Mark 8:1-10

In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.”

His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.”

Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. Mark 8:1-10

You don’t have to spend much time in a congregation before you notice an interesting dynamic. If you try something new, and it works, people will immediately say “We have to do this again.” So you do. Maybe it works again. Likely it doesn’t. But that never stops you from trying again. And again.

This is the second of the mass feeding stories in Mark. As I said before, the feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle story that appears in all four gospels. Mark (and Matthew) record this second go around with 4000 people. Why? Here is what I found on restlesspilgrim.net (thank you, restlesspilgrim.net):

The feeding of the 4,000 is important because of where it took place. The feeding of the 5,000 took place near Bethsaida, close to the Sea of Galilee. In contrast, the feeding of the 4,000 took place in the region of the Gerasenes, in the region around the Decapolis.

Okay, so the two miracles took place in different regions, so what? It’s important because the first region was Jewish (5,000) and the second region was Gentile (4,000). There are some numerical clues in the text which also point to this distinction (numbers in the Bible are rarely accidental)…

  1. Feeding of the 5,000

In this miracle, Jesus takes five loves and feeds five thousand, which is reminiscent of the five books of the Jewish Law (Genesis, Exodus, …). Not only that, but when everyone had finished eating, twelve baskets of left-overs were collected, which was probably alluding to the twelve tribes of Israel.

  1. Feeding of the 4,000

In this second miracle, seven loaves are used and seven baskets are collected. The number seven is symbolic of completeness (i.e. not just Jews but Gentiles too) and the number seven is evocative of the seven days of creation when God created all humanity.

So, what is the significance of two feedings of the multitudes? Both miracles show the provision of the Lord, His love for all His people, both Jew and Gentile. In these miracles He feeds them with miraculous bread, in preparation for the day when they would be fed sacramentally by His very own Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, in every age, people are hungry. We are hungry for the food which sustains us, the hope which encourages us, the community which supports us, and the love that gives our lives meaning and purpose. You find us, you feed us, that we might follow you in all things. Thank you for giving us what we need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: