Prepare to listen. Silent preparation before praying: Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. (Psalm 86:11)
Read Mark 8:1-10
In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, 2‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. 3If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.’ 4His disciples replied, ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?’ 5He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven.’ 6Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. 7They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. 8They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
This story tempts a sarcastic, ‘Been there; done that.’ It’s very similar to the feeding of the 5000, including identical phrases, such as: ‘How many loaves do you have?’ and ‘They ate and were filled.’ But, there are enough differences to make us realize it’s not exactly a been-there-done-that event. And, Jesus assumed both stories should have helped the disciples to understand him (see 8:17f). Feeding many with little, it seems, was pivotal to understanding Jesus.
Both stories begin with a statement about Jesus having compassion on the crowd. In the first story, his compassion led to teaching them (6:34). In this second one, it led to feeding them. Jesus was concerned, not only with filling their minds with good teaching, but also filling their stomachs with nourishment.
Perhaps the most significant similarity between the two stories is that Jesus involved the disciples in feeding the crowd. He never worked miracles to draw attention to himself; he had no desire to amaze and dazzle the crowd. He generously included his disciples as full participants, training them to continue the ministry he’d begun. Maybe they would never teach like Jesus, but they could extend his love to the world in giving food to the hungry. So too can we. And, as N. T. Wright observes, “Of course our resources will seem, and feel, totally inadequate. That is Jesus’ problem, not ours.” Wright reminds us that our task “is not to bemoan how few loaves and fishes we have for the crowd, but to offer them to Jesus, to do whatever he wants with them; and then to be ready to distribute them, to our own surprise, at his command” (Wright 2004, p. 102). And, be prepared to be surprised again when you discover ‘they ate and were filled.’
Jesus responded to observable basic human needs. What are some of the observable basic needs you see around you today and what might Jesus expect from you? It may not be feeding the hungry but some other need.
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Jesus you involve your followers in your ministry, using whatever we have to meet the needs of our day. Help me be ready to join you in your work today, whatever that maybe. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world with the One who feeds the hungry.