Jesus had healed the Syrophoenician’s daughter, and “leaving the region of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis” (Mark 7:31). He left the Gentile-populated region in the northwest and travelled one-hundred-twenty miles to another Gentile-populated region to the southeast. The Decapolis, the ten cities, were located east of the Jordan River and south of the Sea of Galilee. It was there that Jesus had healed the deaf-mute. “In those days” (Mark 8:1), while He was still visiting the Decapolis, a vast multitude gathered to hear Jesus teach.
The Lord Jesus “called the disciples and said to them, ‘I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a long distance’ ”(Mark 8:2-3).
The next verse makes me want to laugh... or cry. “His disciples answered him, ‘Where can anyone get enough bread here in this desolate place to feed these people?’ ” (Mark 8:4). Are you kidding? He had fed five thousand men and their families in chapter six! Had they forgotten? Did the disciples have such a short memory?
I can almost hear Jesus’ groan. “ ‘How many loaves do you have?’ he asked them. ‘Seven,’ they said. He commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves, he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. So they served them to the crowd. They also had a few small fish, and after he had blessed them, he said these were to be served as well. They ate and were satisfied. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftover pieces. About four thousand were there” (Mark 8:5–9). Matthew is a bit more specific, saying “there were four thousand men who had eaten, besides women and children” (Matthew 15:38).
Many confuse the miracle of the feeding of the four-thousand with the feeding of the five-thousand. Only Matthew and Mark record the feeding of the four-thousand, while the earlier miracle is recorded in all four Gospels. The first miracle took place in Galilee and involved predominantly Jews. This miracle took place near Decapolis and involved mostly Gentiles. In the first miracle, Jesus started with five loaves and two fish, while here He had seven loaves “and a few fish.” The five-thousand had been with Him one day, but the four-thousand had been with him three days. Twelve baskets of fragments were left over after the five-thousand were fed, but only seven baskets after the four-thousand were fed.
Some things never change. Jesus had “compassion” (Mark 6:34; 8:2) on both the Jews and the Gentiles. He “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). He saw them as weak and weary, He loved them, and met their needs. Even when we forget the miracles of the past, He graciously meets us in our times of need.
There’s another similarity between the two miracles... At the end of the day, when the dust settled, there were baskets of leftovers. These baskets weren’t dainty little things. These were big, like the wicker clothes hamper we had when I was a kid... always a great hiding spot for hide-and-seek (Acts 9:35). Jesus provided... and more. They were “satisfied!” (Mark 6:42; 8:8).
Remember... trust Him... He alone satisfies!
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.