Christadelphians - Bible Believing People

home | what christadelphians believe | bible study | daily readings | christadelphian webring


by Cliff York


Do you find it intriguing that so many people know about the miracle of Christ feeding the 5000? I do. Even among those who have no particular love for the Bible many have heard of this Bible story. The amazing details that accompany our Lord during this period of His life are often referred to in daily life. And this calling to mind is very similar to the recollection that many people also have for the well loved 23rd Psalm. "The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want." But it is the recollection of a mere story with little regard usually for the depth of spiritual significance that it contains.

What can we learn from this phenomenal miracle performed so long ago by the One who is the Great Shepherd of Psalm 23? In every gospel account there appears a faithful record giving details of how our Lord and Master exercised His remarkable compassion upon so many people at one time. The miracle of feeding five thousand contains many powerful lessons that are applicable to the people of God in every age. And these lessons are very applicable to the true Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who gather together on a regular basis to share a highly symbolic and appropriate memorial fellowship meal. In fact what God's children share together regularly by the Grace of our God is a Divine Feast which was prefigured in all its greatness in the 6th chapter of Mark.

What do we find then when we closely examine the 6th chapter of Mark? Firstly we notice that the record in Mark actually describes two feasts for us. Obviously Mark has recorded details which are intended to stand in contrast to each other. For example:-

The first was a feast of hatred and death cp v19; whilst the second was a feast of love and life cp v42.

In the first feast all that was pure and lovely and wholesome and true was abandoned in drunken stupor as Herod sported himself with a strange woman the "goddess of pleasure" cp v24. And in contrast the second feast was a sweet fellowship meal where the prospective 'bride' sat down and partook a meal of grace with the 'bridegroom'. This pointed forward to the time when all that is pure and lovely and wholesome and true will be established in righteousness as it is prefigured in v 34.

Herod's feast was a sumptuous birthday party designed to entertain the Judges the Heads of State and the Business Tycoons of Galilee in v21. And in contrast Christ's provision in v42 was a frugal meal calculated to feed "the poor of this world who have no strength no might nor power yet they are rich in faith."

The first feast was presided over by a 'lily livered' man weak at the knees and described later by Christ as "That Fox." He was cunning wily and cowardly cp v21. In contrast the second feast was presided over by Christ the "altogether lovely one " whom the Father had made "strong for Himself " cp v41.

In the first feast Herod having unlawfully married his half niece (who was in fact his brother Phillip's wife) made his new bride's daughter the offer of up to "half the Kingdom " cp v23. What an ego! These words were actually an echo from the past. They were borrowed from the Great Persian King Ahasuerus when he begged Esther to divulge her request relating to fate of her people. In the second feast mentioned in Mark 6 Christ caused a symbolic portion of his "bride to be" to sit down in green pastures. And on a hillside overlooking the still Galilean waters our Lord shared the glories of a time to come when "all the kingdoms of this world" will be given to those of "His little flock those who do not fear; to all those who rejoice in the Father's good pleasure " cp v34.

And we can find even more contrasts along these same lines. For example the first feast was held on the east of the Jordan in a palace fortress on a mountain not far from the shores of the Dead Sea wherein is no life at all. The second feast was held in the midst of God's glorious creation on a mountain side not far from the western shores of the Sea of Galilee which was teeming with fish and life. Following are just a few relevant contrasts in a table format.

Herod - An Unfaithful Adulterer Christ - A Faithful Eunuch
v17 Married an Unlawful Wife v39 Glorious Bride in Prospect
v17 Palace of Macchaerus
Eastern Shore of Dead Sea
v39 Green Mountain Slope
Western Shore of Galilee Sea
v19 Feast of Hatred v34 Feast of Love
v21 Immoral Party v41 Frugal Meal
v21 Rich & Influential invited v36 Poor & Insignificant gathered
v21 Herod "The Fox" v41 Christ "The Harmless"
v23 Egotistical Offer
("Unto half the Kingdom")
v34 Divine Principles
("The Meek Inherit all the Earth - Psa 37 Gal 3")
v24 Drunken Stupor v34 Sweet Fellowship
v27 Feast of Death v42 Feast of Life
v28 Head on a Plate at the end of the Party. v43 12 Baskets of Bread left at the end of the Meal.


Having briefly observed just a few of the comparisons in this record it is now time to focus on the principles which will help us enter into that Kingdom of Glory which is shortly to dawn on this benighted sphere. Let us sit down with that privileged Divine family of Grace from 2 000 years ago and meditate on the lessons contained in that meal.

