I Wonder What They Did With the Left-Overs?

Mark 6:30-44.


I’ve always loved these lines from Mark’s Gospel. They include the Feeding of the 5,000, but I think they speak volumes about the style and substance of Jesus’ ministry. First of all, he pays attention to the apostles. Lots and lots of Jesus’ time was spent in the formation of, and sending out of, his 12 apostles.


Here, they are just full of themselves…and of all the good things they’ve been doing in his name! Rather than rebuking them, or even, calling them on their pride, Jesus just says, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” They probably thought he was just giving them a well-deserved break since so “many were coming and going (that) they had no leisure even to eat.”


But I think he was inviting them into a time of silence and reflection. So that they could put all their busy-ness into perspective and see what it all really meant. You and I could use times like that as well. It’s part of what I was trying to say in my little workshop during these in-house days on developing a spiritual “rule of life.” We all need times of silence and reflection in the midst of our busy ministries!


Not that those times ever last for long! In the case of Jesus and the apostles “many saw them going and recognized them, and hurried there on foot…” Always there were demands on Jesus and the apostles and on their precious time. But – perhaps precisely because he had made some space for quiet and solitude — Jesus is able to respond to the crowds and to their needs: “As 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.”


Jesus welcomed the crowd, cared for them deeply, and began to exercise his ministry as teacher, as Rabbi, to preach his message about the Reign, and the mercy, of God. But he doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t stop with meeting their so-called “spiritual” needs. When the disciples try to bring the day to a close and send them people away so that they can get something to eat, Jesus says, “You give them something to eat!”


Never does Jesus divorce spiritual needs from physical needs. If your belly is empty, you may not have much time to worry about your empty soul! So he feeds them. Feeds them from the meager provisions the apostles had brought. “And they all ate and were filled!” 


What a pattern for ministry: listen to your colleagues, encourage them to find times of reflection and rest, be prepared to re-engage your active ministry from that place of refreshment, keep your eyes open for opportunities to minister and to meet human need – spiritual and physical. And, by the way, be a good steward of the resources you’ve been given to minister. After all, “THEY took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.”


I wonder what they did with the left-overs? 

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