These are my notes from a sermon series. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
If you are visiting for the first time either in person or online it is great to have you. I’m Jeff, one of the pastors here. As a church, we are working our way through the Gospel of Mark. We are learning what it means to follow Jesus. Over the past year or so we have learned some things about Jesus and what following Jesus looks like and not looks like.
One of the lessons that Jesus wants you to get as one of His followers is that He really cares for you and you can trust Him. Over and over again throughout the Bible God is telling us how much He loves us and cares for us. He shows us this over and over again in many ways. But here is the problem, many Christians struggle with believing if God cares for them. You may find it easier to believe that God cares for someone else, but you? You know yourself. You know what sin you struggle with. You know how selfish you are. You know about your own personal rebellion and doubts toward God. Because we struggle with believing God really does care about us, He has to tell us and show us over and over again how much He cares. The great thing about God is, He doesn’t get tired of expressing His love toward you every day and in many ways.
With that said, let’s take a good look at Mark 8:1-10 where we see another expression of God’s compassion and care: About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, 2 “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.” 4 His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?” 5 Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?” “Seven loaves,” they replied.6 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. 7 A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.8 They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. 9 There were about 4,000 men in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. 10 Immediately after this, he got into a boat with his disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha (NLT).[i]
If you have been attending Genesis or listening online for a while this event may sound very similar. Jesus did this exact miracle back in Mark 6 a few weeks earlier in his ministry. The first time Jesus did this miracle it was primarily for the Jewish community, the people of Israel. This time it is focused on a Gentile community. By doing this, Jesus was making the point that God’s compassion and love was for everyone, Jew and Gentile.
From this miracle we see three aspects about Jesus and compassion.
Number one, compassion hurts. True compassion goes deep within us. Compassion moves us and sometimes upsets us in a good way.
- Mark tells us in verse 1 that “about this time another large crowd had gathered.” Jesus is still in the Sidon area (Mark 7:31), which is predominantly Gentile territory. That means the majority of the people in that area were raised in a culture of many gods. In their cities and towns you would find various temples to this god and that goddess. In their homes you would find little statues of gods and goddesses that they worshipped and prayed to and made sacrifices to. This was a very pagan area. It’s in this area that a “large crowd had gathered.” Throughout this area Jesus had been healing many people and in Mark 7, Mark highlighted Jesus casting out an evil spirit from a woman’s daughter and restoring the hearing of a deaf man and his speech.
- Just like the crowd back in Mark 6, Mark tells us that this crowd “ran out of food” as well. So “Jesus called his disciples” to Himself. Every time we are told that Jesus called His disciples to himself He is about to do something significant and it usually involves their participation. When Jesus calls His disciples to Him, He is going to involve them and teach them something significant. This is a basic principle in God’s Word, this calling and sending. When He calls you, He will involve you.
- After calling the disciples to Himself, Jesus says, “I feel sorry for these people.” Some translations word it as, “I feel compassion for the people” (NASB). This is the only time where Jesus himself says, “I feel sorry” or “I have compassion.” In all the other cases where the Lord’s compassion is mentioned the Bible only states the He felt compassion for the people. But in this case, how He feels toward these people comes from His own lips.
- The phrase “I feel sorry” or “I have compassion” (splagidzomai) refers to a compassion that hurts. It literally means to see someone suffering and feel a physical response to their pain in your stomach. Your empathy and compassion is so strong for them that you are sick at your stomach. This is a physical and emotional reaction to someone else’s pain and suffering. Compassion hurts. Compassion is not comfortable.
- The truth is some people see others suffering and could care less. We saw this earlier with the Lord’s disciples and how they treated the mother of the demon possessed little girl. The mother comes to Jesus begging for help and the disciples told Jesus, “Tell her to go away, she is bothering us with all her begging” (Matthew 15:23; Mark 7:24-30). They had no compassion for her.
- The good news is that even though some people may not have compassion toward others or towards you, God always is compassionate. It is one of His attributes. Great compassion is always felt by God toward us when we experience suffering or pain. Jesus knows about our pain. Jesus has great compassion toward us. Satan has no compassion for you when you are suffering. Demons have no compassion for people that are in pain. However, God has compassion for us. We see an example of this in Jesus. God feels our pain. Let me show you this. Psalm 86:15, “But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness” (NLT). Isaiah 49:13, “Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering” (NLT).
