World English Bible translation
8:1In those days, when there was a very great multitude, and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to himself, and said to them, 8:2 "I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat. 8:3 If I send them away fasting to their home, they will faint on the way, for some of them have come a long way."
8:4His disciples answered him, "From where will one be able to fill these men with bread here in a desert place?"
8:5He asked them, "How many loaves do you have?"
They said, "Seven."
8:6He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves. Having given thanks, he broke them, and gave them to his disciples to serve, and they served the multitude. 8:7 They had a few small fish. Having blessed them, he said to serve these also. 8:8 They ate, and were filled. They took up seven baskets of broken pieces that were left over. 8:9 Those who had eaten were about four thousand. Then he sent them away.
Jesus had taken His disciples into the Gentile lands and stayed there for a time because He was constantly being followed by the multitude. When they returned to the Sea of Galilee, crowds of people once again surround them. They came to see the man who would heal people with just a word and who taught with authority. They also came because there was controversy surrounding this Jesus of Nazareth. It was widely spoken that the Pharisees and the scribes had dispute with His teachings. In this excited atmosphere, some even heard the young Rabbi speak the Words of God and a few came to believe in Him.
When the crowd had been with Him for three days, Jesus noticed that many of them had run out of food. Though the text does not tell us, they were most likely in a remote area. During this phase of His ministry, Jesus found it difficult to enter the towns of Galilee because of the commotion it would cause among the populace. When Jesus saw that the multitude that had been with Him for so many days was without food, He had compassion on them. It is not coincidence that the compassion of Jesus is sited here as a motivation for this event just as it was in the story of the feeding of the five thousand earlier. Here four thousand people are fed under slightly different circumstances. These are, however, two separate events.
Jesus is concerned that He could not send the multitude away because so many of them lacked for food. He knew that many of them had come a long way and would not have the food that it would take for them to get back to their homes. So Jesus asks the disciples to find out how many loaves of bread they had in their party. The disciples tell Him that they have seven loaves of bread.
Jesus has the disciples to get the people seated around Him on the ground. He takes the seven loaves of bread and gave thanks to God for them. Then Jesus began to pass out bread to His disciples. Someone brought a few small fish to Him and so Jesus began to give the disciples fish as well. As they began to serve the multitude that was around Him, the disciples were astonished that Jesus never ran out of food. More bread and more fish were available every time that they returned for more. In the end, not only were all four thousand people fed, but also there was plenty of bread and fish left over.
Once more, as with the earlier story of the five thousand, the gospel writer does not even give us a clue as to the method of how this miracle was accomplished. We do not know whether Jesus created whole loaves of bread from nothing or miraculously extended the seven loaves that were there in some unexplained way. The means that Jesus used to accomplish this are not given to us. We must accept this story by faith because there is not any other way in which to judge it. If you are the sort that demands empirical evidence for everything you believe, this story and others like it can be quite maddening.
But, for those who can believe what we are told in this passage, the feeding of the multitude is a beautiful symbol of the way in which God provides for His people. Jesus supplies the necessities of life from the depths of His compassion. Because of His love for us and His overwhelming grace, He feeds us the bread of His flesh. God is the great provider and Jesus is the conduit through which God works in this world.
Will you eat of the bread of Christ today? Will you allow Him to feed you what He knows that you need?
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