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Gospel of Mark Chapter 6:31-56 Summary Satisfied Crowds and Failing Disciples
Jesus suggests that he and the twelve disciples take a little R&R. They've been busy and haven't had time to eat. They boat to a deserted place for a private vacation, but many people know exactly where they're headed and beat them there by foot. How about some privacy, please? When he sees the crowd, Jesus has compassion, for they are "like sheep without a shepherd" (6:34), a phrase that alludes to Numbers 27:17 and is often read as indicating the need for a Messiah. After Jesus instructs them for a long time, his disciples suggest that he dismiss them. It's late in the day, and they'll need to purchase food in the surrounding areas. Jesus instructs his disciples to feed the crowd. The disciples object that they'd have to spend more than half a year's wages to buy enough food for all these people. Some vacation. Jesus asks how much food they have. They have five measly loaves of bread and two fish, and that's it. This is ancient Galilee—there's no McDonald's nearby. Following Jesus's directions, the disciples arrange the crowd into several groups, who recline on the grass. Jesus takes the five loaves and two fishes, looks heavenwards, blesses the food, breaks the bread, and divides the fish. He distributes the food to the disciples, who in turn distribute it to the crowd. Everyone eats to their satisfaction…yum. They even collect twelve baskets full of leftovers. In case you hadn't grasped the magnitude of this miracle, the narrator underlines that 5,000 men enjoyed this abundant picnic (add the women and children for an even greater number). Jesus orders the disciples to get on their way to Bethsaida ahead of him. After saying goodbye to the crowd, Jesus goes up a mountain to pray. From his perch, Jesus sees his disciples in the middle of the lake struggling to row the boat against adverse winds. In the wee hours of the mourning, Jesus comes to them—wait for it—walking on water. The disciples are like, "Ahh! A ghost!" Jesus informs them who it is, gets into the boat, and the winds die down. The disciples still think this is really weird. We wonder why. They also didn't understand anything about the feeding of the 5,000. The narrator informs us that in general they're getting F's on their report cards. They arrive at Gennesaret on the other side of the lake. Whatever happened to Bethsaida (recall 6:45)? The narrator summarizes: Jesus was a big success there.
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