The journey to God's mountain, 6:1-10:52

1. Growing division, 6:1-8:21

iv] The feeding of the 5,000


The disciples, wearied by the Galilean mission, draw aside "to a quiet place", to "rest" in the shepherd's care. Yet, the crowds follow, and so Jesus, having "compassion on them", "began teaching them many things". Then, later in the day, with the contents of a plowman's lunch, Jesus feeds all those who have gathered to hear him speak. The crowd numbered over five thousand.


Jesus is Israel's faithful shepherd, who, like the Lord of the wilderness, sustains his people.


i] Context: See 6:1-6. With the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand, 8:1-21, we have an extended Markan sandwich focused on the bread / manna supplied by Jesus. This bread is the word of God, and it is consumed by faith. The feeding of the five thousand is followed by Jesus' walking on water, again an episode exuding exodus typology. The meaning of this sign alludes the disciples because "they did not understand about the loaves", 6:45-56. The theme continues in the next two episodes: "loaves" / bread not consumed by Israel's religious leaders, 7:1-23, but consumed by Gentiles, 7:24-37. The Markan sandwich concludes with the feeding of the four thousand. This episode further develops the theme of the word / bread, with the Pharisees' demand for a sign, and the disciple's discussion on the issue of forgotten bread, 8:1-21.


ii] Structure: Sheep without a shepherd:

A scene-setting introduction, v30-34:

the people are like sheep without a shepherd;

A conversation between Jesus and his disciples sets up the miracle, v35-38;

The feeding miracle itself, v39-42;

A concluding observation, v43-44:

all are satisfied.


iii] Interpretation.

The significance of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is open to some debate. It may just be an act of divine power prompted by Jesus' compassion. Yet, it is more likely a "sign", a revelation of the mystery, a proclamation that "the kingdom of God is at hand."

Messianic fulfilment is the revolutionary aspect of the miracle, and this is expressed in Jesus' role as shepherd to the people of Israel, a people who are "like sheep without a shepherd." As Moses, under the hand of God, sustained Israel in the wilderness, so Jesus, in a "deserted place", feeds the people of Israel. He sustains them with the bread of life, both spiritual and physical - he taught them "many things", "and all ate and were filled."

Cranfield underlines this fulfilment motif quoting Qoheleth Rubba on Ecclesiastes 1:9, "As the first Redeemer caused manna to descend, so shall also the last Redeemer cause manna to descend." Lane expresses a similar fulfilment motif when he writes "in contrast to the drunken debauchery of the Herodian feast, Mark exhibits the glory of God unveiled through the abundant provision of bread in the wilderness where Jesus is Israel's faithful shepherd."

France rightly reminds us that applying the "sign" value of a miracle is by no means clear cut. None-the-less, he sees the sign as "a foretaste of the messianic banquet, an introduction to the communal life of the kingdom of God." We should also note that the miracle has often been used to teach Christ's divinity, although Mark does not seem to draw out this conclusion.


iv] Synoptics:

Matt.14:13-21; Lk.9:10-17 (John 6:1-14). Mark's account is closer to Matthew than Luke, sharing the liturgical words "took", "gave thanks", "broke" and "gave". Of course, it is unclear whether liturgical practice has shaped the account, or the account has shaped liturgical practice. Mark's vivid wording reflects the account of an eyewitness. Note that other than the two healings in Mark 7:32-37 and 8:22-26, Matthew aligns with Mark over the next sixteen episodes, with some of Mark's accounts somewhat condensed. Markan priority is usually assumed, although why would Matthew leave out the two healings? The alignment of Matthew and Mark over these sixteen episodes argues against mutual independence.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Sheep without a shepherd.

Text - 6:30

The feeding of the five thousand: i] Setting - The apostles report on their mission and, given the press of the crowds, Jesus decides to take them away for a break / a debrief, v30-34. The "apostles" (literally, "the sent ones") return from the Galilean mission and report to Jesus. Their mission has stirred interest and so various groups come looking for them. Jesus draws the disciples into the wilderness. Mark stresses this fact, for the wilderness is where God speaks to his people, and thus, where they may find "rest" (the Sabbath rest, eternity). It is possible that the disciples' mission is to draw out into the wilderness these "sheep without a shepherd." This description of the crowd draws on Num.27:17 and Ezk.34:5. Jesus fulfils prophecy as the Mosaic shepherd who leads God's people through the wilderness to the rest of the promised land.

oiJ apostoloi (oV) "the apostles" - [and] the apostles. Nominative subject of the verb "to gather together." Cranfield notes that the word is derived from the Hebrew meaning "authorised agent or representative." The sense here is possibly not technical, so "the missionaries", Taylor.