- Remember, this crowd is filled with people who worship other Gods. They came for the show, but many of them will stay for what He teaches and decide to follow Him. If Jesus had compassion on that crowd, maybe he could have compassion on this Maybe our past doesn’t define us but Jesus’ compassion does. Maybe his compassion is for all kinds of people with all kinds of sin and all kinds of suffering because his love is too great to be limited to what we deserve.
- Jesus goes on to say, “They have been here with me for three days….” This means more than just attendance. Some translations say the people “remained with” Jesus for three days (NASB). They were closely listening to Jesus. So these people didn’t do anything to draw out Jesus’ compassion. The only reason they received it is because they stayed with him. Isn’t that amazing? They didn’t give him anything. They didn’t perform for him. All they did was remain with him and listen to him. They were simply with him when He decided to show compassion. Listen carefully to what I’m about to say, I believe sometimes we miss experiencing the compassion and power of God because we have walked away from God. To experience who God is, you are going to have to be with Him.
- Jesus goes on to say, “They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat” (NLT). I got to thinking about this. Why didn’t the people pack more food? They probably weren’t planning on staying three days. To them, they thought they would go for the day or evening and see Jesus do some miracles and listen to what He has to say and then go home. My next question is, when they ran out of the food they packed why didn’t they just leave and go home? I think they were so caught up in the preaching of Jesus and the power display of Jesus they didn’t want to leave. I think they were so spiritually hungry they would rather stay with Jesus and miss a meal rather than leave Jesus and miss a miracle. They were getting something from Jesus they could not get anywhere else. It appears these people made a choice to stay three days without food because the spiritual food they were getting from Jesus was more important than the physical food they were lacking. They discovered they were hungry for Jesus and they wanted more of Him.
- Jesus says, “and they have nothing left to eat.” You ever feel like that sometimes. You “have nothing left.” You have used up all that you have in following Jesus. You are tired. Burned out. Exhausted. You have “nothing left.” The reason you have nothing left is not because you wasted it, but because you were following Jesus. You were with Him. You were listening to Him. You were learning from Him. You were hanging out with Jesus. It’s okay to “have nothing left” when following Jesus, because that’s when Jesus is able to display His compassion for you and resupply your life in a miraculous way. When you are following Jesus and you feel like you have “nothing left” just hang on and wait, Jesus is about to show compassion and do something in your life. He cares about you.
- Jesus made a very practical statement in verse 3, “If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.” The omniscient and wise Jesus knows the depth of your hunger. He sees and knows about your suffering. He cares about it and about you. He is not going to send you home empty. He is going to fill you and equip you to do what He would have you to do. Some of you have a “long distance” to go. You have a lot of living left. Jesus have followed Jesus this far, you are learning and wanting more, you have sacrificed for Him and His kingdom and He will not send you “home hungry.”
Not only does compassion hurt, but compassion helps. Compassion cannot sit by and do nothing. Compassion always produces action.
- So the Lord’s disciples replied in verse 4, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?” The disciples were stating the obvious. There are no options out here. Subway and Pizza Hut didn’t deliver this far out. To me there seems to be a problem with the disciples’ question. Just a couple of months earlier Jesus did a miracle very similar where 5,000 men and their families were fed with some bread and fish (Mark 6:30-44). Why didn’t they simply ask Jesus to put the chef hat on and do a similar miracle here like He had done before? There are three possible answers to that question and some lessons we might be able to learn from them.
- The first possibility is the disciples’ question is a rhetorical question. They knew the answer, they were simply passing Jesus the ball. The question becomes more a statement about Jesus providing and not the disciples. This view says they have learned their lesson.
- Another possibility is the disciples’ question is a revealing question. They knew He could do it for the Jewish community (Mark 6), but didn’t believe Jesus would do it for the pagan Gentile community. The disciples were still racist in many ways. They weren’t seeing these pagan Gentiles as worthy of the same kind of miracle Jesus did for the Israelites a couple of months earlier. Their faith and understanding still needed to be developed. What Jesus was telling His disciples were, “What I did for the Jews, I’m going to do for the Gentiles. My compassion and love and provision is for everyone.”
