Following Jesus was never meant to be a spectator sport, and the disciples are about to get some playing time.
That goes for you too. If you follow Jesus, you are called to ministry, no exceptions. Now if you’re not a believer, the invitation is open. But keep in mind, you’re not invited to join an institution, you’re called to a movement.
What does that mean for the disciples? They’re about to find out. Mark 6, verse 7:
“Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.”
Notice that Jesus sends them out. Ministry doesn’t wait for people to come in, it goes out where the need is. And He sends them in twos – ministry is a team sport. And He gives them authority – God’s authority – to go.
And He gives them instructions. Verse 8:
“Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.”
So their first mission is a lesson in faith. No provisions – just faith. However, the instructions are not the same every time. Later Jesus will send them on another mission with provisions. Mission is not a formula or recipe, it’s an adventure, and the real key is getting your directions from the Lord every time. Following Jesus means following instructions, and always trust God. Empty handed or fully supplied, trust in God to provide.
So how’d it go? Verse 12:
“They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”
So they did it! They trusted, and God provided. They returned to Jesus to give their report, but pretty soon a crowd gathered, and in verse 31, he said to the disciples,
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Essential rule of ministry here: get rest with Jesus. So they get to a solitary place, but the crowd gets there first! Sorry guys – no rest this time. Thirty-four:
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion.”
I’m always amazed at Jesus’ capacity for compassion. Compassion means “suffer with” – and Jesus did just that. He saw people’s needs and cared. And he taught the disciples to care.
Well, Jesus taught and it got late. Lots of people – remote location – and they need food. The disciples tell Jesus to send them all away. Reasonable. Verse 37:
“But he answered, ‘You give them something to eat.’”
Pay attention. The disciples see the need, and Jesus tells them to feed the people. But there’s not enough. Not nearly! And it’s the middle of nowhere.
But remember what they just learned: empty handed of fully supplied, trust in God to provide. Verse 38:
“‘How many loaves do you have?’” he asked. ‘Go and see.’ When they found out, they said, ‘Five – and two fish.’”
That’s bread and fish for just a few, not thousands. But watch carefully. They tell the people to sit down, and in verse 41,
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people.”
Hold there. Pause the tape and look carefully. Jesus gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave each disciple – how much?
Step in their shoes. Look in your hands – half a loaf of bread maybe, little bit of fish. Look up – hundreds of people. But Jesus said feed them, so you feed them. Forty-two:
“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.”
That is awesome. And it still happens. I have heard many real-life loaves and fishes stories from my friends in ministry. Hurricane relief work in the South, feeding the poor in Mexico, and countless more. Sometimes a truck shows up out of nowhere. Sometimes a small supply lasts way longer than it should. Genuine miracles – but always in the midst of meeting a need. Always in the ministryof compassion.
As you read Mark 6 and 7, watch Jesus’ miracles. Is he showing off – or showing compassion? Is he teaching the disciples to perform miracles, or to care and help even when the need is far more than they can provide?
I learned a long time ago that I am not enough. But ministry is a call to something greater than ourselves, something we cannot do alone.
How about you? Do you have what it takes to help all these people? No? Neither do I. But Jesus said go, so let’s go. Empty handed or fully supplied, trust in God… and get in the game.
For Reflection & Discussion:
- What do you think Jesus was teaching the disciples when he sent them without money? How about when he told them to feed 5,000 people without enough food? Do those lessons apply today?
- What is your experience with serving God and helping others? Share your story.
- If you could do anything for God, what would it be?