Mark 8:1-9

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

July 26, 2012)


This is the second time in our journey through Mark that we see Jesus miraculously feeding a great multitude.  When we looked at a similar event in Mark 6:33-44, we saw that one reason the early Christians may have placed so much emphasis on these incidents of miraculous feeding is that there was an expectation among Jewish people that when the Messiah appeared he would provide food for the multitudes in much the same way Moses provided food for the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings.  Jesus’ feeding the multitude was one clear sign that He was the long awaited promised Messiah.  So, from that perspective, it is not surprising that we come across another account of a miraculous feeding.  While the two accounts of Jesus feeding the multitudes in Mark’s Gospel have some similarities, there are also some significant differences:


Mark 6:32–44




Mark 8:1–9


5,000+ people, mostly Jews




4,000+ people, mostly Gentiles


With Jesus one day (6:35)




With Jesus three days (8:2


Took place in Galilee




Took place near the Decapolis


Five loaves, two fish




Seven loaves, a few fish


Twelve baskets left over




Seven baskets left over


      (small lunch baskets)




      (large hampers)[1]



The following notes are from Bob Utley’s excellent study guide:  The Gospel According to Peter:  Mark and I & II Peter:

8:1 “In those days” This account occurred in the mostly Gentile Decapolis area (cf. 7:31).

“there was again a large crowd” This characterized Jesus’ ministry during this period.

8:2 “I feel compassion for the people” This term “compassion” comes from the Greek term for inward lower organs of the body. In the OT the Jews assigned the seat of the emotions to the lower viscera.

Jesus loves people (cf. 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22; Matt. 9:36; 14:41; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Luke 7:13; 10:33). These people had been rejected by rabbis all their lives. They swarmed to Jesus’ care.

“they have remained with Me now three days” This was an extended teaching time. The Jews counted days from evening twilight to evening twilight. Any part of a day was counted; therefore, this does not necessarily refer to three full, 24 hour days. They could not pull themselves away even to buy more food. They had now eaten all they had brought.

8:3 “if” This is a THIRD CLASS CONDITIONAL sentence, which speaks of potential action. Jesus is not asserting that they are all on the point of physical collapse, but some are sick and weak and might faint.

“they will faint on the way” This fainting would be caused by lack of food. See Jdgs. 8:15 and Lam. 2:19 in the Septuagint. They had used all the food they brought and had been fasting.

“some of them have come from a great distance” This shows how Jesus’ fame as a miracle worker had spread. Desperate people go anywhere, try anything for help!

8:4 “ ‘Where will anyone be able to find enough bread’ ” Even if they had the money there was still no place to purchase food. Jesus was testing the disciples’ faith in His provision! They failed again (cf. 6:34–44).

8:6 “sit down” This refers to a reclining position, which implied get ready for food.

8:6–8 “bread … fish” This was the normal daily diet of the people of Palestine. This is so similar to 6:34–44.

“gave thanks” This prayer of blessing over food acknowledges God’s daily care and provision (cf. Matt. 6:11). Jews always prayed before eating.

“broke … served” This is an AORIST followed by an IMPERFECT TENSE. The miracle of multiplication occurred when Jesus broke the bread (cf. 6:41).

8:8 “seven large baskets full of what was left over” This is a different word for basket from 6:43. These baskets were very large (cf. Acts 9:25). These remaining pieces were collected for later use. However, from v. 14 we learn the disciples forgot and left them.

8:9 “About four thousand” Matthew15:83 adds “men,” which means the crowd was larger. There were probably not a large number of women and children in this isolated area, but there were surely some.

8:10 “immediately” See note at 1:10.

“the district of Dalmanutha” There are several variants in this phrase. The problem is that no place by this name was known in the Palestine of Jesus’ day. Therefore, scribes changed the place name to match Matthew’s “Magadan” (NKJV “Magdala”).[2]


What is it that we are to learn from this event?  While there are obviously many ways to answer that question, I want us to focus on what this event reveals to us about the nature of God. It iss one thing to know about God on the intellectual level, but it's quite another thing to experience God on the emotional level.  It is not enough for us just to say God exists.  That's a conclusion we can reach intellectually but by itself it is not really very satisfying to us.  There is something in us which demands more.  We must know God.  We must have a personal understanding of Him and relationship with Him.


It is this second level of knowing on which the Bible focuses...the Bible does not really make a case for God's assumes that God is...that's the great underlying premise of all of Scripture...can be seen in the very first statement in the Bible... "In the beginning God..."...if you happened to be an atheist, the Bible is not really for you...that's because it begins at a place the atheist has not yet reached...


Instead of focusing on the question "Does God exist?" the Bible focusses on questions such as "What is God like?  What difference should God make in my life?  What does God expect from me?"... throughout the Scripture we see God revealing Himself, making Himself known to the world...first through the patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph...then through Moses and the Law...then through some of the great kings of Israel such as David and Solomon...then through the prophets...and finally, God revealed Himself ultimately and completely in Jesus...


As Paul put it in Colossians, " Christ there is all of God in a human body..." or as John so beautifully said it, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..."...therefore, whenever we look at anything Jesus said or did in the Bible, there is always something to learn from that word or deed about God...for that is why He came to our world--to show us what God is like and to provide us a way to live in personal relationship with God...


This account of Jesus feeding the multitude in Mark 8 reveals to us some significant truths about God.


