1 Another time there was a great crowd with Jesus that had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his followers and said, 2 “I feel sorry for these people, because they have already been with me for three days, and they have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will faint on the way. Some of them live a long way from here.” 4 Jesus’ followers answered, “How can we get enough bread to feed all these people? We are far away from any town.” 5 Jesus asked, “How many loaves of bread do you have?” They answered, “Seven.” 6 Jesus told the people to sit on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, gave thanks to God, and divided the bread. He gave the pieces to his followers to give to the people, and they did so. 7 The followers also had a few small fish. After Jesus gave thanks for the fish, he told his followers to give them to the people also. 8 All the people ate and were satisfied. Then his followers filled seven baskets with the leftover pieces of food. 9 There were about four thousand people who ate. After they had eaten, Jesus sent them home. ~ Mark 8:1-9
In Today's passage the Lord Jesus performed another miracle where He fed a lot of people who had come to hear His teachings. The feeding of the 4000 is the second largest miracle meal provided by the Lord Jesus that is recorded in the Gospels, second only to the feeding of the 5000 plus in Mark 6.
In v.1-3 of today's passage we read, "1 Another time there was a great crowd with Jesus that had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his followers and said, 2 'I feel sorry for these people, because they have already been with me for three days, and they have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will faint on the way. Some of them live a long way from here.'"
Today's passage begins with the words "Another time." These words are significant because they inform us this miracle was different than that which is recorded in Mark 6. At the earlier miracle the feeding of the 5000 plus, the crowd was with the Lord Jesus just one day. In today's passage, the crowd was with Him for three days. In the feeding of the 5000 plus, the Lord Jesus told the people to sit down on the grass. Based upon these details, we know today's miracle was a separate incident to the miracle of Mark 6, although both miracles were created by the compassion of the Lord for the need of the people.
In today's passage, the people are told to sit on the ground, and there is no mention of grass. In the Mark 6 miracle, there were five loaves and two fish. In this account, the feeding of the 4000, there are seven loaves of bread and a few fish. In Mark 6, there were twelve baskets of leftovers. In today's account, there were seven. And the baskets are different. In Mark 6, the twelve baskets were the smaller lunch baskets, whereas, in this account, there were seven large baskets of leftovers. Also, there was a clear difference in the locations. The Mark 6 miracle took place in Galilee, whereas, this miracle took place in the are called "the Decapolis."
In v.4 of today's passage we read, "Jesus’ followers answered, “How can we get enough bread to feed all these people? We are far away from any town."
In response to the compassionate statement of the Lord Jesus that the people had gone three days without food, the disciples question how they could possibly feed "these people." Oh, how the disciples forget so quickly. But, just as I question the faith of those disciples, I realize I am guilty as they. I find that I forget the many miracles the Lord has performed in my life. The comforting part of it all is: This dilemma was strategic for all involved.
I always find it quite helpful to remember that when God wants to do something wonderful in my life, He couches His performance with some kind of a difficulty in my life. When God wants to do something really wonderful, he starts with an impossibility.
In today's account, thousands of people had gathered in the wilderness. Add to that the forgetfulness of the disciples of the earlier miracle, and the stage was set for the Lord to do something unforgettable for some. That day the disciples had to entertain a posture that I have wrestled with countless times in my life. They had no idea how the the problem would be resolved. And that is the biggest part of our struggles: NOT KNOWING WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
In v.5-7 of today's passage we read, "5 Jesus asked, 'How many loaves of bread do you have?' They answered, 'Seven.' 6 Jesus told the people to sit on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, gave thanks to God, and divided the bread. He gave the pieces to his followers to give to the people, and they did so. 7 The followers also had a few small fish. After Jesus gave thanks for the fish, he told his followers to give them to the people also."
At the feeding of the 5000 plus in Mark 6, the Lord Jesus fed the Jewish crowd. Here, He feeds a Gentile crowd. He fed the Jews first. In both miracles, the Lord Jesus gave food to his disciples first, then the disciples give the food to the multitudes. Here we are given an important principle: God's mercy and grace is to the Jew first and then to the Gentile.
The Lord Jesus did not need the disciples to be involved in the process, but, He involved them in order to teach them the lesson of the Great Commission, "Go into all the world." He does not need any of us to do His work. But He limits Himself to using imperfect tools to get the job done because it benefits us.
In v.8-9 of today's passage we read, "8 All the people ate and were satisfied. Then his followers filled seven baskets with the leftover pieces of food. 9 There were about four thousand people who ate. After they had eaten, Jesus sent them home."
After the crowd ate the food, they were completely satisfied. And, there were seven large baskets leftover. Here, in today's passage, the Lord Jesus was demonstrating His heart for "these people." Interestingly, in every single phase of Jesus' ministry He ended with a feeding. When He was finished ministering in Galilee, He finished it with the feeding of the 5000. When He was finished ministering to the Gentiles, the second phase of His ministry, He finished it with this feeding of the 4000. When He was finished with His Judean ministry, just before the cross, He ended it with a third feeding, the Last Supper.
Many of the Lord's miracles recorded in the Scriptures were done on the physical level. But, He never wants us to focus on the physical only. He always wants us to see the substance beneath each miracle. He knows we all have this deep spiritual hunger in our souls that is much deeper than any physical need we might have.
In Matthew 4:4 we read, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’"
Throughout my life my problems have always served me to be useful roadsigns pointing me to God. There have been times when I have responded to these roadsigns quicker than with others, but I have learned that when I respond to them, they propel me deeper into a more meaningful relationship with God.
Most trials seem on the surface to present themselves to us as obstacles that prevent us from a more meaningful life. But, our trials are not obstacles, they are the fuel for deepening our dependency upon God.
It is critical to see that, while these trials might provide momentary set-backs to our visible progress in the faith, they are ultimately providing the fuel we need to get to a deeper place with God. These trials build into our lives passion, perseverance, and a deeper dependency upon the Lord that goes far beyond what we could think or imagine. More often than not, God answers our prayer for greater wholeness, not by providing better circumstances, but by providing trials which aid our hearts ability to see Him.