12 February 2011

Mark 8:1-10

"They ate and were filled." (v. 8)


This is the second great feeding miracle story. It has so many similarities with the earlier feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:34-44) that many have suggested that Mark felt the episode to be so important that he uses two versions of the same event to emphasis the point.

The two stories could symbolise the giving of the bread of life to both Jews and Gentiles(non Jews). We saw earlier this week how Mark's geographical knowledge appeared a little shaky, and although there is no record of a place called Dalmanutha (verse 10), it is possible that the first feeding took place on Jewish territory whilst this one was set in a Gentile area. This would then sit well alongside the recent description of Jesus' ministry to both Jews and Gentiles in chapter 7. However there is no clear evidence that this was Mark's intention as he makes no specific reference to this taking place in a Gentile area or that the crowd consisted of anyone other than Jews who may have travelled the great distance from Galilee.

We should also take care not to read too much in to the symbolism of the numbers in the story. Various attempts have been made to give significance to the seven loaves and seven baskets but they are unlikely to be what Mark had in mind.

What is clear however is the abundance that comes from a few simple loaves and fishes. There is more than enough to feed many, many more than the 4,000 people present. Mark is clear; God's grace and goodness cannot be limited for they are freely given to all. No one will be turned away and no one need return home empty handed or unfilled. It is a story worth telling not just once, not even twice but repeatedly for it is at the heart of the gospel message.

To Ponder

Take some time to consider the empty areas in your own life. Will you open yourself to allow God to fill them?

"Christ for All" has been the theme this week. How does knowledge of this fact affect the way you live your life?


Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.