Devotional #22 (2/25/13). Jesus feeds 4,000 and teaches His disciple that He came to complete all people.
Intro: Last week Jesus talked about what makes people clean and unclean. He talked about how food doesn’t make someone unclean but what they let into their mind and then comes out in words and actions. Remember in Devotional #18 (specifically Mark 6:42-44) when I mentioned that the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 had interesting parallels to Him feeding the 4,000? But I wouldn’t tell you what they were until Mark 8; we’ll talk about it here!
This Week’s Reading: Mark 8:1-21.
vv. 1-3. If you want to get more out of Mark 8:1-9 you can read in Matthew 15:32-38. We see that there were thousands of people with Jesus and He felt bad for them because He knew they needed to eat. Not just hungry but if they tried to go to a near town many would pass out and that would be bad because bandits could rob them or worse.
vv. 4-8. Then the disciples, apparently having forgotten that Jesus fed 5,000, ask where they will get enough food for everyone. Jesus asks how many loaves of bread they have and they answer “seven.” This is important because this number represents perfection or completion and is God’s number (how many days do we have in God’s created week? How many times should we forgive each other? [“Seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22)]. Seven seals, angels, etc. in Revelation, are just some examples.) So He takes the bread and some fish and prays (“gives thanks”) to God the Father for providing it.
Notice when Jesus feeds the 5,000 it is predominately to Israelites. He has 12 baskets left over, representing the 12 Hebrew tribes. But here when He feeds 4,000 it is predominately Gentiles with seven baskets left over. Since seven is the number of completion Jesus is showing that He satisfies and completes the needs of the people (Source 1). This is really interesting since just last week we read about the woman who Jesus talked to about the Israelites hearing the gospel first, then Gentiles. Remember the “crumbs” and “little dogs”? Cool, huh?!
vv. 9-10. From here Jesus takes his disciples to “Dalmanutha.” John MacArthur says “this location is not mentioned in any secular literature and only mentioned here in the NT.” Apparently in recent times when the water of Galilee was at an all-time low several discoveries were made and one of them was a “small harbor” that could have been Dalmanutha (Source 2)*.
*Dalmanutha: The Wycliffe Commentary notes that “Matthew calls it Magadan (Mt. 15:39; Gr. Text), a place equally unknown to us today” (p. 146). Net.bible.org references Easton’s saying, “ It is plain, then, that Dalmanutha was near Magdala, which was probably the Greek name of one of the many Migdols (i.e., watch-towers) on the western side of the lake of Gennesaret. It has been identified in the ruins of a village about a mile from Magdala, in the little open valley of ‘Ain-el-Barideh, “the cold fountain,” called el-Mejdel, possibly the “Migdal-el” of Josh. 19:38. (http://net.bible.org/dictionary.php?dict=dictionaries&word=Dalmanutha). The Catholic Encyclopedia states that Magdala may have been where Mary Magdalene was from (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09523a.htm).
vv. 11-12. When they get to Dalmanutha the religious leaders come out and ask Jesus to show them a sign that He is from God. But Jesus knows they wouldn’t believe in Him being God even if He did miracles. It says Jesus “sighed deeply in His spirit”, showing us that “this attack, and the unbelief it showed, distressed Jesus”, and continues that the “demand for a ‘special’ sign” shows the arrogance and pride of the Pharisees towards Jesus (Source 3). Essentially, they said, “You have done a lot of small-time miracles. Come on up to the big leagues and really show us something.”
So Jesus says “no sign shall be given to this generation.” People don’t ask for a sign when they have true faith. They may ask for a healing, an exorcism or teaching but those are all complimentary to and actions taken in faith. These men had hard hearts and contrary agendas. They weren’t searching they were trapping. Many miracles had already been performed, Jesus had fulfilled many prophesies but these skeptics didn’t care. The phrase “this generation” was in regard to anyone who had the same mindset and desires that these men did.
vv. 13-17. You can read Matthew 16:6-12 for more on this. So Jesus left the Pharisees. Think about this. If we always demand things of Jesus that are contrary to faith and the true betterment of our neighbors, He will walk away. Remember if we deny Him among men He will deny us in front of God the Father (Mt. 10:33, Lk. 12:9). You have to picture this: Jesus gets into the boat and is shaking His head muttering. We find that the disciples forgot food so when Jesus says “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” they think He’s talking about bread. Leaven is the ingredient in bread that makes it rise. But Jesus wasn’t talking about real bread He was speaking about the “influence” (i.e. “leaven”) of the Pharisees “false teaching” and “hypocritical behavior” (Source 2). And the “leaven of Herod” is regarding “Herod Antipas’…immoral, corrupt conduct” (ibid). So the disciples hearts were “still hardened” which is in reference to how they were earlier in Mk. 6:52.
vv. 18-21. Here in verses 18-20 Jesus asks 5 questions getting the disciples to change their mindset. This is how I read this section:
Jesus says, ‘you have eyes but don’t use them, you have ears but don’t listen and worst of all you have seen, heard and experienced but don’t remember!’
-‘Don’t remember what, Jesus?’ ask the disciples.
-‘That I fed 5,000 people one time and 4,000 another time. It was a miracle and I am God, why would I care if we don’t have enough bread? I could call down so much bread it would fill this sea! I provided manna to feed millions every single day for forty years! Really guys?! You’ve been with Me this long and don’t remember any of this?’
Jesus gets specific and makes sure the disciples are paying attention with a little audience participation. He forces them to remember feeding the multitudes. But notice the questions He expects an answer on are regarding leftovers. He really doesn’t want a deep debate, just for them to answer the question with the simple number of baskets. He focuses them on how much extra food there was. In so doing they remember every part of the miracle yet are forced to look at how Jesus over-provided. He wasn’t limited in what He could provide, both food and salvation to all men Hebrews and Gentiles! If we read this story in Matthew 6:12 we see that the disciples finally got it. They understood what Jesus meant.
Conclusion. Today we saw Jesus feed over 4,000 people with bread and fish but He was giving a picture (along with feeding 5,000) that He completed men’s needs both physically and spiritually. Then He ran into some Pharisees and used the experience to teach His disciples both about bad influences and again about His real purpose in coming to earth. If you don’t understand why Jesus did what He did and said what He said please ask me. Or ask a friend or read the Bible. If you really have questions God will show you the answers! Thank God He came to save all of us, Israelite and Gentile!!
Source 1: Brian Broderson, broadcast 1/16/2013.
Source 2: MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1476.