Even in Desolate Places
In Mark 6, we see the story about the feeding of the 5,000. Actually, there were many more than 5,000 present. Matthew tells us that there were 5,000 men besides the women and children. They were especially very numerous when one considers that the cities in the area like Capernaum and Bethsaida each contained only two to three thousand inhabitants. This shows us that many came from the surrounding regions as well.
If Only to Save a Few
Yeshua was touched by this large crowd and felt compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, so He began to teach them. Perhaps He was teaching them about messianic prophecies, about salvation, or the history of redemption in the Bible. Maybe it was even to save a few of them. We also learn that it was quite late in the day when He was teaching. In vv.35-36 His disciples interrupted Him and asked Him to send the people away so they could buy something to eat for themselves.
We know from the Book of John that the one who came to Jesus to ask the question on behalf of the others was Phillip. He lived in the vicinity of Bethsaida which means house of fish, so he knew the surroundings well. Then Yeshua came out with such a powerful statement they must have never forgotten. He said, You give them something to eat! Imagine some 10 to 15 thousand hungry people waiting to be fed. How in the world could they do that?
The earthly approach comes first with Philip’s answer. In v.37 he says, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?”
How much is 200 denarii? If a denarii is a day’s wage, then 200 is more than half a year’s salary. In other words, Phillip told Yeshua it would take around $25,000 to feed these people just one meal.
Bu then Yeshua gave Phillip His tailored answer. He said to him in v.28, How many loaves do you have? Go look!
Remember that it was Phillip who brought Nathanael to Yeshua. When Nathanael began to argue, Phillip told him, Come and see. John: 1:46
Here, Yeshua basically gave Philip the same answer he gave Nathanael. Go look! In other words, check it out and see for yourself!
The Miraculous Provision
He did and found nothing in the bag except five loaves of bread and two fish. What both Nathanael and Phillip found in that bag was another facet of Yeshua.
Yeshua prayed over the food and miraculously began to pull out more and more loaves and fish. Imagine that every time He put His hand in the basket, He proved once again how He was their Provider through His miraculous means. This miracle was for the disciples and for us today who read these details. Most of the people present would not have seen or even realized it was a miracle.
We read in v.42 that they all ate and were satisfied. At the end, they even had enough to fill up 12 baskets which was one for each disciple to carry and remember.
Yeshua did not feed the people so they would recognize Him as the Messiah. By this time, He was on His way to the tav (the cross). The main reason He fed the people was because He loved them. He had compassion on them even though they were not believers in Him. Here again we are encountering the concept of common grace which was Yeshua’s mincha (gift) to man because of His great compassion. The word compassion in the Greek is what describes the inner parts of the body, which is the seat of emotions, of the heart.
Jesus knew very well that the majority number of these people would just leave. After the feeding He told them: Truly, truly, I say to you, You seek Me not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. John:6:26 When the word love is written in John 3:16 that God so loved the world, the word love is agape. It is the highest level of love which is offered even to those who do not believe in Him.
Beyond these great gems in Mark 6, there is one typology that is coming out strong, that of the Exodus. It is marking a new era in the life of the disciples. Just as they had been commanded about the staff, the shoes, the cloak, and the bread before they set out on their missionary tour, here they are again reminded of the Exodus.
First, their dilemma was very similar to that of Moses who also faced the responsibility of feeding some three million people who came out of Egypt and for a long period of time.
The disciples were presented with this same dilemma. You give them something to eat. Like Moses and the Israelites in the Exodus, they had to learn to rely on God who is always ready to perform great miracles for His lambs. This must have been an important point for the disciples to learn as we see the term bread used seventeen times between chapters 6 and 8.
Reclining at the Banquet
Furthermore, notice how Yeshua asked the disciples to place the people before He fed them. In v.40, He asked them in to be placed in rows of hundreds and fifties. The last time the Israelites were asked to be placed in such a manner was in the Exodus when the Lord asked Moses to place those who were to be at the head of Israel into thousands, hundreds, and fifties in the desert (Exodus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 1:15).
Later, the disciples must have realized that they were included among the people who were being fed, even though they were the ones serving. In v.40, He also asked them to recline. The word for sit down means to recline. It is how the Romans would lie down when they had a meal.
Jews will usually sit down at a table. When was the only time that they reclined? At Passover. According to the Talmud, reclining was a sign of freedom. The Talmud made it a law. We read that at Passover: Even the poorest Israelite should not eat until he reclines at his table. They should provide him with no fewer than four cups of wine, even if [the funds] come from public charity. Pesahim 10:1
Here on this mountain, all the Israelites were asked to recline, as if a new Passover had begun.
Lying Down in Green Pastures
To close, we see the concept of true rest in the Lord in this great story of the feeding of the 5,000. This account reminds us of the wonderful psalm which most of us know and many of us know by heart, Psalm 23. Let us read the first two verses to see if you can spot the similarities with the feeding of the 5,000 : The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
Here is our Shepherd, Yeshua Himself. When the people had no shepherd, He offered to become our Shepherd. See where He led Israel to lie down and recline? In green pastures.
What is most unusual is that three times we are told, in vv.31, 32, and 35 that they were in a secluded place. That is the same word as wilderness or desert. There is no green grass in the wilderness, unless you know the great miracle worker who is Yeshua. By now, in Mark 6, we know He can do wonderful things for His people.