Jesus and Apostles Rest (6:30-31)
The call for rest
In verse 30 the narrative picks up from verse 13. The disciples had been sent out in pairs with the power to cast out demons and heal the sick. Verse 30 records the disciples returning to Jesus and reporting all the things that had happened. We can likely imagine the disciples’ excitement as they explain to Jesus all that they had taught and all that had been accomplished. Then Jesus said, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Jesus tells the disciples that they need to take a rest. The reason why is given to us in the rest of the verse. We are told that Jesus and the disciples had been coming and going (teaching is implied) and they had not even had time to eat.
First, we must see the obvious application that we all need to take breaks from time to time. It is possible to burn out by overworking ourselves and not taking a rest occasionally. This is an important reminder to God’s dedicated servants. We may begin to think that, since it is the Lord’s work, we must keep on working and never stop. We need to make sure that we give ourselves a little rest to be able to continue a long life of work for the Lord.
The second point we need to see is not as obvious. Unfortunately, with many of us, overworking for the Lord is not a problem. You may find yourself not working at all. Verse 31 describes what the disciples of Jesus are willing to do. To be His disciple means a dedication to working for God even when we are worn and even when we have been working hard. I do not read the disciples complaining to the Lord here about how they have been going and going and they are just so tired of doing all the work. Friends, when we complain about the work we are doing or the work that we are asked to do for the Lord, we are seeking the glory of man. We want everyone to know how much of a martyr we are for the work of Jesus. We want human glory. Jesus said in Matthew 6:1-2, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” We get no credit with God when we seek the glory of others. We must be busy doing the work of the Lord, carefully realizing that we need to give ourselves rest from time to time.
Feeding the Five Thousand (6:32-44)
Jesus and the disciples (vs. 32-37)
Verse 32 tells us that Jesus and disciples depart to a deserted place to rest. However, the multitudes see them leaving and so they go by foot to meet Jesus in the place where he was going. What would be the reaction of Jesus? In verse 34 we see Jesus come out of the boat. Did he tell them all that it was time for him to take a rest? Did Jesus tell the crowds to go away until tomorrow? Jesus is moved with compassion for these people. Jesus saw that these people needed help, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. Therefore, Jesus begins to teach the crowds. Does Jesus teach for a few minutes and then send the people away? In verse 35 we see that he spent the rest of the day teaching until the day was spent.
Now since the day is about done, the disciples go to Jesus and tell him that he must send away the crowds so they can have time in the villages to buy bread. Remember that everyone is in this deserted place. However, Jesus says to give the crowd something to eat. Here we see a difference in the compassion of Jesus and the compassion of the disciples. The disciples were being very thoughtful of this crowd, that they need to be sent on their way to get food. However, Jesus was going to go further than this. In John 6:6 we find out that Jesus is about to issue a test for his disciples. The disciples reply incredulously that it would be impossible for them to feed this multitude. What were they to do, go into the village and buy 200 denarii worth of bread? 200 denarii would be the equivalent of seven months wages. There are thousands of people with Jesus and it was not possible to pay for the food required to feed them. Now, remember what we have studied up to this point. We have seen Jesus heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, cause the winds and waves to be still, heal the lame, and cleanse the lepers. Yet there are only two solutions the disciples can come up with: Either send the people away to get their own food or find seven months of wages to buy bread for them. How limited was the disciples’ vision of what Jesus could do!
How easily we can limit the power of God in our minds! The disciples can only see two solutions and cannot fathom what other options there are. And we can do the same with the Lord. How often we underestimate the power of God to change the course of events! How many times we can say to God that if He does not do something the way we think, then He cannot do anything at all. The disciples are failing Jesus’ test of faith. Friends, are we failing Jesus’ test of faith? God made this same test with Moses in the wilderness. God declares in Numbers 11 that the people were going to eat meat for a month until it came out of their noses. Moses turns around in verse 21 and does not know how he could possibly give meat to all these Israelites. The Lord replied in Numbers 11:23, “Has the Lord’s arm been shortened?” The answer is no, and the Lord did as He said and provided quail for the people to eat. We must beware of being shortsighted in what we think God can do. When the prophets were asked questions about what God can do, they would always respond with the statement, “You know.” Can dry bones live again, Ezekiel? You know. Who are the ones in white robes, John? You know. The possibilities are infinite with God. Would we have assumed that God would raise our promised son from the dead as Abraham did? That is the great faith of Abraham that Hebrews 11:17-19 describes, and this is the kind of faith that Jesus is trying to get His disciples to have in Him. It is not about what we can do. It is about what God can do in our lives.
The miracle (6:38-44)
Jesus then asks His disciples, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” The answer is that they have five loaves and two fish. Now this is not a lot of food, and it is certainly less than what we think in our minds. According to the John account, the disciples see what food the people have and they find a lad who has these five loaves and two fish. This may be enough for only one person’s meal. Whatever the quantity, it was clearly small enough for a boy to take with him. Jesus instructs the people to be seated in ranks. Then he takes the bread and fish, gives thanks, and gives them to the disciples to pass out to the multitude. The last three verses of this story are so important and amazing. Verse 42 tells us that they all ate and were filled. This little amount of food, an amount that a boy was carrying with him, was enough not only for many people to eat, but every person ate and was full. I would like to see this scene, but I imagine something to the effect that after Jesus gave thanks, he just kept distributing the loaves and fish. What an amazing sight that all could be filled on such a meager amount! Verse 43 tells us that there were leftovers. Now, these were not leftovers like the leftovers we may have. These leftovers were not a few scraps that were left behind or some on the ground because they had made a mess. The disciples took up twelve baskets full of fragments. This is more than what they had started with! They had begun with what a boy was carrying with him and it turned into twelve baskets full of fragments.
