Mark 6:34-55 • Earthly Circumstances vs. Heavenly


As an introduction, have someone read the following passages:

And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

— Luke 4:3-4

“I am the bread of life. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

— Luke 4:3-4

Read verse 34

Q: When Jesus sees people in need, which need does He usually address first –physical or spiritual?

A: Spiritual.

Q: Do we have other examples from Jesus’ ministry?

A: Forgiving the sins of the paralytic before healing him.

“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”

— Mark 2:9-11

Read verses 35-37

Q: In light of the passages just read from Luke above and our recognition that Jesus sees spiritual needs as taking priority over physical needs, what is Jesus probably trying to communicate to the disciples?

A: Possibly that He’s BEEN feeding them, in essence meeting their needs. If He is able to take care of the heavenly part, why should they have difficulty with the earthly part? They’ve seen this principle at work before.

Q: What is the situation the disciples are trying to articulate to Jesus? How do they see the current situation?

A: Circumstances are impossible.

Read verses 38-44

Q: Were the conditions truly impossible as once thought by the disciples?

A: Of course not.

Q: What did Jesus use to meet everyone’s needs?

A: Nothing more than what was available and already present.

Q: Therefore, where did the power reside? What proved to be more powerful than the circumstances?

A: Simply Jesus Himself.

Read verses 45-46

Q: Were the disciples operating on their own? Was this a situation where they were doing whatever they pleased, however they wanted?

A: They were obedient to Jesus’ direction, going and doing as He commanded. In other words, they were completely obedient to His will.

Q: Where did Jesus go?

A: He went to a mountain.

Observation: The lake is only about 7 miles across at its widest point. Jesus would have probably had them in view from the mountain the entire time.

Q: If this observation is true, what is the reality of the circumstances of the disciples in the boat?

A: They have never left Jesus’ gaze. In fact, they’re still under His watchful eye and even being prayed for by Him.

Read verses 47-48

Q: Given what we know about the size of the lake, how are they progressing so far?

A: Not well. It’s taken them about 8 or 9 hours to row no more than 3 ½ miles.

Q: How had circumstances changed for the disciples?

A: Trick question. Earthly circumstances changed in terms of the weather. Heavenly circumstances never changed one bit. Jesus always had them in His sight, had them completely bathed in His prayer.

Q: When, precisely, did Jesus leave the mountain?

A: When the disciples’ earthly circumstances changed and they needed Him most. Jesus responded to their need.

Q: So when did Jesus respond to their need in reality as opposed to the disciples’ perception?

A: He was already on His way before they probably realized the full extent of their need. (Encourage discussion of the application of this in our own life.)

Q: Why do you suppose that Jesus was intending to walk right by them?

A: To reinforce the message that they were never away from His protection, that EVERYTHING was under His control the whole time, both before and after the storm, and that they could complete the mission He gave them regardless of how things looked. They were STILL completely within His will.

Read verses 49-50

Q: Ever been in a situation where the answer first looked “bad” or at least “unnerving” and it turned out to be part of the solution? Has God ever met a need in an unconventional way you did not anticipate?

A: [Strictly rhetorical – let the group yak it up.]

Read verses 51-52

Q: Another way of stating the situation is that because of what they witnessed in the feeding of the 5,000, they should NOT have been amazed. Why?

Read verses 53-55

Q: What are the defining characteristics which make the people’s reaction to Jesus completely different from the disciples’

Overall Application

Look at this entire time line, the people, the events, and tell us what moment you most identify with right now at this point in your life. Pray for each other to take the focus off earthly circumstances and place them on Jesus.