Bible Studies for Life Sunday School lesson for January 7, 2018

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School lesson for January 7, 2018

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By Jim Barnette, Ph.D.
Samford University and Brookwood Baptist Church, Mountain Brook

Jesus Provides
Mark 6:34–44

The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in all four Gospels. This dramatic event highlights Jesus as the New Moses. Just as Moses provided food for His people in the wilderness, so Jesus will do the same — and more.

Jesus knows our needs and has compassion. (34–37)

Jesus and the disciples had wanted to get away for some “alone time,” so they set off on a boat for a journey of four or five miles.

However, the crowds “from all the towns” ran ahead and arrived at the destination before the boat did. Jesus’ compassion for them as “shepherdless” recalls frequent images in the Old Testament for the failure of Israel’s leaders, as with the wilderness generation (Num. 27:17), the nation under Ahab (1 Kings 22:17) and especially the plundered nations in Ezekiel 34:1–10 when the “false shepherds of Israel” were leading the people astray. The good news is that Jesus, the Davidic “Shepherd Messiah,” will act on His compassion and lead all of His followers out of this world’s wilderness to greener pastures.

“You give them something to eat” is emphatic in the Greek. The addition of the pronoun gives the command the force of “I mean you.” The disciples are astonished, and their question about purchasing bread is disrespectful in tone. They did not have significant funds at their disposal to buy food for all. The disciples’ words of frustration echo the cry of Moses in the wilderness: “Where can I find meat to feed all these people?” (Num. 11:13).

Jesus’ seemingly insensitive demand of His disciples reveals His confidence in the disciples as under-shepherds. That confidence is undergirded by His power to provide all they need for the task with plenty left over for themselves. Seen in this light, the great feeding is an encouraging word for weary disciples who are overwhelmed by the demands of ministry.

Jesus provides for all our needs. (38–44)

Notice that Jesus does not ask the disciples to do the impossible in their own power. He asks them, “What do you have?” How often is He asking us the same question when we are doubting our capacity to make a difference in a situation?

Our modern thinking might suppose that the fish was the main course, but in this time circular loaves of bread about eight inches in diameter and an inch thick constituted the main course of every meal. The dried fish served only as a condiment. Prior to the disciples distributing the food, Jesus as host blesses the bread. The series of verbs — “took,” “gave thanks,” “broke,” “gave” ­— is precisely the same as in Mark 14:22 when Jesus blessed the bread at the Last Supper. The only deviation from a normal Jewish blessing of food was that Jesus looked upward toward heaven, rather than downward as tradition prescribed. In this intimate moment Jesus looks toward His Heavenly Father, pointing the crowd and ourselves to the source of all providence.

Clearly Mark, the writer, is pointing us to Jesus, who invites us to partake of the bread and the cup in remembrance of His providing us with eternal sustenance through His death and resurrection. The feeding miracle, along with the Lord’s Supper, are a foretaste of the heavenly banquet to which the Messiah shepherd leads His flock. But until then, our calling is to lead other sheep to the Good Shepherd.

The key is to trust that God will take what we do have and use it to usher in His kingdom. When we see a need we can step in and help with the resources our Lord has given us. He will do mighty things through what we do have.