Read the Passage: Mark 6
Feeding of Five-Thousand (6:32–44)
After reporting several miracles in the preceding chapter, the first half of Mark 6 records the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth (cf. Mark 6:1–6), the sending and return of the twelve apostles (cf. Mark 6:7–13, 30–31), and the death of John the Baptist (cf. Mark 6:14–29). While these events occurred near the apex of Jesus’ ministry, they also demonstrate the growing hostility of many towards Christ’s message. Mark 6:32–52 contains two of Jesus’ most well-known miracles—that is, the feeding of the five-thousand and Christ’s walking on the water. Note that while many of Jesus’ miracles were done privately or in closed quarters, these two miracles were public in nature. As the account of the feeding of the five-thousand begins, the apostles had just returned to Jesus after a time of ministry. Jesus then invited the disciples to “come aside by yourselves . . . and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).
Jesus’ was ministering in Capernaum when the disciples returned to Him and the deserted place to which they fled was near Bethsaida (cf. Luke 9:10), just north of the region of the Gadarenes. On account of His growing popularity, the crowds did not allow Jesus and His disciples to rest, as many made the 8-mile journey by land around the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum to Gadara. In fact, some eager individuals even arrived at the destination before the boat docked. Yet, rather than rebuke the crowds, Jesus had compassion on them and began to teach them. When the day was far spent, the disciples informed Christ that the crowds would soon need to depart in order to find food. Imagine the apostles’ surprise when Jesus instructed them to feed the crowd! In response, the disciples noted that it would take eight months wages in order to buy food for the crowd.
Just as Christ did not reprimand the crowds for following Him, so He did not rebuke the disciples for their lack of faith (cf. John 6:6). Rather, Jesus instructed the disciples to take an inventory of the food that was present. Mark records the disciples found five loaves and two fish, which John notes came from a young boy (cf. John 6:9). With this news, after organizing the people into manageable groups, Jesus prayed and then multiplied the bread and the fish. The food was so abundant that all ate and were filled, even leaving twelve baskets full of leftovers. It seems a main reason why Jesus instructed the disciples to feed the crowd was to inspire them to look to Him for provision. The inventory of food may have been to highlight the magnitude of the coming miracle. Matthew observes that men, women, and children all ate (cf. Matt. 14:21), meaning the crowd was likely as large as 20,000+ people.
Walking on Water (6:45–52)
Most of Jesus’ miracles involve restoration; however, a few of Christ’s miracles entail seeming disruption of the natural order. Mark 6:45–52 records one such miracle—that is, Jesus’ walking on the water. In this narrative, Jesus sends His disciples across the Sea of Galilee ahead of Him, in order to have to have time by Himself to pray, as well as to avoid being inaugurated King (cf. John 6:15). Mark 6:48 reports that during the fourth watch of the night, which was sometime between 3:00–6:00 am, Jesus walked out to the boat, on the water. Mark 6:52 alludes to the fact that Jesus’ walking on the water was not just a matter of expediency but was done in order to show the disciples His divine nature. Note in his Gospel narrative, Matthew writes that once the disciples witnessed this miracle, they worshiped Jesus and confessed His deity (cf. Matt. 14:33).
Healing at Gennesaret (6:53–56)
After arriving near Capernaum (cf. John 6:17–21) Mark records that Jesus headed south to the city of Gennesaret, which was a small town on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee, about two miles south of Capernaum. Possibly, the stormy conditions on the sea had blown the boat more south than would have been usual when sailing from Bethsaida towards Capernaum (cf. Matt. 14:24; Mark 6:47). Note that this is the only time in the Gospels that we read of Jesus’ ministering in Gennesaret. Given the proximity of this city to Capernaum, where Christ had been ministering for some time, the people were familiar with Jesus’ ability to heal, thus many were brought to Christ in order to be healed. Once again, despite their need for rest, Jesus ministered to those who came to Him. As with the women who had a flow of blood, so here many were healed by touching Jesus’ garment.
- Considering all of Jesus’ miracles, why do you think the feeding of the five-thousand is the only one of Christ’s miracles that appears in each of the Gospels?
- How important is it that believers observe a regular time of rest, especially from ministerial service? How does the concept of Sabbath-keeping relate to rest?
- Why do you think Jesus commanded the disciples to feed the crowd? Was the disciples’ observation that the crowd needed to eat a reasonable concern?
- Why did Jesus instruct His disciples to take an inventory of the food that was present? Did many of those whom Jesus fed become believers (cf. John 6:22–66)?
- Why do you think Mark omits the narrative of Peter walking on the water to Jesus, as well as the other disciples’ confession of faith?