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Study 9 - Understanding the Loaves
M ARK CHAPTER 6:30-56
1. After a busy day, how do you like to unwind?

Questions

READ Mark 6:30-56 2. How does Jesus demonstrate compassion in vs. 30-35? What do we learn about his attitude to people in these verses? 3. In Jesus' conversation with the disciples what do we learn about discipleship? Are there situations which you face consistently where a similar lifestyle is called for? 4. Why does Jesus feed the five thousand people? What does He reveal about himself in this action? What OT passages prefigure this feeding? 5. According to verse 45-48, what sets the stage for Jesus' going out to the disciples? 6. What might have been Jesus' intention in going out to the disciples? (Hint: Look at Exodus 33:12-34:7 where the language of "passing by" is used). What is revealed about his intention in his conversation with them? 7. According to Mark, the disciples respond strangely to Jesus because they have not understood about the loaves. What was their reaction and what should the disciples have understood about the loaves? 8. The disciples inability to understand about the loaves is due to their hardheartedness. What might have led to this hard-heartedness? How can we recognize and counteract hard-heartedness in ourselves? 9. In summary, what does this passage teach us about who Jesus is and what he came to do? What does it teach us about our appropriate response?

Mark's Gospel

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LEADER'S NOTES M ARK 6:30-56
Two stories account for the majority of this passage. In both of them, Mark continues to answer the question, "Who is Jesus?". The first is Jesus' feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. Mark makes it clear that understanding this miracle is crucial for understanding the identity of Jesus. By it Jesus is identified as the Messiah - the shepherd-king, who like Moses in the desert, teaches and feeds the people. The second is the account of Jesus' walking on the water and calming of the winds. The disciples are amazed at his calming of the winds because "they did not understand about the loaves". As we shall see Jesus is trying to get them to see in his miracles something more than his ability to perform them. He is revealing himself. The fact that in this second story Jesus walks on the water, "passes by them" and says, "I am", all point to the fact that he is more than the Messiah. He is God incarnate.

Main Points

Commentary on the Passage and Notes on the Questions

1. After a busy day, how do you like to unwind? Approach question. 2. How does Jesus demonstrate compassion in vs. 30-35? What do we learn about his attitude to people in these verses? First, Jesus acts with compassion toward his disciples, requesting that they come with him "to a quiet place to get some rest." He understands we need solitude and time for reflection in order to rest. We are not just vehicles for getting his work done nor are we defined simply by what we do. That would be a recipe workaholism and burn-out. The institution of the Sabbath was God saying that we need time to rest, to delight in his creation, and to delight in him as Creator and Redeemer. In this case because of his magnetism and greatness the ministry has been intense so that they have been unable to rest. Second, he has compassion on the crowd who are "like sheep without a shepherd." By making that statement Jesus makes clear that Israel (and humanity as a whole) need a shepherd. Leaderless and unprotected from marauding predators they are at constant risk. Sheep are also endangered by their own stupidity. Where this phrase ("like sheep without a shepherd") is used in the Old Testament, it primarily points to the people's need for rule, rather than simply for provision (Num. 27:17,18; 1 Kings 22:17; Ezek. 34). That rule would be exercised by the Messiah -the true shepherd. Jesus' compassion causes him to exercise that rule by his authoritative teaching. He exercises compassion by teaching people God's truth. To live well, human beings need God's truth and rule in their lives. In looking at the Old Testament, we find that in Numbers 27:15-23, Joshua, whose Hebrew name becomes Jesus in Greek, is put forward as leader of God's people in order that they "may not be like sheep not having a shepherd". However, under Joshua, Israel never enjoyed the full scope of what was promised by God. Joshua pointed forward to the Messiah, the unique "prophet like Moses" (Deut. 18:15, 34:9-12; Heb. 4:8-

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11). In Ezekiel 34, God condemns the leaders of Israel for failing to shepherd the flock and promises that he himself will rescue them as their true shepherd, giving them abundant pasture and ruling over them in the person of his servant David. The Messiah leading Israel in the second Exodus was often pictured as a shepherd leading a flock (Is. 40:9-11). 3. In Jesus' conversation with the disciples what do we learn about discipleship? Are there situations which you face consistently where a similar lifestyle is called for? This conversation is one of many passages in Mark's gospel which call Christ's followers to a life of self-sacrificing service. Here they give up much needed rest in order to care for the people. While it is legitimate to care for our own needs, where that care conflicts with obedience to God it must be set aside. This is part of what Jesus' call to self-denial is about. I give up the right to direct my life surrendering my own desire for comfort and security to ensure the safety and security of others. This is a hard call and we are rarely able to be consistent in this unless our faith taps into resources beyond our own. For these we must look to God. Lest Jesus' disciples be deceived about their own resources, he tells them to give the people something to eat. The disciples' desire to be obedient to Jesus is admirable. They even work-out the budget! Thus they realize quickly how few resources they have. Jesus wants them to recognize their inadequacy. After sharing with Jesus the acclaim of the crowd due to their successful ministry, now focus is thrown back on Jesus alone. He is the Redeemer. They are his servants who must live in dependence on him. When we serve others, we must do so in reliance upon Jesus. Efforts which arise out of our own resources are ultimately doomed to fail. 4. Why does Jesus feed the five thousand people? What does He reveal about himself in this action? What OT passages prefigure this feeding? It is not because they are starving. He could have sent them home for food, but chose not to do so. Nor is it to demonstrate his power to perform another miracle. He could draw their attention to any number of exorcisms or healings which he had performed in the past. Apparently, something more is going on here. There are strong indications that the feeding accounts are very important events for Mark. In both 6:45-52 and 8:14-21 the disciples are rebuked for their failure to understand the significance of the feedings. Jesus' main purpose is again to reveal his true nature. There are clues in the passage which suggest this. For example, the Greek word for desert is used in vs. 31, 32 and 35 (though disguised by the NIV). If this is intentional, Mark is drawing some parallel between this feeding and the supply of manna to the Israelites in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses. Taken together with the passages mentioned above (see Question 2) in which the Israelites are likened to sheep without a shepherd (Num. 27, Ezek. 34), Mark is suggesting that Jesus is here fulfilling the role of the longed-for king of Israel, the Messiah, who, like Moses, teaches the people and feeds them.

