Feeding the 5000: Rest and refreshment
“Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down’ “ (NRSV, John 6:10)
The distance south from the Lake of Galilee to Jerusalem is about 80 miles, but whereas the Lake is more than 600 feet below sea level, Jerusalem stands at a height of 2,600 feet above sea level. So whether one went to the Holy City by way of the central highlands through the unfriendly territory of Samaria, or took the pilgrims’ route along the Jordan valley, there was a good deal of uphill travelling to be done.
But when the pilgrims arrived at their destination, it was worth more than all the journeys in the world, for was not Jerusalem the City of God, the City of the Great King of which the prophet Ezekiel had written, “…the name of the city…shall be, The Lord is There”? (NRSV, 48:35).
And it was to Jerusalem that the Passover crowds were making their way that spring morning in Galilee in around the year 29 AD, for only in Jerusalem could the Feast of the Passover be celebrated. They had come, as St Mark tells us, from all the towns of the district, to that lonely spot on the north-east shore of the Lake where Jesus was withdrawing with the intention of spending the day there quietly with the Apostles. And when Jesus saw the great crowd, “he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things” until the evening came (NRSV, Mark 6:34).