I am intrigued by the odd mentions of seemingly random facts in the Bible, as in the following verse:
“Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass” (Mark 6:39).
Why the mention of the green grass? I have a theory about that one: Jesus had told the disciples to come away with Him from their grueling schedule to a deserted place to rest a while. But the plan didn’t seem to be panning out, because a crowd saw them go and followed them. And then Jesus (predictably) had compassion on the people and was loath to send them away (as the disciples asked him to). To make matters worse, later on when the crowd had dispersed and the disciples got into their boats, there was a storm at sea.
That’s the negative version of the story. How the disciples saw it.
Here’s the positive version of the story. How Jesus perhaps saw it.
The disciples did get to come away to a deserted place. (At least it was deserted until the crowds came.) And they got to pass out food that they got to eat themselves. It was food they didn’t have to go to the market for and shell out any money for, not to mention they didn’t have to harvest the food themselves from the field by the sweat of their brows.
Not only that, but they got to sit down to eat their picnic lunch—“on the green grass,” and not on a bunch of rocks or dirt. And they got to spend an afternoon listening to the best preacher there ever was. (Would you not consider that a pleasant getaway? Don’t you and I pay to go to retreats to hear lesser speakers?) And although it’s true that there was a storm at sea later on, don’t forget that Jesus silenced the storm. All’s well that ends well.
All of which makes me think that the mention of the green grass was part of the cumulative details used by the Holy Spirit to prove that this turned out to be a pretty good day of R&R after all—if you have eyes to see! We don’t need to have a faith crisis and ask why Jesus said they would have a day of rest and then they didn’t. We just have to retrain our eyes to see where his rest places are even in the midst of work and unforeseen or difficult circumstances. The disciples couldn’t see things that way yet, evidently. The end of the story says, “Their hearts were hardened.” But all these things were written for our benefit, that we might learn what the disciples missed.