Following John’s death, the
narrative cuts back to the excited apostles returning from their mission.
However, they still had much to learn. In this passage, Jesus performed two
great miracles, but they still did not understand His purpose.
“And they were greatly amazed in
themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the
loaves, because their heart was hardened” (6:51-52).
Did You Know…?
“Sheep not having a shepherd” (6:34):
Domesticated sheep suffer from a lack of initiative, and so are easily lost and
injured. Without a shepherd, they are helpless.
Two hundred denarii/eight months wages (6:37):
Not even that amount of money would buy enough bread for all to eat.
Loaves, fish (6:41): Staples in Galilee,
especially for the poor. Jn 6:9,13 specifies barley loaves—the cheaper, coarser
Baskets (6:43): A two-gallon basket (kophinos),
different from the ones in Mk 8:8. It has a cord for a handle, used for
carrying provisions on the back.11
Five thousand (6:44): This does not include
women and children, who were grouped separately for the meal, according to
Jewish customs. The size of the crowd is amazing in light of the fact that the
neighboring towns of Capernaum and Bethsaida had a population of only 2,000 to
Bethsaida (6:45): Literally, “House of Fishing.”
A city on the north coast of Galilee. Like Capernaum, it was a fishing town.
Fourth watch (6:48): 3:00 to 6:00 A.M.
Ghost (6:49): Jewish superstition held that the
appearance of spirits during the night brought disaster. The disciples were
terrified because they thought they were seeing a water spirit.
Gennesaret (6:53): Literally, “Garden of
Riches.” A fertile plain, about four miles long and less than two miles wide,
on the northwest side of Galilee.
1. Describe the apostles’ mood
when they reported to Jesus. What had they done and taught?
2. Verse 31 says, “For there were
many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” How does this
explain why Jesus said, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest
3a. Suppose you tried to get some
rest, but people still come to you for help, how would you feel?
3b. What did the Lord do when the
multitudes disrupted His rest? What can we learn from Him?
4a. On Chart B below, paraphrase
the dialog between the disciples and Jesus (35-38).
4b. When you pray to God for
help, do you suggest a solution to Him? Why or why not?
4c. The disciples thought Jesus
was asking for the impossible when He said, “You give them something to eat”
(37). Do you sometimes feel like God makes unreasonable demands of you?
4d. Jesus asked the disciples to
count the number of loaves. Why did they also come back with two fish (38)?
5. What does this miracle teach
us about what to do when we ask for God’s help?
6. Mark writes that the crowd was
“like sheep not having a shepherd” (34), and that they sat down on the “green
grass” (39). Compare this scene to Ps 23 and Jn 10:11-14.
7. What did Jesus do after He fed
the people? What does this teach us about our responsibilities?
8a. Notice how Jesus
“immediately” “made” the disciples get into the boat and sent the multitude
away Himself (45). Why such haste, and why did the disciples seem reluctant?
(cf. Jn 6:15)
8b. What is the lesson for us
9. How long had the disciples
been in the boat before Jesus went out to them?
10. When the disciples were
terrified, Jesus immediately revealed Himself (50). How does Jesus make Himself
known to you when you are afraid?
11. How is this incident
different from what happened in Mk 4:35-41?
12. Explain verse 52. What do the
loaves have to do with the disciples’ amazement? How is “their hearts were
hardened” an explanation to their amazement?
13. Compare the people’s reaction
when they recognized Jesus (54) to the Nazarenes’ reaction (6:3).
14. Compare 2:3-4 and 5:27-29 to
6:55-56. What does the similarity of these events teach us?