Jesus asks a question in the middle of Mark 6.
Interesting, isn’t it, when the all-knowing God wants to know something?
In this instance, Jesus is surrounded by thousands who had gathered to listen to Him teach. They had sprinted from nearby towns (verse 33), and Jesus, full of compassion, spends all day with them. Then 5,000-plus stomachs begin grumbling, and Jesus’ disciples urge Him to send the multitudes away. No, Jesus says. He has a different plan.
Then comes the question in verse 36: “How many loaves do you have?”
Didn’t Jesus already know? Yes, He did. Before the creation of the world, He knew.
But still He asks: “How much?” And He sends those 12 men throughout the masses to tally sack lunches. They count and come back with the disappointing report: “Five, and two fish.”
In other words: “Not nearly enough.”
In all their search on the hillside, the disciples returned with far less than required.
Maybe Jesus asked the question so they would see – so they would hold in their hands – the impossibility of the work. “We looked, Jesus, and it’s just not enough. Send the people home now.”
But the work of Jesus is always most glorious when to us it is most impossible.
Jesus gathers the food and does one of the most astoundingly unreal things the disciples had ever witnessed. He provides. Their lack was all He needed. By the end of the day, they’re picking up leftovers – a basket full for each of them!
It’s a story with a question that points us to the Gospel.
When Jesus asks me, “How much?”, my only honest confession is, “Not nearly enough.” Not enough effort. Not enough good works. Not enough will power. Not enough ability. Not enough money or power or success. Not nearly enough.
Before Jesus, I’ve got only a sin-soured supply. Nothing in me will satisfy; nothing I gather will keep me from death. Whatever I hold in my own hands will never accomplish the work of salvation.
But in the Gospel, Jesus doesn’t send us away; He provides. He multiplies grace to empty sinners! When I admit my absolute lack, then – only then – the work of Jesus, His salvation, is distributed to even me. Jesus does the astoundingly unreal but true work of saving those who have not nearly enough.
“How much?” “Not nearly enough.” That’s all Jesus needs.