In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read Mark 6: 30-44
Participating in meaningful ministry was Jesus’ goal for his disciples. Not just hanging out with him, traveling throughout Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem, walking, eating, sleeping and doing life together. Instead, the disciples were actively engaged in serving others with and for Jesus.
In this account of the feeding of the five thousand, we see a handful of ways Jesus involves his disciples in serving the needs of others. They first of all reported to Jesus all they had done and taught, keeping close accountability with the Lord. They also joined Jesus in a quiet place where they could rest and be replenished for the days ahead. Jesus invited them to come with him into those solitary places, knowing their need for regular breaks from the crowds that were beginning to exponentially form around Jesus.
On this particular occasion, Jesus had compassion on the large crowd, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. His teaching ministry was continuing to expand, often late into the evening, in both the countryside and the villages. Seeing their need for food, he instructed his disciples to give them something to eat. They asked, “With just five loaves and two fish?” As the disciples assembled the crowd into groups of hundreds and fifties, he took the loaves and fish and lifted them up to heaven. He gave thanks and broke the loaves, giving the pieces to the disciples to distribute among them all.
After everyone was miraculously fed, the disciples picked up the broken pieces left behind, filling twelve basketfuls of bread and fish. A total of 5,000 were fed on that day. This encounter was enticing each of the disciples to the mission of their Lord Jesus. This inevitably impressed upon their hearts the transformational values of listening, obedience, and faithful service to others in need.
Who among us doesn’t want to be engaged in meaningful work for the Kingdom of God? When we know that our efforts are not extended in vain, we share more fully in the mission of God. Every effort in this most miraculous feeding was laced with the compassion of Jesus. Every ounce of energy was expended for the Gospel King Jesus was proclaiming. These experiences solidified the disciples’ commitment to more fully participate in Kingdom efforts, with Jesus and as a team.
Whether in the form of miracles, or simple acts of kindness, Jesus offers his disciples meaningful ministry that would expand the swath of the Gospel everywhere they traveled. The grace-filled Gospel was shared freely and generously as a tangible expression of Jesus’ outstretched arms of love. Therefore, behold Jesus inviting his disciples into fruitful ministry; believe firmly in the Gospel that proclaims truth, grace and love both far and wide; belong to the communion of saints who carry on his legacy of love; and become more outward in your service to the King and his Kingdom.