Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mark 6:34-37 -- On Feeding His Sheep

"And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:
Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.
He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?"
Mark 6:34-37

I think that we all feel like sheep with no shepherd sometimes.  As much as we try to make sense of the world and the things that happen to us, we still run into things that we can't wrap our minds around, or that challenge what we thought we knew.  The more we learn, the more we realize all that we don't know, and how wide the gap is between ourselves and being able to control anything but ourselves... and our grasp even of that is usually spotty, at best.  And when we are in need of guidance, God is there for us, just as he was for these people.  Teaching us many things. :)  And when we've been listening to him, and the day gets long... he won't send us away hungry.  He loves us.  He is our shepherd.  And although we are sometimes tempted to offense with the human-animal comparison, it isn't literal, but it is pretty accurate figuratively.  Compared to God, we can't really understand on the same level, and we absolutely do need some guidance to find the right way, and even to stay safe sometimes.  We have a tendency to play around cliffs.  We aren't pets, but we are children compared to God, and we do need his help.
The last part of these verses is a lead-in to the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.  With probably not enough food even for just the disciples, Christ fed over five thousand people, and they gathered more leftovers in the end than there had been of the original food.  That's not a psychological phenomenon.  That's a miracle.  And God didn't do it to prove something, but because he didn't want the people to go hungry after coming all that way to listen to him.  When we commit to God and stick with him, he will provide for us.  It might not be caviar and steak dinners.  He fed the Israelites with Manna, and loaves and fishes probably wasn't the elite meal of the time... but being a shepherd means watching out for us, and when we don't know where our next meal is coming from, it is coming from the Lord.
We're on both sides of this analogy though.  God asked Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep, and as we are his disciples, he commands us "Give ye them to eat."  This isn't just about us being fed.  We need to feed and care for others.  God works through us, and we need to be his hand, taking care of his will in the world.  Today, let's not slack on doing what we can to provide for ourselves and our families, of course, but let's pray to and trust in God to provide where we can't.  And let's remember that it will be through other people most likely, and not a seven course meal materializing in our living rooms.  When people ask if they can help, that could be God trying to help us.  We don't need to be so prideful that we turn people away when we really need them.  And let's also remember to act on the spirit, and to BE those people.  Let's offer, and not just offer, but actually get in there and help all we can.  Even when it seemed impossible, God commanded his disciples to feed the five thousand.  Let's have faith that our efforts can make a similar difference, even when the task seems overwhelming compared to what we can offer.

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