"Despised and Rejected of Men"
We pick up the record in Mark 6:30. "And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus." Can we see ourselves in that company? Remember in v7 Christ had sent His Disciples out in pairs to get a taste for Gospel Proclamation. They were to try their hand at preaching the message that John had then been preaching for a number of years. "And so they went out and preached that men should repent."
What follows in the next few verses is a glimpse of what often happens in the real world where ever God's servants fearlessly proclaim His Truth. We find a record of no less than John the Baptiser confronting Herod's immorality and Herodias' hatred with forthright speech and powerful words. John was ultimately rejected by them both losing his life whilst serving his Lord.
Some have wondered how and why it was that John a Jew a son of Abraham should so publicly rebuke King Herod for his immorality. History records that Herod was an Edomite a non-Jew. Was the King really subject to the Law of Moses? Was he subject to any Divine Law? John apparently considered it his duty to take the ruler to task. Not only did John publicly denounce the tetrarch's behaviour in the presence of the crowds who had assembled to hear his preaching. Somehow John had been able to gain direct access to Herod's presence. John then rebuked the King to his face. Had John ignored such blatant evil coolly practised by the nation's ruler his call to the nation for repentance would have carried far less weight. Truly John was no spineless "reed to be shaken by the wind."
As a result of John's uncompromising verbal intercourse with Herod "Herod did many things (except of course confess his sins and improve his ways before God) and he heard John gladly." Herod "feared John" but he would not "fear God". He was "a double minded man and unstable in all his ways". Herod could never keep his word. Why he could not even keep his original marriage vows. He was spineless capricious and opportunistic.
The true character of the king is revealed when the door opens on John's dark prison cell. Herod would "not reject his step daughter and the mother." No he would keep his oath to them because of the company in which he had uttered it. And in doing so he chose instead to reject John and everything that John (and his younger cousin) stood for. Any man of character in Herod's position should have rejected Salome's request on the grounds that she was actually asking more than 'half the kingdom' by forwarding her mother's grisly request. But the trap had sprung and Herod felt bound by his drunken promise to order John released from the dungeon to face the grim executioner's axe.
Not long before John had sent word to Christ seeking confirmation of His mission. Christ had sent His reply hidden in a quotation from Isaiah the prophet. "The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is upon proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." Imagine how John would have felt as he recalled His gracious cousin's words as he was led out of his dungeon cell to face his execution. The prison door had certainly been opened and John was about to obtain his freedom.

How could this be so you might ask? John was about to be lose his head.

All John's life he had struggled as we all do to separate Godly thinking from fleshly impulses. And now in one swift stroke of the executioner's sword John's constant struggle with his flesh nature would be over. His very next conscious moment (though nearly 2 000 years later) will be to look into the wonderful eyes of his cousin. Then he will know indeed that "the blind now see the lame now walk the lepers are now cleansed the dead are now raised the captives have been liberated and the prisoners have been released from out of the pit wherein is no water." Though rejected by Herod and his murderess mistress John would have closed his eyes in death confidant that for him "the acceptable year of Yahweh" had arrived at last.
And in varying degrees the 12 apostles had all experienced the same pain of rejection. It would appear that none who are called of God can escape rejection in some form or another. So let us just pause and explore this matter of rejection as an aside for a moment.

Every man and woman of faith recorded for us in the Scriptures has faced rejection in some form or another. The rejection can come from many quarters including family or peers and it appears to be an inevitable part of the probation process which we must all undergo on our way to the Kingdom. "It is only through much tribulation that any of us will enter into the Kingdom of God". Look at men like Noah and David Job Samuel Uriah Stephen and Elisha. We observe women such as Hannah and Mary Rahab and Leah. In fact when we dwell on these examples we realise that it is largely how we personally handle this issue of rejection in our own lives that seems to determine our destiny. Look at Saul Israel's first king. He chose to reject the Lord's anointed but could not accept being rejected himself. Then look at the fate of the "angels that sinned". Korah Dathan and Abiram were men of prominence in Israel who did not correctly handle rejection. And they have lost the Kingdom forever as a result!

Every week our community assembles in spirit with these apostles and in the company of The One "who was despised and rejected of men." Christ was the One "who looked for comforters and there was none." And in the end He became "a stranger to His brethren - and an alien to His mother's children".
So dear Brother or dear Sister whoever you are and where-ever you are you may feel that no-one knows or that no-one cares about the problems you face day by day. But lift up your head and rejoice from the heart for by the grace of God you too have been "gathered unto Jesus " and with that little band of faithful disciples so long ago you can share their experiences and their frustrations with all the ups and downs of pilgrim life.
That is what is now seen in the next part of Mark 6:30. "And they told Him all things both what they had done and what they had taught." One of the greatest benefits of the Truth is to share together the love and the joy and the hope and the fellowship that all true believers have in common. All the Master's friends share a burning desire to be in the Master's presence. There are momentous events every day on the world scene. Prophecy steadily unfolds and the Eastern Sky lights up brighter and brighter as it were. The approaching advent of the "Sun of Righteousness" who will appear with "Healing in His beams " should stir us up to grasp at every opportunity to assemble with all others of like mind. This is so necessary that we might mentally stimulate one another and that we might weave the principles of the Divine Name into our characters.
Returning to Mark 6:31 Jesus invites all his disciples to "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place." We need to remember that our Lord had just received the dreadful news of the death of his beloved cousin. John truly the forerunner of Christ cruelly beheaded at the hands of a capricious ruler and his lecherous wife. John the Baptist was just six months older than Jesus and Christ knew that in just twelve months He would Himself be "laying down his life for his friends." We can feel in this record that Christ was most assuredly a man of like passions as we are. How keenly He experienced our griefs and our sorrows. He displayed the same compassion at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. And here is recorded how He sought solitude to reflect upon the cruel death that had been most unjustly brought upon His forerunner this close and upright member of His own kith and kin.

