in fear, doubt, anxiety, and worry?
2. To teach the multitude that He is the bread who came down from heaven. He isn’t like the bread that their forefathers ate in the wilderness and then died. He is the bread that came down from heaven and whoever eats of Him will never die. This was symbolic and He used the story of the Israelites eating manna in the wilderness as an illustration to prove His point.
The question is – have you placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins? He is your only hope. His physical miracles point to the reality that He has dominion and power to forgive sins – do you believe?