proV + acc. "around" - [gathered together] toward [jesus]. Spatial; usually taken with the sense "around" here. "After the apostles returned to Jesus", CEV.

aphggeilan (apaggellw) aor. "reported" - [and] they announced, reported, told the news. "Told him all about what they had done and taught", Barclay.

autw/ dat. pro. "to [him]" - to him [everything which they did and which they taught]. Dative of indirect object.


gar "because" - [and] because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus has called the disciples aside; "because".

polloi adj. "many" - [there were] many. Predicate adjective.

oiJ ercomenoi (ercomai) pres. mid. part. "people were coming" - the ones coming [and the ones going]. These two articular participles serve as substantives; "because there were many people spending time with Jesus."

fagein (esqiw) aor. inf. "to eat" - [and they did not have opportunity] to eat. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "have opportunity".

autoiV dat. pro. "[he said] to them" - [he says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

deute "come with me" - come with me. An adverb serving as an interjection. "With me" is understood.

kat idian "by yourselves" - [you yourselves] according to one's own = privately, alone. Idiomatic; "Apart by yourselves", Cranfield.

erhmon adj. "a quiet place" - [into a] desolate, wilderness [place and rest, refresh, a little]. Here not the noun "desert", but rather serving as an attributive adjective limiting "place"; "a deserted, lonely place"


The quiet break for Jesus and his disciples turns into a major teaching occasion when it is invaded by crowds of people. Taylor and others identify the "wilderness place" as the north-east side of the lake.

kat idian "by themselves" - [and so they departed] according to ones own = privately. Idiomatic.

en + dat. "in [a boat]" - in [the boat to a desert place]. Local; expressing space.


eidon aor. "saw" - [and many] saw. Cranfield suggests that "many" is the subject, as NIV, but possibly an impersonal verb, "people saw", in which case "many" would be the subject of "recognised". "The people saw them going, and many recognised them", Weymouth.

uJpagontaV (uJpagw) pres. part. "leaving" - [them] going. The participle serves as the complement of the direct object autouV, "them", standing in a double accusative construction; "the crowd saw the disciples and Jesus leaving for some R&R"

epegnwsan (epiginwskw) aor. "recognised" - [and] knew where they were heading. Possibly "knew = worked out where they were going."

sunedramon (suntrecw) aor. "ran" - [and so] they ran together. Used of people running to a place and gathering there.

pezh/ adv. "on foot" - on foot. Adverb of manner. As opposed to going by boat; "ran by land"

apo + gen. "from" - from. Expressing source / origin.

twn polewn (iV ewV) gen. "the towns" - [all] of the towns [and they arrived ahead of, came ahead of, arrived before them]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative. "So, people from every town ran on ahead and got there first", CEV.


exelqwn (exercomai) aor. part. "when Jesus landed" - [and Jesus] having gotten out, come out from the boat. "Jesus" understood. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "when Jesus disembarked", Barclay.

esplagcnisqh (splagcnizomai) aor. pas. "he had compassion" - [he saw a large crowd and] he had compassion, felt sorry, had pity. "Pity which expresses itself in active assistance", Cranfield. "His heart went out to them", REB.

epi + acc. "on [them]" - upon [them]. A particular use of the preposition, expressing feelings toward / with respect of / for another.

oJti "because" - because. Here introducing a causal clause, "because", as NIV. cf. Num.27:17, 1Ki.22:17, Ezk.34:5.

wJV "like" - [they were] like. Comparative.

mh exonta (ecw) pres. part. "without" - [sheep] not having [a shepherd]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "sheep"; "they were as sheep which did not have a shepherd."

didaskein (didaskw) pres. inf. "teaching" - [and he began] to teach [them]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "he began". The need of the "crowd / multitude / people" is that they be taught. The word takes priority over signs.

polla "many things" - many things Probably here serving as a substantive, as NIV, but possibly adverbial, "much"; "he proceeded to teach them at length", Moffatt.


ii] The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, v35-44. The miracle is presented in three parts: First, the scene is set for the miracle with a discussion between Jesus and his disciples, v35-38: The disciples obviously feel responsible for the crowd which has followed them, but like Moses long ago, they cannot conceive how they should provide for them. "Where shall I find meat to give to all these people?" Num.11:13,22. Mark well describes their lack of understanding, even disrespect toward Jesus. cf., 6:52.

genomenhV (ginomai) gen. aor. part. "it was" - [and already the hour] was becoming [much]. The genitive participle, with its genitive subject, "hour", and genitive predicate, "much", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal; "when it grew late", ESV. "It was getting late in the afternoon", "as the day wore on", Phillips.

proselqonteV (prosercomai) aor. part. + dat. of persons "came to" - [and the disciples of him] coming to. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "were saying"; "his disciples came to him and said."

