Mark 6: 35-56
John 6: 7-13
HJK It is interesting to consider these two accounts we have of this feeding of the five thousand. My thought is what is left over, what is “over and above” after we have eaten; that is after we have been together this morning for the breaking of bread. I would like some help on Mark’s gospel: it says, “The place is desert”; but in John it says, “there was much grass in the place”. We would not expect to find grass in the desert; and I hope we will get a little help in connection with that. Another thing is that John’s gospel tells us that it was a little boy who had the five loaves and the two fishes. It does not give his name, and maybe we can get some help on that too. But Mark’s gospel does not give us the little boy; it just says there were five loaves and two fishes. In both cases, there is the question of how you can feed so many people with this. I was thinking what a privilege it is to assemble with the Lord’s people, and to gather spiritual food as we are together, so that we might take something with us. There were twelve baskets: you would have to say they gathered up more than they started with. I think it is the way that the things of God multiply and enlarge in our souls as we are assembled together. They were settled as they sat down on the grass, which is how the Lord would feed us. In Psalm 23: 2, it is “in green pastures … beside still waters”. So, I wonder if we might get some help in considering these things. It might be just the five loaves and two fishes but we can enquire for help this.
AKL Would you say it is divine grace that, in Mark’s gospel, the grass is green, and in John’s gospel it is “much grass”? It is true, as you said, that it was a desert place, but as the centre of divine operations it is a very precious occasion. Each gospel writer puts it a bit differently, but then there is a variety and wealth to enquire about. Would the green grass refer to the activity of the Spirit - freshness, some impression of Christ, and how this comes out in the disciples in distributing the food?
HJK It is interesting to see how each gospel writer looks at things. Mark speaks about what John the baptist ate, “locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1: 6); it was a desert place. This world is a desert place, but there is the side that there is much green grass for those who are the Lord’s. That is what I would like to get to, to see the place that we are in. Mark speaks of service, and sometimes we think, ‘What is the use of this or that?’. But I am thinking of what one soul can bring. Perhaps it was meant just to be his lunch, but it fed five thousand.
AKL Is it significant that they sat down in ranks in Mark’s gospel? Would that be under the affection, and authority, of the Lord Jesus as the One who is providing everything that is needed for the occasion? It might refer to subjection and dependence on our side?
HJK I wonder also if it speaks of fellowship. They sat down in ranks, by companies. It is a question of the fellowship, and enjoying fellowship with one another. If you are in a meeting with five thousand people, you do not get to know very many of them, and you go from one to the other; but it has been said that God is more glorified in small companies than in large.
D-lJK I was wondering if the green grass would speak of nourishment; there is plenty of nourishment and water, which would speak of the Spirit as was mentioned. There is plenty of food for the grass to be green.
HJK I think that is helpful, and another thing is that God provides a setting for us which is very comfortable and peaceful. They do not sit down on the thorns in the desert; there was green grass. Even though we are in a desert scene, God has provided very peaceful conditions for His own.
MJK How many did they feed?
HJK Well, in another place it says it was “about five thousand men, besides women and children”, Matt 14: 21. It could even have been twenty thousand. It is interesting that it says “five thousand men”; so a man is responsible for food for his household, and God will provide. Those of us who are heads of households can rest assured that, as we go on in faith, God will provide for us.
MJK I thought that helped to enlarge upon the magnitude of what was done here, that it says there were five thousand men. But then, as you say, the heads of the households brought nothing. I think the thought of the desert here is that there was no food; there were five thousand men, but it was not any of them, it was little boy who brought the lunch. I wonder if that shows what we have in Matthew 18, where the Lord begins, “Unless ye are converted and become as little children” (v 3); dependence has to come in in order that there may be food. As soon as there is dependence, He can order things; it was a desert place until He ordered them to sit down. Then there was something that was coming from the heavenly realm, both the food and the resting place. In Matthew, we have a place to recline (Matt 14: 19); there is a resting place now as having come under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ.