Mark's Gospel

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The reference that the people were organized into groups of hundreds and fifties parallels Moses' organization of the Israelites during the wilderness march (Ex. 18:21). The effect of these details is to show that this miracle is full of prophetic significance and forces the question about Jesus as Messiah, the divinely sent provision for Israel and the fulfillment of the prophecies of a future salvation. This account immediately follows the episode about "King" Herod (who wasn't really a king, but a tetrarch), suggesting that Jesus is the rightful king and the true leader of Israel rather than the wicked Herod. After the feeding, all those who ate are described as "satisfied". Twelve baskets full of fish and bread scraps are collected, a detail which declares the meal unambiguously a miracle of superabundant provision. Clearly Jesus is the Redeemer-Shepherd. 5. According to verse 45-48, what sets the stage for Jesus' going out to the disciples? Jesus has gone up on the mountain to pray after commanding the disciples to head for home across the lake. They make it to the middle by evening yet by the fourth watch of the night (3:00 am to 6:00 am) they have hit a mighty headwind and are making no progress. They are not in danger and there is no mention of fear until Jesus appears. 6. What might have been Jesus' intention in going out to the disciples? (Hint: Look at Exodus 33:12-34:7 where the language of "passing by" is used). What is revealed about his intention in his conversation with them? The phrase "he was about to pass by them" provides the main clue to understand what is going on in this passage. That phrase does not merely mean he was going to beat them to the other side. The previous verse tells us that he was going out "to them." Jesus expected them to see him. That his intention was to “pass by them" is almost certainly an allusion to God's passing by Moses in order to reveal his glory. (Ex. 33:19,22; 34:56). "Passing by" was the significant thing he meant to do. Jesus is intending to reveal himself as the Redeemer God to the disciples. Two other details in the passage confirm this interpretation. The first detail is Jesus' walking on the water. This carries an emphasis on his supernatural power - supernatural to the point of divine, for only a divine being can walk on the water (Job 9:8; 38:16; Ps. 77:20). The second detail which confirms this interpretation are Jesus' words, "It is I". The language in this story suggests that it is has the force of a divine "I am" statement associated with the title Yahweh (Ex. 3:14, Jn. 8:58; see also Is. 41:214;43:1-13; 44:1-5; 46:4; 48:12). Jesus speaks the way God does. He is more than a new Moses or a new shepherd-king like David. When Isaiah prophesied the true redemption of Israel he made clear that it would by Yahweh who would achieve it (Is. 41:4; 43:3; 51:12). In Mark 6, having shown by the loaves that he is Messiah, Jesus shows by "passing by" and declaring "I AM" that he is the Redeemer God Isaiah heralded. He is God incarnate.

