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author on June 3rd, 2009

It seems we’ve heard this story before (see The Big Picnic, March 15, 2009, Mark 6:30-44Mark 6:30-44
English: World English Bible - WEB

30 The apostles gathered themselves together to Jesus, and they told him all things, whatever they had done, and whatever they had taught. 31 He said to them, “You come apart into a deserted place, and rest awhile.” For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 They went away in the boat to a desert place by themselves. 33 They TR reads “The multitudes” instead of “They” saw them going, and many recognized him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to him. 34 Jesus came out, saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it was late in the day, his disciples came to him, and said, “This place is deserted, and it is late in the day. 36 Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages, and buy themselves bread, for they have nothing to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They asked him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii 200 denarii was about 7 or 8 months wages for an agricultural laborer. worth of bread, and give them something to eat?” 38 He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go see.” When they knew, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 He commanded them that everyone should sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in ranks, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves, and he gave to his disciples to set before them, and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate, and were filled. 43 They took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and also of the fish. 44 Those who ate the loaves were TR adds “about” five thousand men.

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). But this is a different occasion altogether. The growing crowd – about four thousand – had been with Jesus for three days, and were in a remote place where there wasn’t enough food available.

Jesus had compassion for them (Mark 8:2Mark 8:2
English: World English Bible - WEB

2 “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have stayed with me now three days, and have nothing to eat.

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) and expressed concern over the distance they would have to travel without food (Mark 8:3Mark 8:3
English: World English Bible - WEB

3 If I send them away fasting to their home, they will faint on the way, for some of them have come a long way.”

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) It’s comforting to know that Jesus has compassion for people – that He concerns Himself with our welfare.

In both of these accounts of feeding large groups we can see some parallels:

Parallel Mark 6:30-44Mark 6:30-44
English: World English Bible - WEB

30 The apostles gathered themselves together to Jesus, and they told him all things, whatever they had done, and whatever they had taught. 31 He said to them, “You come apart into a deserted place, and rest awhile.” For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 They went away in the boat to a desert place by themselves. 33 They TR reads “The multitudes” instead of “They” saw them going, and many recognized him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to him. 34 Jesus came out, saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it was late in the day, his disciples came to him, and said, “This place is deserted, and it is late in the day. 36 Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages, and buy themselves bread, for they have nothing to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They asked him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii 200 denarii was about 7 or 8 months wages for an agricultural laborer. worth of bread, and give them something to eat?” 38 He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go see.” When they knew, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 He commanded them that everyone should sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in ranks, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves, and he gave to his disciples to set before them, and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate, and were filled. 43 They took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and also of the fish. 44 Those who ate the loaves were TR adds “about” five thousand men.

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Mark 8:1-9Mark 8:1-9
English: World English Bible - WEB

8 1 In those days, when there was a very great multitude, and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to himself, and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have stayed with me now three days, and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them away fasting to their home, they will faint on the way, for some of them have come a long way.” 4 His disciples answered him, “From where could one satisfy these people with bread here in a deserted place?” 5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves. Having given thanks, he broke them, and gave them to his disciples to serve, and they served the multitude. 7 They had a few small fish. Having blessed them, he said to serve these also. 8 They ate, and were filled. They took up seven baskets of broken pieces that were left over. 9 Those who had eaten were about four thousand. Then he sent them away.

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Organized the Crowds Mark 6:39-40Mark 6:39-40
English: World English Bible - WEB

39 He commanded them that everyone should sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in ranks, by hundreds and by fifties.

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Mark 8:6-7Mark 8:6-7
English: World English Bible - WEB

6 He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves. Having given thanks, he broke them, and gave them to his disciples to serve, and they served the multitude. 7 They had a few small fish. Having blessed them, he said to serve these also.

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Gave Thanks Mark 6:41Mark 6:41
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41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves, and he gave to his disciples to set before them, and he divided the two fish among them all.

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Mark 8:6-7Mark 8:6-7
English: World English Bible - WEB

6 He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves. Having given thanks, he broke them, and gave them to his disciples to serve, and they served the multitude. 7 They had a few small fish. Having blessed them, he said to serve these also.

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Disciples Distributed the Food Mark 6:41Mark 6:41
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41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves, and he gave to his disciples to set before them, and he divided the two fish among them all.

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Mark 8:6-7Mark 8:6-7
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6 He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves. Having given thanks, he broke them, and gave them to his disciples to serve, and they served the multitude. 7 They had a few small fish. Having blessed them, he said to serve these also.

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The People were Satisfied Mark 6:2Mark 6:2
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2 When the Sabbath had come, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many hearing him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things?” and, “What is the wisdom that is given to this man, that such mighty works come about by his hands?

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Mark 8:8Mark 8:8
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8 They ate, and were filled. They took up seven baskets of broken pieces that were left over.

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Disciples Collected Leftovers Mark 6:43Mark 6:43
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43 They took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and also of the fish.

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Mark 8:8Mark 8:8
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8 They ate, and were filled. They took up seven baskets of broken pieces that were left over.

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A certain orderliness becomes apparent as we compare these passages. I know that when I feel compassionate, I’m not thinking much about being organized, systematic or efficient. But Jesus was. Certainly a miracle showing God’s abundance was taking place, but it wasn’t without order; rather it was done in such a way as to teach us to multiply God’s abundance even more:

  • by organizing the crowds, there was no rush, gluttony or waste
  • by giving thanks, Jesus demonstrated expectant faith – no doubt that God would bless these 4,000 people abundantly
  • by appointing the disciples to distribute the food, Jesus taught the importance of obediently following instructions, while simultaneously developing their leadership skills
  • the fact that the people were satisfied – 4,000 of them with seven loaves and a few small fish – proves God’s hand in miraculously filling this need
  • and the orderly collection and accounting for the leftovers demonstrates the respect for God’s provision by permitting no waste of the abundant blessing

How will you bring order and efficiency to God’s abundance in order to multiply its reach and effect?