When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”
Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.
And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. Mark 6:34-44
Whether he intended it or not, Mark invokes a Psalm 23 motif in this telling of the feeding of the 5000. Just getting out of the boat, Jesus sees the people as sheep without a shepherd and is moved inwardly to an act of great compassion. He makes them recline in green pastures (and indicator of springtime, likely around Passover) for a great feast where they will consume the words, bread, and fish he offers them.
Jesus has them seated in clusters of 50 and 100, totaling 5000 men; there would also be women and children, so the number present was likely over 10000. Not even 200 times a day’s wage would feed this massive crowd in an open landscape distant from any city (desolate). Their inability to provide themselves in this unpopulated area makes them quite vulnerable.
Jesus sets the table for them out in the open, and unmolested, all eat until they eat their fill. And the fish and pieces of bread collected yielded a superabundance (πληρώματα) in twelve baskets. Nobody went hungry!
In Italian, we call this “Abbondanza!”
O Great Shepherd,
I live in your Abbondanza. You lead me safely by the waters and in the open fields. You restore me over and over again.
Even when I wander into desolate and even dangerous places, you protect and rescue me.
Your hospitality toward me is extravagant, and your acts of compassion always follow me. I will dwell with you in your house forever!
I pray this in the name of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Amen!