"John the Baptist and Moses the Prophet"
It is interesting to note here that John's death was particularly significant to our Lord for another reason. John had died an unnatural and premature death on the other side of the Jordan in Herod's own Palace. Herod's fortress Palace of Machaerus was on the other side of the Jordan River on the north eastern corner of the Dead Sea. This was the very same region where Moses some 1500 years before had also died an unnatural premature death. Remember that it was said of Moses when he went with the angel to view the land from Mount Nebo and then to be buried that his "eye was not dim nor his natural force abated".
Where is the link between Moses and John the Baptist you might ask? Here it is. John and Moses had both commenced a work which was to be carried on by a "Yah-Hoshua". In the Hebrew that's "Joshua " and in the Greek of course it is "Jesus."
Our Lord desperately wanted a period of time to find peace and comfort and solitude to reflect on the following climactic twelve months. The task of getting John's head reconnected to John's body now rested entirely on Christ's shoulders and on the success of His mission amongst the sons of Adam. To focus on this task He sought to draw aside from lifes activities for a little while. To achieve His objective He sought out a "desert place". Christ with His disciples headed out into the very environment that was 'home' for John the Baptist the "Son of the Desert".
You might ask why a desert place? Throughout scripture you will find that men of God have often sought solace in a desert place. For example Moses fled to a desert place and there he encountered God in a "fiery Thorn Bush". Elijah fled from before that wicked woman Jezebel to a desert place and there he encountered God in a "still small voice". Again Paul sought refuge in the same environment in the deserts of Arabia or Sinai after his conversion. There he was instructed more fully in his work to the Gentiles.
A desert place is bereft of things material. Open the wardrobe door and take a look at what John the Baptist hung up each night. One leather girdle and one camel hair coat! And that was exactly the same as Elijah's wardrobe! These were simple men with a profound faith in God. If you have ever been out into a desert you will know that the silence is deafening. There are no distractions. It is a place where the mind can be cleared of all the thoughts that clutter and hinder. A place where one can better focus on the majesty and the might and the power of the great Creator who made all things. Of the One who has a grand purpose for all His creatures especially creatures like John and Elijah.
And of course the desert is the one place where you can feel the great message that John came to deliver. "All flesh is grass and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field the grass withereth the flower fadeth because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it surely the people are as grass."

So it is good to respond regularly to Christ's invitation to "come aside into a (figurative) desert place and to rest awhile for there are many coming and going " cp Mark 6:31.

Nothing changes does it? The essential character of the world today is just as it was 2 000 years ago. "There were many coming and going". Perhaps all that has really changed is the speed! In our Lord's day it was donkey and camel. Today it is motorcar and aeroplane. And we are still "coming and going"! And it is so easy to miss the Master's gracious feast when we are "coming and going " isn't it? (Perhaps there is just a hint in these words of the Adversary's problem in Job 1:7 2:2.)
Just imagine that one has said to us "Did you hear that the Master has invited us to go with Him to a great feast in a desert place?" And we say "Well I'm sorry but I cannot come. You see I must go and check out my new piece of ground or my new oxen or my next business deal". Imagine saying those words to Christ as we stand before Him at the Judgement Seat shortly. Just run that imaginary (though tragically too real) conversation through your mind now and it just helps to put things into their right perspective doesn't it?
So we must all learn to distance ourselves from last week's problems and next week's worries and to come aside with our Lord "into a desert place awhile". And it is a remarkable thing that we find a little later in the record that though it was a wilderness Christ was able to sit the company down on "much green grass". Travelling with Christ into the wilderness will ultimately see the reversal of the effects of the curse pronounced in the Garden of Eden so long ago.

"He That Cometh Unto Me Shall Never Hunger"
Then Mark 6:31 makes this telling comment. "They had no leisure so much as to eat". When did you last have a good meal? I mean a really good meal? A feast of fat things? A meal of eternal nourishment? A meal made up of an ample supply of the "bread from heaven?"
The experience of the disciples then is so often ours also. But it is probably truer for us today because we are not a generation given to labouring hard in God's Word. Few indeed (the present writer included) spend sufficient hours extracting the goodness from their gleanings and then sharing that goodness with their fellows. It is so hard because this age of "instant push buttons" has really affected the Spirit man within all of us so that we often do not even give ourselves the "leisure so much as to eat".
But there is an answer to that problem in v32. "They departed into a desert place by ship privately" and we will see shortly that this "ship" is a symbol or a type of the Ecclesia of God. So Christ now made a conscious effort to seek seclusion and quietude with the company of those who had been called out so as to focus their minds together on John's grand message and the purpose in his death.
What does the Ecclesia mean to each one of us? Is it a place of refuge from the pressures of life? A place where the fellowship is sweet and God centred and Christ-like? And the benefits of the Truth are shared freely with all whom Christ has called whether they be great or small rich or poor amiable or difficult young or old? Whether it is or not largely depends upon ourselves as individuals making the necessary effort to be a comfort and a strength to each other.

Our Lord with His disciples made a deliberate choice at this point to "depart into that wilderness by means of a ship". The record conveys a sense of activity and urgency that is seen in Christ's desire to consolidate the faith of the disciples at this time. Though John had just been beheaded for daring to speak the Truth the disciples had to learn 'not to be fearful but to be faithful.' And our Lord needed to strengthen them to that end. And twenty centuries on His modern disciples need the same encouragement.

How often do we make that same conscious effort to consolidate our selves and our families in the everlasting principles of the Truth? I would venture to say that we don't do it often enough. That lack of commitment is itself the subject of Bible Prophecy being fulfilled in our days. Christ warns us in Matt 25 that "while the Bridegroom tarried all the virgins slumbered and slept". Very shortly a cry is going to be made! "Behold the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him". And what then will our reaction be? Overwhelming joy? Unspeakable relief? Or remorseful panic? Will we be of that number described in the parable as those virgins who frantically make last minute efforts to secure a supply of oil?

If so "I do not know you " will be the Lord's reply as those virgins pound on the door demanding an entrance! How foolish to allow ourselves to be among that number when we have the time the opportunity and the means to be otherwise! Even for the wise virgins in the end the only thing that will count in that Day will be a quiet humble faithful confidence in the abundant Gracious Mercy of our Heavenly Father. As it is written "To this man will I look even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and who trembles at my Word". It is hard to tremble at the Word if it is not our habit to be reading it and discussing it isn't it? So let's make the most of every God given opportunity to put a bit more oil in our leaky vessels. We must keep topping them up regularly because the way we relate to our Heavenly Father today is surely going to determine our destiny tomorrow!

