From The Pastor – Feeding the 5000

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We continue our journey in Mark’s Gospel this week, focusing on the miracle story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  This miracle made quite an impression as it is the only miracle to appear in all four gospels.  It certainly must have been a memorable meal/miracle.

As I reflected on this passage, I began to think about memorable meals in my own life.  Several meals came to mind.  One stood out.  It was a meal I had at the Bowery Mission in NYC one weekend in college.  This meal took place when a group of Messiah students traveled to NYC to partner with the New York School of Urban Ministry.  Volunteers like us served meals with various ministry partners in NYC.  What made the meal we served at the Bowery Mission and the fellowship which followed so memorable was the great joy shared with us by some of the women staying at the Mission.  Their great joy caused me to pause and reflect on my own life.  While I had many more material things and more privileges than the women staying at the Mission, I realized I did not always possess their joy.  I realized it was often quite easy to focus on that which I lacked, instead of that which I had.  It was and is easy to focus on scarcity instead of abundance.  When you think about a memorable meal in your life?  What made it so?

In our scripture passage from Mark 6:30-44 this Sunday, Jesus asks the disciples a question in response to their anxiety about being able to feed the large number of people with them in a deserted place.  He asks his disciples, “How much bread do you have?” (Mark 6:38 NLT).  After taking an inventory, the disciples bring five loaves and two fish to Jesus.  From these five loaves and two fishes Jesus feeds the five thousand men, plus woman and children.

As Conservative Commentator William Barclay outlines, there’s three ways in which we can look at this miracle.  Some interpreters will see the miracle as a miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes.  Others will see the miracle as a sacrament.  And still others will see it as the miracle of generosity/sharing.  As I have prepared for this Sunday, I’ve realized that if we allow ourselves to get caught up in these different possible interpretations and the arguments for or against them, we will end up missing the function of the feeding miracle in Mark’s gospel.  We will miss how the miracle reveals who Jesus is, that in Jesus the people have a true shepherd.

When we allow ourselves to encounter this function of the feeding miracle in Mark’s Gospel, we are brought back to the very first questions asked about Jesus at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, “what is this?  A new teaching – with authority!  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” (1:27) “who can forgive sins, but God alone? (2:7) “who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (4:41).  As we prepare for Zoom worship tomorrow, I invite you to consider these questions and the question Jesus asked his disciples, “How much bread do you have?”

Pastor David

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