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Mark 6:44

ESV And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
NIV The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
NASB There were five thousand men who ate the loaves.
CSB Now those who had eaten the loaves were five thousand men.
NLT A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed.
KJV And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.

What does Mark 6:44 mean?

he first people saw Jesus and the Twelve set sail from Capernaum. Some ran so fast they reached the Plain of Bethsaida, six miles away, before the boat landed. Along the way, the crowd grew (Mark 6:33). Matthew 14:21 says that with the five thousand men are an uncounted number of women and children. Bible scholars estimate there may have been between 15,000 and 20,000 people total.

Twenty thousand people drop what they are doing and follow Jesus. They don't stop to get food. They don't know how long they will be gone. They leave behind their local synagogue leaders, the Pharisees, and the rule of Herod Antipas. Nothing in their long-established religion or government can provide for them what Jesus already has. When He is finished healing and expelling demons, they stay to hear Him teach. Mark doesn't even record what He says, but the people are hungry for it.

In another time, as Jesus and the Twelve travel, again met by crowds "like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34), Jesus tells them, "The harvest is plentifully, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:37–38).

Many wonder why Jesus didn't stay on earth, preaching and healing. This incident helps to illustrate why. Jesus teaches crowds in Capernaum—it isn't enough. He sends out the Twelve to preach—it isn't enough. He heals and teaches a field filled with upwards of twenty thousand people—it isn't enough. Christ had to physically leave this earth, so the Holy Spirit can indwell all His followers (John 14:25–26). It is the Holy Spirit who reminds us, convicts us, and empowers us to reach others. Jesus is God and the Son of God, but in human form He is only one laborer. He calls all to join Him in reaching the world.
What is the Gospel?
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