Jesus feeds 4000 (Mark 8:1-10). During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied. 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 set before the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
First thing to say here is Mark didn’t get his news-notes jumbled. This isn’t a rerun of 6:30-44. It’s now six months later. Number of people is different. So is the food amount. Not surprisingly, knowing Jesus, his compassion is the same (6:34; 8:2). So why this “second helping” miracle? We’ll see shortly. Hint: it has to do with slow learners (which, of course, can’t apply to you or me, right?).
The Pharisees test Jesus (Mark 8:11-13). The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
Back on the west side of Galilee Sea, Jesus gets questioned by Pharisees, the strict, fundamentalist Jewish party. The “test” is fixed from the first. These Pharisees are searching for evidence to support their already-made verdict—Jesus is demonic (3:22). A miraculous sign, in their minds, will prove Jesus a false prophet (see Deuteronomy 13:1-5). Jesus refuses the test. No sign on demand. Jesus doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone. So away he boats.
About these Pharisees: are they slow learners? No. Their learning problem is more serious. They’re unwilling learners. And slow learning gets Jesus’ patience; unwilling learning gets Jesus gone.
Jesus drills his disciples (Mark 8:14-21). The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
It’s the Comedy Cruise. Jesus and the Twelve Bozos. Sorry. Not showing respect for apostles. But, you have to admit these guys don’t sound like the sharpest minds in the Middle East. Jesus warns them against being influenced by the Pharisees inflating evil (using the common Jewish metaphor of yeast as evil) and they think they’re in trouble for forgetting to bring bread!
Imagine Jesus’ reaction. Scratching his head in amazement? Smiling toward heaven while shaking his head and throwing up his hands? Wondering how dim a few fishermen could possibly be? But notice he doesn’t climb out of the boat and walk off. Patience, Jesus.
Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
According to Mark’s report (from Peter), dead silence. Only the sound of waves lapping the boat. And twelve guys looking at each other, desperately hoping somebody will answer.
You get it? No bread, even in the desert? No problem. Jesus can multiply it. Or make it from nothing. You’ll be satisfied. And have more leftover than when you started. You’ve got bigger fish to fry.