"He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd"
Returning to Mark 6 notice that though Christ desired peace and quiet to reflect on the things that would lay before Him in the next 12 months "the people saw Him departing and many knew Him and ran afoot thither out of all cities and outwent them and came together unto Him " cp v33. And here was foreshadowed part of the great work ahead of Him when "He would gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad " cp John 11:52. In v34 we learn that "Jesus when He came out saw much people and was moved with compassion toward them because He saw them as sheep not having a shepherd". What a Great and Gracious Shepherd.
It has been suggested that this was a Sabbath year hence here there is a possible hint as to the reason for the shortage of food among the 5 000. If indeed it was a sabbatical year the resultant lack of employment would also have allowed such great crowds to gather to Jesus. Add to this the evangelising work of the twelve where many people had heard of this authoritative new Teacher. And now that John was dead many of his disciples would have been seeking Jesus to hear Him for themselves. Further add to this group the Jewish pilgrims who were making their way through Galilee at this time heading for the Passover in Jerusalem and the roads and pathways through the hillsides of Israel were truly covered with people "as sheep that had been scattered" by the hypocritical religious leaders of the day.
What a great High Priest we have! Here was one who was prepared to put to one side His own personal needs and desires when He saw these "sheep " or "little ones " as Luke was wont to refer to them in his record. Now that John was dead the people had no shepherd in Israel no leader no direction and no protection. There was no-one to feed them and to water them and to lead them beside the still waters of peace and consolation in the scriptures of hope. The leaders in Israel were mostly wolves masquerading in sheeps clothing seeking to promote their own home-grown brand of righteousness. A righteousness which was in fact full blown hypocrisy and self deception and conceit. A righteousness which had no regard at all for those whom Christ came to save cp Matt 23; Matt 25:34-46. A righteousness which was based entirely upon national pedigree and pride in human achievement.
Christ now took up the mantle of John's great work as it is recorded in Isaiah 40:10-11. "His work is before Him He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm and carry them is His bosom and He shall gently lead those who are with young". Did you notice the word "lead" in that verse? Christ does not drive us or force us to His kingdom. Paul explains this in Romans 2:4. "It is the goodness of God that leadeth us to repentance " cp Psa 100.
This reminds us of that most notable of incidents at Mt Sinai which is recorded for us in Exod 33:18-23. Here you will recall Moses was placed in a cleft of the Rock. The Name Bearing Angel "passed before him " and His hand covered Moses whilst He passed by. He removed His hand after He had passed by so that Moses could only see His back parts as He retreated. In other words to see the glory of God Moses had to follow after it. And what did the Angel declare as He passed by Moses Israel's great Law Giver? "Yahweh He Who Will Be Manifest In Power is Merciful Gracious Longsuffering and Abundant in Goodness and Truth". The God whose righteousness we so often claim to be upholding with our often harsh and sometimes unjust demands upon others is first Merciful with a capital "M " then Gracious with a capital "G " then Longsuffering with a capital "L " and so on. Truth is certainly important but imagine where we would all be if our God was to insist on absolute TRUTH from each of us before He could save us.
We ought to thank God then that He has chosen to place MERCY and not TRUTH as the principle or foremost part of His Character. Let each of us then be like the great meek man Moses Israel's first shepherd leader. May we follow after our Heavenly Father's righteousness in the way that He would have us display His character in our actions to all men cp Jer 9:23-24.
But I digress. Back in Mark 6 we have followed Christ out into the desert place. He has gone in front as the Good Shepherd and searched out beautiful green pastures. He has brought us to still clear waters unfouled by vain human philosophies cp Ezek 34:18-19. And as the prophet wrote in Isaiah 40:11 "He will feed His flock like a shepherd". So we find right at the end of Mark 6:34 that "He began to teach them many things". Christ would have shared with these "little ones " the glories and the wonders of the Kingdom age. The people gladly spent all day listening to Him with rapt attention as He fed them like a True Shepherd. Time just flew and the day got away on them as it always does whenever one sits at the feet of the Master Himself as it were.
And this is what the record indicates in v35. "When the day was far spent". The record in Matthew 14:15 says "and when it was evening". This is the first evening mentioned in the record the other is in Mark 6:47. In a Jewish day it appears that they had two 'evenings.' The first was at 3pm and the second was at 6pm. For example we read in Ex 12:6 "And the whole congregation of Israel shall kill the Passover lamb between the two evenings (mg)". This was between 3pm and 6pm in the afternoon. And we need to bear in mind that the events recorded here in Mark 6 are taking place at the exact time of Passover in Israel. This Passover is exactly 12 months before Christ the great Passover Lamb was to be crucified.
But around 3 o'clock in the afternoon the disciples pointed out a problem to Christ. They assumed that He was so engrossed with His teaching that He had overlooked the practicalities of the situation. They come to Christ and suggest that He dismiss the people in order that the crowd might secure some food in the nearby villages and towns before nightfall.
But Christ as always was in full control of the situation. We learn this in Matt 14:16. He said to His disciples "they need not depart: give ye them to eat " cp Mark 6:37. In other words Christ invited the disciples to apply themselves to working out this problem. He was seeking their suggestion as to how they would solve this difficulty?"
And in doing so Christ posed a test for His disciples. We gather this from John 6:5-6. There our Lord says to Phillip "Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat? And this He said to prove him (Phillip) for Christ Himself knew what He (Christ) would do."
Christ intended to use this situation to teach some profound principles. In fact this record of feeding 5 000 is one of the few incidents recorded in all four Gospel records and it forms the basis of one of the eight signs of John.
Not surprisingly we learn that Phillip approaches the situation before him from a human point of view. We find this is so when we to go to John 6:7. Phillip does a quick head count and he estimates that 200 pennyworth of bread would be barely sufficient to give everyone just a little feed. Now let's work this out. A labourers wage in those days was "a penny a day " cp Matt 20:2. So 200 pennyworth was equal to 200 days wages in our language. In todays terms that would be approximately a years wages there being about 200 working days in every year. In other words Phillip estimated that the equivalent of $35 000 (1997 $Aus.) worth of food was barely sufficient to feed the multitude that were gathered there. Obviously there are far more than 5 000 people gathered at Christ's feet. Matthew's record tells us that there was "about 5 000 men beside women and children " cp 14:21. It is quite probable that our Lord fed in excess of 20 000 people on this occasion. If there were 5 000 families with an average of 2 or more children per family unit 20 000 people is not an unlikely figure. In support of this fact an amount of A$1.50 per head (1997 figures) would indeed be barely sufficient to give everyone just a little feed.
So Phillip rightly estimated that to feed this vast multitude a great price had to paid. And remember that this is at the time of Passover cp John 6:4. Just twelve months from hence Christ was going to pay the ultimate price for the redemption of His people. All of His people. A great price was paid that we might feed on the "Bread of Heaven." As Paul informs us in Acts 20:28 the price paid was the very life blood of God's Only Begotton Son. Not as a ransom sacrifice of course. But as a representative sacrifice on behalf of all those who choose to be covered by that gracious act of Divine love.

