I’ll give the disciples the benefit of the doubt.
Mark 6:34 says that a “great crowd” had rushed in from all over to listen to Jesus. The day went on and Jesus was still teaching and preaching. People were surely getting hungry. This is where the disciples stepped up. They suggested it was time for Jesus to send everyone away so they could go find something to eat.
Again, thinking the best of them, it looks like they wanted to make sure all those people were fed. I’ll remind you that Mark also told us the disciples hadn’t eaten yet either.
In response to their idea, Jesus told them there was no need to send the people away. It’s one of my favorite lines from Jesus. “You give them something to eat,” he said. I like to imagine the disciples’ expressions.
Do you think they had the two hundred denarii, half a year’s salary, that they spoke of to Jesus? Or was that them being dramatic?
From here, there are so many other details I have questions about. Many more than we have time to get into fully here. Take some time for yourself to reflect on a few things. First, Jesus told them to take inventory of their bread. Why did they come back with fish, too? What do the numbers five and two bring to mind?
They could’ve sat anywhere; many of them probably already were. Why did they have to sit on the “green grass”? Why did some sit in groups of fifty and others hundreds?
Mark gives us clear Eucharistic images as we envision Jesus looking to heaven blessing and breaking the bread before giving it to everyone.
It’s what happened next that intrigues me today. Remember that everyone had enough to eat and there were leftovers! Some five thousand people, at the least, ate that night. What did the disciples do with the leftovers? They put them in baskets. Twelve baskets to be exact, which is another detail.
I was reading and learned there’s a word for this particular kind of basket. They were hampers; the Latin word is cophinus. Jews used them to carry food and other items. It’s said they would carry hay in the baskets to use for pillows on their journeys so they wouldn’t have to ask for help from Gentiles and run the risk of being made unclean.
Now, who took the baskets? Did they belong to the disciples? Did some of them belong to other people? Who knows? But someone had to walk back with them. Who would they meet along the way? And would they be willing to share what God gave to them if need be? Would there be any reservations about offering food to anyone in need? No matter who they were?
That’s the real question that matters most to the Church.
Are we willing to give of what God has given to us? We’ve been blessed with so much. How can we not? Having a loaves and fishes mindset helps us see that we will have all we need; God is faithful. We don’t need to be stingy or selfish. We don’t give our blessings away. We share them.