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. 3 If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” 4 His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” 5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 Then 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. 7 They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. 8 They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
Patterns and metaphors from the previous feeding story should be carried into this moment. Notes on the feeding of the five thousand can be read here.
Feeding of the Four Thousand
Jesus is once again in the face of a hungry crowd. This time in gentile territory. Jesus is moved with compassion (he has a “gut-wrenching” moment) and leans into the need of the crowd. He dismisses fasting as an option for these people - “Among the masses, where hunger is a concrete reality, Jesus again rejects the piety of fasting in favor of the practice of meeting real human needs (Myers, 209).”
Mark reintroduces the theme of discipleship in this moment - “If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way…” Coupled with the physical need of hunger is the discipleship metaphor of “the way.” This gentile crowd has joined the moment of the kingdom of God. They have invested their lives in the following of Jesus.
Those who follow Jesus need sustenance along the journey of discipleship. This comes in the form of physical and spiritual food. Jesus recognizes the humanity of the crowd and moves to feed them in this moment. As modern-day disciples, we are feed in other ways “along the way.” We gather in fellowship with one another. We are drawn to the waters and promise of God in baptism. We gather at the table to be feed with bread and wine, signs of the kingdom and victory feast of God.
Jesus moves to feed the crowd in the same manner we encountered back in chapter 6. He turns to the disciples, we are again confused and quickly despair at their perceived lack of resources, or ability access the marketplace. Jesus gathers what resources are at hand, asks the crowd to sit (organizes into manageable groups, gives thanks for the bread, blesses, breaks, and passes out the loaves. He does the same with the fish.
After the meal is complete, and everyone has had their fill, the leftovers are gathered. “In this feeding, as in the first, a superabundance results, and the remaining food is gathered up. For the second time Mark has presented the apex of his symbolic world- construction with a vision of the economic satisfaction of the masses and ideology of sharing (Myers, 210).”
The kingdom of God is witnessed and experienced in the sharing of resources and building of relationships. The spirit of kingdom economics is sharing so that all have enough. This is witnessed in the feeding narratives in Mark and it is a rhythm that is woven into our own following of Jesus.
Questions for Modern-Day Disciples
- How do we share resources those outside of our usual social groups?
- What sustenance do we need for the journey of discipleship?
- How are you fed “along the way?”