MAIN TEXT: MARK 8:1-26
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, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 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.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said,“Seven.” 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. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And 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.
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
Jesus is preparing His disciples for something more than just walking around with Him everyday. He wants them to be ready. He needs them remember the things He has done and to understand who He is if He is ever going to send them out. He’s preparing them for a time in the near future when He will commission them to “Go and make disciples and preach the gospel to every creature.”
For Him to able to do this, they need to come to an understanding that salvation is for the entire world. They’ve been taught all their life that Gentiles are outside the covenant, outside the compassion of God, outside the salvation purpose of God and that Israel is the nation God has favored. Jesus is showing them that God’s healing, God’s compassion and salvation is for Jew and Gentile alike.
The events in our text today have a very familiar feel to events we recently read. There are some very common themes between the feeding of the 5000 in chapter 6 and events that follow and the feeding of the 4000 here in chapter 8 and the events that follow. Let’s take a moment and look at the similarities.
- A large group of people gathered to listen to Jesus’ teaching in a wilderness setting.
- Jesus was moved by compassion for the needs of the people gathered.
- The disciples expressed concern whether such a large group could be fed.
- Jesus asks the disciples what food is available.
- Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes so much that everyone was satisfied.
- He left the crowd by boat to cross the lake.
- After arriving in a new spot on the lake, He has an aggressive interaction with Pharisees.
- There is a conversation about bread with the disciples.
- We see another healing.
Will all the similarities of these events, we must recognize that they happened this way in terms of history, but also for purpose of theology. Jesus is helping His disciples to see the greater picture, to understand where the gospel will be headed, and to trust in Him in a greater way.
Some scholars have argued that these stories could be a written repeat. However, just as there are certain similarities, there are also differences.
- People were with Jesus three days, not one.
- There were seven loaves, not five.
- There were fewer baskets of leftovers.
- In Mark 6, a generic Greek word for fish is used, and in Mark 8, the Greek word is more specific and means sardines.
- The number of people being fed is different.
- Lastly, and most importantly, Jesus mentions both feedings in Mark 8:17-21. (This point alone should bring us to understand that they are different events.)
Using repetition is one of the most effective ways to teach. Jesus would use this as a very common way of teaching in many different settings. It was a pattern that the Jews had used for many generations and many teachers of Jesus’ time used. As we walk through this passage, let us look at the way Jesus has utilized this tool to bring the disciples into greater understanding.
Jesus Always Has a Plan
Mark has noted Jesus’ compassion before, but this is the only time in the gospels that we will see Jesus Himself saying that He has compassion. Compassion is a very central attribute to the character of who God is and therefore, marks His ministry here on earth. Every healing, deliverance, raising people from the dead, feeding thousands of people in one sitting, teaching, all of it is a demonstration of divine compassion.
The compassion that He shows and speaks of isn’t just to provide the people with food, though that is a large part of it. It is also to help the disciples to see His compassion is for Gentiles and Jews alike. He is teaching them that salvation will come to everyone, thus preparing the disciples for their part in the kingdom that is soon coming, and He continues to build their faith and open their eyes to who He truly is.
The Spiritually Blind
Due to the fallen nature of our world, we are all born spiritually blind and fall into two categories; those who are permanently blind and those who are temporarily blind.
Those who are permanently blind are left in darkness. They become agitated by the light. They grow to love their sin and self-righteousness. That is what we see here. As Jesus and His disciples bring their boat off the lake back into Jewish territory, the Pharisees come out and begin to argue and verbally attack Him.
Their unbelief and rejection of truth causes enough emotion in Jesus that He sighs deeply. His grief is strong over this hard-hearted, obstinate unbelief in the face of so many signs and so much evidence. The brokenness of this world standing right in front of Him breaks His heart. He also knows that this will be the end to His ministry time in Galilee, the rejection is final and complete.
The disciples follow Jesus back into the boat and they depart. Jesus takes what’s on their mind, bread, and turns it into an object lesson. He knows that there is a susceptibility to be tossed around and carried away by every wind of doctrine. (Ephesians 4:14) Jesus wants to protect them, and because He is a good teacher, a loving God, He’s gentle and He says, “Do you not yet understand?” He needed them to think back to the past, to the way He provided, to the way He showed His power over the laws of nature, to the compassion that He has shown, to build their faith in that.
We need times where think back to what God has done in the past to sustain us, to protect us, and to teach us. As our eyes are open more and more to what God is doing, we will begin to trust in Him in greater ways.
Jesus Will Open Eyes
This miracle is a great picture of the journey the disciples have been on. It is the one miracle in all the four gospels where Jesus asks the person being healed a question. He was able to see something, but it wasn’t clear. So, Jesus lays His hands on his eyes again. His sight is restored and he can now see everything clearly.
This is more than another healing, it is an illustration of spiritual sight. He intentionally healed the man in two stages as an object lesson for His disciples. Through this miracle Jesus was stating that they have begun to see, maybe not clearly, but they were not in total darkness. They have seen many marvelous things of Christ. This miracle was a turning moment, an eye opening moment for them. They once were lost in darkness, but have now seen the light. They have now seen and embraced the truth and the life, and it will all become clear.
We can see ourselves in the place of the disciples. We have moments where we can question Jesus’ plan and ways of doing things. There are times where we are concentrating on our current problems and not seeing the big picture of what He is attempting to teach us. We miss opportunities to look back on when He taken care of us and instead focus on the need and fear at hand. We must pray that our eyes would be open to see His working in our lives and trust that He will continue to grow us.
When we don’t get it, may we trust Him!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 8:1-26
How would you respond to someone who claimed the feeding of the five thousand (6:35-44) and the feeding of the four thousand (8:1-9) are really the same event reported twice by Mark (and Matthew)?
How is Jesus’ compassion and concern for the physical needs of the Gentile crowd indicative of His concern for our spiritual state?
When we are faced with an impossible situation and we want to turn it over to God, how do we go about doing that?
What is the difference between testing God in faith and testing Him in unbelief?