D-gJK So the source is important. The Lord Jesus Himself drew nothing from the earth. He was “a root out of dry ground” (Isa 53: 2); so the desert is not going to sustain a person, is it? As being in the presence of the Lord Jesus, they were able to prove what He was able to do with what this little boy had. He is not only able to provide food but, as you already mentioned, He is able to provide comfort too. Do you think that is an important aspect? That is how there is abundance, is there not?
HJK I think there is a great deal to gain in meditation on what you have just said. It says in John that, when He asked the disciples, “he knew what he was going to do”, v 6. Jesus knew that there was a little boy there with the lunch. Why do you think his name is not mentioned- it was just a little boy? And remember also the maid in Naaman’s house: it says there was a little maid (2 Kings 5: 2), but her name is not mentioned. And with David’s mighty men, it speaks of three and their names are not mentioned, 2 Sam 23: 13. I am speaking to young ones here; it was a boy. I am going to tell you what I think, that every one of us could put our name in. You could be the little boy; you could be the little maid; you could be one of the three mighty men. I sometimes think that, when we are younger - and this applies also to the sisters - we might feel insignificant, that we do not have much value. But do you have a lunch - what are you feeding upon? What am I feeding upon? It is a question we need to ask ourselves; and then we can take account of what we have - what the Lord has given us. Another thing is that the Lord gave thanks for this: that is a good example for you and me, to give thanks for the food. How many people in this world have very little, nothing to eat; but how wonderful that we can give thanks for what we eat. So, we can carry that on now to what is left over spiritually, what God has given you and me. Do we share it with others, or do we hide and not go on and express our exercises and love for one another?
JDK I think that is something we can be encouraged by. I know it for myself - I even go back to the first time I preached; I felt I was not adequate and would not be able to do it very well. But it is something to be encouraged by, that it was just a little boy. The Lord has something that He can use in all of us that would be for His glory and blessing.
HJK That is what I am getting at, the encouragement that would be ours as we are together. The first time you preached, it was good! I remember it.
D-lJK This is just making me think of Joshua and Caleb. The disciples here did not believe. They said it was a desert place; and when he told them to go and find food, and they found these five loaves and two fishes, they said “but what is this for so many?”. They did not have any belief, but they were obedient. Joshua and Caleb were the only ones that believed that they could take the land, and they saw the size of the fruit. The people of the land were not giants in their sight; they said they could overcome them, Num 14: 9. The disciples are no different from the children of Israel except that they obeyed. They went forth and did as the Lord asked them to do; and because of that they saw. It says later on that their heart was hardened, so they really were not in the gain of it yet, were they? The Lord adjusts them but it is interesting how, even if not believing, obedience really shines forth here. Then He goes from a desert land, not only to green grass but a lot of grass. It helps us understand the favour in which we stand in Christ.
HJK That is a good connection there, to see that those two could see that they could overcome, just two of them. And so with each of us, we can all be overcomers in that sense because the Lord is on our side. I was thinking how this prepared the disciples for the storm that was ahead. As you say, their hearts were hardened, but this food prepared them for the storm that was ahead. As you say, they still had more to learn. There were five loaves. What does five speak of?
JAK I cannot answer that, but faith would come into this matter, would it not? I think if we moved in faith there would be enough for five thousand. I was thinking of what was said about when you first preach. I have not yet, but you would move in faith. The service is not about you, it is for God; and as long as you move in faith, He will provide something for you, whether it is something long or something very simple. The word will get across if you move in faith.
HJK So in another place, the Lord says as to faith, “why didst thou doubt?”, Matt 14: 31. So it is important to realise that faith is a gift. It is not something you work for, it is there, it is for us. That is good, but I want to get back to my question: what does five speak of? It says he had five loaves.
WJK It means weakness, does it not? So, even in man’s weakness, God was able to produce something?
