Summary: Facing a great multitude, the disciples faced a problematic situation - how to handle their hunger and need. Jesus took what appeared to be insufficient and provided more than enough. We can bring our meager supply before Him and receive abundance.
A Feast in the Desert
Mark 6: 35-44
Our text today is one of the most familiar accounts recorded in the gospels. In fact, this is the only miracle Jesus performed that is recorded in all four of the gospels. It is a story that many of us have heard all our lives. I suppose it resonated so well down through the ages because of the compassion and sufficiency of Jesus revealed in this story. It provides hope and assurance that Jesus is more than able to meet our needs, regardless of the situation.
We have discussed on several occasions in recent weeks that many view the Lord as one who is distant and unengaged from our lives. We see Him as the God of creation and Lord of our salvation, and yet we often fail to realize that He is very near to us, taking an active role in our lives. He is a God of power, able to perform things beyond our comprehension, and He is also active in our lives, meeting our day to day needs.
As we discuss this familiar passage, I hope you will be reminded of the Lord’s care and ability in regard to your individual life. I want to examine the details of this encounter as we consider: A Feast in the Desert.
I. The Problem with the Multitude (35-40) – As we discussed in our previous study, a multitude of people had followed Jesus and the disciples to a desert region near the Sea of Galilee. With such a large gathering, a problematic situation arose. Consider:
A. The Dilemma (35-38) – These verses record a multi-faceted dilemma the multitude posed for the disciples. Regarding the dilemma, notice:
1. The Assumption (35-36) – And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:  Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. We don’t have a lot of detail regarding the events of that particular day, but we do know the multitude had remained with Jesus the entire day. Nightfall was quickly approaching, and the disciples had nothing to feed such a large number of people. They urged Jesus to send them away so they would have time to go into the surrounding villages and purchase bread to eat.
The disciples had assessed the current situation and determined that nothing could be done to provide for such a great need. The only solution to this problem was to dismiss the crowd so they would have time to secure provisions before dark. They had not taken the time to consider the power of the Lord, or what He had planned. Are we not often much like the disciples? Many times we assess our current situation and immediately assume that it is hopeless without consulting the Lord or seeking to discern His will.
2. The Argument (37) – He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? Upon hearing their suggestion, Jesus offered a simple solution – feed them! It is apparent that the disciples had already discussed how much money they had available at the time. Feeding such a multitude of people would have required two hundred denarii, literally six to eight month’s wages for one of the disciples. It is estimated to be about $10,000.00 in today’s money. Such a request seemed impossible to them and completely out of reason. The disciples argued with Jesus, viewing His command as an utter impossibility.
The disciples had already considered their resources and come to the conclusion that it would be impossible to feed this multitude. That is probably why they urged Jesus to dismiss the crowd. They are thinking simply in terms of what they had with them at the time. They were depending solely on human ability and resources.
I am often amazed as I read these accounts in Scripture. Take just a moment to consider what these men have experienced in recent days and weeks. Jesus calmed the raging storm as they sailed upon the sea. He had delivered a man from demon possession; healed a woman of a disease of twelve long years; raised a little girl from the dead; and sent them out two by two, enabling them to perform miracles and proclaim the Gospel. They have witnessed all these miracles and yet they are unsure how this multitude will be fed.
Before we get to critical, I would suggest that you and I often have the same doubts. We too have experienced the mighty hand of God in our midst and yet we often view our situation as an impossibility. We view our situation from a human standpoint, depending on our abilities and resources, and never see the Lord’s power and ability by faith.