loaves-n-fishes02Mark 8

1. In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them,

Again we are faced with a situation wherein a great multitude was listening to the Lord Jesus that had no food to eat. If this sounds familiar, it is. We had a similar situation back in Mark 6:35-44.

2. “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat.

The Lord has compassion on this multitude, because they have gone three days with nothing to eat. They had proven that they had an earnest desire to be with the Lord and hear His words. They were even willing to go without food to do so! Now Christ, ever compassionate, sees this need, and wants to fulfill it.

3. “And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.”

This is the Lord’s concern. If he sends them away hungry, they will grow faint from weakness and hunger. This was a serious matter indeed. Thus, the Lord implies to His disciples that He wishes to feed them before sending them away.

4. Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?”

The disciples understand what He is saying to them, but again they do not respond in faith. It seems that, after seeing the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, they would be ready to believe this time! We do have to credit them that there is less skepticism in their question than there was the last time. It may be that they had not totally forgotten the previous miracle, but it seems they were not expecting such an event to happen again. Perhaps they assumed this was a unique occurrence that would only happen once.

5. He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.”

The Lord asks them this question, and they reply. This time they have seven loaves, which is more than the last time, when there were only five. Remember, these loaves were not loaves of bread as we would think of them, but more along the lines of what we would call biscuits.

6. So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude.

Again, He commands them to sit down. Again, He gives thanks (last time it said He “blessed.”) And again, He breaks the loaves and gives them to His disciples to give to the multitude. This is following a very similar pattern to the previous miracle.

7. They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them.

This time, instead of two fish, we have a few fish (which is more than one or two, but not many.) Remember, these were small fish, only slightly larger than sardines. He again blesses the fish, and tells the disciples to give them to the multitude as well. Notice Mark doesn’t say He divided the fish, as He did last time. It may be that this time they just kept taking fish, and there kept being more in the basket. Or it could be that He did break them like the last time, and Mark just doesn’t mention it here. This does seem to be almost a formula that the Lord is following.

8. So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments.

They eat and are filled. Thus, the Lord Jesus again works a miracle of miraculous provision. Like the last miracle, this too symbolizes the Kingdom of God and the way God will provide for all people at that time. He will not share His rule over the earth with hunger! Then, once the miracle is complete, His disciples gather the leftovers, and this time they fill only seven baskets, not twelve like the last time. These are different baskets, as the Greek word this time means a large basket or hamper.

9. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away,

The numbers are different in this miracle as well, being only about four thousand instead of five thousand. Otherwise the result is the same. Then, having fed them as He wished, He sends the multitude away.

10. Immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

As soon as the multitude is dismissed, He “immediately” gets into a boat with His disciples and departs to the region of Dalmanutha, which is on the western border of the Sea of Galilee.

11. Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him.

He departed “immediately” after working this miracle, and then this questioning of the Pharisees happened “then” after He arrived in the region of Dalmanutha. It seems unlikely that the Pharisees in question had not heard of what He had just done. Surely such a great miracle should have been sign enough for anyone. The Pharisees, however, were constantly perpetuating the idea that they were far better and above the common people, and it seems that they refused to accept the “common people’s” sign as being theirs, insisting instead on a special sign from heaven done only on their behalf.

12. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.”

This group of Pharisees is here referred to as “this generation.” As Christ had already given many miraculous signs to the people of that time, we know that “generation” here does not mean all the people living on earth at that time or born at a certain time. We must remember that “generation” means most simply “that which is generated.” These Pharisees were a self-made generation of leaders, and they thought that their generation of themselves as the supreme ones in Israel should be something that was recognized by God. The Lord refused to accept their lofty idea of themselves, however, and informs them that no sign will be given to them. If they wish to believe in Him, they will have to do so based on the signs that He has given to all, just like everyone else.

The Greek here is difficult, and is not exactly expressed as it is translated into English. It seems that the Lord did not finish His sentence, and used a Hebrew (not a Greek) figure of speech. The idea of what He said was that they would see a sign, but He does not tell them what it is. Of course, that sign was His Own resurrection, and the evidence of it that would be given them by the apostles in the Acts period.

13. And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side.

He again crosses the Sea of Galilee to the other side. He did quite a bit of traveling across the sea at this time! Remember, though, the Sea of Galilee wasn’t that wide, so it wasn’t that long of a trip, and could be made in a couple of hours.

14. Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat.

The disciples, who, as we see in other places (like John 4:31,) were in charge of providing the food, had forgotten their duty in this case, and found that they had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat.

15. Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

The Lord responded to this consternation among the disciples caused by their lack of bread by using this illustration of the teachings of the Pharisees and of Herod as being their leaven. The leaven, of course, affects the whole lump of dough, causing it to rise. The leaven of the Pharisees, that is, their false teaching, affected their whole lives for evil, so the Lord warns His disciples against it.

16. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”

The disciples were so consumed by the problem of having no food that they totally missed the point of what the Lord was saying, thinking that He was referring to their lack of bread. His statement would be totally ridiculous if that were the case, so they obviously hadn’t been paying much attention. I wonder what their reasoning was that led them to such a conclusion? Did they really think that the Lord meant that the Pharisees and Herod used bad leaven in making their bread?

17. But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened?

The Lord rebukes them for their lack of faith. He uses seven questions (and then two more following their two replies) to open their eyes to the truth and lead them into what He was really trying to teach them.

18. “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?

The Lord quotes Jeremiah 5:21 in His rebuke of the disciples.

21. Hear this now, O foolish people,
Without understanding,
Who have eyes and see not,
And who have ears and hear not:

He uses Scripture to admonish them for not seeing and hearing the truth. We do well when we use God’s Word when we have to rebuke other people in our own lives. Then, He calls upon them to remember what they had already learned.

19. “When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.”

He reminds them that five loaves produced food for five thousand with twelve baskets left over.

20. “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.”

He reminds them that seven loaves produced food for four thousand with seven baskets left over.

21. So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”

The Lord’s point was that the smaller amount of bread and fish produced the greater amount when He was working His miracle. Therefore, since the smaller resulted in the greater, we know that it is not the amount of bread that matters, but rather the power of God that causes it to multiply. If so, one loaf, which was all they had, was more than enough for the Savior to use to feed twelve men. If seven loaves can produce four thousand meals plus seven baskets, and five loaves can produce five thousand meals plus twelve baskets, how much more could a mere one loaf produce?