HJK And that is what they were thinking; that they were unable to provide. You have five fingers, you have five toes, you have five senses; that is man’s number. Seven is divine. We have seven days of creation, seven assemblies. Six is between five and seven; it is as much as man can attain to: six hundred and sixty-six is the number of the beast, Rev 13: 18. So we have five here, and if we depend on our own strength, we are in trouble. The interesting thing about barley loaves is that barley was the first crop harvested, which speaks of the resurrection of Christ. It is good to hold that. So this little boy can be thought of as having some sense of that. And now he has two fishes - what do you think the two fishes would be?
D-gJK I want some help about that, but God’s desire is towards all men, is it not? The fishes might represent that; not only was something going to be provided, but He had an interest in each one. There were a lot of people here. I was just going back to the side of man’s weakness in responsibility, and yet this little boy had something. All of us would fail in responsibility, but when we have an outlook in relation to things of God and what His interests are, something is provided.
HJK That is interesting. I was at meetings where it was said that the fish speak of fellowship. I had not thought of it quite that way, but I thought of this, that in the sea, there is a whole mass of fish. You may not be able to see them all, but the fish in the sea represent something that has gone through death; and the barley too is the side of resurrection. “He made them sit down in companies on the green grass. And they sat down by hundreds and by fifties”. As we said before, it is a question of fellowship, and in a sense the fish would substantiate that thought; but two is also a witness, is it not? The Lord could have done with one fish and one loaf, but I think there is something in the two.
AKL Would the fish also refer to divine provision, sovereign provisions that God is able to provide? Also the fish would go against the stream: we should be overcomers in the power of the Spirit. I was also thinking of how this starts: the Lord was really challenging their faith: “Give ye them to eat”. They had come to the Lord and expected Him to provide everything. They should have been able to provide something - “Give ye them to eat”. And then He says, “How many loaves have ye?”. They were not up to date with the provision they had. This young boy is provided, and Andrew is the one that brings him to Jesus, which he does a few times, John 1: 41; 12: 22. There is some activity with the disciples which the Lord is drawing out - “Give ye them to eat”. That would really cast a responsibility on each one of us to provide something for the saints.
HJK Do you not see the act of God in grace when it says in verse 41, “having taken the five loaves and the two fishes, looking up to heaven, he blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples that they might set them before them. And the two fishes he divided among all. And they all ate and were satisfied”? He gave it to the disciples to give to them. They were the administrators.
AKL In John’s gospel He does it Himself; here He lays it upon the disciples. It really casts a responsibility on each one, that we should be under the guidance of Christ to provide for the saints. It comes from Him.
HJK So that goes along with Mark; he sees Jesus as the perfect Servant; he has to do with service. I would just like to say again that the Lord wants to use every one of us; and everyone is valuable to Him, and they should be to us. It is interesting to consider how we look at another sometimes. We should seek to see Christ in our brother, and if we cannot, we should seek to see our brother in Christ. It is interesting to see things that way, but He is bringing them through this. “And they all ate and were satisfied”. In Ruth, Boaz “reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left”, Ruth 2: 14 KJV. There comes a time - it is only natural - when you are sitting at the table, that you are satisfied, and you get up and leave. So here, they were all satisfied, they were all filled. And Christ would have it so with our hearts, that we would leave with our hearts full.
MJK I was wondering about this thought that our young brothers touched upon as to the gospel; it is interesting because the Lord says to His disciples that He would make them “fishers of men” (Matt 4: 19), which associates itself with the gospel. So, as our brother mentioned, the disciples were the most responsible; but not only were they responsible, they also knew. They were fishermen, but what did they say? They said “send them away that they may go into the country and villages around”. That is a sad thought from the disciples, and yet you do not see them being rebuked by the Lord. I think He adjusts them, but it is not really a rebuke. Going back to the villages would be like going back to Egypt to get what we need, the leeks, the onions and the garlic (Num 11: 5); it would be earthly food. The sea is what God has provided, and as was mentioned, fish can swim against the current. There is spiritual power to “overcome the wicked one”, 1 John 2: 14. Now, there are only certain kinds of fish which have fins and scales (see Lev 11: 9); so I think that is the type of thing He was seeking to teach the disciples. And then He says, ‘now you can deliver it, now you understand’. But it is also helpful to understand how slowly we learn. And I say that for the encouragement of each one, because sometimes - I speak for myself - you beat yourself up because you feel you should have made more spiritual progress. In Matthew, He again feeds them, and the disciples still did not believe, Matt 16: 8-11. They had seen this miracle and they still did not believe, so I think how slowly we learn, but the Lord is so patient here in providing for the disciples that they might grow spiritually. We should seek to have something, but then be dependent on the Lord that He would help us to use what we have been given in a way that would provide for the saints.
