At the beginning of Mark 8, Jesus feeds a crowd of 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. It was a miracle, but if you have been following along, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute. haven’t I heard this one before?” You would be right. Almost. In chapter 6, Jesus fed 5,000 people. Now he feeds 4,000, and everything is just about the same. Mark is the shortest Gospel, yet he tells the same story twice, because there is a difference that matters.
To the Jews there were two types of people, Jews and the unclean non-Jews called Gentiles. For centuries, Israel followed a system of purity, including a special diet, some food was clean and some unclean. This kept them holy, set apart from the non-Jews. But a few days earlier, Jesus had called the disciples together “and said to them, ‘Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.’ Thus he declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:14-15, 19). They did not understand.
Now the feeding of the 4,000. Everything is the same, except they are “in the region of the Decapolis” (Mark 7:31), where lived many Jews and many more Gentiles. Jesus is feeding the unclean the same way he fed the clean, except when Jesus fed the 5,000 Jews, it was the disciples who noticed the hunger. Here, it is Jesus, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat” (Mark 8:2). The disciples, even after 3 days, do not mention the need. Jesus cares for people the Jews did not care about and Jesus treats them the same.
After the feeding, Jesus and the disciples returned to the Jewish side of the sea, and were met by the Pharisees, who “began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him” (Mark 8:11). Prove yourself, they demanded. Jesus sighed, refused, and instead, “left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side” (Mark 8:13), back to the people you are not supposed to care about. In the boat, Jesus explained, “When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:19-21). Not yet.
“For God so loved the world…” ~John 3:16
My God, but not just mine, You are the God of the heavens and the earth, and all who live in this world. My love for You is displayed by my love for others–all others. When I feel blessed, I must remember why I am blessed–to be a blessing, going overboard to care for those most unlike me. Build in me that kind of love.
I’m so glad You have that kind of love, God, because without it, I would never know You. I was most unlike You, doing what I wanted, following my ways and rebelling against Yours, and You loved me and You found me. Thank You for caring.