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
How’s you attention span? What about your do-one-thing-at-a-time focus? How about silence and solitude? These are not often pursued these days. Give us a good football game and a fine wine, a touching movie and some chocolates; we’ll then be happy. The Roman poet Juvenal was famously to have said something about bread and circus as the means by which the populace were kept peaceful and in check. His commentary was that the problem was not in the bread and circuses per se, but that people would sell their freedoms for full bellies and the excitement of the games which served only to distract them from other human hungers that bread and circuses can never satisfy.
For three days the people with Jesus had listened, followed, and listened some more to Jesus’ teaching. What powerful and deep work of the Holy Spirit is here! I’m sure there were moments for sidebar conversations. And no doubt some sort of distractions popped in from time to time. But they were with Jesus – by his reckoning – for three days. Three days of learning the truth about the Kingdom of God from the King himself!
And they are about to learn more. Jesus will show them compassion, attention to their worldly needs, a heart for all manner of people (these were likely Gentiles who had been with him all this time). Mark does not record Jesus’ teachings here, but we can imagine he told a parable or two. He likely explained the profound mysteries and truth of the Beatitudes. Surely he taught them about prayer. Now he will teach them about how God provides.
This will be a remarkable experience. Noteworthy. The ancient near-eastern equivalent of a Kodak Moment. Is someone taking notes? Is someone writing all this down? Did you see what he just did?!? Just like the other day when he fed the 5000. I guess that wasn’t our imagination, or a sleight of hand trick. He’s really able to feed the multitudes with the paltry supplies from our mobile larder.
Maybe I need to learn more about this Jesus, what he has to say, how he lives, what he commands, what he promises. It might even be worth more than three days’ time!