The feeding of the five thousand

A harvest reflection on Mark 6:30-42 exploring our ability to perceive and respond to the needs of those around us.

Mark 6:30-42

“30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognised them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled;”

New Revised Standard Version

He had compassion

The feeding of the five thousand as captured shows vividly how eager many people at the time were to be with Jesus. The people, having seen Jesus and his disciples withdraw in a boat to find solitude, “hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them” (v. 33). Jesus had three options – retreat to another place, disperse the crowd or give them what they came for.

What would you do?

We are told that Jesus, “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 34). Jesus chose to look outwards toward the crowd, enabling him to perceive their needs and respond with compassion. Like a shepherd with his sheep, so Jesus tended to the people. He gave them words of life and loaves with fish; a spiritual and physical feast which left them full.

Today people still have the same needs and we are encouraged by this example of Jesus to also look outwards to perceive the needs of those around us, and respond. One way to do this is to support All We Can, which helps people in some of the world poorest communities to develop sustainable ways of feeding their families.


Loving and compassionate Jesus,
Help us to respond to the things our eyes perceive.
Help us to tend to the people in this world who are in need.
Help us to be generous with our resources, words and time.
Help us to follow you as you lead and guide.