What do you have?
When we meet up with Jesus and the disciples in the passage that follows, the disciples
have just returned from having been sent out to all the surrounding villages basically to
carry out the same work that they have been watching Jesus perform.
• Here they are called “apostles,” which means “those who are sent.”
• They are obviously exhausted from their work and their journeying, and they are
looking forward to some time alone with Jesus, to rest and recuperate.
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He
said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For
many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them
going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the
hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country
and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give
them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii
worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have
you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”
Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So
they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men (Mark 6:30-44).
The disciples do not get the experience that they were wishing for, but who would trade
what they wanted (rest) for what they got (the miraculous feeding)? An important
turning point in the story occurs in the third paragraph above.
• The disciples draw Jesus’ attention to the fact that it is growing late and the people are
probably hungry: “send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country
and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”
• The disciples seem to see a great divide between themselves (Jesus’ faithful inner
circle) and the crowd (outsiders) for whom Jesus has had compassion.
• In their view, it’s time for the outsiders to go away, so that the insiders can have some
quiet conversation over a nice dinner.
But Jesus reorients their thinking: You feed them. What have you got? The disciples are
probably certain that when they tell Jesus how little there is, he’ll back off and send the
crowd away after all. But he doesn’t.
• In the midst of the disciples’ worrying that there isn’t enough time, isn’t enough food,
isn’t enough energy, isn’t enough Jesus – Jesus takes what little they have, blesses it
and shares it among all.
• Jesus alone does not make the miracle occur. It is the disciples’ offering of what they
have, together with Jesus’ prayer and blessing, that ensures that all are fed.
• And there isn’t merely enough. There are twelve baskets of leftovers.
Questions for Reflection
• One of the issues in discipleship is the sense that we are somehow not sufficient to the
task. We don’t have the necessary gifts, or the necessary time, or the necessary energy
to be a follower of Jesus. But today, Jesus simply asks us, “What do you have?” What
aspects of yourself have you usually offered in your discipleship? Are there different
skills or energies that Christ might be calling forth from you now? Are there aspects of
yourself that you have not wanted to offer in discipleship?
• A secondary miracle in the story is that the language of “us” and “them” is broken
down by the miracle of abundant provision. Is there any way in which you feel your
own sense of “us” and “them” beginning to dissolve by virtue of Christ’s generosity
Generous God, all that I have is a gift from you, and it is enough. Help me to rest in the
sufficiency of this moment, in the warmth of your presence with me, in the graciousness
of this path of discipleship that you have set me upon. And then inspire me with
renewed energy to offer all that I am and all that I have for your reconciling mission. In
Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.