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7. According to Mark, the disciples respond strangely to Jesus because they have not understood about the loaves. What was their reaction and what should the disciples have understood about the loaves? The disciples are firstly afraid for they think Jesus is a ghost. They are still self absorbed and doubtful of His power and care for them. Had they deeply trusted in his goodness and authority they would have seen the situation as it was. Once Jesus had revealed himself and stepped into the boat, calming the winds and water, the disciples react in amazement. Their amazement after all that He had done is the more amazing. They are not commended for their amazement, Mark charges them with hard-heartedness. In spite of the miracle of the loaves and walking to them on the water they fail to recognize Jesus’ true nature. The feeding miracle revealed Jesus' true significance and power. Understanding would have kept the disciples from amazement when the wind died as Jesus got into the boat. The evidence of the loaves, 12 baskets of food scraps was in their face, with them in the boat! Hard-heartedness, a term from the OT (Ex. 14:8; Ps. 95:8) which connotes a serious condition of unbelief or even disobedience, does not seem too harsh in this context. Their reaction is no better than the reaction of Jesus' explicit enemies. We are not supposed to make the same mistake but to respond with intelligent reverence and holy awe at this revelation of Jesus' person. 8. The disciples inability to understand about the loaves is due to their hard-heartedness. What might have led to this hard-heartedness? How can we recognize and counteract hard-heartedness in ourselves? Hard-heartedness is seen as something inherent in fallen human beings unless God does a work of grace to counteract it. In our fallen state, we are naturally unresponsive to God. This is in no way meant to suggest that we are held less than fully responsible for this condition. Indeed, by our rejection of the truth we can further harden our hearts. Even Christians, whose hearts have been softened by God, are subject to hardening of the heart - a decreased responsiveness to God. One evidence of a hard-heart is forgetting or casting aside a lesson which has already been taught. Our need for continually going over the same lessons time and time again ought to be a cause for humility but that in itself is insufficient. We must take seriously Jesus words, "whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him." It encourages us to do all we can to keep our hearts tender before God. The realization that our hearts are far harder than we wish them to be ought not to bring us to despair. The disciples behavior might help us to realize that God is patient and will continue to work on us to soften our easily callused hearts. A second thing which demonstrates hard-heartedness in our lives is how quickly we become fearful in our circumstances. Our self absorption blinds us to the presence and power of One for whom nothing is impossible. Our worry betrays a lack of faith in God's love and sovereignty. We must cherish all of God's actions on our behalf not forgetting them the way the disciples did. Central to these is the is the cross of Christ which for all time
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demonstrates God's love and power for us. The primary evidence of tenderheartedness towards God is the belief that Jesus is the Redeemer and that we can do nothing to save ourselves. An increasing responsiveness to God's word and obedience to his commands also signal the growth of a soft heart before him. 9. In summary, what does this passage teach us about who Jesus is and what he came to do? What does it teach us about our appropriate response? A summary and general application question to bring the study to a close.

Further Notes

Mark 6:30-56 The question “Who is Jesus!” again seems unavoidable in all three narratives in this section. In the two great feeding miracles in Mark, Jesus establishes himself as the only true feeder and guide, "the Good Shepherd" (Jn 10:11). The other themes all hang round the issue of Jesus' identity. Note: Jesus' priorities (v34), service (v37, 41), the disciples slowness to understand (v37, 52). · v30-34. The disciples have discharged their commission to preach and heal, which Mark notes with the singular use of the title Apostle, "commissioned agent". Jesus next commands rest, a necessity not a luxury (Ex 20:8-11). As before (3:20-21), the crowds never seem to stop coming. Jesus does not express frustration, as we might, nor does he try to move away. His response is compassion: pity reinforced with a determination to help. Typically, the primary need for teaching is met first. Ezekiel Ch 34 is highly relevant. Since the shepherds of Israel had not looked after their flock, the Lord would be against them (Eze 34:10). This is promptly illustrated in Mark by Jesus' rejection of pharisaic standards in 7:1-23. v35-44. The disciples’ suggestion seems quite reasonable, unlike Jesus' reply. Jesus repeatedly asks the unexpected or apparently impossible (e.g. 5:30-31) and here takes the disciples step by step to show why he acted as he did, since their comment shows that they did not see the correct answer (which is?). Following Jesus' instructions, the disciples do feed the crowd, when their hopelessly inadequate resources are given to him: a powerful lesson on service and another picture of the ability of Jesus and Jesus alone to meet people's needs (so who is Jesus?). v42-44 leave no room for any rationalization of the miracle: 5000 satisfied with five loaves and more than that left over! v45-46. The disciples have failed to grasp the intended lesson in the feeding of the 5000 (v52). Jesus' response is prayer. Note the quiet statement of authority: “while he dismissed the crowd”. Prayer is highlighted only three times in Mark, at key points in Jesus' ministry (1:35. 14:32). The difficulty here is that even the disciples who know Jesus best seem unable to realize the import of his actions and character. They cannot begin to understand his work until they have recognized him (8:31) but this they show no signs of doing. v48-52. Jesus' coming to the disciples is not simply another rescue as in 4:35-41, as the boat was not in danger and Jesus did not initially intend to join them. The

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result of Jesus' time of prayer is a priority to enlighten the disciples. In the next two chapters, Jesus increasingly attacks their lack of understanding and supplies private instruction. He commences with a great sign purely for their benefit. Jesus' actions are again God-like (Job 9:8, Psa 77:19, Isa 43:16). The disciples are terrified and astounded, yet v52 records that their incomprehension of the earlier feeding miracle is largely responsible. Although they know Jesus can do the impossible, they fail to apply this knowledge both to their present situation and also to their assessment of Jesus' identity. We are being pointed to the difference that understanding who Jesus is should make. Even his cry of reassurance, "It is I", has echoes of the Divine Name (Ex 3:14). v53-56. Mark rarely merely repeats himself, yet this scene is already very familiar. Apart from recording an historical event, Mark could be showing, with reference to the disciples, that people's responses to Jesus are conditioned by their recognition of him. Here the crowd see Jesus as a healer and come to him on those terms alone. This contrasts effectively with the position of the Pharisees in Ch 7. Their opinion of Jesus and hence their treatment of him is very different. These people at least saw their need and had faith in Jesus' ability to help them. It seems unlikely that the Pharisees in Ch 7 would admit to having a need!

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