Mark 8:1-10 (NIV): During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
As Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s déjà vu all over again!”
It was nearly the same situation as happened a few months before, when Jesus challenged His disciple to feed 5000 men, plus women and children in a remote location (Mark 6:30-44). When the disciples were told, “You give them something to eat” (6:37), they had no idea what to do next. At that time, Jesus patiently demonstrated for them how the Father could multiply five loaves and two small fish to feed the whole crowd.
Now here they were again, in pretty much the same situation: thousands of hungry people, no place to get food, and meager resources – seven loaves and a few small fish. (They should have been encouraged: they had fewer people and comparatively more resources than the last time!) But it was like the previous event had never happened – no flash of understanding, no reaction to the similarity. When Jesus presented them with the opportunity to experience God’s amazing power, all they could see were the impossibilities of the situation: the hugeness of the crowd, and the smallness of their resources.
Again Jesus patiently went through the same procedure as before. He had the people sit down on the ground. This quieted everyone, and shifted their attention to what Jesus was doing. He gave thanks to His Father for the bread and fish that was available. He broke the bread and fish, and gave them to the disciples to give to the people. And the same thing happened again: God multiplied the available resources so greatly that everyone ate and was satisfied. And the disciples were able to gather up seven large baskets of leftovers.
These lessons, patiently repeated by Jesus, were important for the disciples to grasp. It would be easy for them to figure that the power to do all of these miracles resided peculiarly in Jesus – that when He wasn’t present, no miracles were possible. But Jesus knew that His time on earth was growing short, and that He would be leaving soon, leaving the work of the kingdom in the hands of these men. They needed to learn that the power to do these miracles did not reside in Jesus like water in a jar. Instead, it flowed through Jesus from the Father. And the disciples needed to learn that when they were connected to the Father in vital relationship, the same miracle-working power would be able to flow through them, just as it had when Jesus sent them on their mission journey (Mark 6:7-13).
Father, it is easy to be critical of those disciples for not getting it, but the truth is that we are just as slow to learn this same lesson. We have no real understanding of the power that can flow through us when we stay in vital relationship with You. Understanding that when Your Holy Spirit lives in us, He communicates to us and through us the presence of the whole Godhead, and that we then have access to the power we need to do whatever You ask of us. Forgive us, Lord, for being slow to learn, slow to believe, and slow to take up the challenge of doing the work of Your kingdom, allowing Your power to flow unimpeded through our lives. Amen.