In Mark 8:1-13 we find another miracle of feeding a large number of people with just a few loaves and fishes. Maybe sceptics might have dismissed the story of the feeding of the 5,000 as a figment of the Gospel writer’s imagination, but the feeding of the 4,000 reemphasises both the power and divinity of Christ as well as the reliability of Mark and Matthew (see Matthew 15:32-39).
The compassion of Christ
“In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far” (Mark 8:1-3).
Many amongst this multitude had come a great distance to hear and see Jesus. It is likely that they were from Decapolis and the surrounding regions. They had been so taken up with Jesus’ ministry that they had not eaten for three days. Some church members cannot sit for one hour without thinking about Sunday lunch! It is clear that the 4,000 who followed Jesus had gone beyond the curiosity stage, and were now hanging on His every word. Yet, even in heightened spirituality it is important not to neglect the needs of the body. Jesus took compassion on these people and supplied their needs.
The Lord Jesus Christ supplied everyone’s need that day, regardless of the fact if they were following for the right reasons or not. He came to die for the heartless, faithless, and the graceless of this world, even if they refuse to accept it. We are sometimes guilty of measuring God’s love according to human understanding, but His compassion is without measure and is unlimited, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) … “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) … “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).
As believers, we ought to be compassionate and merciful to all, even to those who abuse and persecute us. Few carry out the Lord’s will in this area, for He said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). If we did this, then we might just take the sting out of our enemy’s wrath. “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21).
The capability of Christ
“And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away” (Mark 8:4-9).
Without the hand of the One who created the universe this would be a problem the disciples could never solve. The almighty hands of Jesus used just seven loaves and a few small fish to satisfy over 4,000 people. “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
We must be careful about doubting the Lord’s power to supply both our spiritual and physical needs. He has “bread enough and to spare” (Luke 15:17) for all who come to Him in faith. Everything we could possibly need can be found in Christ. He will never permit us to lack anything that is really for our good. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Let us remember though, that He will supply all our needs rather than all our greeds! “He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure” (Isaiah 33:16).
The consternation of Christ
“And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha. And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side” (Mark 8:10-13).
Jesus and His disciples travelled to the western parts of Galilee to a place called Dalmanutha (Magdala in Matthew 15:39) which was near “Migdalel” or Magdala (Joshua 19:38). Here Jesus had yet another encounter with the Pharisees. Once again these religious leaders thought they could intimidate and trick Jesus. They wanted proof that He was the Son of God, but even if it were given they would not believe. They had heard and seen the ministry of Jesus on earth, so some flash in the sky would not change their hard hearts. Jesus sighed deeply because His heart mourned over the ruin these wicked men were bringing upon their own souls. Though they were His enemies, the Lord was still saddened by their unbelief.
The truly saved believer will have consternation over the sin of others, but compassion will still be there. Such people have the mind of David, “I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word” (Psalm 119:158), and they “sigh and [that] cry for all the abominations” done in the land (Ezekiel 9:4). We are told that even Lot, though he chose to live in Sodom, was “Vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Peter 2:7-8). Do we imitate Christ in this regard? Do we feel pain and sorrow as we watch souls foolishly race towards Hell because of their sin and unbelief? We need to question our spiritual state if we are not concerned for the lost. We have to be careful that we do not become like the Pharisees who thought they were spiritual giants but were in fact midgets. They condemned sin, but had no concern for the sinner.
The Lord can do great things, but are we willing to tell others about Him? “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Psalm 126:2-3). We have the responsibility of pointing the lost to Christ, not just those we get along with, but also our enemies too. He who fed the bellies of the 4,000 is still about to save the souls of the millions.