“You Give them... How Many?” Let’s Pray...Rev. Stuart C. Buisch Mark 6:31-44


Jesus’ ministry was before the advent of sabbaticals, days off and study leave. However, just
because the names didn’t exist, don’t think for a minute that the co-creator of humanity didn’t
know the needs of humanity. The disciples had just had an exhilarating introduction to gospel
ministry, demons were cast out and many sick were anointed with oil. They needed a break.

 

Solitude and rest. In this season of remote work, stress or fear of covid, lack of physical contact
with extended family and friends we too are in need of quiet, contact with people and rest so that
we can be ready to encounter new people with open hearts and arms. They had also not eaten.
Their return journey from ministry no doubt was quick and they were excited about reporting
back and they didn’t think of food. But they didn’t go off out of sight. They were watched.
People were so eager to be with Jesus that they ran ahead of them along the shore line and were
waiting for them when they got out of the boat. Jesus’ compassion for the many overcame his
desire to care for his disciples or so it appears. He begins to teach them (we are not told what)
and as the day went on it got late and the disciples noted the need for everyone to go home and
eat or at least buy something on the way home. But Jesus changes the plan. I believe he is
showing them something for their own ministry and their own lives. The reason some people
say grace before a meal is to remember that all that we have and all that we are has been given to
us by God. Jesus believed that the disciples needed to see that God would provide for them and
for their ministries. The disciples needed to learn that they had the resources in God to take care
of those around them. We are not expected to grow out of painful experiences on our own. With
God, in prayer, reflection and letting go we can be free from any yesterday.

 

Quickly the mathematicians in the twelve figured out how much it would cost. Jesus wasn’t
limited to the cost of feeding he was looking at the process and some of the disciples were
willing to see what was available. The answer was five loaves and two fish. The crowd was
seated in groups of 50’s and 100’s. But Jesus took the bread and fish and thanked God for them.
The text says he blessed the bread and the fish. I wonder if blessed food fills better, gives
contentment, engages the conversation around the group. I wonder what the crowd thought when
they were told to sit down. Did any of them say you’re not telling me where to sit, what to do? If
it happened it wasn’t recorded. Nobody was recorded saying its too late I need to get home.
Jesus’ presence gave a peace that settled on the crowd setting free from all the worries they could
think up. That presence of Christ’s Spirit gives us peace today. Then the bread was broken. Did
it happen slowly and the disciples had time to catch the pieces in their baskets? Twelve baskets
in the hands of twelve disciples distributed enough food to feed the crowd. Every disciple’s
basket was still full at the end. Nothing was wasted. Studies show that the amount of discarded
food in the US each year weighs about 206 billion pounds. Globally a third of all food produced
is wasted.


What we do know from the text is that the crowd ate and were full, satisfied. Blessing, breaking
and giving food seems to have a connection to contentment. Lots of people have swallowing

issues. Simplistically if we could slow down, eat smaller bites, chew slowly our contentment
level could increase. I am preaching to myself.


So what do we do with this account of Jesus’ ministry. The disciples didn’t get their rest but
they did have an opportunity to eat, have nutrition. If they and we are paying attention we can
learn that God is prepared to work through our hands and feet to feed ourselves and those around
us. We must recognize what we have. See what is available. We need to believe that God can
provide from that which we have and do amazing things with it. We, in the absence of the
physical presence of Christ, need to believe that God cares and that God can work. George
Mueller, a great worker in the orphan crisis of his day more than once seated all those in his
charge and was thanking God for food that he did not have for the children when a knock came
to the door and the food came in.


So maybe there is something faithful in the seating of those in our care. Maybe that is a
proclamation of faith that God will work and we are ready to see God’s hand. But we must have
the faith that that requires. We can’t just seat folk and not believe that God will work.
This miracle is one of the only accounts recorded in all four gospels. Jesus says in another place,
the poor you will always have with you. Was he telling us that we will always have a mission or
was he sadly declaring that the church wouldn’t care about the people in their midst who need
Jesus’ life-giving words and hand breaking bread miracles? In the name of Almighty God,


Savior Jesus and Empowering Spirit, amen.


Lord of Lords, teach us to rest in your glory...
Savior of Sinners and Saints, release us to praise...
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us...