Mark 6:30-46, Today's New International Version
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take almost a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
It was just one of those days.
You know the kind. You've poured yourself out, doing something you love to do but something which requires a lot of focused attention and interaction.
And you're dead on your feet when you're done.
The twelve are feeling like that - and Jesus sees it and suggests a remedy - a getaway, someplace quiet and isolated.
So off they go, clambering into a nearby boat, pushing off, relieved and gratified to be heading on retreat.
Maybe they should have guessed at what happened. They are now pretty fully immersed in ministry life - and this is what it looks like an awful lot of the time: needy people, 24/7.
And Jesus takes pity on the pushing, bustling crowd of them.
Several hours of teaching later, the disciples begin to wonder. So they decide to tell Jesus what is best.
"Send them home, Lord. That's the best plan. Let's be done for the day, okay?"
And his response absolutely, positively flabbergasts them:
Why should we send them away hungry?
YOU feed them.
WE'RE supposed to order in for this crowd??
No need for that, Jesus says. Look around. All you need is right here.
He was right.
There is enough.
There is more than enough.
There is an abundance.
There is an extravagant abundance.
There is more than they know what to do with.
Everyone is fed, everyone is full.
The sheep found their shepherd,
the apprentices learned an amazing lesson,
and the shepherd?
He takes a hike.
Disciples - over there, in the boat.
Crowds - off you go, now it's time to head home.
Jesus - up into the hills for prayer, refreshment, replenishment.
Everybody needs to be fed - even Jesus.
And there is always...always, more than enough.
You are indeed our Shepherd, Jesus. You know us inside and out. You know when we need feeding - and you know exactly the kind of food we need and when we need it. Thank you that you don't distinguish or compartmentalize or prioritize our hunger - whether it's spiritual or physical, you care about it, you move to meet the need. Remind us that we, too, are to look around, to find the resources available to us, and to share them with the starving sheep we meet from day to day. Help us to remember that there is always, always... enough. Amen.
And just because we are now at the halfway point on our Lenten Journey - and because I love these words so much, and because they fit today's theme so very beautifully, I'm going to write them out for you in this space today. Because what we most deeply desire, what we need - is beyond our wants, beyond our fears. Oh, YES. We need a shepherd. Yes, indeed, we do.
These are the lyrics from a lovely musical version of the Shepherd's Psalm, #23, by Marty Haugen. (You can find a link to a sung version of this lovely call-and-response if you click here and head over to look at the bottom of this post.)
Refrain: (sung first and after every verse)
Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.
God is my shepherd, so nothing shall I want,
I rest in the meadows of faithfulness and love.
I walk by the quiet waters of peace.
Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul,
you lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth,
my spirit shall sing the music of your Name.
Though I should wander the valley of death,
I fear no evil, for you are at my side,
your rod and your staff, my comfort and my hope.
You have set me a banquet of love in the face of hatred,
crowning me with love beyond my pow'r to hold.
Surely your kindness and mercy follow me all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of my God forevermore.