- Another possibility is the disciples’ question is a forgetful question. The disciples are not connecting His previous display of power to this situation. Don’t you want to say, “Come on guys! This is very similar to what happened a couple of months ago. Ask Jesus to create food for everyone. Ask Him to do a miracle like the one before.” Is it possible that we are like the disciples? Jesus answered a prayer for us a few months ago, provided for us time and time again throughout our lives, and has taken care of us and got us through many valleys. Then we flip the page of our life and we find ourselves in another crisis with another need and we try to fix it ourselves and never ask God to do anything about it. “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed [20,000] people out here in the wilderness?” How am I supposed to find enough money to pay this medical bill, to pay this rent, or to provide for my children? How about asking Jesus for help and see what He says. I think one of the biggest weaknesses that followers of Jesus struggle with is the weakness of forgetfulness. We forget who God is and what He has done. Now listen to me for just a second. If you have been raised in church or around church you are at least familiar with the Ten Commandments: Don’t have any other gods besides God, don’t use God’s name in vain, honor your father and mother, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal and the like. You may have tried to memorize the Ten Commandments at one time or seen them hanging in someone’s house. Now listen carefully, the Ten Commandments does not begin with a command, but a reminder. The Ten Commandments begin with God saying, “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery” (Exodus 20:2, NLT).[ii] Before God commands, He reminds. If we have any hope to obey him at all and to follow Him well, we must remember who He is and what He has done. When we forget who He is and what He has done, we will not follow Him accurately. We will not ask Him. We will not obey Him. We will try to fix it ourselves. It’s possible the disciples were still thinking about what they could do in their own strength, when Jesus was giving them another opportunity to display their faith in Him.
- Within their question, the disciples referred to their location as “in the wilderness.” Some translations describe it as a “desolate place” (NASB). Maybe you feel like you are in a desolate place. You feel like you have “nothing left.” You’ve been following Jesus. You’ve been growing. You’ve be learning. You’ve been serving. He’s done some great things in your life already, but you find your life in a “wilderness.” If you have been following Jesus, then you are exactly where you need to be and this is exactly the place and time in your life for Him to do something incredible. Be patient. Be in prayer and wait. Jesus has compassion. Help is on the way. Sometimes the best place to be is “in the wilderness” or a “desolate place” because that’s where Jesus can do something significant in your life.
- I like what Jesus did here. Notice in verse 5 that Jesus asked His disciples, “How much bread do you have?” Jesus knew they didn’t have enough to feed this large crowd of people, but He said, “Let’s start to feed them by you giving up your lunch. I want you to give up your food to meet their need.” In the feeding of the 5000 a couple of chapters earlier it was a little boy who gave up his lunch and Jesus took his lunch and multiplied to meet everyone’s needs. This time, Jesus wanted the disciples to give up their own lunches. They needed to trust Jesus to multiply their lunches and make them more than enough to meet everyone else’s needs.
- From the disciples’ perspective, they didn’t have much. They only had “seven loaves” of bread. These loaves of bread were not like our loaves today. One loaf of bread was like a pancake or a piece of flat bread. It wouldn’t have made a dent in the need of this crowd. Yet, Jesus called the disciples to give up what they had even though it wasn’t’ even close to meeting the tremendous need of the people. Yet, Jesus was about to take their bread and fish and meet the need of many people.
- In addition to the bread a “few small fish were found.” These fish that people carried to eat were more like dried sardines. Don’t think large fish, think more like “fish nuggets.”
- Jesus calls us to have compassion toward others and offer what little we have to meet their needs. We offer it and Jesus multiplies it. You don’t need a lot to make a big difference when Jesus is using what you have. You may think that your little bit want make that much of a difference, but that’s not true in the hands of Jesus. Your job is to give what you have to bless others. The Lord’s job is to multiply it to meet the need. You give it and Jesus multiplies it.
- Mark goes on to say that Jesus “gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd.” Regardless of why the disciples didn’t ask, Jesus still used them. He didn’t give up on the disciples. He brought them in and allowed them to be a part of the process and miracle. God is not going to give up on you. You are still learning. You are still growing. Don’t give up. He is going to use you.
- Before we move on, when you think about “bread” and “fish” for that area, those are so normal. Bread and fish, that’s like peanut butter and jelly. It’s so normal. Jesus uses normal things like bread and fish and you and me to work miracles in this world. Jesus is able to take normal things and turn them into great blessings. You may feel very normal, but God can bless others with you. Your life may appear very normal and average, but God can use your life to encourage and inspire others. “God, all I’ve got is this bread and fish of a life, but I give it to You. You bless it and use it however you want.”