PBK So it is important to share what we have without forcing it on anybody?
MJK If we share our enjoyment of Christ, it will grow; but if we force it, it comes from the first man. I think that is good, and I think we see here that none of these people were forced to eat. They had an appetite, there was an appetite created; and I think that goes along with what you say. The disciples did not force it; everyone was more than willing, an atmosphere had been created whereby these persons were ready to eat.
PBK As we said, there were two fishes; so that made seven with the five loaves. There was a fulness which was of God in what this little boy had. It was from God, and it was of God; so it can be food to eat. If it was something manufactured, if they had gone back to the villages, they could never have fed them.
AKL It is good to see that the progress here is really maturing. It starts in verse 34 where Jesus saw a great crowd. That leads on to the thought of the companies. There was progress here and they were learning from the teaching of Christ. It says, “And he began to teach them many things”. And gradually there is growth coming to light; and yet the Lord is challenging them - “Give ye them to eat”. There is something there that it should be possible to distribute. In John, Andrew says, “but this, what is it for so many?”. What this boy had was really almost not appreciated, but the Lord is drawing it out gradually.
MJK I think that is helpful, because the teaching created the appetite. It is right teaching.
HJK I was thinking what you mentioned, that the Lord was teaching them. Now, if we absent ourselves from fellowship, from the meetings where the Lord is teaching, we are not going to get fed. Those who were not there did not get fed. I am just thinking of the value and the privilege of what we have. We should enjoy it more. We might see that in what they got, and what they might then be able to witness of the fulness of the supply of the Christ.
D-gJK You have brought before us the practical side of it in giving thanks for our food. Now, we may stop there and be thankful for our food, which is good; but it would really look on to being built up so that the spiritual constitution would be enlarged, would you think? We are talking about what is natural, but the Lord is providing that too. But then the desire would be for growth and maturity as a result of that, do you think? We may just be thankful for our food, which is a good thing; but it always looks on to something greater so that there are baskets of fragments picked up.
HJK Yes, I would like to go on with that in connection with the baskets. We know that the little boy with his lunch was not carrying twelve baskets. He would have had a little sack. It is just interesting to see how the things of God grow and multiply. Sometimes we feel insignificant, that we are not good enough or cannot say the right thing. I do not think that is what we should dwell on; I think we should take what God has given us and we should share it. It just touched me that, even in the homes of the saints, where a lot of fellowship is enjoyed, if we do not share what He has given us, we are like a swamp. A swamp does not have an outlet, and becomes stale; and that is the way we will become in our souls if we do not take what God has given us and share it with others. If you cannot have fellowship with those with “like precious faith” (2 Pet 1: 1), who are you going to share it with? These things are practical, and we have so much to be thankful for, and so much to rejoice in. I think of what David said,
Why art thou cast down, my soul,
and art disquieted in me? Ps 42: 5
It is a good question to ask.
MJK Help us with the number twelve now?
HJK Well, does it have to do with administration?
MJK I think this is very helpful. So it says in Revelation that there are twelve gates, Rev 21: 12. There are twelve foundations that are established on the twelve apostles. There is a basket full of spiritual food here given to each disciple, and that has been distributed from the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 at the incoming of the Spirit. That is being distributed even in the present time by the saints who have taken up with sound teaching based upon a sure foundation, Isa 28: 16.
HJK I had not thought of it until you mentioned it, but you can picture each disciple having a basket, and going round for what was left after everyone was done.
