Good morning! It’s good to be with you this morning, and it’s always a privilege to open the Bible with you and present the Word of God. We will be continuing our study in The Gospel of Mark this morning. If you have a Bible, I’d invite you to open to Mark chapter 8 and verse 1. We’ll be looking today at a very well known story. In fact, it’s similar to the story that we looked at in Mark chapter 6 several weeks ago where Jesus is feeding a very large crowd of people.
We’ll get to all of that in a few minutes, but first, let’s pray for our time together in God’s Word.
I’ve been assigned verses 1-10, which are the verses that deal specifically with the feeding of the 4,000. But there’s something deeper happening here that I really want to explore with you which means that I have to read a little bit beyond my assigned text. I’ll do my best not to step on toes for next week’s sermon, but there is a larger lesson that Jesus is teaching the disciples here that I think we will benefit from greatly. So, I’ll read the first 10 verses and then I’ll skip down and read verses 14-21. This is what Mark records:
Mark 8:1-10; 14-21
 “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.”
 “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?””
Here’s what I’d like to do. First, I want to deal quickly with the proximity of these two accounts because there is a little bit of controversy that has surrounded the placement of these two accounts in Mark’s gospel. I want to speak to that quickly, and then we can get into some of the deeper elements of the text.
There are some people, historically, who have suggested that these two accounts are actually one account that Mark is listing twice for emphasis. On top of that, some people have used that to argue that the Bible has inconsistencies or is inaccurate.
Now, we know that the Bible is not inaccurate and that it’s not inconsistent. We know that it all fits together the way that God designed it to fit together. Therefore, we receive it as it’s presented to us; that these are two separate miracles that Jesus performed. We believe that!
But, even outside of our faith in the Scriptures, there’s logical evidence that these are two separate accounts. One feeding was 5,000 men — which would have been well over 10,000 when you factor in women & children. The other was a feeding of 4,000 people total.
One feeding took place on one side of the Sea of Galilee to a Jewish crowd. While this feeding took place on the other side of the Sea of Galilee to a Gentile crowd. Which is actually an important factor in why I believe Mark lists both of these accounts. We’ll come back to that in a little bit.
And the details are very different. One feeding involved 5 loaves & 2 fish, with 12 baskets of left-over’s. While this feeding involves 7 loaves and a few fish with 7 baskets of left-over’s. But also, as Jesus was instructing His disciples, He references both of these feedings as separate accounts. So, we believe that these are separate accounts and that they have been included in the cannon of Scripture for a reason.
Now, let’s get to the reason. I want to look at what the text says, I want to look at what it teaches us about the gospel and then how it calls us to respond in faith. And, I think the best way to approach this is by looking at this through the eyes of the disciples. The disciples are at a very interesting junction at this point in Mark’s Gospel. There are 16 chapters in Mark and there’s something fascinating that happens almost directly in the middle of the book (we’ll get there in a couple of weeks). In Mark 8:27-30 Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ (the Messiah).
The point at which Peter makes that confession gives us an important dividing line in the Gospel of Mark. Before it, we read a lot about the character and nature of Jesus and how He lived. After it, we read a lot about how His life is really all about His death. Before it, we see Jesus and His disciples going back and forth across the Sea of Galilea a lot (staying in the same region). After it, we see that almost everything in the story is shaped by Jerusalem. Before it, we see everything leading up to the fact that Jesus is the Christ. After it, we see that everything is pointed at what the Christ must do. Before it, we see Jesus introducing the Kingdom. After it, we see Jesus moving toward the Cross. In other words, things shift drastically in Mark chapter 8 verses 27-30.
And we’re almost to that point. But, we’re not there yet. At this point in the narrative the disciples still don’t get it; they don’t really see it. But they do see some things, and that’s what I want us to consider this morning. I want to point out 3 things that the disciples see in this situation and then we’ll land on what I believe we must see this morning. Let me go ahead and list these for you up front and then we’ll unpack them.
- They see Jesus’ compassion on the crowd
- They see Jesus perform a miracle
- They see Jesus expanding the message of the Kingdom.
First, they see Jesus’ compassion on the crowd. Let’s set the scene here to understand this better. These people are in the middle of nowhere; the text calls it a desolate land. It’s a little bit different scenario than with the first crowd. The issue there was money. The people didn’t have enough money to buy food. Here, the issue isn’t money, it’s that there is literally no food available to purchase. They are in the middle of nowhere, which actually tells us something profound about this group of 4,000 people. They had put their own need for food beneath their desire to be with Jesus & to hear Him teach.
I want you to consider how big a deal that is. They were so concerned with hearing Jesus, and following Jesus, and being with Him that they dropped what they were doing and went after Him without any concern for how they would care for themselves. And Jesus didn’t rebuke them for this; isn’t that interesting? We live in a very pragmatic world. I can just imagine people in my life saying, “Why didn’t you bring something to eat?” Jesus didn’t do that. Instead, He had compassion on them. He responded to their devotion with compassion & provision. Now, I want you to take that dynamic and think about how this plays itself out in your life.
