Lent – 13th reading for discipleship reflections

James DouglasLent Readings and reflections, Reflections

Catching up today – here goes!

Reading: Mark 6:30-52

The section titled the feeding of the five thousand begins with the disciples reporting on their successful mission, and Jesus trying to get the disciples away together for some quiet time, because they ‘had no leisure even to eat’. Here is Jesus wanting to bring some Sabbath to them, to help them get away from it all. But even Jesus can’t prevent the crowds from recognising them and pursuing him and the disciples with their needs and wants. The disciples find themselves pinned between these needs and wants and their own scarce resources, when, in the ‘deserted place’ where they were supposed to find refuge from the crowd, Jesus hands the disciples the crowd’s hunger. No demons to drive out, no repentance to call for – this is the simple and difficult problem of needing food and not having enough. More than one commentator has suggested that Jesus sharing the disciples meagre meal prompts the people who have brought food, either through inspiration or shame, to bring it out from under their cloaks and share what they’d been unwilling to take out before – to make public what had been private.
I don’t think Mark, in recording this story, wants us as readers to think the sudden abundance of food is anything other than miraculous, as we hear about the 12 baskets of leftovers. There are allusions to the 12 tribes and to the manna in the wilderness – Jesus as the new and better Moses – this is not just an enormous bring-a-plate lunch, but a new Israel, a new Kingdom where everyone gets fed and there’s more than enough.
It is this vision that we as a church need when it seems as though we’re pinned between our scarce resources and the seemingly endless needs of a world where so many are hungry for more than just bread and fish. Jesus asks his disciples what they have, takes it, blesses it (gives thanks for it), and through the disciples shares it and makes it enough for those who are there. May we see the miracle completed.