October 6, 2016 • Life for Leaders
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.
The story of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand begins with Jesus’ compassion on the crowds who had followed him (6:34). The multitudes had followed Jesus into the wilderness to hear him teach. When they became hungry and had almost no food, Jesus produced enough for all to eat, beginning with only five loaves and two fish. After everyone was stuffed, twelve baskets of extra food were collected.
For most of my life, I saw this story as an illustration of Jesus’ compassion and his divine power. Because he cared for the multitudes, he fed them with food produced by God’s amazing strength. These conclusions, however true, miss much of what those who actually experienced this miracle would have discerned.
Those who were fed by Jesus would have recalled a time when God supplied their ancestors with supernatural food in the wilderness. God provided manna to feed the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 16). Since the exodus was the chief Old Testament symbol of God’s salvation, Jesus’ miracle of multiplying the loaves and fish suggested that God was, once again, saving his people from bondage.
Why did Jesus feed the multitudes? Yes, it was an expression of his compassion. Yes, it was a demonstration of his power. But it was also a way for Jesus to identify himself with the Lord who once fed his people miraculously. This same Lord was alive in Jesus, feeding his people as evidence of the salvation he was soon to provide.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you envision Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, what do you see? What do you feel?
Can you think of a time when the Lord “fed” you miraculously?
What does it mean to you that Jesus is your Savior?
Lord Jesus, thank you for having compassion on the crowds. Thank you for having compassion on me. Thank you for feeding me with your Word. Thank you for providing all that I need.
Help me, Lord, to see you more completely. May I relate to you, not only as one who can meet my needs, but also as the Lord of lords, the one who is sovereign over all things, including my life. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Work as Prayerful Activity, Mark 6
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.