Feeding Four Thousand

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” (vv. 2–3).

- Mark 8:1–10

Mark 8:1–10, the passage chosen for today’s study, records a miracle that many critics have alleged is simply another account of the feeding of the five thousand that Mark has already narrated (6:30–44). Thus, they charge that Mark has either made an error in duplicating one of Jesus’ miracles or that Mark has invented this story in order to convey the point that Jesus provides for the needs of both Jews and Gentiles. Certainly, since Mark 6:30–44 talks about Jesus’ feeding Jews and since Mark 8:1–10 is an account of Jesus’ feeding Gentiles, the two passages together show that Christ is sufficient to meet the needs of all people. However, that does not mean Mark invented one of these stories.

While many similarities exist between Mark 6:30–44 and 8:1–10, there are also key differences. For instance, the crowd in 8:1–10 is much smaller, consisting of four thousand people total, whereas the crowd in 6:30–44 consists of five thousand men. These men would have had their families with them, making the total number fed on that occasion much greater than five thousand people. We also note that there are seven loaves of bread in 8:1–10 and five loaves in 6:30–44. However, as Dr. R.C. Sproul tells us in his commentary Mark, the decisive factor in viewing these as two different accounts is that Jesus refers to them as different events in Mark 8:14–21.

Christ, the living bread from heaven, nourishes all who come to Him, be they Jew or Gentile, and this is illustrated for us in Jesus’ ministry by His multiplication of bread for both Jews and Gentiles (Mark 8:1–10; see John 6:22–59). Yet though as God’s people we are sustained by Jesus Himself, we are often slow of heart to believe Him. That is illustrated for us as well in today’s passage, as the disciples are perplexed as to how Jesus will feed the people even though they should have known better, having seen Jesus earlier feed the five thousand (Mark 8:4). Like the disciples, we are too quick to focus on present obstacles and view them as impossible even though we have seen God do mighty things in the past. We do well, then, to heed the comments of John Calvin: “There is not a day on which a similar indifference does not steal upon us; and we ought to be the more careful not to allow our minds to be drawn away from the contemplation of divine benefits, that the experience of the past may lead us to expect for the future the same assistance which God has already on one or more occasions bestowed upon us.”

Coram Deo

Sometimes we find ourselves doubting the Lord’s concern for us and His ability to meet our needs. If we were to remember what He has done for us, particularly in rescuing us from sin when we were hopelessly lost, we would find ourselves more apt to trust that He will provide. Think on what the Lord has done for you, and trust that He will come through again because He loves you.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 13:3a
Psalm 77
1 Corinthians 11:23–26

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