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Mark’s first-century biography – page 20

And they (Jesus and his disciples, c. AD 30, Galilee) went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 
The teaching and mighty works of Jesus had been significantly extended by the sending out of his twelve disciples into the villages of Galilee. They have returned and he has called them away to rest. But the multitude of needy people couldn’t let that happen.

Their problem was the fact that each and every one of them lacked a shepherd. The prevailing motivation of “everyone for himself” meant that no one was ever a true, faithful shepherd to another. When he began to teach them “many things”, it was not only because of his own “compassion on” every one of them but also because he wanted, then, to shepherd them.

‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.’ (Psalm 23, c. BC 980)
And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” 

The disciples, then, found the only solution available – “everyone for himself”. But Jesus wanted them, personally, to be responsible for the crowd. 

And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 

Were they being sarcastic about buying £10,000 (today’s value) “worth of bread” in this “desolate place”? Responding, Jesus asked them to find out what they really did have to give others. They’d thought that that was theirs.

Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

"Green grass"? Green pastures? In this solitary place, places of rest were available for everyone. Broken loaves? Divided fish? “They all ate and were satisfied.” There were "twelve baskets" more, one for each disciple, for others. 

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 

It seems that Jesus wanted his twelve disciples to learn something more from the loaves. Did he pray about that? To bow down to such power is one thing. What more can there be? Jesus remained alone and distant on the mountain, on the land, and they were all at sea.

‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ (Psalm 23, c. BC 980) 
And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He wanted to come near them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 

The huge crowd had eaten the bread and fish. But they, like the disciples were frightened of Jesus himself – the omnipotent Jesus. He wanted to be in their boat, with them through huge winds and waves. 

And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

What didn’t they “understand about the loaves”? And were their “hearts hardened” by the “everyone for himself” mentality? What were they missing?

Sinner Syvret

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