PassageThe last passage was interesting (to me) not because of what Jesus did, but because of how he did it. This passage is interesting to me not because of what happens (though it is a true miracle), but because of what came before. How can we not read this passage without thinking about 6:30–44 in which Jesus fed the 5,000? With that event in mind it’s completely shocking when…
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Similar to the previous miraculous healing, this episode begins with Jesus teaching a large crowd in a remote place, and him then having compassion on them because they have nothing to eat. It might even be worse this time because Jesus mentions that the crowd has been with him for three days; he tells his disciples that he’s afraid to send them home for fear that they might faint with hunger on the way. In the previous feeding Jesus had told his disciples to feed the crowd, but in this instance he doesn’t even get that far: they preempt his question before he can even ask it, and ask him how they can possibly feed this crowd.
Similar to the previous passage, Jesus asks them how much bread they have, has the crowd sit, and divides the bread amongst the people. Similarly, there are also some fish, which he also divides among them. At the end they end up with seven baskets of leftovers.
Jesus then sends the crowd away, and moves on to his next destination.
ThoughtsThe parallels between this passage and the previous one are startling; if both stories weren’t in the same book—for example if Matthew had written about the feeding of the 5,000 and Mark had written about the feeding of the 4,000—I would have thought that it was the same incident with a simple disagreement about the size of the crowd. The two events are almost exactly the same, so that’s why I’m so flabbergasted when the disciples seem to have the same reaction they had the first time: “How are we supposed to feed all of these people?!?” When they had that reaction the first time I can understand it; whenever Jesus did anything new that they hadn’t seen before I can understand them being shocked. But in this case they’re in exactly the same situation they were the first time, so why would they be shocked that Jesus is going to do this?
Well… almost the same situation. In this case, just to make the irony even deeper, the crowd is smaller and they start off with more food than they’d had the last time.
The only thing I can think of is that when they ask Jesus, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (verse 4 (ESV)), maybe it was an honest question. Meaning that they weren’t being disbelieving, they were honestly asking Jesus, “how do you want to go about this?” It doesn’t sound that way, the way it’s worded, but it’s possible.
And to nail the point home, before I start feeling superior to the disciples, how many times do we all do this? Get into a situation we’ve been in numerous times before, and then start to wonder how God could possibly get us out of it? Sometimes it seems silly or strange when someone else does it, but not when we ourselves do it.