Taking the five loaves and two fish, He looked up to heaven and said a blessing [of praise and thanksgiving to the Father]. Then He broke the loaves and [repeatedly] gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and He divided up the two fish among them all.
Surely the one fundamental need in our life and service for God is the blessing of God upon it. No other need exists. What do we mean by blessing? Blessing is the working of God where there is nothing to account for His working. For instance, you calculate that a penny should buy a pennyworth. But if you have not paid your penny and God has given you ten thousand pennyworth, then you have no basis for your calculations. When five loaves provide food for five thousand and twelve baskets of fragments- when, that is to say, the fruit of our service is out of all proportion to the gifts we possess, that is blessing. Or, to be rather extreme, when taking account of our failures and weaknesses, there should be no fruit- that is blessing. Blessing is the fruit out of all relation to what we are, results that are not just the working of cause and effect. Blessing comes when God works wholly beyond our reckoning, for His name’s sake.
Blessing could be defined as God taking what little we have to offer and using it to bring about something that is so far beyond what we might imagine it could be. Blessing is the intangible, incredible work of grace through which the outcome of our life and situation rests not in our abilities nor in our resources but solely alone in the power of God Himself. Blessing cannot be categorized and often not even understood for blessing is the action of a Sovereign God acting in grace and compassion.
The story of our text today provides an example of blessing. The multitude had followed Jesus out away from the towns and villages to hear His teaching. He and the disciples had been busy ministering to the people and had actually drawn away for a time of rest. However, the people sought for them and came to where they were. Mark tells us something important here:
“When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd [waiting], and He was moved with compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd [lacking guidance]; and He began to teach them many things.’
The root of blessing is not found in our merit but in the compassion of Christ. There is nothing to indicate that the multitude were more deserving than any other crowd. There were many occasions when the crowds gathered around Jesus and certainly He had the power to have provided food for them. We must ask ourselves, “Why this group at this time?” And I think our only sure answer is the fact that Jesus was moved with compassion. For us this means we must believe that God truly loves and cares about us and for many of us there is an uncertainty of this truth. The Jews in Jesus’ day taught and believed that those who had health and wealth were those approved by God and therefore qualified to receive the blessings of God. They also taught that those who suffered and struggled were out of favor with God and were being punished because of their sins. Nothing can be farther from the truth. God doesn’t love the successful more than those who struggle. His grace and mercy cannot be perceived as something that lets us escape any troubles. This is why we must see that blessing has little to do with us. And blessing cannot be seen as God fixing every situation to our demands and expectations. What Mark tells us about this situation is that compassion directed the action of Jesus and we can be sure that compassion will move Him to bless us too.
As we move through the story, we discover that blessing comes to those who linger. The Bible doesn’t say this, but I dare say that there were those who came out that day and stayed for a little while and left to go back to their busy lives. In our fast-paced, mad-house rush and microwave world, we often miss the blessing because we leave too soon. In a recent Family Feud episode the survey said that one of the things that people wished to be over soon was church. I’m not suggesting that this gives permission for long sermons or lengthy rituals for neither of them are cause and effect to produce blessing. But I’ve observed that as soon as the sermon is finished and the last song sung and often even before the closing prayer, that people are gathering their belongings and moving toward the aisle, ready to move on with their day. Growing up old school, I had the privilege of being part of those who had learned to tarry, to wait, to seek, and often to receive the blessing from God. Again Mark tells us that it was those who lingered that received. Sometimes it isn’t the more spiritual or righteous. Sometimes the blessing of God comes to those who just keep lingering in His presence.
“ When the day was nearly gone, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it is already late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
Mark 6: 35-36
The disciples response to the situation is no different than ours at times. They reasoned that the crowds should be sent away so they could find food on their own. That’s the logical and reasonable thing to do. Sometimes, the reasonable outcome is exceeded by the compassion of God who chooses instead to bless. Our view of resource often causes us to feel limited in the ability to meet a need for we forget that the One who has been moved with compassion is also the One who created and made everything that has been made and He is not limited by time, space or natural law. Again the Bible doesn’t say this but I get the feeling that when Jesus asked the disciples what they had found as a resource, their response was tinged with doubt and skepticism. In view of the huge need and the minuscule resource, it must have felt hopeless and maybe that’s how we see things. But the God who created everything knows how to take the insignificant and make it sufficient. So Jesus had the disciples to sit the people down on groups and then He picked up the fish and bread and blessed it. Then while it was in His hands, He broke the bread and gave pieces to the disciples and every time they passed it out and came back to Him, He had another piece waiting. In the same way He broke the fish and passed it to the disciples and as long as there was a need, the pieces of fish kept coming. Of all the things that Mark tells us, this is the most significant. If we will offer to Christ our little and let Him manage it and receive His blessing upon it, we will discover that our little plus the blessing of God equals sufficient. We don’t know the little boy’s name who had brought the lunch and we don’t know his mother’s name but I dare say that when she packed his lunch, neither she nor he had any idea that God was going to use it to meet a need and to glorify Christ. You and I have the same opportunity to offer God our little. We may not ever see what God does with it to bless others, but one thing’s for sure, if we will He will.
That day, after everyone had eaten their fill, Christ instructed the disciples to gather the leftovers, and there was twelve baskets full. Whenever and whatever God blesses will always be more than enough to supply the need. Jesus said that if we give our little we would receive back “full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.”
The intangible blessing of God can’t be explained, measured, or manipulated. It can only be received by those to whom God has compassion for and I believe that’s everyone. We don’t qualify through our efforts, but we are recipients because of His grace.
Dr. John Thompson