bible blog 953

Re-burial of villagers killed by both sides in Peruvian conflict

finally there is peace for the living and the dead

finally there is peace for the living and the dead

Mark 6:30-46

Feeding the Five Thousand

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.31He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.35When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late;36send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’37But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii* worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?’38And he said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’39Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass.40So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.41Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.42And all ate and were filled;43and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.44Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.  miracle-fishes

Mark tells the story of Jesus as if he was a tornado of life blowing through Galilee. The evils from which people suffer are shown as conditions of death by separation from themselves, their families, their communities, and from any hope of a future. Jesus rebels against this by a) sharing their need and b) meeting it with his own assurance of God’s life. In the story of the “feeding of 5000” these same elements are present, but in a form which hints at a symbolic meaning.

The scripture records the manna by which the Israelites were fed in the desert. The Jews expected that the victorious Messiah would give a celebratory banquet for his followers. Mark’s Christian readers knew of course of Jesus’ banquet, his supper which became the weekly communion of the early churches. These three “meals” would have come to the minds of Mark’s readers. The crowd are seen by Jesus as needing a shepherd, a word used often as a royal title. Mark gives all the hints to his readers so that they should recognise that in this incident King Jesus first of all fills the souls of those who seek him, and then feeds their bodies also.

In Mark’s version the disciples are told to feed the people. They protest that they don’t have the resources. Jesus asks them to offer what they have, which Jesus takes, blesses and breaks (as he does a the last supper). The people are assembled in face to face communities (like the first churches) while sitting on green pasture-a reminder of the 23rd psalm which is a kind of subtext to this whole story ( The Lord is my shepherd…. he makes me lie down in green pastures….he restores my soul….you have prepared a table before me….my cup runs over…). The disciples find that through Jesus, the true shepherd, the crucified and risen Messiah, their resources are sufficient, not only for this crowd but for the twelve tribes of Israel as well. (That’s what the leftovers are for.) 

Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe

The message is that Jesus is the true king, who by pouring out his life, feeds his people in soul and body; and encourages his disciples to do the same. This is contrasted with Mark’s horrific story of King Herod and the head of John the Baptist, in which Herod is depicted as a false king who feeds on his people.

Doubtless there was a desert meal which Jesus shared with followers during his ministry. It is recorded in all four gospels, each one with a different emphasis, but each one emphasising the “abundant life” offered by Jesus. Through the life which flows from King Jesus, that is, from his living, dying and rising again as a channel of God’s creative life, the communities of believers should be able to meet all the spiritual and bodily needs of their members, and have plenty left over for others. In Mark’s gospel this is a “political” story showing the difference between worldly rule and the rule of God in Jesus. The church has be a model of the kind of society it prays for.

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