“In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him...”
I imagine Jesus and his disciples moving among the people from group to group, listening and ministering to the crowd’s individual needs and questions, revealing God’s love, and demonstrating God’s power through healings. I guess no one expected to be there three days since they were in the middle of a food desert. I bet it took Jesus and his disciples three days to get to everyone. By the end of three days, people were weak from hunger but probably full of love.
During Lent, we gather together as a community, and we might fast from physical food. Yet, we are also called to receive the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In our Lenten reflections, we might acknowledge how weak we are apart from God when it becomes difficult to deny ourselves dessert and alcohol (guilty). Or we might enter Lent already broken and overwhelmed, keenly aware that we are weary, remembering all we have lost or given up this past year. We intentionally reflect on the condition of our hearts and our relationship with God in community like the crowd in Mark 8.
Lent is also a great opportunity to fill each other up with love as we realize our humanness, just as I imagine Jesus and his disciples did for the Gentiles in Mark 8. When Jesus fed the 5,000 in Mark 6, he was among other Jews near Bethsaida and the Sea of Galilee. In Mark 8, Jesus and his disciples are among 4,000 Gentiles, near the region of the Decapolis, signaling to us that his provision and compassion are for all humanity made in God’s image.
“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”
I love how Jesus does not want anyone to pass out—whether it’s from striving to know him better or because they are weary from life and need to experience God’s power. What’s also really beautiful is that the disciples convince those who have been hoarding their food and carefully conserving it so that they don’t pass out to actually give up their sustenance. That is what it’s like to live in community. You give up the stuff you care about—even the things you earned—because you care about the weary people in your community. You put other people and their needs before your own, believing that God is powerful enough and compassionate enough to meet your needs too. That’s how I know Jesus wasn’t just talking at the crowd for three days. Jesus was with them and among them showing them His compassion and provision. That’s why there were people who were willing to give up the bread and fish they had been saving for the journey home.
“And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people […] And they ate and were satisfied.”
If you are aware of your weariness or weakness, receive the Lord’s compassion. May God put people in your life to share and break bread with you, so that you don’t faint. May the fellowship of believers multiply in you the Lord’s compassion and provision, and may you become broken bread for others who grow weary and weak.
Bethany Fleming, a Furman transplant, lives in Brookland with her husband TJ. She enjoys fine wine, being outside with friends, and most recently yoga.