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - him [saying]. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix participle "was coming to / approaching."

oJti "-" - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of direct speech expressing what the disciples said.

erhmoV adj. "a remote place" - deserted [is the place]. Predicate adjective; "because the place is desolate", "a deserted place."

wJra pollh "very late" - [and by now, already] it is an hour much = a late hour. Predicate nominative with an assumed verb to-be.


iJna + subj. "so" - [send away, dismiss them] that. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that".

apelqonteV (apercomai) aor. part. "they can go to" - having departed, gone away. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "they may buy". Virtually redundant, cf., Moffatt.

touV kuklw/ "the surrounding" - [into] the surrounding, around, nearby [farms and villages]. Adverb used as a substantive.

eJautoiV dat. reflex. pro. "themselves" - [they may buy] to = for themselves. Dative of interest, advantage; "for themselves."

ti "something [to eat]" - what [they may eat]. The interrogative pronoun is used as the substantive object "something" (the Gk. adjusted by Matt. and Lk.), which is controlled by the subjunctive verb "may buy", and further modified by the deliberative subjunctive, "they may choose to eat."


apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[but he] answered" - [but/and] having answered [he said]. Attendant circumstance participle redundant. It could also be classified as adverbial, instrumental, expressing means, "he said by answering", although a bit over fussy.

umeiV "you" - you. Emphatic by position and use. "Give them some food, yourselves", Moffatt; "I mean you", Boring.

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - [you give] to them. Dative of indirect object.

fagein (fagw) aor. inf. "to eat" - something to eat. As with it's use at the end of the verse, the infinitive serves as a substantive, direct object of the verb "to give", "you give something to eat to them."

apelqonteV (apercomai) aor. part. "are we to go and ...?" - [and they say to him,] having gone, departed. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "they may buy". "Are we to go and buy ..."

agoraswmen (agorazw) aor. subj. "spend that much" - may we buy [of denarii two hundred bread]. A deliberative subjunctive. The genitive "of denarii two hundred" is adjectival, idiomatic / of price; "It would take almost a years wage", CEV.

dwsomen (didwmi) fut. "give it" - [and] will we give. The future used to express purpose, "in order to give", although the variant subjunctive is better grammar.

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - [something to eat] to them? Dative of indirect object.


posouV pro. "how many" - [and he says to them] how much, how many. The pronoun serves as an adjective, "much". "Much bread" serves as the direct object of the verb "to have;" "Do you have much bread?" = "How much bread do you have?", CEV.

artouV (oV) "loaves" - bread [do you have]? Here probably "barley bread" and it would most likely be flat bread. Bread served as the main staple of a meal with the dried / salted fish; the fish serving as a condiment. The bread has often been taken as a symbol of teaching with the number five representing the five books of Moses. An Aramaic mind would naturally conjure up such symbolism, although the idea adds little to the revelational intention of the miracle.

uJpagete idete imp. "go and see" - go see. "The two imperatives have a very decisive tone", Taylor.

gnonteV (ginwskw) aor. part. "when they found out" - having known = found out [they say, five and two fish]. The participle is adverbial, probably forming a temporal clause, as NIV.


The miracle of the feeding, v39-42: Describing the scene, Mark underlines two wilderness images. First, the desert pasture is "green"; the cursed land is transformed in the presence of the true shepherd - the sheep now feed on the fat of the land, cf. Ezk.34:26f. Second, the groups of hundreds and fifties images the Mosaic camp-formation in the wilderness, Ex.18:21. The wilderness blooms before Jesus, the second Moses, and the flock finds a secure rest. Jesus' thanksgiving for God's provision of food is in line with Jewish custom, although instead of looking down, as was the normal practice, Jesus looks up. The Lord "opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing", Ps.145:16.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - [and he commanded] them. Dative of indirect object.

anaklinai (anaklinw) aor. inf. "to have [all] the people sit down" - to recline, lean upon, lie down. The infinitive introduces a dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing the content of Jesus' command, "he commanded that everyone lie / sit down. In the active, this verb is causative, "cause to sit down." "Jesus told his disciples to make the people sit down on the green grass", CEV.

sumposia sumposia "in groups" - [everyone] party, group by party, group. The two words together produce a distributive sense denoting groups of people eating together.

epi + dat. "on" - upon [the green grass]. Spatial. The people sit upon "green" grass, possibly drawing on the symbolism of the blossoming of the desert in the new age of the kingdom.


