Mark- The Gospel of Action - Feeding the Multitudes
October 3, 2019, 2:47 PM

Mark – The Gospel of Action

“Feeding the Multitudes” – Mark 7:24-8:13

 

Mark 8:1-13 (NIV)
1 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said,
2 "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.
3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance."
4 His disciples answered, "But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?"
5 "How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked. "Seven," they replied.
6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so.
7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them.
8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
9 About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away,
10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

Here in this amazing story of God’s provision Jesus further illustrates His mode of action in all things – As we have been talking about Jesus was a man of action. He was also a man of compassion – and His compassion and love extended to all people.

This is not the first time that Jesus fed a multitude of people. In fact we looked at the first occurrence of this a few chapters ago in Mark 6, where Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and just two fish. The two stories are distinct on a couple of counts – (1.) The amount of people who were fed – in the first story there are 5,000 and in the second 4,000, (2.) in the first story they had five loaves and two fish and in this one they had seven loaves and it says a few fish, and (3.) in the first feeding of the multitudes there were twelve baskets of leftovers and in this account there are seven baskets full of leftovers (I am not drawing any relevance about these figures or their differences, but one thing distinct between this miracle of feeding thousands and the previous one that I want us to notice and that is most relevant to today’s message is that in the feeding of 5,000 which we looked at a few chapters ago Jesus was speaking to and performing this miracle of provision for a Jewish crowd of people in and around Capernaum (His people – the Jews), but now here in Chapter 8 Jesus performs this miracle of provision in a very different place. This time He is ministering to a Gentile crowd in and around the Decapolis, or ten cities near the sea of Galilee (a land where He is the alien - the foreigner – a land of Gentiles).

The people for whom He performed this miracle were Gentiles – Greek influenced cities with temples built to pagan gods, bathhouses, great amphitheaters of sport, etc. These cities were the opposite of Jewish culture and traditions. What stands out to me here and what I would like us to meditate on is the fact that Jesus ministers to and makes provision for all people, for both the Jew and the Gentile.

Let’s think about what this means in light of Jewish tradition. The Jews were always trying to separate themselves from the rest of the world – at first to protect themselves from being misled, but later out of piety and prejudice. God chose to reveal His love through a covenant with a nation that would be His. He told Abraham that He would make His descendant into a great nation. His grandson Jacob’s name was changed to Israel – this was the beginning of God’s chosen people. Of course through many troubling circumstances these people became the slaves of the Egyptians, but God sent Moses to rescue them equipped with plagues and proclamations from on high. God’s people wandered in the wilderness until the days of Joshua and his generation as they conquered the Promised Land, which God had given to them. The people wanted a king. God gave them Saul – He was replaced by David, a man after God’s own heart. Though God’s people no longer were in captivity they continued to allow themselves to become bound by poor judgment and sinful decisions – though they were no longer wandering in the desert they continued to wander in and out of God’s will and plan for them. Then of course Israel fell into exile again. Out of this promised nation Jesus was born and brought redemption to all of mankind. Israel is God’s chosen people, but He has demonstrated His love for us all through Israel.

Let’s back up a little. Let’s go back to Mark chapter 7 and look at a couple of passages that help us understand this idea more. It says that…

Mark 7:24-37 (NIV)
24 Jesus left that place (Gennesaret) and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.
25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet.
26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27 "First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
28 "Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
29 Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter."
30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

This story has always been a hard one for many Christians, because of the harsh inference that we assume as Jesus refers to this woman’s afflicted daughter as a dog. As we look at this passage we are limited because although the text has captured the words it has left us with no reference as to Jesus demeanor and facial expression.

“…what if there was a twinkle in his eye as he spoke, as much as to say, "You know what we Jews are supposed to think of you Gentiles; do you think it is right for you to come and ask for a share in the healing which I have come to impart to Jews?" The written record can preserve the spoken words; it cannot convey the tone of voice in which they were said. Maybe the tone of voice encouraged the woman to persevere.” —Hard Sayings of the Bible

What about this word “dog” though – The Greek word used here actually refers to a puppy – and even more a pet that the children play with – as opposed to a more abusive use of the word dog.

