The Text (Mark 8:1-10)
1 In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. 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.”
4 Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?”
5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”
And they said, “Seven.”
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. 7 They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. 8 So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. 9 Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away, 10 immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and came to the region of Dalmanutha.
In this Gentile region, Jesus repeats His miraculous multiplication of bread and fish with a new, slightly smaller group. Before He fed five thousand Jewish men (plus uncounted women and children) after one day’s teaching. Here he feeds four thousand Gentile men (with women and children) after three days’ worth of travel and teaching. With the five thousand, Mark tells us that Jesus had compassion for the people’s spiritual lostness, but with the four thousand His compassion for their physical hunger is noted. Critics have attacked this repetition of an error in the Bible, simply a telling of the same event but with the details changed. But the fact that Mark (and Matthew) each give us both accounts and that there are several differences like those just mentioned show that they were different events with different miracle recipients. In both cases, Jesus takes a small portion of food and makes more than enough to feed a great crowd. The first miracle leaves 12 small baskets leftover for the disciples to have a meal later. But this time, there are seven giant baskets leftover, probably given to the crowds for their journeys home. And also in both cases, the disciples question and doubt whether Jesus can provide for so many.
Why did the disciples question Jesus again before the second feeding? Didn’t they recall the earlier episode? I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by Him and completely without error. So this cannot be a mistake as some critics would say. Instead, we see the spiritual dullness of the disciples’ hearts. We see that just like us, they often forgot who Jesus was and what He could do in their lives. Their walk with God was a constant struggle to believe and not doubt. From this story we can take hope that we are not alone in our struggle to believe. We confess that we need God’s help everyday to strengthen our faith and help us to trust in His provision. We pray daily, “Give us our daily bread.” We then watch God provide and give Him all of the credit and glory. When we are tempted to doubt and despair as we look at our circumstances, we should look back and remember the times when God has provided for us in the past.