This past Sunday, January 21, 2024, I preached on the Feeding of the 5,000 as it is recorded in Mark 6. I thought I'd take a moment here to highlight a couple of things that I didn't draw out on Sunday. After all, the more I draw out, the longer the sermon draws out...
First, we should note that the Feeding of the 5,000 (I don't think the style guide says that should be capitalized, but it's a singular event in history, so that's a good way to be clear) comes right on the heels of Jesus hearing about John the Baptist's death. Jesus had sent his disciples to preach, teach, and heal (Mark 6:7-13), and while they were gone, Herod got worked up. I don't think I made clear in the sermon as well as I should that, while Mark tells of John's execution here, it's clearly something that had taken place farther in the past.
The drive for the Feeding of the 5,000 is Jesus wanting to take the Apostles away from the chaos to rest up after their preaching mission. However, Mark clearly wants to draw a contrast with Jesus and Herod here, so he puts the remembrance of the execution here.
So, the people who have come out to see Jesus, hear Jesus teach, and who eventually eat the bread and the fish are uninvited interlopers in a private meeting. Yet there is no reproach from the Lord Jesus to them for showing up. Instead, they are greeted with compassion, teaching, and feeding.
How do we manage the uninvited? There are several ways to unravel that knot, but just consider: often, churches have "targeted" outreach. Somewhere, a committee has decided who they really want in church, and then the church designs for them.
What happens when other people show up? People who are younger? Older? Richer? Poorer? More Black, Hispanic, White, Korean, Chinese? More Republican? More Democrat? You get the point.
Do we feed them? Do we have compassion? Do we teach them? Or do we say to them, "You set over there on the floor, these seats are reserved."?
The answers to those questions should come from Jesus, not our marketing experts or denominational gurus.
Second, we should note that the disciples point out that it is already "very late" in v. 35. They've really pushed past the point where anybody will have a good solution to the problem. This isn't the preacher going until 1:30 and the buffets are closed, He's gone until the Taco Bell has closed for the night. There are no good options out there.
The disciples were leaning toward sending the people away in the dark, hungry, to go figure it out when the individuals would have no better luck solving this problem than the group would. The disciples were trying to wash their hands of any responsibility for fellow human beings. Jesus was not going to put up with that. He won't tolerate it from us forever, either.
Third, God does nothing by half-measures. There is no doubt when God works. He is never "just enough." He's always more than--much more. Not a lagniappe but a dozen extra baskets!