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The Lord Provides
This feeding of the four thousand is not a repeat account of the feeding of the five thousand. It is a separate miracle and there are a few differences in it. It is these differences that we will note.
8:1-4 In those days there was another large crowd with nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples and said to them, "I have compassion on the crowd, because they have already been here with me three days, and they have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint on the way, and some of them have come from a great distance." His disciples answered him, "Where can someone get enough bread in this desolate place to satisfy these people?"
These people had hungered and thirsted for the "bread of heaven" for three days and had received this from the mouth of Jesus. Now Jesus could see that they were physically in need of nourishment and would not have enough strength to go to the towns to get food. Moved with compassion this time He does not challenge the faith of the disciples by asking them to feed them but asks what they have to hand.
8:5-6 He asked them, "How many loaves do you have?" They replied, "Seven."
Then he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. After he took the seven loaves and gave thanks, he broke them and began giving them to the disciples to serve. So they served the crowd.
This time it is seven loaves (two more) and a few fish. He takes the loaves first gave thanks for them breaks them in pieces and gave them to the disciples who distribute it among the people.
8:7 They also had a few small fish. After giving thanks for these, he told them to serve these as well.
Afterwards He takes the fish blesses them and then these are given to the people. What is the difference between giving thanks and blessing? To give thanks is to freely express gratitude for what has been provided even if it is only such a small amount among so many. To bless is to celebrate with praises acknowledging the goodness of God with a desire for His glory even for the little we might have or receive.
8:8-9 Everyone ate and was satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. There were about four thousand who ate. Then he dismissed them.
So they all did eat sufficiently and this time there were only seven baskets left over. Seven in the scriptures is the perfect number. The Lord had perfectly provided just what the people had need of and so He still does to us. Do we give thanks in everything and for everything even the small things? Do we bless God for the little things as well as the great things that He does and gives to us?
8:11 Then the Pharisees came and began to argue with Jesus, asking for a sign from heaven to test him.
The Pharisees approached Jesus with no other thought in their minds but to dispute with him concerning his teaching and his claims to be God’s son. They demand a sign as proof that he was what he claimed to be. This was a malicious test; they did not really want to see a sign and even if they did they still would not have believed. People are the same today; many say that they would believe if they saw a miracle, but this is just an excuse.
8:12 Sighing deeply in his spirit he said, ‘Why does this generation look for a sign? I tell you the truth; no sign will be given to this generation.’
In response, Jesus groaned in his spirit, being greatly disturbed by their unbelief, and challenged their lack of faith. No sign would be given to those who stubbornly refused to obey, but (as Matthew 16:4) only the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was in the whale’s belly for three days and nights so Jesus would be in the tomb three days and nights and then rise from the dead. In the story of Lazarus and the rich man Abraham said “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead (Luke 16:27-31). The Pharisees and many other people had it the wrong way round; faith must be present before God works miracles In Mark 16:17 Jesus said “these signs shall follow them that believe” and verse 20 “they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following”.
Warning against Corrupt Teaching
8:13-14 Then he left them, got back into the boat, and went to the other side. Now they had forgotten to take bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.
Once again Jesus and the disciples are in the boat and this time the disciples were in a dilemma because they had forgotten to get bread and were conscious of the fact that they only had one loaf between them.
8:15 And Jesus ordered them, ‘Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod!’
This was the uppermost thought in their minds when Jesus turned and warned them to be on their guard against the leaven of the Pharisees, of Herod and in Matthew's gospel the Sadducees as well. Leaven is sour dough that is highly fermented and used for making bread rise. In the New Testament the word is used to mean corruption because the sour dough placed in the bread contaminated, as it were, the whole loaf.
8:16 So they began to discuss with one another about having no bread.
But the disciples were so earthly minded that they thought he was rebuking them for not bringing enough bread.
8:17-20 When he learned of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you arguing about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Have your hearts been hardened? Though you have eyes, don't you see? And though you have ears, can't you hear? Don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of pieces did you pick up?’ They replied, ‘Twelve.’ ‘When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of pieces did you pick up?’ They replied, ‘Seven.’
So he does rebuke them for having no understanding, when they should have done because they had been with him long enough; for hardening their hearts in unbelief; for their spiritual blindness when he had opened their eyes to the truth; for their spiritual deafness in that he had taught them but it had not sunk in; for not remembering what he had done in providing for the five thousand and four thousand. So why were they bothering about not having enough food when they had seen him provide in this way? And why did they not understand the spiritual lessons taught to them by it? In Matthew 16:11-12 it says he then told them plainly that he wasn't talking about bread to eat but that he was warning them to be on guard against corrupt teaching (see Col. 2:8; Heb. 13:9). The warning still holds for today; the devil still comes as an angel of light seeking to deceive. Corrupt teaching is based on the truth but has been altered to suit the doctrines of men and wicked angels.
8:21 Then he said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’
Opening Blind Eyes
8:22 Then they came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to Jesus and asked him to touch him.
Following the rebuke to his disciples for their spiritual blindness Jesus arrives at Bethsaida where a blind man is brought by his friends to be healed.
8:23 He took the blind man by the hand and brought him outside of the village. Then he spit on his eyes, placed his hands on his eyes and asked, ‘Do you see anything?’
He takes the man from the hustle and bustle of the town to a quiet place where he spits on his eyes. Was this another sign language to show the man that he was going to open his eyes? There doesn't seem to be any other reason why he should do this for it was his touch upon the man that would bring the healing.
8:24-25 Regaining his sight he said, ‘I see people, but they look like trees walking.’ Then Jesus placed his hands on the man's eyes again. And he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
This is the only healing recorded that was not complete first time, for the man saw figures walking about but not clearly. Jesus lays his hands on the man again until he receives perfect sight. It could not have been any lack on the Lord's part as to why this man did not receive his sight straight away. It has been suggested that perhaps the Lord saw a lack of faith in the man that caused this. In Matthew 9:29 Jesus said “according to your faith let it be to you”.
8:26 Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’
Revelation Given by God - Peter gets it Right
8:27-28 Then Jesus and his disciples went to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They said, ‘John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others, one of the prophets.’
So far the disciples have not been doing so good but they are still in the preparation stage and the day of Pentecost has not yet arrived when the Holy Spirit would be given (John 16:13-14). Here Jesus tests them to see if they have yet fully realised and accepted who he really is. First of all he asks “who do the people say I am”. They reply that they say he is either John the Baptist, risen from the dead, because of the way he preached, or Elijah, who had not died but was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:11), this was because of the miracles that he did [many believed that Elijah would come back to prepare the way for the Messiah. It was in fact John the Baptist who fulfilled this role (Matt. 11:14)].
8:29-30 He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.’ Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He then asks the disciples “who do you say I am” and it is Peter who confesses that he is “the Christ”. Peter did not receive this revelation by his own knowledge or ability to understand the teaching of Jesus. Neither did he receive it from other men or by the Holy Spirit in this instance. But Jesus said that the Father had revealed it to him (Matt. 16:17). Peter, then, confessed Jesus as the Christ by the revelation that God gave him but he did not fully understand what he had said as the next verses show.
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Copyright (2009-2015) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk
This study is taken from our Bible study guide Faithbuilders - The Gospel of Mark