In Mark 5, we see that Jesus went through a lot all at once. Isn’t that the way it usually goes? There’s a reason for that — grace. When we’re overwhelmed but we choose to act in faith over fear, we experience grace, and we experience life, and we experience a satisfaction we’ve never had before. It’s a beautiful thing.
In this chapter, we see that Jesus sends out his disciples, and then John the Baptist is killed. This must’ve affected Jesus deeply. John was not only family, but He was as partner in ministry. Then the disciples returned, and I’m sure they were still on a spiritual high from all they had accomplished while they were out. They couldn’t wait to tell Jesus all about it.
How exhausting. Is there anything harder than listening to someone’s positive and exciting news when you’ve had the worst news? Add to that the exhaustion that they all must’ve been feeling, and then being pressed in by the crowd wanting to hear Jesus. It doesn’t usually take long for the tiredness to overcome the excitement and turn into resentment or frustration.
But Jesus, in spite of all this, had a different response.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Jesus had a kingdom perspective. He recognized that this was God at work, and he decided to put them above himself. He decided to teach them and love them, even though he was physically and emotionally spent. That required faith, and it resulted in grace.
The disciples seemed to have a different attitude.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
Jesus was busy teaching. The people were busy listening. The disciples were busy… looking for a way out? But isn’t that often the case? The ones who are not engaged in the actual ministry are the ones who are the most critical, find the most problems, and have all the “perfect solutions” disguised as helpful for the people, but totally missing the point, since the solutions are really about themselves.
So the disciples are sitting on the slide lines, trying to figure out how they can leave. They talk about it, they think about it, and they come up with a plan. Hey, I bet these people are hungry, and it’s getting close to dinner time. I bet if they have to eat, Jesus would stop and let them go. Yeah, that’s great. He can’t say no to that. They have to eat.
What was the point of the disciples’ plan? Get rid of these people so we can go home and chill. What was their focus? Themselves. Their own comfort and pleasure. They didn’t care about the people, and they didn’t care about ministering. Which is a little strange when you consider that they had just come home from a missionary journey. But how often do we do the same thing — I’ll serve God at this time and in this way, but once I get home, or once it’s this time, I’m off. It’s my time now. What we fail to recognize is that the most ministry happens in the off-hours, when we’re worn out and tired and all we really want to do is check out and be alone.
But Jesus threw them a curve ball.
But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
I picture a hashtag here, something like #waitwhat or maybe just plan old #nope.
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
They immediately tell Jesus it’s impossible. Which it was. But I find it interesting that they didn’t even try to come up with a way to do it — and most importantly, they didn’t ask Jesus. What they did ask almost sounds a little sarcastic. But in spite of their lack of faith and their selfish mindset, Jesus continued…
“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
I still have to wonder if they were thinking something like, “See, Jesus — I told you. Impossible. Just send them home.”
But again, Jesus fails their expectations. You know the rest of the story… Jesus prays and begins to feed the people – more than 5,000. And they had leftovers.
The disciples wanted to go home. I doubt they meant to dismiss the people, or the ministry. I doubt they meant to miss out on a miracle. But they certainly didn’t mean to be flexible and watch for where God was at work. They didn’t look for an opportunity to love, to minister, to grow. They were focused on themselves, not the Kingdom. And they almost missed out.
But Jesus was there. And Jesus had just as much compassion on them as he did the lost crowd. And Jesus was trying to teach them to live beyond themselves. To have faith to give when it hurts. To do what’s right when it’s hard. To exist through grace.
May we never again fall into the trap of thinking that ministry is in a box. Of thinking our time is our own. Of criticizing those who are doing while we are simply watching. When we see a potential problem, that’s God’s invitation for us to join Him, step out in faith, and be the solution.
Too often we are on the sidelines. We don’t have compassion, we have a critical spirit. We don’t have a kingdom mindset, we have a selfish mindset. We don’t see God at work, we see the gaps. And the reason is because of our position. We’re on the sidelines.
But when you’re on the field, everything changes. You have compassion. You have love. You see the goal. You see the potential. You chase after it. You fill the gaps as you go, but your focus is on reaching out, not stepping out.
We see people hungry and we think to send them away. Jesus sees people hungry and he says, I’ll feed them.
Let’s be all in.
Let’s live in grace.
Let’s give them something to eat.
In a word: passionate. About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even iced skinny soy mochas.