We still struggle with this passage because the use of the word seems offensive – and it is not like dogs had some estimable position in the ancient Roman world either. But before we judge the harshness of the text let’s remember that this Syrophoenician woman did not seem to be offended. In her wit she quickly responded to Jesus statement. In fact it appears that Jesus was trying to illicit a response from her. And in Matthew’s (15:28) account of this same story it says that Jesus attributed great faith to this woman for her perseverance and her truthful statement.

I think that the irony of the statement is that Jesus intentionally came to minister in a town full of “dogs”. I think that Jesus statement also ironically points out that those whom He had originally come for “the Children” – The Jews – had rejected Him and yet the dogs were clamoring for more of what He had to give – as represented by this woman and her tormented daughter. What is amazing is that the “dog’s” – the “pets” (I am one) have been adopted as His own children.

Let’s turn back to Mark chapter 8 after Jesus had performed the second feeding of a multitude. Notice in this passage how it contrasts Jesus encounters with the Jewish religious leaders versus the lowly Gentiles – represented by this Syrophoenician woman.

After Jesus had fed the 4,000 Gentiles, it says that…

Mark 8:10-13 (NIV)
10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.
12 He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it."
13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

This was the typical response of the religious leaders. They heard often of the great miracles and teachings of Jesus, but their hearts were hardened to Him. The Jews missed it, of course not all of them missed it, but the overwhelming majority of God’s chosen people missed His invitation. They didn’t receive their Messiah, but there was a great audience of Gentiles who Jesus gave His message of love too – He extended his message to us all.

Jesus told a story which illustrates this so well…

Luke 14:16-23 (NIV)
16 Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.
17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'
18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'
19 "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'
20 "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'
21 "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'
22 "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'
23 "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.

He has extended His invitation to us all – Male and Female, Jew and Gentile, etc.

We have all been adopted into His family – into His care.

My wife and I have been through the process of becoming Foster Parents and eventually adopting children. We wanted to adopt a child and give that child a home that he or she would never have. When this dream begin to take fruition in our lives originally we took in three children. Three little boys – one who was about to turn 3 years old, his 10 month old brother and another little boy from a different family who was just 2 weeks old. I recall times when I was holding the infant and feeding him with a bottle and I was praying over him and whispering to him in his ear – “Your daddy loves you.” And then I would whisper, “Jesus loves you.” I had this deep desire to father that little boy. He didn’t even look like me, but I loved Him as my own. Eventually that little boy became my legal son through adoption. God has adopted us in this way and He loves us as His own.

With that little guy I knew things about His life – hard things that he would one day have to face – that he knew nothing about. In this same way God our father has a big picture view of our lives. He knows us more intimately than we can even know ourselves. He knows not only what we are going though now but what we are going to face in the future.

Trust in that love – as He holds you in His arms, fondly looking in at you and whispering – “Your Daddy loves you.”

Galatians 3:28-29 (NIV)
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Colossians 3:11 (NIV)
11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Some people view our faith as one of exclusivity. They think that you have to be born into it, that you have to follow certain rules or religious regulations. They assume that somehow they are disqualified to be accepted by Jesus. Unfortunately at times the church has done a disservice to people and to the Kingdom of God because it has promoted some man-made doctrines which have choked people’s faith. But even if some churches or professed Christians have given off this air of elitism, Jesus has put His offering of grace and freedom on the Spiritual bottom-shelf for us all.

The gospel has the power for a transformed life and it is relevant trans-culturally – to all people.

Let’s embrace His goodness to us and let’s get the word out that there is room at the table.

Romans 1:16 (NLT)
16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—Jews first and also Gentiles.

By Carl Friedel


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