Compassion hurts. Compassion helps. But compassion also satisfies. There is something about compassion that brings relief, hope, and comfort. As a result of the Lord’s compassion which moved Him to perform this miracle Mark tells us in verse 8, “They ate as much as they wanted.”[iii] Some translation say they were “satisfied” (NASB). They were stuffed. They ate all they wanted. Last week we learned that Jesus does all things wonderfully (Mark 7:37). I am sure this was the best tasting bread and fish the people had ever eaten.
- Mark goes on to say in verse 8, “Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food.” Here is where we encounter another difference between the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000. In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus took a little boy’s Happy Meal and multiplied it to feed nearly 20,000. At the end, there was only a few leftovers. The Bible says Jesus’ disciples picked up 12 baskets of leftovers. The Greek word for “baskets” was kophinos. A kophinos was a small basket, a day pack. Similar to a large fanny pack or a small back pack. As a result, the 12 disciples had enough for a meal or two for the next day. In the case of feeding the 4,000, the word for “basket” is different. It is the Greek word spuridas. A spuridas was a large basket. A spuridas was used in Acts 9:25 to describe the kind of basket Paul was put in when they let him down the side of the wall in Damascus. This basket was so big you could put a person inside it. Interestingly, the disciples began with seven small loaves of bread that weren’t enough for all of them to have their own lunch. Jesus took what little they could give, and he multiplied it to feed a massive crowd. At the end, he gave them seven large baskets full of bread and fish. Why did he give them so much extra food? Was it so they could hoard it? No. It was so they could have compassion on others and give it away to people in need, just like Jesus.
- These miracles that Jesus does always meets a physical need but they also point to a greater truth. In Christ, you are eternally satisfied, abundantly satisfied, and mightily satisfied. You are eternally saved, abundantly saved, and mightily saved. When Jesus provides and saves, He gives more than we were expecting.
- When we come to Jesus for forgiveness, we expect a cleaning of the slate. But Jesus does more than that! He gives us His slate, full of his perfect righteousness.
- When we come to Him for peace, we expect a relief from anxiety, but Jesus does more than that! He gives a peace that passes all understanding and guards our heart and minds in Him.
- When we come to Him for spiritual strength, we expect a mild pick me up. But Jesus does more than that! He gives far more abundantly that all we ask or think. Whatever you need from Christ, He over-provides. He totally and fully satisfies.
Even though we get a good look at the compassion of Jesus in this event, it points to a great miracle that feeding 4000 families. The deepest meaning of this miracle is that through His death on the cross, Jesus became the bread of life given for us. After feeding the 5000 back in Mark 6, John connects that miracle with Jesus being the bread of life. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35, NLT).
[i] The miraculous feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6 and the feeding of the 4,000 in Mark 8 with bread is not new in the Bible. In the Old Testament when God brought Israel out of Egypt He provided manna from heaven every day. About 600 years after this a man brought twenty loaves of bread to the prophet Elisha. Elisha commanded him to give it to the hundred men before him to eat. The man wondered how so little could feed so many, but he obeyed, and as he set it before them, God multiplied the loaves, they all ate, and had some left over. So what we have here in Mark 8 isn’t just a retelling of Mark 6. It’s a retelling of Exodus 16 and of 2 Kings 4 and all the other times throughout the Bible when God provide for His people. What Jesus is doing is proving He is from God and more importantly, that He is God! Jesus didn’t perform a new kind of miracle with these four thousand. He didn’t intend to. What he intended to do was to do for this crowd what He’s done for so many throughout history. He intended to tie this event in with the whole witness of Scripture that screams to us all: God cares for His people!
[ii] At the beginning of the Ten Commandments you also see the gospel of God’s grace. God doesn’t save us or rescue us after we’ve earned it, after we have obeyed. God saves us before. Grace comes before the law, even in the Ten Commandments. He rescues the Israelites from their slavery before He gave them to Ten Commandments. Grace before law. This is echoed in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
[iii] Mark tells us, “There were about 4,000 men in the crowd that day.” Matthew tells us, “There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children” (Matt. 15:38, NLT). That would bring the number up to somewhere between 12,000 – 20,000.