How appropriate that the children of God gather regularly then to feed on the "bread of heaven " as Christ Himself taught in Capernaum straight after this incident in John 6:50. It was He who could say of Himself "This is the Bread which cometh down from heaven that a man may eat thereof and not die."

"Five Barley Loaves and Two Small Fishes"
According to Mark 6:38 Christ addressed His disciples and He asked them "how many loaves have ye?" John records that they found "a lad who had five loaves and two fishes." Now five loaves and two fishes constitute far more than a cut lunch for a little lad. All the other records indicate in fact that this food belonged to the disciples. Compare Matt 14:17 and Luke 9:13 where the disciples report that "we have no more but five loaves and two fishes." It appears then that the lad was probably the son of one of the disciples. Maybe this was Andrew's son cp John 6:8. And maybe he had the job of carrying the picnic basket for the twelve. But as Andrew said "what is this among so many?" Five loaves and two fishes was a truly insignificant amount to feed such a vast multitude. In fact John fills out a few more details in his record. He tells us that they were "five barley loaves and two small fishes."
Now barley loaves were considered to be the bread of the poor. The Barley harvest took place in March about the time of Passover and before the general wheat harvest. Barley is always ready to harvest before the wheat. So here we have the first ripe grains gathered and sorted and crushed and baked to produce the bread of the firstfruits.
But this barley was probably already twelve months old taken from the previous years harvest. Surely this too would identify these loaves as belonging to the poor of the land. And these "five barley loaves" were about to be miraculously multiplied to feed a multitude of the poor of this world. And this multitude had the potential to grow rich in faith. They had been gathered by grace out of the nations as represented by the two fish. Jew and Gentile caught in the great Gospel net and brought to the Son of God Himself through the work of His followers.
In your leisure compare John 21 which records the eighth sign of John with the record in John 6 which records the fourth sign of John and you will find the similarities are amazing. For example:-

1) John 21:1 tells us that the disciples were gathered at the Sea of Tiberias - the only other reference in Scripture to this Sea of Tiberias is in John 6.

2) John 21:2 gives us the names of 5 Disciples -
1. Simon Peter
2. Thomas
3. Nathanael
4. James
5. John..... and 2 other disciples.... whom John does not name.

Remember John 6 records that there were 5 loaves and 2 fishes. In other words the work of the Disciples after Christ's resurrection was an extension of the lessons they had learned twelve months previously when Christ fed a multitude in the wilderness. Their commission was to fish men both Jew and Gentile out of the sea of Nations and to feed them by Grace with the True Bread of Heaven cp John 21:15-17. That is our work also!

3) In John 21:5 Christ asks "Children have ye any meat?" And in John 6:5 He had asked Phillip "Whence shall we buy bread?" Reading between the lines the question appears to be "can you (the disciples) provide the food by which a man can eat and live forever?"

4) In John 21:6 "a great multitude of fishes" was drawn to Christ out of the sea of Galilee by the disciples. And in John 6:5 "a great company of people" were drawn to Christ out of the region of Galilee more than likely by the evangelising of the Apostles cp Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6.

5) In John 21:8 we learn that Peter leapt into the water whilst the ship was about 200 cubits from the land. Here we see Peter a long way from his Lord just as Phillip had been a long way from His Lord spiritually when he calculated that 200 pennyworth of bread could not properly feed all that multitude cp John 6:7.

6) John 21:9 mentions Fish on the coals and Bread. A meal miraculously prepared by Christ just as it had been in John 6:11.

7) In John 21:17 Jesus says "Feed my Lambs and Feed my sheep." The work of the apostles after Christ's death was an extension of the things which He had done when He fed a multitude whom He perceived as "sheep not having a shepherd" in the wilderness of life cp John 6:5.