AKL Is it significant that the Lord Jesus says in John, “that nothing may be lost”? Nothing of Christ, if it is kept rightly, will ever diminish, and that will be enough for the twelve baskets. It might also refer to what might be brought out in Israel in a day to come. Everything will yield response to divine affection. It is amazing that He can just say, “that nothing may be lost”. What is of Christ, and what is of the work of God, will go through.
HJK Yes, and just before that it says they gathered to them the fragments “which were over and above”. It was “over and above” that “nothing may be lost”. It was Samuel of whom it was said, “Jehovah was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground”, 1 Sam 3: 19. Nothing was lost.
PBK Is this just a little picture of a reading meeting? It might be announced as a meeting for enquiry. It is a meeting for enquiry where things can be enjoyed because there has been something prepared; it might be so little - and yet so much.
HJK As you go further afield, what would you say about when we leave here? It says that the Lord dismissed them: “And, having dismissed them, he departed to the mountain to pray”. And then we get the ship in the midst and the storm coming, and Jesus comes to them in the midst of the sea. As was mentioned, you wonder why they were surprised to see Jesus walking on the water, but we can say that is how slow we are to learn. They had just been filled, they had just been given something; and we can think of the twelve disciples each having a basketful with them. Now they are in the ship and the storm comes. When we leave - having been assembled together by the grace of God - we might just take one thing. But when we go out into the world, into the mass confusion of men (which the sea speaks of), do we take even the one thing with us and feed on it in the day? It is a question I am asking myself.
AKL It does show the greatness of sitting down in the temple to enquire, and to get the gain of the teaching that comes out. It has a two-fold effect, if we ask in dependence and the Spirit is free, the Lord will provide what we need to mature, grow, and strengthen in our faith.
HJK These are all very good thoughts, and I would ask a question: if it is so wonderful, why do we not have a meeting every night and sit here all day long? Why would we not do that?
AKL How much are we able for? We are still in bodily weakness and not able to take in too much.
D-gJK Digestion is needed; things need to be digested. I was wondering if you could say if teaching and feeding are the same thing. It can be: He first taught them here and then he fed them.
HJK I remember a brother once said that some preach the gospel, and some teach the gospel. Both have somewhat of the same thought, at least in the gospel going forth.
JAK What is the reason for it being five loaves and two fishes; why not seven loaves, or five pieces of meat?
HJK Well, completeness comes in, in Christ’s death and resurrection; the fish may speak of death and the barley loaves of resurrection. Five is what man can provide; I think it is interesting to think of that - we can provide, and then God takes and adds to it. So we might say that this little boy represents someone who is in the good of the death and resurrection of Christ.
D-gJK Does it also show the willingness of availability? You might have thought this was a big lunch for a small boy. I am just asking; could he be one that the Lord Jesus had prepared for the time? Is it a good exercise to be prepared, to be available?
HJK Have you ever wondered why the Lord gave you something, or you had some thought come to you, some special impression of Scripture? And you go to work, and the Lord uses it. I think what you say is helpful; that God provided that lunch, He used it.
AKL Is it good to see the end when they were all filled? The thought in seven goes through in perfection, and everyone is satisfied: “when they had been filled”.
HJK That is what I wanted to mention, that they left satisfied. That is why I mentioned Ruth - “he reached her parched corn, and she ate and was sufficed”, Ruth 2: 14. Now as you get up and leave - and this is why I say we do not have a meeting every night - as was said, we go out and prove these things. I think that, as we prove them, we get more baskets full. So what we prove - what we have of Christ - is what we are going to take to glory with us. We may have a lot of knowledge, but “knowledge puffs up”, 1 Cor 8: 1. Understanding of the Scriptures, and wisdom, are wonderful.
CJB Would you say a little bit more about the fragments that were left? It is interesting that those are accounted for.
HJK Well, you could ask where the baskets came from. If you had enough for twelve baskets, you could not carry it all. So the Lord provided them; the Lord always provides, but the twelve baskets suggest administration, and the disciples were responsible in a sense for the administration of the testimony. It has been handed down; we can say that ourselves: we are responsible for the administration of the testimony, and how we handle the body of Christ today.
