You Give Them to Eat!

Mark 6:35-36 NAS

35 When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

Sounds like a reasonable request me! Let’s think about the situation for a moment. To feed at least 5,000 people for one meal would require, at minimum, a few days of planning, organization and preparation. Coming up with a menu that would negate spoilage, arranging carts to carry food into an uninhabited area would take a considerable amount of effort to organize. Lining up vendors to produce, package and distribute provisions to this large a group would involve several experienced planners. Not to mention the financial burden of resources to secure the whole operation.

Then there is the fact they were in a desolate area away from the convenience of a city population with the capacity to handle such an event. This was not a 5-star hotel location with kitchens and sizable on-call staff to help make the event enjoyable and go without a hitch. There were no chefs and waiters to make sure reasonable portions were distributed and served equitably.

Now, think of the anxiety of 12 men watching their mentor, seemingly oblivious to the perilous nature of the whole situation, continue meeting needs, speaking to the crowd and healing the sick. They must have grabbed for the equivalent of our modern day Tums. It was very reasonable for them to ask Him for a moment of time to consider the practical nature of this whole episode.

The spontaneity of the enterprise added to the weight of the burden of care. Watching the sun disappear in the west, aware time was slipping away, realizing the needy were not vacating the area anytime soon, the more pragmatic individuals were moved to say something. Filled with irrefutable logic and facts some said to the Savior, “This place is desolate and it is already quite late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

What a reasonable, irresistible and indisputable request. “Send them away” was the only rational thing to do! The whole situation was greater than these 13 men could bare or handle with no advanced planning. Compassion and logic dictates, though as difficult as it was to say, for the sake of health and well being the day’s work must end and send everyone away.

Imagine the shock at the Master’s reply, “You give them to eat!” Their irrefutable logic had just been trampled upon by the most unrealistic of requests. Deploying one last attempt at reason the disciples responded, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?¹” Their reply almost sounds as if they took umbrage to the Lord’s challenge. It has a scent of being both testy and condescending. Had they forgotten the miracles they personally performed earlier in His name. Had they become so familiar with Him they could react with such a tone of insolence? Had they failed to recall His capabilities of calming the stormy seas?

How gracious the Savior was to include them in the following miracle. “And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them…” He didn’t circumvent their unbelief. He didn’t shelve them on this miracle and go at it alone. He worked with them to reestablish what had gone missing—their faith, despite their impertinence toward him. Thankfully, they still were able to participate in the miracle “You give them to eat!”

J. Robert Hanson

[1] NIV

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