"John's Great Message Continues On"
And so returning to Mark 6:39 we find that the Captain of our Salvation takes control of the situation. "He commanded them to all sit down." If we wish to be fed by this One then we must be ready to obey His Word. As He said in another place "Why do you call me Lord Lord and do not those things that I say?" cp Luke 6:46. And we can only do the things He says if we hear Him if we are prepared to listen to Him speak to us. And having listened to Him we must then try to live our lives as if He were right there with us all the time.
Why did He "make them all sit down?" Again Jesus is extending the work of His cousin John. John had faithfully delivered the great message of Divine equalisation. "Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low and the glory of Yahweh shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together" cp Isaiah 40:3-11. In other words all flesh is as grass. We all have a common level in the presence of One so Great as our Lord. It is the great work of Christ to raise us up out of the depressing valleys of life. At the same time Christ will bring down the high mountains of pride and self sufficiency. And all the while He will make straight the things that were made crooked back in the Garden of Eden. And in performing these great works He will smooth out the rough patches in our characters. In the end we shall see not just the "glory of Yahweh " but as Luke tells us when he quotes this Isaiah passage we shall see "the salvation of God" cp Luke 3:4-6. (Incidentally the name Isaiah means "The Salvation of Yah").
Why does the record then tell us in Mark 6:44 that there were 5 000 men when Matthew tells us that there were women and children also? As we have seen already this was probably a concourse numbering in the vicinity of 20 000 or more people. It would appear that the number "5 000" is chosen to highlight a specific aspect of the Lord's work.

Five is the number which is commonly associated with Divine Grace. And a thousand is often used in scripture to indicate a family cp Micah 5:2. What we have typified here in the Divine record is the family of Divine Grace. This Divine Family of Grace is about to re-enact in miniature the experiences of another multitude. A multitude 100 times greater in number. Our minds go back to the time when a multitude numbering around 2 000 000 souls fled Egypt and were fed Manna by the Grace of God in the wilderness for forty years. Look at what Christ informed the crowd the next day in Capernaum. "Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written He gave them bread from heaven to eat." This provision of Grace is described in Psalm 78:25 as "the food of angels." But then Christ added "Your fathers who ate that manna in the wilderness are dead!" A generation cursed forever because they had despised the Grace of the God who had called them out of Egypt and who lead them to the Land of Promise.

Christ commanded the disciples to make the multitude before Him to sit down "by companies." The Greek word is 'Sumposia.' From this we get our English word "Symphony." It conveys the idea of harmony and peace and working together. Literally it means to be "as guests around a meal table facing each other." And they sat down "upon the green grass." In John 6:10 we are told "now there was much grass in that place." Though it was a wilderness place they were in obviously it was a place where there was sufficient moisture to produce an abundance of grass.
It was springtime in Israel at this time the time of Passover when the hills were covered in verdure. Within a few short months the scorching summer sun would cause that grass to wither and the flowers to fade. So it was to be 40 years later that the Roman Armies would go through the land and bring on Israel's terrible summer of judgment. A judgment which would see the vitality of the nation of Israel wither away for 1900 years. And the only thing that would endure that terrible judgement would be the Word of God itself. This is exactly what Isaiah 40 had declared. "The Word of our God shall stand forever." And where would it stand? Obviously it would stand or endure in the lives and hearts of individuals who are prepared to have the Word as a motivating power in their lives. Individuals like John the Baptist and Elijah and the Lord Himself cp Luke 21:36.
Not only did Jesus require that the multitude sit down in companies He commanded that "they sit down in ranks." Here again is another allusion to their father's flight from Egypt. Exodus 13:18 records that the children of Israel left Egypt "harnessed by five in a rank." The word "ranks" in the Greek literally means "garden plots." It reminds us of the beautiful theme found in Song of Solomon 4:12 . "A garden inclosed is my sister spouse." The Divine Family of Grace sitting at Christ's feet and feeding of His Bread was as a garden plot. Everyone of them can be pictured as "trees of righteousness the planting of Yahweh " cp Isaiah 61:3. The ranks were in number "by hundreds and by fifties." So in groups of one hundred with two ranks of fifty they sat down facing each other as guests at a large table. In their bright Oriental dress each harmonious setting would look just like a beautiful garden plot on that grassy Galilean hillside.
Two ranks incorporating Jew and Gentile made a company of hundred. This represents the complete family of God. Many in the crowd would have become excited with the idea of 'groups of fifty.' Fifty appears to be the normal size for an army unit in Old Testament times cp 2 Sam 15:1; 2 Kings 1:9-14. There was probably much discussion among the people at this time in favour of openly overthrowing Herod by means of military force. But Christ was preparing the minds of the people for another Kingdom. A Kingdom which will be set up with Divine Weapons with a Divine Purpose to establish a Divine Kingdom in the Divine Timetable cp John 18:36. Amongst some of the candidates for His future Divine Army Christ divided the two fish that had been hauled out of the sea of nations. And He also divided the five loaves by grace amongst the poor who had nothing in this world cp Isaiah 58:7-11.

"They Did All Eat And Were Filled"
In Mark 6:41 Jesus "when He had taken the five loaves and the two fishes looked up to heaven and blessed and brake the loaves and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided He among them all." Where have we read those words before? They are very similar to the words spoken just twelve months later by Christ. In Mark 14:22 similar words are recorded when He instituted the great memorial feast we gather together to remember so regularly. And in v42 we learn that "they did all eat and were filled." By the grace of God there is always sufficient for every person who seeks to sit at the feet of the Master. "They who seek Yahweh shall not lack any good thing " cp Psa 34:7-10.
Then we learn of an amazing principle in v43. After the multitude had finished eating and were all filled "the disciples took up twelve baskets full of fragments." Not only was there sufficient on this occasion to feed the immediate Family of Divine Grace sitting at the feet of the Master. There was enough left over to feed all the Israel of God down through the passage of time. And the disciples would have learnt a great lesson. When a disciple of Christ stretches out his hand to feed God's ecclesia he receives far more than he originally had.

