Have You Seen Generous Love? Feeding of the Five Thousand
Inside: Do you know Jesus’ love? Or has it been clouded by the clanging cymbals in our culture or the messed-up situation you are living through? When Jesus fed the five thousand, He wasn’t stingy or self-serving. He proved His love extravagant, generous, overflowing. If you’re not feeling it, read on.
We are working on sharing at our house. Some days, it goes really well, with generous hearts on display. Other days? . . .
The older sister has a cupcake, and the younger sister wants to taste it before braving one of her own. “Here: You can have this,” says the older sister as she takes the tiniest bit of crumb–not even plural–and passes it to her younger sister. No offering to let the sister take a full bite, much less choose a bite of her own.
Not so, Jesus.
Although Jesus tried to give His disciples a break from their work, the crowds followed them to a desolate place across the lake. People had spotted Jesus leaving in the boat, and families ran on foot from towns all around, beating Jesus and His disciples to their destination. The crowd swelled to well over five thousand. As the sun began to lower in the sky, the disciples realized the families would soon become hungry, and they had no way of feeding them.
One of my favorite questions to ask when I study an account in the Bible is, “What do I learn about God in this passage?”
Verse 34 of Mark 6 puts it clearly:
he had compassion on them
This compassion led Jesus to teach the crowd many things instead of sending them away so that He and His disciples could rest.
But this compassion also led to something unique, to a characteristic we have trouble sensing and sharing in our noisy, broken world. Jesus’ compassion took action in the form of extravagant, generous love, a kind of love that overflows, a kind of love that gives abundantly. Do we remember this about Jesus?
He broke five small barley loaves of bread and divided two fish, and somehow that not only fed all of the people there, but the people were satisfied and had leftovers!
Basketfuls of leftovers.
Overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, the songwriter of our day pens. The kind of love that leaves the ninety-nine sheep who are safe in the pen to go find the one lost sheep, the one who needs His grace and His strong, loving arms.
The Jesus who hears our prayers and answers extravagantly. Who knows our needs and supplies richly.
Do you know this about Jesus? Or has it been clouded by the clanging cymbals in our culture or the messed-up situation you are living through? Oh, Jesus is good, and His love overflows. By basketfuls.
The younger sister makes homemade icing. She knows I love my sweets. Down the stairs she trots, bringing me both beaters, covered in yummy goodness. “For me?” I ask. “Yes,” she nods, eyes gleaming. Ah, generous love, not keeping any for herself. Her heart swells as I receive her gift.
As you read the account of the feeding of the five thousand below, let God speak to you about your situation. Has He shown you love that you have not recognized? Maybe the busy-ness or the rawness of your days has made it hard to sense. Receive Jesus’ love in all its goodness, and picture His heart swelling as you take in all of His good gifts.
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it
Still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
(From the song “Reckless Love” by Bethel Music)
Digging into God’s Word: Noticing Jesus’ Love
The feeding of the five thousand is one of Jesus’ best known miracles. We’re often so wowed by the amount of food He created that we miss Jesus’ overwhelming, never-ending, generous love.
Mark 6:30-44 (ESV)
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place 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 desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we 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 do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
Digging Deeper: Noticing Jesus’ Love
Enjoy this quiet time, just you and God. Reflect on or journal about the following questions, listening for what God has to say to you.
1. Has God shown you love in a way you have not recognized? Reflect on this, even if the current days are hard. Where have you seen His goodness? Have there been basketfuls of leftovers? Thank Jesus for these things.
2. In what area of your life or over what issue do you desire to experience Jesus’ overflowing, extravagant love? Talk with the Lord about this, asking Him as He leads you in prayer.
3. Help others know that God is still at work today! If you have experienced God’s overwhelming love in the form of a miracle, share as much as you’re comfortable in the conversation below, or on the Digging Deeper with God Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DiggingDeeperwithGod. (Look for the post with the graphic “Have You Seen a Miracle?”)
4. Worship with these songs as you reflect on God’s never-ending love for you. Choose one or all of the songs to listen to, or come back to these songs throughout the week.
Miracles (Jesus Culture, featuring Chris Quilala)
Reckless Love (Bethel, Cory Asbury)
Frontiers (Lead Me to the End of Myself; Vertical Church Band)
The feeding of the five thousand appears in all four gospels:
- Matthew 14:13-21
- Mark 6:30-34
- Luke 9:10-17
- John 6:1-14
Although we call this miracle “the feeding of the five thousand” or “Jesus feeds the five thousand,” the gospels clarify that five thousand was the number of men. Add women and children, and Jesus fed many more with those five loaves and two fish!
There was also a “feeding of the four thousand,” which was distinct from the more famous feeding of the five thousand. Accounts of the feeding of the four thousand appear in Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-10.