Mark 8:1–10—the feeding of the 4000
1 About this time another great crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, 2 “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. 3 And if I send them home without feeding them, they will faint along the road. For some of them have come a long distance.” 4 “How are we supposed to find enough food for them here in the wilderness?” his disciples asked. 5 “How many loaves of bread do you have?” he asked. “Seven,” they replied. 6 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, broke them into pieces, and gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. 7 A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to pass them out. 8 They ate until they were full, and when the scraps were picked up, there were seven large baskets of food left over! 9 There were about four thousand people in the crowd that day, and he sent them home after they had eaten. 10 Immediately after this, he got into a boat with his disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha.
Points of Interest:
- ‘the people ran out of food again’—often Jesus gives us second chances at our moments of failure. That is what Jesus did for the disciples here. The feeding of the 5000 was probably the worst day in their lives of following Jesus: it was miserable for them, and they failed in their relationship with Jesus and with others. Jesus doesn’t allow that mark of failure to stain their soul. He gives them a second chance at success. The great news is that Jesus doesn’t leave the disciples to do it on their own; he gives them what they need to succeed. This time, Jesus leads them step-by-step through the experience to help them get it right: he tells them explicitly that he has compassion on the crowd; and he preemptively tells them that sending the crowds away would not work. Although they don’t necessarily get a straight A (It’s a little surprising that they have to ask where they will find bread in the wilderness; although, to their credit, the tone of their response seems more open), it’s a much better experience for the disciples. They feed the crowds, stay with Jesus until the crowds depart, and they get in the boat with Jesus at the end of the day. Is there a moment of failure in your following of Jesus that you often get stuck on? It especially seems that when we fail at assignments Jesus gives us to love and serve others, it inhibits our relationships with him and others until we overcome it. Ask Jesus for a chance to overcome this block, and for the help you need to succeed and move beyond your failure.
- ‘four thousand people’—The last time there was a mass feeding, the count was five thousand men. This time it’s four thousand people. This most likely indicates that this crowd is non-Jews. The standard practice of the Jewish people at the time was to count only men (which means that there were probably many more than 5000 at the first feeding, once you include women and children). But, when counting Gentiles, they just lumped them all together, not separating men and women in the count. The Syrian woman told Jesus in the last passage that she knew that he had enough bread for non-Jews as well as Jews. In this passage, Jesus responds to that faith: he demonstrates literally that he has enough bread to give to the Gentiles as well. The Syrian women’s responsiveness to Jesus gives not only her, but a whole crowd, a miracle.
Taking it Home:
- For you: Do you feel like you’ve missed out on a miracle? People who weren’t at the feeding of the 5000 might have felt like they had been left out of a once-in-a-lifetime event, but Jesus demonstrates that he is willing and able to do it again. If you feel like people around you have experienced something supernatural from God but you missed it, ask God to do it again.
- For your 6: Jesus says of the crowd, ‘And if I send them home without feeding them, they will faint along the road.’ Are any of your 6 close to fainting—they just don’t have the energy to go forward? Ask Jesus to give you something to feed and restore them.
- For our church: It’s wonderful to be a part of a church in which so many new people are coming to experience Jesus’ goodness with us all the time. Pray that the trend would continue and, in fact, increase. Pray that we would have a new wave of people joining us. Ask God to send us a whole new crowd of people to feed with his Spirit, his words, and his presence.