The Feeding of the Five Thousand

The Gospel of Mark – Part 22

The Feeding of the Five Thousand – Mark 6:30-44

Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Jan. 19th, 2020


In the beginning of this chapter Jesus is ministering in His hometown. The people don’t receive him well, so He moves on to minister in the towns and villages in the surrounding area. He instructs and commissions the twelve disciples to go out, two by two, to communicate the gospel, heal the sick, and deliver people from the power of the devil. Word about Jesus has spread far and wide and people from all walks of life were trying to figure Him out, even those in the highest of places. Mark then inserts the story of what had become of John the Baptist, his mission and the ending of his life. 

Mark then returns to the story of the apostles as they arrive back from their missionary journey.  He records their interaction with Jesus and the divine directive to get away and rest, however the crowds follow them by land and are waiting for them as they arrive. What happens next is the only story that is recorded in all 4 gospels. It conveys and captures the heart of God and the identity of Jesus. From the account of the feeding of the five thousand we learn that we are important to Him, that He has great compassion for us, and He will help us do what He calls us to do. 

We are important to Him

Mark 6:30-32 ESV
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 

  • Jesus cares about the message; He cares about the method and He cares about the messenger. The message is the Gospel, which is the good news in Jesus Christ. In telling of this message, one comes to the point of understanding the perfection of God, our trespass against Him, and the grace that is extended to us in Jesus Christ. When the twelve were sent out they, “proclaimed that people should repent” (Mark 6:12), so the message is of vital importance, and He cares about what is communicated. 
  • The method is important as well.  He told them to go without taking anything with them, which made them dependent upon God and gave responsibility to those who were receiving and receptive of the message. As they proclaimed the message of God, they were also to demonstrate the power of God by freeing the captives from demonic oppression and healing many who were sick, which they did (Mark 6:13). The apostle Paul summed it up this way:

2 Cor 4:7-11 ESV
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

  • We have the treasure of the message of the Gospel and this message is of the utmost importance.  It is carried or contained in “jars of clay.” The treasure, which is the message, is communicated by ordinary people so that all will know that God is the source of the power, and God is the source of the message. It is not from us, but from God. 

2 Cor 4:5-6 ESV
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

  • There is affliction that comes to the messenger, but they are not crushed. There are things that come that are perplexing, but we will not be driven to despair. There will be persecutions, but we will never be forsaken. We may be struck down, but we will not be destroyed. We carry with us the death of Jesus (our flesh) so that also the life of Jesus may be seen in our bodies (the overcoming of sin). God cares about the message; God cares about the method and God also cares about the messenger. He does not just “use” people to do His bidding and then dispose of them. He cares deeply for us as well. 
  • When the apostles came back to report all that they had done and taught, Jesus’s response was to care for them by saying, “Come away by yourselves, to a desolate place and rest a while.” They were all in high demand and the work was pressing on them continually and consistently, so much so that they did not have the time to eat.  
  • In this world there will never be an end to need and ministry opportunity. We are to indeed be about our Father’s business, and part of the business of the Father is to take care of servants and in serving Him, He would sustain us. His will is not to crush us with our work for Him. We are important to Him and He will care for us as well. The message is important, the method is important, and the messenger is important. (Ill. of a disposable cup vs. a thermos.) We can see the heart of God in the response of Jesus to those who are serving and following His will. 

He has great compassion for us

Mark 6:33-34 ESV
Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 

  • Jesus and the apostles were looking to get away from the crowds and get some rest. So, they got into their boat and headed out across the sea to a “desolate place.”  Many in the crowd saw them going and they ran to the place where Jesus and the apostles were heading so that when they landed on the shore, there was a great crowd waiting for them. I don’t know about you, but if I was one of the apostles, I would have been like “Really, are you kidding me?” I am not sure how good my attitude would have been especially being tired and hungry with the expectation of getting some rest.  
  • But look at Jesus’s response. He had “compassion on them.” He was moved and was motivated by love for people. This tells us that he did not see people as “projects” or “objects” for Him to reach His personal objectives. He genuinely loved and cared for people and it was proven time and time again when He set aside His personal agenda, even when He was tired and worn out, to minister to people not out of obligation but out of love and compassion for them. He truly is the “good shepherd that lays down his life for the sheep.” There is a BIG difference between ministers who are “hired” to do a job and the ones who truly love and take “ownership” for the people.  

John 10:11-15 ESV 
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

  • Jesus is not in “ministry” and does not call us to minister because of what we gain from it. He calls us to minister like Him, that we are in it because we truly do love Him and love what He loves and care for people the way that He cares for people. He demonstrated this to His “ministers” on this day and they saw for themselves what He did and the reason why He did it.  Never see people as “projects.” Be moved by love or don’t move at all. We have way too many people who do “ministry” out of motives that are not in line with the will and heart of God. 
  • Also understand, that Jesus does indeed have compassion for you. He understands that we have a need for Him and that we are “sheep” who need a shepherd. He does not see us as a task that needs to be done, but as a person who need to be loved and led. There are times when ministry is not convenient to our needs and our agenda, let love and compassion motivate you to lay down your life for others. And know that He will help you with it. 

He will help us

Mark 6:35-36 ESV
And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 

  • At this time, it was getting late at the end of a long day. The disciples wanted Jesus to send the people away so that they could take care of their own needs. The good news is that the disciples saw that the people were hungry and needed to be fed. And they thought that their care for them had ended and it was time for them to leave (this would  give them some space as well). 

Mark 6:37-38 ESV
But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 

  • Jesus responded to them by telling them they also had responsibility to provide for their physical needs as well (this is also what a “good shepherd” does). Now they realized that this request was way too big for them.  Even if they had eight months of wages to spend on them, that would not be enough to feed everyone. They did not have the means to do what Jesus told them to do.  So after they came to that realization that the task was too big for them and they did not have what it would take to do what was asked of them, Jesus then told them, “Go see what you do have” (and not just an assessment of what you don’t have – focus on what you do have).  

Mark 6:39-44 ESV
Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

  • What He calls you to, He will help you do. The task was much bigger than them. They did not have what it took to meet the needs. But because of the compassion of Christ they were called to meet the needs of the sheep. And all God asks is to give Him what you have and with His blessing He will make it enough, and even more than enough. 
  • He also demonstrated that, In my provision for them, I will provide for you. God not only took what they had and because of His blessing made it enough to meet the needs of the people, He also made sure that the needs of those who are ministering were taken care of as well.  “And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish”. One basket for each one of them. Their needs were taken care of as well, not just for the moment, but He gave them enough so that their needs would be met, and they could rest. 


  • This whole account pointed to His true identity as He literally fulfilled Psalm 23:

Ps 23 ESV 
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

  • Take comfort that you are important to Him, and He has compassion for you. Take courage that He will help you, and what He calls you to He will help you do. He cares about the message, He cares about the method, and He cares about the messenger. He is God, the Lord almighty, the Son of God the Good Shepherd.