Twice? Really? Yes. Why?
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
Do you believe in miracles? Or do you give God an out. Miracles are just speeded-up versions of natural processes. That’s what one woman told me. But I’m not sure water just naturally changes into wine over time. Nor do I think water just piles up in a heap on both sides of a walkway so an army can march through the dry seabed. But the explanation offered once by a prominent Television Preacher is reasonable. If people have food to share, the kindness and generosity of a little boy might move them to share their food. They might take it from the folds in their garments and end up with more than they need.
Only trouble is, this is not what the text says. There’s no hint of the crowd being moved to share. There is only the inventory: 7 loaves of bread and a few fish. Jesus will take those and feed the multitude. Again. Really. Some have suggested that this is really not a separate event from that which is recorded in Mark 6 (the feeding of the 5000). They suggest Mark – or the New Testament editors – pulled together the various stories of Jesus’ ministry and somehow both ended up making it into the book.
Rather than trying to explain away the miracle, or discredit the text, we might better look for the message that this event conveys. Surely we see how Jesus is aware of people’s needs and responsive to them. We can also see how Jesus leverages the resources already present for the purposes of his kingdom. But more important than all that is Jesus’ supreme authority over all things. He can not only walk on water. He can not merely still the storm. He can provide food for the multitude. And he does so. Again.
More often than not God works through regular means. Hard work, tilling, sowing, cultivating produce crops. Failure to do so produces weeds. Wise decisions yield good results. There is a natural order. Normally the natural order prevails.
But sometimes God intervenes. Like when more than 4000 people are hungry and in the wilderness. Jesus provides a more-than-enough amount of food for these people. He has power others do not. He is able to do signs and wonders that focus our attention toward the goodness of God. And though he doesn’t often do these miraculous things, when he does, we must take note. And if he has a repeat performance, we might look a little deeper to see just what he’s actually up to.
We’ll take that up again. Tomorrow.