In verse 44 we find out how great the crowd was. Jesus had not just fed a few hundred people. Mark tells us that there were about 5000 men. Clearly we can now see the greatness of this miracle. It would not have mattered if they had large fish and large loaves of bread. Even that could not have fed 5000 men. Further, nothing could have fed and filled 5000 men. And even further, nothing could have fed and filled 5000 men and have twelve baskets of leftovers. This was a miracle of God. However, Matthew tells us a little bit more. In Matthew 14:21 we read, “Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Mark did not even count all the women and children who were there and who had eaten. He did not need to. Five thousand being fed is amazing enough that he did not need to count all the women and children who ate also. The disciples would never have believed that this would have been the end result. We must always remember that we never know all that God can do. Who could have guessed that this would have been how the story ended? Let us never underestimate how God can change things in our lives. We must always believe that God can do things that we have not considered.
Jesus Walks On Water (6:45-56)
Send the disciples back
Immediately, Jesus instructs his disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side. The account of John tells us the reason for this instruction: that this multitude was ready to seize Jesus and make him king. Therefore, Jesus sends the disciples away and He withdraws himself to pray. Now the disciples were in the middle of the sea and the wind is blowing against them in the boat, making it hard for them to row back across. So it is the fourth watch of the night, which would be between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. and the disciples are straining to get the boat back across. Now here comes Jesus walking on the water. Notice carefully what Mark records in verses 48-49. Jesus would have passed them by. Jesus was just going to walk across the water to get back to the other side. However, the disciples see this person walking across the water in the middle of the night and become afraid and troubled. Jesus responds that they should be of good cheer for it is just him and there is no reason to be afraid. Jesus then goes up into the boat and immediately the wind ceased.
Before we finish the story, let us make a few observations. First, let us notice the words of Jesus, “Take courage and do not be afraid.” Jesus had previously shown compassion on the multitude when he saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd. Now Jesus sees his disciples afraid and greatly troubled. Jesus does not just keep on walking and wait for them to reach the other side. He tells them to not be afraid, take courage, and gets into the boat with them. Second, Jesus says “It is I.” On the surface it seems that Jesus was simply saying, “Hey, it is just me, Jesus.” But Jesus was saying even more to his disciples. Literally, these words mean, “I AM.” Jesus said, “Take courage! I AM; do not be afraid.” Jesus is teaching that He is God to His disciples, a point that they have not fully grasped yet. Remember in Exodus 3:14 this is the name that God told Moses to tell the people of Israel who had sent him. God says to tell them, “I AM who I AM.” The I AM sent Moses. Jesus tells the disciples that He is God; therefore, do not be afraid. I think we can prove this point further in verses 51-52.
Notice the reaction of the disciples in verse 51. They were “greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled.” Do you see the description of what these disciples had felt? They were greatly amazed. But not only that, they were greatly amazed beyond measure. But not only that, they were greatly amazed beyond measure and they marveled. The word for “amazed” here literally means “to be put out of position” and is also used “to be out of one’s mind.” The disciples were beside themselves at all of these things. They could hardly take it all in–all the things that they had seen in this day. Verse 52 shows that the disciples did not have a clear understanding that Jesus was God. Notice that Mark tells us that the disciples did not understand about the loaves because their hearts were hardened. Miracle after miracle was happening by the hands of Jesus, forcing the disciples to make an estimation about Jesus. They were not going to be allowed to simply see Jesus as a teacher or a prophet. They were going to need to see that He is God. But they could not accept that yet, though Jesus said it himself. It seems that it took this scene for the disciples to truly see that Jesus is the Son of God.
Something else happened during this time that Mark does not record. In Matthew 14 we see that this is the occasion that Peter comes out of the boat and walks on the water to Jesus. However, when he saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink. I want us to notice verse 33 of Matthew 14, “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’” The disciples had not comprehended this point back during the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. Now, the disciples are able to confess that Jesus must be God. Before this, they had a lack of faith in Jesus, such that Peter began to sink.
It is interesting to me that the multitudes understood who Jesus was more quickly than the disciples. After the feeding of the five thousand, John 6:14 says, “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’” However, Mark 6:52 tells us that the disciples did not understand about the loaves because their hearts were hardened. The multitude more readily received Jesus for who he was than the disciples did.
I believe we can see some warnings for ourselves. First, we learn that those who are closest to God can sometimes be the most skeptical and most hardhearted people when it comes to what God is able to do. Sometimes we are the ones who have less faith, less confidence, and less trust in what our Lord can do than the average person. Brethren, this ought not be. We must be the ones showing our faith to the world. We should be the ones who are an example of great faith. We should not read Hebrews 11 and be amazed at their faith; we are to have the same faith in God. We must grow our faith in God.
Along the same lines, we ought to be the ones who are the least amazed at what God can do. In our scripture reading for this lesson, we noticed that it was the disciples who were amazed at the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water. Now, I can give them the benefit of the doubt since they had not seen such great acts. But we know the great power that God can perform. We ought not be amazed when God works great things in our lives. We should not be astonished at how God can change everything from bad to good, from tragedy to triumph. The things written in the scriptures are examples for what can happen in our lives today. Let us not marvel, let us expect the power of God in our lives.