I often forget the way the feeding of the 5000 in Mark begins here at this second part of Mark’s gospel - Mark 6:6-8:21. The apostles, only referred to by this name in Mark here and in Mark 3:14 are gathered talking to Jesus. They are telling them what they have been doing. Jesus says to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Not a bad idea given all that has been happening. After all everyone needs some rest, don’t they?
Before you know it Jesus and the apostles have a great crowd following them. Jesus observes that the crowd acts “like sheep without a shepherd.” So he has compassion for them. The disciples nudge Jesus by reminding him that it is late so the crowd should be sent away to buy their own food because it is going to cost more than half a year’s wages. Nevertheless Jesus insists that they must be fed.
So we come to the only miracle story in the four canonical gospels that
is situated in Galilee. Within this story one sees an influence from Old Testament narratives regarding feeding of people in the wilderness - Exodus 16:1-17:16; reminisces of the Last Supper (blessing, breaking and distributing bread); and the importance of bread as food for the body and heart/soul.
So meeting the needs of people trumps resting. This is not surprising for Mark’s gospel since he is undoubtedly addressing a community not of the affluent but of lower economic status. As typical of Mark the story bears repeating in a slightly different way in Mark 8:1-10. There the story is situated in the desert with slightly different perspectives.
Nevertheless those of us living in more affluent settings need to heed
the call to feed those in need for Mark’s gospel is finally about the good news
of Jesus, the Messiah, Son of God.