I.  God does not play favorites

1.   One of the primary differences between the miracle of feeding the 5000 in Mark 6 and the miracle of feeding the 4000 in Mark 8 is the location in which the events occurred...the first miraculous feeding took place near Bethsaida, somewhere near the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee...but this miracle took place in the region of Decapolis, an area south of the Sea of Galilee which was made up of 10 Roman cities...and significant thing about that is Bethsaida is primarily a Jewish area...the 5000 fed in Mark 6 were Jewish people...but Decapolis was primarily a Gentile area...the 4000 fed in Mark 8 were primarily Gentiles, non-Jewish people...

2.   That Jesus would care enough about Jewish people to provide them food would not seem strange to the disciples...after all, at that point it time they held the popular misconception that when the Messiah came, he would come only for Jewish people...but that Jesus would care enough about Gentiles to do the same kind of miracle for them was an eye opener...these were people they had been taught to refer to as "dogs" but Jesus went out of His way to provide them both spiritual food for their souls and physical food for their bodies...

3.   And in doing so Jesus was revealing that with God there are no favorites...once we grasp that, the implications are mind boggling...understanding that God does not play favorites, will revolutionize how we relate to other means we have no right to degrade any manipulate or use people for our selfish play one person against demean those who may differ in some way from us....


II.  God wants us to share our needs with Him

1.   The conversation between Jesus and disciples in vv.2-5 very vv.2-3 Jesus stated His concern about the hungry multitude...the hunger of the people had not slipped the disciples' attention and it appears from text they were just waiting for Jesus to bring it up...they remembered the previous miraculous feeding, and they were ready for another...

2.   In v.4 they didn't come right out and ask Jesus to feed the crowd... perhaps they felt that would be presumptuous...but they did ask an obviously leading question..."Where would anyone be able to find enough to satisfy these men with bread here in a desolate place?"...kind like when Carol looks at me and says, "I wonder who I can get to take out the trash?"...not really a's a statement and I know the appropriate response...and that's how Jesus took the disciples' question in v.4...

3.   Now notice what happened next...Jesus asked in v.5, "How many loaves do you have?"...same question He asked them in chapter 6 when fed the 5000...but there's an important difference in the disciples' response...before when He asked the question Mark tells us they had to go find out...but this time they already knew...they immediately answered "seven"..

4.   What want you see in all that is disciples were prepared...they knew would have opportunity of sharing their need with Jesus..


1.   That's how God is toward us...He wants us turn to Him in time of need...desires for us to seek help from Him...

--Psalmist said it well in Psalm 46:1 - "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble..."

--Jesus put it this way..."Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." [Matt.11:28]

--Peter put it this way in I Peter 1:7 - "Cast all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you."

2.   And when we take our needs to God, we find a God who is willing to help...not like man read about this week whose wife became ill in middle of a stormy night...called family physician and said, "Doc, you must come to my house right now.  My wife is sick!" said, "I'll be glad to come, but my car is in the shop so you will need to come pick me up." listened to wind howl and rain come down man said, "You mean, you want me to come out on a night like this?" [The Issachar Factor, p.34]

3.   Most of us are more like that man than care to about helping people, but when comes right down to it don't want go out of our way do anything for anybody...and because we're that way, we tend assume God is that way...but this story reveals God desires share needs with Him and He is ever willing to help...


III. God's provisions are always adequate

1.      There are two significant things about God's provision for our needs in this story which we must not miss...

·         First, look at what is said in v.6...tells us Jesus took the loaves of bread and "...gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve them, and they served them to the multitude."...that is, Jesus didn't just miraculous produce a huge pile of bread all at once...the disciples started serving with the little they had and has they had need for more, the Lord provided it...had I been among the disciples that day, I'd probably been worrying about what we were going to do when we ran out of bread...I'd wanted to see a big pile and divide it up so as to be sure it would meet the need...but more often than not, that is not how God provides... instead, He tells us to step out in faith, using what we have, and trust Him to provide more...and that principle can be seen time and time again in the Scripture...

·         Second thing that is interesting about God’s provision is what was left over...Mark tells us in v.8 that they picked up "seven large baskets full"...if compare to the 12 baskets full collected after the Jewish people were fed in ch.6, might conclude God provided more for the Jews than the Gentiles... but that's not the we saw earlier, tshe word for basket in ch.6 means small wicker lunch basket...but the word for basket in this story is means large hamper, big enough to hold a commentator says the 12 baskets left over after feeding the Jews represents God's full provision for the 12 tribes of Israel ...and the 7 baskets (seven being the biblical number of fullness and completion) left over after feeding the Gentiles represents God full provision for the whole world...

5.   Point is that God's provision for our every need --spiritual, physical, and emotional-- is adequate...


1.      Samuel Shoemaker, who served as a pastor many years in New York City and Pittsburgh and was the spiritual father of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote the following little poem after taking a walk with his first grandchild:

He takes my hand, my little boy and feels as safe as safe can be;

Talking as we walk along, I with him, and he with me.

I take my Father's hand in faith, Though where He leads, I may not see;

My hand is given into His.  I trust Him as my child trusts me.

2.   The feeding of the 4000 in Mark 8 reminds us that with confidence and child-like trust we can give our hand to God because He is a God--

--Who does not play favorites...He loves us all...

--Who desires that we bring our needs to Him...

--Who responds to our need with adequate provision...


[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (121–122). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (90–91). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.