Sermon Summary and Discussion Questions | "Why Did He Do It Again?"
1. The Introduction: Background (8:1)
2. The Dilemma (8:2-4)
3. The Provision: Miracle (8:5-7)
4. The Conclusion (8:8-9)
The Introduction: Background (8:1)
Jesus’ ministry in the Gentile territory of Decapolis continues (cf. 7:31-37). Mark describes a “great crowd” that is gathered—presumably including the people who witnessed the healing of the deaf man (7:33), which has now grown to a crowd of four thousand (8:9). The last instance Mark used the phrase “a great crowd” was in 6:34, where he tells the miracle of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. Both feeding miracles (6:35-44 and 8:1-9) have striking resemblances. For example, both incidents take place in the wilderness (6:35; 8:4), Jesus inquires “how many loaves do you have?” (6:38; 8:5), the meals are initiated in the same way (6:41; 8:6), in both miracles it states that the people “ate and were filled” (6:42; 8:8), leftovers of the food are gathered afterwards (6:43; 8:8), which is then followed by a dismissal of the crowd and departure by boat (6:45; 8:9f). However, there is a significant difference between the two accounts. The previous feeding miracle was for a Jewish crowd, whereas it is here recapitulated to a predominantly a Gentile group, and is the third miracle Jesus performs during his itinerate ministry to the Gentiles.
The Dilemma (8:2-4)
Similar to the previous feeding miracle, Jesus’ compassion for the crowd is stated again (6:34; 8:2). Jesus has compassion on the crowd because they have nothing to eat and would not be able to sustain their journey home. The disciples respond by asking, “how can one feed these people in this desolate place?” (8:4). At this point in the story, the reader may be initially shocked at the disciples’ inquisition. Have they already forgotten the feeding miracle of the five thousand that just took place in chapter 6? There is, however, reason to conclude that the response given here has a different tone. In chapter 6 their response was filled with skepticism and sarcasm. But here the disciples respond by acknowledging their limitations and appeal to Jesus.
Miracle (8:5-7) The disciples tell Jesus they have seven loaves (8:5). He breaks the bread and sets them before the people. The breaking of bread and giving thanks perhaps alludes to the Last Supper (14:25). Also, a few fish were found, which he blesses and serves as well (8:6-7). The dilemma of the people is now addressed by Jesus’ provisional miracle. From a mere seven loaves and a few fish there is a miraculous multiplication of food for the people. Moreover, through this miracle Jesus involves the disciples, training them in the work of ministry.
The Conclusion (8:8-9)
Jesus’ provision was abundant. All the people ate and were satisfied (8:8). The mass feeding of the Gentile crowd shows the culmination of the Syrophoenician woman’s appeal for the smallest portion of food crumbs (cf. 7:28). The inbreaking of God’s kingdom does not merely distribute crumbs to the Gentiles, but an abundance of loaves! This provision of bread for people in the wilderness alludes to how God provided manna for Israel in their wilderness wanderings. In this narrative, therefore, Mark is artistically showing that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, who provides for his people that now consists of both Jews and Gentiles as partakers in the kingdom of God.
The feeding miracle in Mark 8:1-9 closely resembles the feeding miracle in 6:35-44. What are some similarities between the two events? How are the two events different? How are these similarities and differences important?
How does this story reveal Jesus’ unique identity as the Son of God? How does this relate with the entire narrative of Mark’s Gospel?
In this story, Jesus declares and displays his compassion for the people. How does this story reveal his compassion? How does this encourage you in the midst of your circumstances?
As Jesus shows his love for the nations in this narrative, we see that there is no one outside of God's reach. How does this challenge you in your evangelism this week?
[by Andrew Preston]