prasiai prasiai (a) "in groups" - [and they reclined] group by group. The ordered rows of a garden bed is used to describe the way the crowd sat. Again, the repetition of the noun produces a distributive sense. "They sat down in ordered groups", possibly "squares", NJB.

kata + acc. "of [hundreds]" - accord to [hundreds and] according to [fifties]. Distributive use of the preposition. So most translations, but possibly "a hundred rows of fifty", Manson, or "a great rectangle, a hundred by fifty", Moule. The numbering of the groups alludes to the numbering of Israel in the wilderness, cf. Ex.7:4, 13:18, 18:21, 25.


labwn (lambanw) aor. part. "taking" - [and] having taken [the five loaves and the two fish, and having looked up into heaven]. The two participle, "having taken" and "having looked up" are attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the main verb "he blessed", but they could be treated as adverbial, temporal. The verbs "took", "gave thanks", "broke", and "gave", may just fit with the normal actions of a family meal, but may also be alluding to the Lord's Supper and thus further reinforcing the symbolism of the coming eschatological banquet represented in this feeding miracle.

euloghsen (eulogew) "he gave thanks" - he blessed. Taylor argues that the verbs eulogew and eucaristew take the same meaning when used of a prayer said over food - "the act is of thanksgiving to God." This interchangeability of both words is not accepted by the majority of translators, so for example, "he looked up to heaven and said the blessing", Barclay; so to NJB, REB, NAB, NRSV, CEV, Moffatt, Weymouth, Goodspeed, Williams.

autouV "-" - them. Variant, so he gave thanks over the bread, or blessed the bread, although if Jesus is offering a blessing, rather than a thanksgiving, then "the Lord" is the understood object - eg. "blessed art thou, O Lord." So, "blessed the food", CEV, is unlikely, rather "said a blessing", NJB. None-the-less, "gave thanks", NIV, is preferred.

edidou (didwmi) imperf. "he gave them" - [and broke the loaves and] he was giving, distributing them. The imperfect, being durative/imperfective, expresses "successive distributions", Taylor.

touV maqhtaiV (hV ou) dat. "to [his] disciples" - to the disciples [of him]. Dative of indirect object. See Metzger for variant "his".

iJna + subj. "-" - that [they might set before]. Expressing purpose, "in order that".

autoiV dat. pro. "the people" - them. Dative of direct object after the para prefix verb "to set before." "And gave them to the disciple to set before the people", ESV.

emerisen (merizw) aor. "he [also] divided [the two fish]" - [and the two fish] he divided, distributed. "He divided the two fish among them all", Phillips.

pasin dat. adj. "among them all" - to all = everyone. Dative of indirect object; "distributed it to everyone."


ecortasqhsan (kortazw) aor. pas. "were satisfied" - [and everyone ate and] they were filled, satisfied. This was not just a symbolic meal; it was the real thing, and therefore a miracle, a sign of the coming eschatological banquet; "they ate until they could eat no more", Barclay.


The effects of the miracle - the people ate and were full and still there was an abundance of food left over, v43-44. The crowd is satisfied, such that twelve baskets of scraps (most likely uneaten whole pieces) remain. This is simple food, like the manna of long ago, yet the crowd knows little of its origin. Only the disciples see the miracle, but sadly there is little evidence that they understand its significance. Here is the long-awaited shepherd who will soon guide the sheep to their rest, feed and sustain them at the eschatological banquet, and yet the disciples fail to make the connection.

kofinwn (oV) gen. "[twelve] basket[fulls]" - [they collected fragments, fullness] of twelve baskets. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of quantity, limiting "fullness", "a fullness amounting to twelve baskets." A strong wicker basket is intended. Matthew and Luke rework this awkward clause, "they picked up the leftovers of the fragments, twelve baskets full", Matt.21:20b. Although we cannot be sure, this is not an exercise in environmental care where all the scraps are picked up by the disciples, rather, the collected food represents the uneaten portions not yet distributed (the scraps would be left for the birds. A consideration now regarded as littering!). The point is, there was an abundance of food, more than enough, and unlike the collected manna during the wilderness wanderings, this bread may be collected and kept (implied). Again, messianic imagery is intended.

apo + gen "-" - [and] from [the fish]. The sense being that some from the fish was included in the collected food that remained - an Aramaic construction, ie., functioning as a partitive genitive; "besides pieces of the fish", Weymouth.


oiJ fagonteV (esqew) aor. part. "who had eaten" - [and] the ones having eaten [the loaves]. The participle serves as a substantive; "those who had eaten."

pentakiscilioi andreV "five thousand" - [were] five thousand men. Predicate nominative. The word andreV is used to identify adult males, other than women and children. Rather sexist, but the point being that there were many more than 5,000 people present.


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]