Thanksgiving is a holiday where we’re supposed to take a break from the stresses and business of life to reflect on all of the blessings we have. Often this gets overshadowed by something else. Our Thanksgiving feast. Personally, I really enjoy it. It’s a meal that keeps on giving. There are leftovers. Nothing tastes as good as a sandwich of leftover turkey, Miracle Whip, salt and pepper.
Food isn’t the only type of leftovers we need to think about. We have to consider the leftovers Jesus gives us…and what we’re supposed to do with them.
Mark 6:30-44 says, “30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 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. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.”
Jesus and his disciples were weary from all the work and ministry they’d been doing. They tried to get away by themselves so they could rest. Many people recognized them as they were leaving. Evidently, the crowds knew where they were going. The people ran ahead and got there before Jesus and the disciples did.
Verse 34 says when Jesus saw them, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” This phrase was used in the Old Testament to describe Israel when they were either without leaders or the leaders they had weren’t looking out for their welfare.
Jesus decided not to rest. He taught the crowds. Mark doesn’t tell us the subject matter of his teachings. However, whenever the Gospels do tell us the things Jesus taught, his teachings always related to the fact God’s kingdom was unfolding right in front of them. It’s not a stretch to assume he taught the same thing here.
Jesus kept going until it was late in the day. The disciples told him to send the people away so they could buy food. Jesus responded by telling them to feed the crowd. It appears Jesus was using this as a teaching moment for his disciples. Were they grasping what they’d been hearing and seeing as they followed him? Apparently not. They told Jesus they couldn’t do it. Jesus had the crowds sit down on green grass, took five loaves and two fish, gave thanks and broke the bread. God supernaturally multiplied that small amount of food so much it fed thousands of people.
In addition to teaching the crowds about the kingdom of God, Jesus was also showing them it was unfolding right in front of them. He was fulfilling Ezekiel 34.
Ezekiel 34:11-16 says, 11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, (Jesus had the crowds sit on the green grass) and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel (Jesus fed them until they were so full there were leftovers). 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD (After looking to heaven, Jesus used five loaves and two fish to feed thousands of people). 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice (Jesus knew they were like sheep without a shepherd).
Jesus was trying to show the crowds that He was God in the flesh. Not only did he meet their needs. He blessed them abundantly. After everyone ate, the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of bread and fish.
Mark 6:30-44 shows us three things we should be doing.
1) Look for the ways God’s kingdom is still unfolding right in front of us. The crowds Jesus taught had trouble understanding what he was trying to tell them. He didn’t fit their mold of who the Messiah was supposed to be so many rejected him. We often do the same thing. We want God to bless what we’re doing instead of wanting to do what God is blessing.
God’s kingdom in still unfolding right in front of us. People are being delivered from the punishment of their sins by accepting Jesus as their Savior. Long-time disciples are growing in their faith. Others are being set free from the hurts and disappointment that kept them in bondage. Sick people are either being healed or finding the strength they need to face their illness. God is releasing sisters and brothers from their diseases and pains by calling them home. We don’t want to miss all of this because we’re looking for something else.
2) Help nourish those around us who are hungry – physically as well as spiritually. In verse 37, Jesus told his disciples to give the crowds something to eat. We’re working at being modern-day disciples of Jesus. Is he telling us the same thing? I believe he is.
There are many needs all around us. Some people are struggling financially. Others have health problems. Even though we have so many forms of communication at our fingertips, loneliness is becoming epidemic in our society. Fellow disciples of Jesus need to know they’re not alone in their spiritual struggles.
Sincerely ask the Lord to show you who he wants you to help nourish and how it can be done. Then be obedient to what he tells you to do.
3) Realize how much God has blessed us by looking at the leftovers. Jesus blessed the crowd in two ways. The first was spiritual. What spiritual blessings from God are overflowing in you? In what ways has he changed you? Given you peace and hope? In what ways are you more spiritually mature than you used to be? What people has God put in your life to help you? To support you? To challenge you? To love you?
The second way Jesus blessed them was physically. He fed them so much there were leftovers. What leftovers do you have around you? Look in your refrigerator and pantry to see how much extra food you have. Glance through your closets at all of the extra clothes and accessories you have. Check the balance of your financial accounts and think about the fact most people in the world don’t have any savings. And, last but not least, the biggest leftover of all. Get on the scales. Compare what you weigh with what your doctor says you should weigh. This is a great indicator of how much God is blessing you beyond your needs.
During the Thanksgiving season, it’s easy to put our main focus on the Thanksgiving meal. A good way to change this is to start thinking about the leftovers. Concentrating on the spiritual and physical blessings we have helps us see how thankful we really should be.