And one does not have to stand up on a platform to feed the ecclesia of God! Every Bible class and every meeting is a golden opportunity to share what we have gleaned from the scriptures with our fellow disciples. What we have gathered may seem to be a meagre contribution in our own eyes but it has been proved time and again that we will go home with far more than we originally brought if we would only share the gems of the Scriptures with each other.

"Twelve Disciples Adrift On the Sea of Life"
The next section in Mark 6:45-51 also contains some very important lessons for us. In John's record we learn that Christ circumvented an attempt by the people to make Him King. (Can you imagine the pressure that Jesus would have been under at this time as in excess of 20 000 people clamoured to make Him King?) What a temptation for any man! He knew that He was born to be "King of the Jews!" cp John 18:37. That position is His by Divine decree! But only in the Divine time! Here are His second and third temptations all over again cp Luke 4:4-12. Now was not the time. So Jesus sent the people away. We know that He was alone because he had first "constrained (or compelled) His disciples to get into the ship and to go over the other side of the Sea before unto Bethsaida." Mark 6:45(mg) suggests they were going "over against Bethsaida." This appears correct for John tells us in his record that the disciples set sail "toward Capernaum " cp John 6:17.
Here are all the disciples out in the Ecclesial ship on the Sea of Nations in the midst of the Gentile night heading towards "Capernaum." The name "Capernaum" means literally 'the city of comfort or consolation.' Jesus having dispersed the multitude fled from the temptation that was before Him. He ascended up into a mountain alone to find true comfort in prayer with His Father. During the night a great storm arose out on the waters of the lake. The sea and the waves began to roar. The winds became contrary. Sailing became nigh on impossible.
What a beautiful cameo of life as it is for us today. A small band of disciples in a frail vessel named "The Ecclesia." A frail craft adrift on the Sea of Nations heading in the general direction of the "City of comfort and consolation." As Paul comments in Heb 11:10 today we are looking in faith "for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God." But the night is dark. The winds of vain human imaginings are strong. The sea and the waves are crashing and foaming all around. And Christ has ascended into Heaven alone.
Then in Mark 6:47 we come to the second "evening" that was mentioned earlier. Obviously the time is now past 6pm. Darkness had well and truly arrived. As we read "when even was (fully) come the ship was in the midst of the sea and Christ alone on the land." In the previous verse Mark had told us that "He had departed into a mountain to pray." And from His lofty vantage point "He saw them toiling in rowing." Being the time of Passover a full moon cast some light upon that furious sea. As the moon shone down through broken clouds Christ observed His disciples labouring together as they headed toward Capernaum. As our Lord watches His latter day Disciples from His vantage point in Heaven at this time can it be said that He can see us 'toiling in rowing?' Is the small frail vessel that we are in heading towards the City of Consolation? Is it sinking? What is happening to this great little "ship"?
Now is time to examine our lives. We look out into the black Gentile night about us. The storms of life are raging. The "sea and the waves are roaring" all around us cp Luke 21:25. Are we just a passenger in this good ship? Are we content to just go along for the ride? Do we sit back at home and take it easy? Do we expect that the labours of our Brethren will be sufficient to carry us into the Kingdom? Are we "asleep " kidding ourselves that mere attendance at Ecclesial Meetings is all that is required to "live the Truth?"
This good ship "The Ecclesia " needs all hands on deck today. The "winds of life are contrary" to us. We can never make it to the far side on our own. It is too late to bail out now. It would be spiritual suicide to do that. God has given us "a great company" of Brothers and Sisters. At this late hour we need to pull together toward the great goal of "consolation" that He has set before us. Christ has chosen all the occupants that are in the "Ecclesial ship" along with us. There is great strength of character to be gained by remaining in "the boat " and weathering out whatever storms might be raging wherever we are at this time. No matter where we are we are not alone - God knows!
[To change the metaphor] we can only grow where the Father has planted us - but we must grow and bear fruit to His Glory cp John 15:2-13. Remember Christ has ascended up on high into Heaven itself and He can see all our efforts. He can see whether we are "toiling in rowing" the Ecclesial ship. He can see whether we are helping all our Brothers and Sisters to arrive safely at the great "City of Consolation." He can also see if we are busy "smiting our fellow servants" in His absence causing some to become disillusioned with "the way " cp Matt 24:44-51.
But returning to the narrative. John informs us in chapter 6:18 that a "great wind" had arisen on the sea. The disciples had spent all night rowing. It was not a great distance across the Sea. It was only about 6 miles. Now the long night was about to end. And the ship had only travelled between 3.5 to 4 miles cp John 6:19. This is so true to life even at the end of the 20th Century. It is terribly hard work fighting against the popular tide of humanity. The general drift of the contrary winds of false doctrine often hamper any progress that might be made. And without Christ in the vessel with us we will find the task of reaching the far side impossible.
"And about the fourth watch of the night He cometh unto them " cp Mark 6:48. It was now very late in the night. In fact there is here in this record an incidental little clue as to the importance of this information. This "fourth watch" is a Roman (or Gentile) reckoning of time and it relates to the time between 3am and sunrise.
And furthermore John tells us that the disciples were expecting Christ to come unto them cp John 6:17. And now He appears as Mark 6:48 continues "walking upon the Sea." In other words He is in control of the nations at a time when "the sea and the waves are roaring." What a marvellous comfort to us then that we can discern Christ in the signs of the times drawing ever nearer to us through the dawn mists of the Gentile night.
And then Mark tells us "that He would have passed by them!" Has it ever felt like that to you? Time is moving on. The night has been long. The troubles that surround us seem to have no answer. How much longer will He be? Could it be that He has "passed us by"? And we sometimes have doubts and fears and sometimes we may even wonder if we really are the people. Sometimes we wonder whether or not we have followed cunningly devised fables?
And Christ is testing us is He not? In the same way that He tested His disciples on that mountain side nearly 2 000 years ago "to prove us." To see what we will do when we are left to our devices and to see just how we co-operate together in rowing the Ecclesial Boat. To see how we will weather the storms of life and also to see how we will feed His lambs and to prove us whether we will care for His sheep.
But as Peter says our God has given us "a more sure word of prophecy " and when we examine the prophetic scriptures and see the prophecies fulfilling one after the other exactly as Bro Thomas and our other pioneering Brethren anticipated they would why would He not crown off His work with the grand climax of the ages? And so as Christ approaches us now how do we perceive Him? In v49 the Disciples saw Him as "a Spirit " something that lacked substance "for they all saw Him and were troubled." What about ourselves? The day is fast approaching "when we shall see Him as He is " and what is more He shall see us as we are Brethren! The question for ourselves today is does that prospect trouble us? Are we acting like Christ and His Father toward our Brethren? Or are we dead from the neck up? It does appear that most people today are "fast asleep " and self-satisfied within their own "Comfort-Zone " though they valiantly fight anyone who dares to do anything that might wake them up and make them think about the "real issues" of "Living Life by the Grace of the Father?"
What is our Lord to us? Is He a reality? Or is he a "Phantasma?" We must be able to make Christ a reality in our lives if we are going to make it safely to the other side of the Sea of Nations.

