As you start reading today, you might think this sounds familiar. Didn’t Jesus just feed 5000+ people? There is an interesting repetition from the end of chapter 6 to chapter 8. The first accounts that began with the feeding of the 5000 took place on the west side of the Sea of Galilee in a predominantly Jewish area. Jesus reprimands the Pharisees, is in the boat with the disciples, and heals a man. The similar events we read in chapter 8 take place on the east side of the Sea of Galilee where the population was mainly Gentile. Mark’s gospel shows Jesus reaching all people – both Jews and Gentiles.
Mark 8: 1 – 26 NLT
Jesus Feeds Four Thousand
“About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, 2 “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”
4 His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”
5 Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”
“Seven loaves,” they replied.
6 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. 7 A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.
8 They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. 9 There were about 4,000 men in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. 10 Immediately after this, he got into a boat with his disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha.
Pharisees Demand a Miraculous Sign
11 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
12 When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” 13 So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake.
Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod
14 But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. 15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes— can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ (Jeremiah 5: 21) Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”
“Twelve,” they said.
20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”
“Seven,” they said.
21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.
Jesus Heals a Blind Man
22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”
24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”
25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”
The first half of Mark’s gospel is about this question: Who is Jesus? When we look at these verses in chapter 8, you might wonder why the disciples hadn’t figured out the answer to that question. Perhaps to give them a bit of an excuse, these events likely happened over a period of months. It wasn’t a case of feeding the 5000 and then a few days later feeding 4000. But even so, it does seem strange that they don’t seem to remember what Jesus is capable of. I think I would have remembered such an amazing event as feeding well over 5000 people with basically nothing for a long time. And then they get in the boat, forget to bring some food, and get upset about it. What? These disciples sure don’t sound very bright.
But before we get too judgmental, let’s stop and think about this for a minute.
When did you become a Christ follower? How long had you heard about Jesus? How many Bible stories did you hear both from the Old Testament and the New Testament? How many Christians had you met who took their faith seriously, and you thought they were a little crazy? In fact, did you ever think that this Christianity stuff was just myth and absolutely unbelievable from a scientific point of view?
You might say I’ve been a Christ follower since I was a young child. I was raised in a Christian home, and have believed for as long as I can remember. I have another question for you. Have you ever doubted that God was taking care of you? Have you ever doubted while in a difficult situation that God’s promise that ‘all things will work together for good’ is true? Have you ever felt that you’ve made some mistakes that you’re not sure God has forgiven? Are you carrying around that shame in your mind? Do you truly believe that God loves you no matter what?
You see, we’re not always that accepting of what God says and does either? I was raised in a Christian home and accepted Jesus personally when I was 8 years old. There were times when I questioned whether I had been fed a nice, proper religious line, especially when I was away from home at university. Even after I decided my faith was genuine, there have been times when life got rough that I wondered if God was really there, had I built my life on a myth. I can’t point my finger at the disciples.
So I can’t judge the disciples, and I suspect, neither can you. Tomorrow we’ll look at the turning point in the disciples’ lives. They were following Jesus, no doubt about that. They had left their jobs and families to travel with Jesus. They thought he was wonderful, and worth being with, but at this point, they still didn’t really comprehend who he was. But that is going to change. That doesn’t mean they will be perfect Jesus followers, but they are finally getting it. We’re just like them. We’re not perfect in our faith either, but God is patient and continues to work with each one of us.
Romans 2:4 – “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”