In this morning’s lesson, I see not just one but two miracles. The first miracle is the one we’re all familiar with. We’ve all heard and thought about the miracle of Christ providing enough food for 4000 people from a few loaves of bread and fish. So where is the second miracle in the Gospel this morning?
It’s what I call not the Feeding of the 4000 but the Feeding by the 12. While Jesus amazes us this morning again with the miracle accomplished by His hand, the Feeding of the 4000, isn’t it also amazing that Jesus uses the disciples as part of His miracle?
While not a miracle in the narrow sense, isn’t the divine glory and power of God in us made visible by the way God worked through the 12 disciples to feed the hungry?
The hidden miracle in the feeding of the 4000 is that God chooses to work through His people, the Church. Through us, He feeds a spiritually hungry world. The Miracle of the Feeding by the 12 is, therefore, an ongoing miracle, as God continues to feed a hungry world through His Church. This ongoing miracle is set before us this morning by 3 great truths: people are hungry; God has compassion on the hungry; God feeds the hungry through the Church.
We learn in Mark 8:1 that the multitude was very great and had nothing to eat. Try to imagine 4000 men – even more including men and women – all sitting, having come to hear Jesus. Gathered around Jesus and His disciples was a hungry city. They hadn’t eaten for three days and would faint if sent home.
This is a spiritual picture of the world. Around you is a city of spiritually hungry people. They haven’t been fed the Bread of Life which is Jesus Christ, the only way to life. God has put you in the middle of a spiritually hungry city where you live. They are all around you, and you will know them by their hollow eyes.
And God has compassion on the spiritually hungry around you. In verse 2 Jesus saw and knew that the great crowd has been with him for three days and that they would faint if sent away. He still sees the needs of those who are hungry. In verse 2, the Jesus who had Himself gone without food for 40 days had compassion on the hungry.
Jesus still has compassion on those who are hungry. God has not become less compassionate towards the needs of men since He sent His Son into the world but if anything more compassionate, having become one of us.
But it’s how Jesus feeds the hungry that is so remarkable in the feeding of the 4000. While Jesus could have provided for the needs of the 4000 in any number of ways, He chose to feed the hungry through His disciples. Unlike His other miracles which usually involve one person being healed, this miracle is a miracle of great proportion. To do it, Jesus recruited His disciples. This great miracle of the feeding of the 4000 is continued today, whenever the disciples of Jesus Christ feed the hungry. The second “miracle” from Mark 8, then, is that Jesus uses the Church to feed the hungry.
Now Jesus could have done this by Himself. We all know people who can do it all by themselves. When their kids are young, parents can do the necessary chores to keep up the house much better than their kids. And God could minister to men through direct divine intervention, if that were His will.
Although the text doesn’t spell things out, it’s probable that Jesus fed His disciples first. He gave them the food first so that they could give it to others. But since they were hungry as well, and were closest to Jesus, it only makes sense that He would have fed them first. God always feeds His disciples first, so that they can have the strength and life to feed others.Some of us have been on enough airplanes that we ignore the little speech that the flight attendant always gives at the beginning of each flight. (And some of us have flown enough to be able to give that speech!) But maybe you’ll remember my favorite part: the part where the flight attendant talks about the little oxygen mask that gently cascades from its hiding place above us. Do you remember that the flight attendant always makes a point of saying how the parent should administer the oxygen to himself first, and then to the child?
Now why is that? It’s so the parent has the strength and life to go and minister to her child. In the same way, God feeds His disciples first, so that they can feed a hungry and dying world.
But if we want to be in a position to feed the spiritually hungry, we must first be disciples ourselves – how can we show them the heavenly food, if we ourselves do not know where to find it? How will we have the strength to feed others, if we are hungry and weak ourselves? We must first eat of the spiritual food which is Jesus Christ, before we will have the strength and wisdom to feed others.
Then, after the disciples had eaten, they set the Bread of Life before the world.
There are people in your life today who need to be fed. Think of the people in your life. Do you see their needs? Are you compassionate about their needs? Are you willing to act in the name of Jesus Christ to do something about those needs? The lesson of the Gospel this morning is that if we send them away without feeding them, they will faint and perish.
This may seem like an overwhelming task: to go and feed the hungry among us. It was for the disciples who could not imagine how Jesus would feed so many hungry people. But Jesus fed the hungry with what the disciples had at hand. He didn’t wait for them to gather up enough food for 4000 men: He started with what they had. What you have – what we have – may be small. But God will multiply what He has given you and make it enough to feed those God has put in your life. For He blesses what He has given us, and makes it completely sufficient for what He asks us to do each day
Why has God allowed us a part in feeding a spiritually hungry world? Because we are the Body of Jesus Christ. We, as Christ’s Church, are the very presence of Jesus Christ in the cities where we live. Every time that someone from your church goes out and feeds the hungry in the name of Christ, it is Jesus Himself who is feeding the hungry.
Your city is a miracle waiting to happen. Every day we, as the Body of Christ, have opportunities to feed those around us who are hungry. The hungry are all around us, often closer than you think. And God has called you and called me to feed them.
Who will go and feed the hungry in the name of Jesus Christ today?
May the answer on each of our lips be: “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
Prayer: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the world, who has caused bread to come forth out of the earth. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Ruler of heaven and earth, who has caused the Bread of Heaven to come into our lives. Give us this day our daily bread that we might eat and grow strong and in Your Name may go and feed those who are hungry. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
- Thank God for feeding you with the heavenly food of His Son.
- How well have you been using the strength God gives you to go and feed those who are spiritually hungry?
Resolution: I resolve to find one way I can feed someone Jesus Christ today. If I am still very hungry and weak myself, I resolve to find one way to truly feed off Jesus Christ today.
Bread of Heaven painting by Paul Erlandson – in personal collection of Fr. Charles Erlandson