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. – Mark 8:1-10
What’s your limit? Do you live by the adage, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?” Do you have a limit beyond which you won’t go? Can someone get the benefit of the doubt once or twice, but not a third time? Your coworker forgets his lunch and debit card and asks, “Can you bring me something from McDonalds on your way back?” How many times will you do that. Is there a limit.
I’m struck by the “again” in verse 1 of this account. The people ran out of food again. We’ve been down this path before. On a previous occasion Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children when they were following him in the wilderness (Mark 6:31-44). On the previous occasion Mark simply reports that Jesus “had compassion” on the multitude. On this occasion, Jesus says it out loud: “I feel sorry for these people.”
Nonetheless, here they are again. How long will this keep going on? Won’t they become overly-dependent on Jesus? How will they ever learn to take responsibility for their own wellbeing?
One of the dangers of self-sufficiency is a lower threshold of impatience and a general lack of compassion for those who seem not to take responsibility for themselves. We assume that because we can and do plan responsibly for our daily needs, anyone who does not is simply irresponsible. That may or may not be an accurate assessment.
Jesus doesn’t seem to make those calculations – at least not in this case. He sees people in need, feels sorry for them, and takes action. Again. His kindness and compassion do not take a back seat to people’s lack of planning.
Before we become too indignant over the lack of personal responsibility of the multitude, we must keep in mind our continuing need for his grace, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. The crowd will disperse. There seems to be no third miraculous feeding. Neither does Jesus’ supply. Yet our need for forgiveness, help, mercy, and kindness knows no end. Neither does Jesus’ supply.