And don't we long to hear those next words spoken to us? "Be of good cheer it is I be not afraid." This is the same message that the angel Gabriel spoke to Daniel in chapter 10:12 when Daniel was symbolically resurrected. What words of great comfort and assurance and consolation. And it will not be long before they are spoken to us God willing.

"With Christ in the Vessel We Smile at the Storm"
Mark 6:51 then records that "He went up unto them into the ship " and John records that "immediately the ship was at the land whither they went." A distance of between 2 and 3 miles covered in an instant and "immediately the wind ceased " and the ship was safely moored in the harbour at Capernaum. The disciples could not make the distance on their own and neither shall we. All we can do is head roughly in the right direction and when Christ appears in the vessel "in a moment in the twinkling of eye " that is in no time at all we shall have arrived safely at the "City of Consolation."

So in summary let us reflect on the lessons that are contained in this beautiful and gracious Bible narrative.

Call to mind the work of John the Baptist at home in the Desert bereft of all that can clutter and hinder faithfully introducing his greater cousin to a Godless and a Lawless Nation. And remember how he lost his life because he dared to speak the Truth without compromise. His next waking moment will be to hear those wonderful comforting words "be of good cheer it is I be not afraid." And for John it will seem that in "a moment and in the twinkling of an eye " he will have passed from the prison house of Herod to the "City of the Great King " with his work about to begin again this time to fearlessly introduce his Cousin to our generation cp Isaiah 40; Isaiah 61; Rev 14:1-7.
And of course there is the work of Christ the "True Shepherd " who selflessly ministered to the needs of the poor of this world to those sheep who being scattered by the false shepherds were lost on all the high mountains of Israel cp Ezek 34:6; Luke 15:1-7. And let us reflect that He sacrificed His solitude and His energy and His comfort and ultimately His life to provide that true "Bread from Heaven " whereby we might eat and live forever with Him.
Consider the Disciples as they grappled to comprehend the Lord's way of solving seemingly insurmountable difficulties. And how they laboured to distribute the Bread of Life amongst the Family called by Grace to the feet of Jesus and how they gathered in the end enough of that "Living Bread" to feed all the Israel of God down through time.
Let us remember how that Christ is now departed into "a high mountain " and how we are in the Ecclesial Ship with all His disciples everyone of them called by Him out in the midst of the Sea of Nations working together to row towards the "City of Consolation " with a tremendous wind representing all that opposes God whipping up the sea all around us. And Christ allows these storms of life. He had the power to calm the storm. But He knows that a smooth sea never made a good mariner. He is testing our comfort zone and our real commitment to the Truth. And we can be just like Peter and step out of the "comfort-zone " as he did on this occasion when he left the boat and walked across water toward his Master cp Matt 14:29-30.
But like Peter the moment we take our eyes of Christ and allow "fear" to motivate us we will sink like the stone that Peter was named after. There is only one way to stay on top of whatever problem is besetting us at the moment and that is to gaze steadfastly into the face of Jesus Christ and be motivated by Faith and not by Fear cp Luke 12:32; 2 Cor 3:18; 1 John 4:18-21.
And can we see His face now? In this last watch of the Gentile night? Coming to us through the morning mist! He is near the Sun of Righteousness is about to appear! Or do we feel that He has passed us by? Will we be troubled when we see Him? And when He sees us will He say to us "Be of good cheer it is I be not afraid " or will He say "O ye of little faith wherefore didst thou doubt?" Let us then be not fearful. Let us rather be faithful until the end.

Does this teach us something about the ideal maximum size of our Meetings today? Fifty members gives everyone something to do. When an Meeting grows to one hundred members perhaps it is time to start a new light stand and spread the word and the work around a little further. Maybe this would contribute to a greater Ecclesial harmony as there is nothing like a little work to keep idle hands and idle tongues gainfully and profitably employed.

Contact us