The Feeding of the 4,000 | Mark 8:1–9
In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.
Jesus remains in Gentile territory (7:24–37), now in the area of Decapolis (7:31). This region had sparse population, so people were probably streaming in from the surrounding Gentile nations. They heard the testimony of His ability (7:36–37) and picturing the future gospel ministry of Christ’s church to the lost sheep of the Gentiles (John 10:16).
Some skeptics allege that Jesus only fed the multitudes once, and that two legends cropped up because Jesus’s followers couldn’t figure out the details. However, the differences are big: the number of those fed (5,000 vs. 4,000), the identity of the people fed (Jews first, and now Gentiles), and how long they were with Jesus (a single day or, as v. 2 here reveals, three days). These are separate miracles, and to assert otherwise is to assume that they must refer to the same event and an anti-supernatural bias.
Indeed, Jesus Himself says that there were two feedings, and that both spoke of a theological reality that His disciples were missing (6:52; 8:18–21). What does this teach us?
First, we need to trust in the Lord for provision. The verb for “giving” is imperfect, meaning that He was continually handing them bread. As such, the multiplication of the bread was occurring in the Jesus’s hands. Jesus knew what it was to experience hunger (Mt 4:2), and He will provide (Ps 34:10; Mt 6:25–34). We should shun temptations for quick cash and instead trust the Lord as we work and gather little by little (Pv 13:11; Hb 13:5).
Second, the Gentiles can come to Christ just like the Jews. Jesus gives to them in a similar manner as He broke bread in the Last Supper (14:22–23). We can see the confidence and trust of these Gentiles, for the children of Israel were scarce out from Egypt before they complained of want. The disciples see the great faith of the Gentiles in following Christ. Whether you are a Jew or a Gentile and you believe in Christ, you’ll be included in the coming Marriage Supper of the Lamb!