God’s Word for You
Mark 6:41-42 He gave and gave and gave
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, February 5, 2023
41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and gave thanks. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied.
Does God need to ask God for a blessing? Jesus humbled himself as a man, and therefore he behaved as a man. Making sure that we pray before meals and at other times is the role of a family’s father at home (as we worship God in private) and of the pastor when we worship together in public. Luther begins the final part of the Catechism, the Daily Prayers and the Table of Duties, by saying: “How the head of the family should teach those in his household to pray morning and evening, to ask a blessing, and to say grace at meals.” Jesus turned his eyes to heaven as was the custom at the time. We usually bow our heads and fold our hands, especially to teach little ones to stop fidgeting and think about what they are saying. It is not wrong to say a memorized prayer, nor is it wrong to make up a new prayer, but we should take care: On the one hand, we should not say a prayer absently and without thinking about it. On the other hand, we should not ramble on. Pray, brothers and sisters. There is no reason to hurry to get to the food. Pray, and then eat.
Breaking the bread was how they distributed a large loaf of bread. In 1928, the automatic bread slicer was invented and patented. Before that, families used bread knives (often the best knife a family owned) to cut up portions of their freshly-baked bread. But in New Testament times, a large loaf, often unleavened, would be torn, snapped, or otherwise broken so that the pieces could be handed out. As Jesus took the five small loaves of bread and broke them, he miraculously multiplied them. Jesus broke, and handed the piece to an apostle, and broke again, and handed that piece away, and again and again. He broke and broke and broke, and there was enough bread for everyone; there was plenty, and there was some to spare. This was the same thing he had done when he filled the world with plants and vegetation on the Third Day of Creation. At that time he said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And, Moses tells us, it was so (Genesis 1:11). Now he did the same thing, but instead of bringing wheat or barley up out of the soil, he brought into being baked bread. Without a doubt, it was excellent bread (remember the reaction of the people to the wine Jesus made, John 2:10).
Then he took the fish and did the same. This is what he had done on the Fifth Day of Creation, when he said, “Let the water teem with living creatures” (Genesis 1:20). Now the hillsides of Galilee teemed with fish in the hands of Jesus and his apostles as they passed the fish out, fish by fish by fish. With the third one, they already had more than they had started with, but there was more, much more, to come. “You crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands: you put everything under his feet… even the fish of the sea” (Psalm 8:5-6,8).
Was the fish baked, or broiled, or fried, or dried? Or pickled? We know that it was edible, and there is no reason to think that Jesus our Lord could not produce broiled fish if he wanted some, just has he could produce bread and not only its raw ingredients (John 21:9). It does no good to argue about the method of cookery here, but we know that everyone, even those who did not like raw fish (not many of us do) were satisfied. Whatever form the fish took, it was good, it was tasty, it was delightful, and it was satisfying. How many were reminded of Isaac’s words? “Prepare for me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat” (Genesis 27:4).
When did the multiplying happen? Was it the moment he blessed the bread and the fish? Was it the moment he broke the bread? Was it the moment the disciples turned from Jesus and walked to the next part of the crowd? None of these things is impossible, but there is a better way to understand the text. Jesus “gave” the food to his apostles. The Greek verb “gave” is edidou (ἐδίδου), an imperfect verb form meaning “he gave and gave and gave and kept on giving.” We see this verb in the Greek translation of 1 Kings 5:11, “Solomon continued to do this for Hiram year after year.” Also, in Jesus’ parable “the other seed produced (kept producing) a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:8). So Jesus gave and gave and gave the two fish and he broke and broke and broke the bread from the loaves. He multiplied the food miraculously to provide the people with what they needed.
I have been told that some preachers outside our fellowship go out of their way to destroy the miracle of this text, claiming that Jesus did nothing more than inspire people to share what they had just as this little boy had done with his loaves of bread and his couple of fish. By doing this they rob the Son of God of his glory and power. They are under a curse because they are robbing God (Malachi 3:9). Their people weep because their shepherds do not feed them the gospel of Christ’s glory and love, and they think of their house of God in its former glory, but now it seems like nothing (Haggai 2:3). Behold! Jesus caused what was just a few to become more than enough. This is the power of the Maker of all things. This is the miracle: that God would provide everything we need. It is not a miracle about what is within man, for there is nothing but sin within man, but it is a miracle of what is possible for God. With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Or as Augustine said, “He commands and then he gives what he commands.”
In the end, everyone ate. Everyone had as much as they wanted, until no one wanted any more. “They were satisfied.” And as we will see, there was still some left.
God gives, and he gives, and he gives. Thank him for all of the things he has given, and use it all to his glory.
Pastor Timothy Smith