The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”
39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. – Mark 6:30-44
What if you were one of the 5,000? What if you saw the boy with the fish and loaves and wondered what good that would do for such a large crowd? What if you saw the food being distributed? What if when the food came to you, it was miraculously of greater quantity than you could ever have imagined? What if you ate and had your fill, and then saw 12 baskets full of leftovers?
Would you believe your very eyes? Would you tell your friend about it? Would she believe you? Would he write it off as religious enthusiasm and misguided gullibility? Would the skeptic next door explain it away with a story of a little boy who inspired others to share?
Would you believe it? And if you do believe it, what do you do with it? Into what folder does it fit?
Maybe there is no folder kept in reserve for those moments of need beyond our human resources. This moment points us to the compassionate power of God. That is enough, is it not?
Jesus has compassion (a wonderful word in the Greek meaning a churning of the guts Σπλαγχνίζομαι [splagxnizomai]). Knowing that Jesus’ guts were wrenched when he saw the crowd gives us insight into his character. He is not aloof. He is not distant. He is not untouched. He is present. He is engaged. He is not hard-hearted. He is compassionate.
The miracle is a powerful testimony to Jesus’ power over all things. It is an echo of the way God provided manna to the children of Israel when they wandered in the desert. Jesus is pointing toward himself as the One who was at work those many centuries before.
People need to know who Jesus really is: God in the flesh. And they need to see his character and nature as well. The view into the compassionate heart of Jesus is something people need to experience. He sees our pain. He knows our suffering. He is aware of our hunger. And his heart is constantly moving toward us in compassionate love.