8 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.9 About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
(Mark 8:1-10 NIV)
From yesterday’s passage, Jesus and His disciples made a long journey from Capernaum up to Tyre and Sidon, then back down on the east side of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Genessaret) to the ten-city region called The Decapolis. As we open today’s passage and begin chapter 8, Jesus and His disciples are still in the Decapolis region.
A large crowd has assembled, and Jesus has been teaching them three days. People had come from far and wide to hear Jesus. Whatever meager provisions the people had carried with them were likely consumed.
In this story, we see Jesus’ compassion for the crowd’s well-being. Jesus has satisfied their spiritual hunger; now He takes care of their physical needs. Jesus knows that many of these folks have come a long way to hear Him. He does not want to send them home without food, as they may collapse from hunger along the way.
Even though Jesus’ disciples had seen Jesus feed the 5,000 some months before (Mark 6:30-44), the disciples still respond humanly, not supernaturally. This time the disciples are not even considering the funds required to feed this crowd – instead, they confront the logistical impossibility of the remote area in which they are located. Even if they did have the money to buy bread for the crowd, there are no nearby towns in which to purchase anything.
Jesus, likely tired and hungry Himself, simply asks how many loaves of bread they have. The disciples come up with seven. Like the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus has everyone sit down. In normal Jewish tradition, Jesus takes the bread, looks heavenward, and gives thanks. He then breaks the bread and asks the disciples to distribute it among the crowd.
A few fish are located within the crowd as well. In an uncharacteristic move, Jesus offers a prayer of thanksgiving over the fish. With a mixed Jewish and Gentile audience, and in this remote location, Jesus is reminding everyone to be thankful for their daily food, given to them by God’s gracious provision.
After everyone had eaten and was satisfied, Jesus had the disciples gather up the remaining leftover bread. Several baskets were gathered up. This time, Mark uses a different word for “basket” than before. In the feeding of the 5,000, Mark used the word meaning “lunch pail” to identify the amount of food collected – just enough for the disciples to eat as well as the crowd. In this story, Mark uses the word meaning “cloth hamper”, a large woven basket lined with cloth, used to carry a large number of bulky but lightweight food items like loaves of bread. This “basket” is the same word that Luke uses to identify the basket that the people used to lower the Apostle Paul over the wall to save his life (Acts 9:25).
In the feeding of the 5,000, we see Jesus’ perfect provision for His disciples -just the right amount for their lunch. In today’s story, we see Jesus’ ample abundance, showing God’s overwhelming generosity to Jew and Gentile alike. As I replay this story in my imagination, I envision Jesus telling the crowd as He dismissed them, “Shalom! Return to your homes and families in peace. And oh, by the way, there is plenty of leftover bread to take on your journey home. Please help yourself – don’t let it go to waste.”
As soon as Jesus had dismissed the crowd, He quickly gathered His disciples, got in a boat, and headed across the lake to Dalmanutha (see the map above).
As I ponder today’s story, my mind goes back to Jesus healing the demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1-20. The man pleaded, even shamelessly begged Jesus to tag along with Him and the disciples. If you’ll remember, Jesus denied the man’s request and told him to go home and tell his people of what the Lord had done for him. Jesus sent this man ahead to this Gentile region as the first missionary to the Gentiles.
I wonder how many people in that crowd were there because of this one man’s witness of God’s mercy and healing in his life?
May we never underestimate the power of our story – of simply telling what Jesus has done in our life. We only need to tell our story; we are to leave the results up to God.
May we always remember to give thanks as we watch Him supernaturally multiply our story, our meal for one, our perfect provision, into ample abundance for all who will hear and partake.