D-gJK Does the Spirit come back into this again? You mentioned the green grass earlier. The Spirit is securing vessels that this might be held, do you think? There is the side of administration being needed, but then there is the side of you and me being needed too. The Spirit is securing vessels to contain what is left, or contain what is given.
MJK I stand to be adjusted if what I am going to say is not right, but it impresses me that, as you look at these baskets, they are baskets for a journey. There are twelve baskets (which speak to me of sound teaching), and I think it is important to realise that there are no more than twelve baskets. In other words, we need to be very careful not to carry another basket that would be according to the mind of man. “Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the word of God”, Heb 13: 7. We each have a basket to carry with us according to the teaching of the apostles. The five loaves were mentioned - here it is in relation to man, is it not? In the feeding of the four thousand in Matthew 15, there are seven baskets and seven loaves; and that is in relation to what divine Persons give; and the baskets are much bigger - they would call them a fish basket.
WSS Why did they collect the leftovers? Why did they not throw the rest away, or eat it all?
HJK That is a good question, because naturally we live in a country of much waste. But John says, “that nothing may be lost”. Nothing was lost; when the Lord does something, there is no spoilage or deterioration. It is food that will go on continually. What we have got here today never grows old; it does not grow mould. What we gain spiritually will continue to go on. It speaks of what is moral, but the thought that nothing might be lost is very helpful. God did not let any of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. Nothing is lost - think of it in your life, when you share what God has given you with others, God is not going to let any of that be lost. When you talk to them, you have their conscience on your side, and nothing will be lost. I think it is a moral issue, but is that helpful?
RBC The boy must have come from a good home. Five thousand came together to hear what the Lord had to say, and he was the only one that had the food to sustain him. I was thinking about the question about why it was fish. The fish must have come from home; he would not have found these in the desert either. He probably would not have found a loaf in the desert. What he brought must have come from his household. Is that the way we should come?
HJK That should really be an encouragement to us as parents of children, that we send our children to school with something. That is really helpful.
CJB The Lord’s estimation of what the boy brought is very different from Andrew’s. He just says they were “small” - what do you say about that in relation to what our brother just said?
HJK I suppose in our own eyes that is sometimes what we see, but if we look at it in the eyes of God, what do we see?
CJB As a parent, that can be quite a challenge, but I wonder if the Lord does take account of each small step in faith in our households, but also of what we bring in faith no matter what our age. Is that right? It is interesting how Andrew says that, but the Lord is able to take it and create abundance.
D-gJK Coming back to what was just said, this little boy would have thought it was normal to be provided for. Is that an encouragement to us again as parents, that bringing children up “in the discipline and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6: 4) is normal to them? So there is not something abnormal as they go out and face the world.
HJK These are wonderful thoughts; we could almost continue on with another reading.
AKL I was just wanting to ask about the reference to what was kept: would the twelve baskets also contribute to the glory of the assembly in view of the eternal day - nothing will be lost? Everything that has been accomplished by the death of Christ will remain, and give glory to divine Persons in a coming day.
CJB That is a contrast to the manna, which would spoil. I was thinking about that earlier, but what you say about the assembly is helpful.
Dg-JK The foundation is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2: 20); that comes back to the earlier comment – that this is firmly established. Nothing is to be lost; “Jesus Christ himself being the corner stone”. The apostles built upon it, but then you and I take advantage of it. Then we come in as our own vessel.
PBK After we have been fed by the Lord, do we come into the enjoyment of what David writes in Psalm 23: 2, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside still waters”?
HJK Can you think of a more peaceful setting?
23rd December 2015
Key To Initials
(all local in Aberdeen, Idaho):
Colin J Brien; Raymond B Clark; J Alex Klassen; Daryl J Klassen; Doug J Klassen; Harold J Klassen; Jonathan D Klassen; Michael J Klassen; Phil B Klassen; William J Klassen; Anders K Lidbeck; Wesley S Selman