REAL. LIFE. Biblical Reflections:
What do you have?
This Bible study focuses on a familiar New Testament miracle: Jesus feeds five thousand people. As we look with fresh eyes at the passage in Mark 6, we’ll place ourselves in the shoes of Jesus’ disciples and hear Him speaking to us.
Read Mark 6:30-44. The entire passage is included at the end of this study.
Background: An invitation
The story starts with an invitation that Jesus extends to His disciples.
1. What was the invitation (verses 30 and 31)?
2. What did Jesus suggest would be the goal of their time together?
3. What was the back story to the invitation? Why did the disciples need time away? What had they been doing (see Mark 6:12-13)?
4. How might they have felt after having these experiences?
5. What other key event had recently happened (see Mark 6:14-29)? How might this have affected the disciples?
6. What might have been the disciples’ expectations of this time to be alone and debrief with Jesus?
7. What detail indicates the disciples’ stress level (see the end of verse 32)?
An unanticipated complication
8. What prevented the disciples and Jesus from having their time to rest and be together?
9. What was Jesus’ response to the complication?
10. What sparked Jesus’ compassion?
11. How do you think the disciples felt about the distraction?
12. What do the disciples finally do to move toward their goal of having time away to rest (see verses 35 and 36)?
13. Do you think they were genuinely concerned about the people, or were they just eager to get away from the crowd?
14. How did Jesus respond to their suggestion (verse 37)?
15. How did the disciples react to that suggestion?
Jesus doesn’t chide His disciples for their response. He also doesn’t let them off the hook, even though He knows they have been busy in many forms of other ministries. Instead, He asks them one question: “How much bread do you have? Go and see.” Essentially He says to them, “What do you have? Go check it out.”
Note that the disciples did not have any food. But they went to check out the crowd to see if they could find anyone with food. John’s account of this miracle indicates that Andrew found a young boy who had five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:1-15).
When Andrew brought this meager food to Jesus, he said, “But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:9). His unspoken thoughts may have been, “Now can we send them away? You promised us time away, but now you want us to feed thousands of people!”
A miraculous response
16. What does Jesus do in the situation (verses 39-41)? Note that Jesus’ compassion extended not only to the people’s physical hunger, but also to their spiritual hunger. First He taught them; then He fed them. His compassion was balanced.
17. What impact did Jesus’ actions have on the crowd of people whom He had taught (verse 42)?
18. What impact did the miracle have on the disciples (verse 43)?
19. What is the significance of the number of baskets that were full of leftover bread and fish (remember verse 31)?
Feasting on leftovers
Imagine being a disciple as you walk among the crowd and pass out bread and fish. More and more people eat, but the amount of food never diminishes. In fact, when every person seated on the grass has a chance to eat, you walk back to where Jesus waits. You look down at your basket and realize that it is full of bread. Far more bread than the young boy offered to Andrew. You are stunned. Then as the other disciples gather, you realize that each of them has a full basket too. Twelve baskets full of leftovers—one for each of you. You sit and eat together with Jesus, talking about the miracle that just took place, You laugh and talk and eat until you are full.
Jesus’ compassion was so complete that He met not only the needs of the people who had gathered to hear Him teach but also the needs of the people whom He had challenged to be part of the miracle.
Put yourself into the story
Today, Jesus still looks at the needs of thousands of people in our world today—people who have been affected by disaster, conflict, and poverty—and says to us, His followers, “You feed them. You take care of them. You heal them.”
Like the disciples, we object, “You can’t be serious. The needs are so huge! How can we possibly take care of so many people? Do you know what you are asking? Besides, we’re tired. We’re exhausted from all of the other things You have called us to do.”
Jesus looks at us and asks one question: “What do you have?”
When we look at what we have—time, money, skills—it often feels absurdly inadequate. But when we place what we have in Jesus’ hands, and when He looks to heaven and blesses what we give Him—the miracle happens. Our meager offering becomes more than enough to take care of others’ needs.
And in the end, we hold the abundance, a basket full of leftovers just for us. In the end, not only will Jesus meet the needs of the people whom He calls us to serve, but He will also bless us with baskets full.
Living out the story
We at Medical Teams International experience this miracle every day. We see the needs in our world—people crowded into refugee camps after fleeing violent rebels, people reeling from devastating disasters, people whose children die from preventable causes, people wasting away from AIDS, people without even basic medical care—and we hear Christ’s voice saying to us, “You take care of them. You heal them.”
And when we are tempted to say, “But we can’t possibly do that,” Christ asks that one question: “What do you have?”
Like the disciples, we often don’t have what it takes, but we go and find the “young boy” who is willing to give his lunch. We find people who are willing to give their “lunch”—their skills, their time, their energy—and place it in Jesus’ hands and watch as He blesses what they give Him and makes it more than adequate to take care of others’ needs.
In the end, we feast on the baskets full of blessings—stories of people who are alive today . . .
* because a physician served in a refugee camp and treated hundreds of people suffering from malaria;
* because a family joined a team to Guatemala and helped families in a remote mountain village install in their home a stove that vents the smoke out of the house, preventing their children from getting respiratory infections, the leading killer in the area ;
* because a dentist volunteered on a mobile dental van and helped a boy whose jaw was infected because of unresolved dental problems;
* because a retired businessperson spends one morning every week sorting medical supplies that will be sent to hospitals in some of the remotest parts of the world.
What do you have?
So, what about you? What do you have? Time? Energy? Skill? Passion?
Will you place that in Jesus’ hands and ask Him to bless it to care for the thousands of people in our world who suffer from disaster, conflict, and poverty?
Even though not all of us can go to help people in refugee camps, people in garbage dumps, or people dying of AIDS, we all can do something.
I can pray
I can give
I can advocate
- How will you “speak up for the poor and helpless”?
- I can advocate with our leaders
I can volunteer
Passage: Mark 6:30-44 Jesus Feeds Five Thousand
30 The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. 31 Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
32 So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. 33 But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them.
34 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.”
37 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”
38 “How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.”
They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.” 39 Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.
41 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share.
42 They all ate as much as they wanted, 43 and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. 44 A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed from those loaves!
The Scripture passage was quoted from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.
"Blessed are those who help the poor."