Is your primary concern to be with Jesus? That’s a great evaluative question. Do you want to be with Him so much, that everything else pales in comparison, even your own needs? Do you believe that He will have compassion on you? Do you believe that He will provide for you, as you chase after Him?
I think, if we’re going to be honest this morning, there are a couple of things that plague modern Christianity. First, a lot of people don’t really want to be with Jesus, they want things from Jesus. Those two things are vastly different. Second, a lot of people don’t really believe that He will provide perfectly for them as they pursue Him. So, they live their lives trying to control things & making sure they can provide for themselves
My guess is that we can all probably relate to one, if not both, of those two things at times. These are questions that we must consider if we’re going to truly follow Jesus because these are questions that lead to a heart of abandonment.
What else did the disciples see? They see Jesus perform a miracle. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one because we recently studied the feeding of the 5,000 and the elements of the miracle itself are very similar. However, I do think it’s worth pointing out one thing. How often do we think, “If I could just see a miracle, I’d believe?” Or, “If Jesus would just provide this one thing (or do this one thing) then I would believe?” In fact the Pharisees, in the portion we didn’t read, asked Jesus for a sign that He was who He said He was.
But here’s the thing, seeing signs and wonders isn’t what fuels belief. The disciples saw countless miracles and didn’t get it much of the time. Jesus knew that showing the Pharisees a sign wouldn’t produce faith. You see, people don’t question the authenticity of Jesus’ miracles. What they question is the authority behind them. This is why you see Jesus, throughout the gospels, working in response to people’s faith. This is why you see Jesus not working many miracles in His hometown; because the people didn’t believe.
And so, I think this is a great opportunity for us to be reminded that our salvation is BY FAITH. Now, it’s not a blind faith. There are plenty of things that have been presented to us as evidence of who Jesus is and what He has done to rescue us. But it is the proclamation of the authority of Christ and the sufficiency of the gospel that calls us to respond. We don’t get to clamor for additional evidence from God. That comes from a heart of disbelief.
Third, the disciples saw Jesus expanding the message of the Kingdom beyond the Jewish people. I found all of this to be really fascinating as I studied over the last couple of weeks. We’ve already said that the feeding of the 5,000 (in Mark 6) took place on the western side of the sea with an audience that would have been almost exclusively Jewish. And here, (in Mark 8), we have a feeding taking place on the eastern side of the sea (which is the area of the Decapolis) with a predominantly Gentile audience.
I believe that Mark has strategically linked these two accounts by the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark chapter 7. You might remember that interaction. This Gentile woman asked Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter. Jesus responded in a very Jesus way; He illustrated His answer. He said, “Look, you have to feed the kids first. You don’t take bread from the children and throw it on the floor for the dogs.” Translation: The kingdom (the gospel) is for the Jews. They get it first. It’s not right for it to be taken from them and thrown to the Gentiles.
But this woman was persistent. She pushed back. She said, “Yeah — but the dogs still get the breadcrumbs that fall off the table.” Translation: “There’s enough kingdom to go around. There’s enough gospel to where the Gentiles can feast on this as well.” Jesus commended her and cast the demon out of her daughter. Now, you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to realize how amazing that is in helping us understand the contrast and the context of these 2 feedings. I believe that what we see here is quite literally a manifestation of what that woman said to Jesus. And it shows you just how abundant & extravagant the gospel is. Jesus didn’t just provide crumbs from the table for these Gentiles, He fed 4,000 of them until they were satisfied with enough leftovers to make sandwiches the next day.
Isn’t the intentionality of God amazing & beautiful? Even the precision of God with the leftovers speaks to His intentionality. There were 12 baskets of food left over for the Jewish crowd and there are 12 tribes of Israel. There were 7 baskets of food left over for the Gentile crowd and there are 7 Gentile nations.
So the disciples see a lot. But they don’t yet see the main thing. And this is how I want to end our time together this morning, because we have the gift of perspective (we talked about that a couple of weeks ago).
We know the whole story, we know who Jesus is, we know what He has done. And so we’re able to look at this account and see the gospel narrative clearly and be challenged by it.
We see the curse. They are in a desolate place. They are hungry. There is no provision in sight. The people are experiencing the fruit of a broken world and they need to be rescued. We see the holy desire (the longing for something more). The people have chosen to go after Jesus, to be with Him, without regard to their comfort and their ability to provide for themselves. They’ve created a situation where they have to trust Jesus. We see redemption. Jesus meets the needs of this Gentile audience the same way He met the needs of the Jewish crowd. He did it with dignity, love, and compassion.
That’s the gospel narrative right here in this account. This is what we talked about that a couple of weeks ago. The futility & pain that sin produces, how that creates a longing for something more, and how God uses that to drive us to an end of ourselves & toward dependence upon Christ.
And so, based on that, what must we see as we reflect on this text? Let me give you 3 things briefly to take away:
- No matter your circumstances (how desperate), there is hope because God is God. He is Sovereign & He is able
- Jesus is better! He is so much better than anything else that the pursuit of anything else must pale in comparison to our pursuit of Him. We literally need Him more than we need food & water
- His primary provision for us is Himself. Everything else flows from that. Where you have Him, you must realize that you have been given everything. That’s why our concern is abiding in Him and all life flows from that.