Text: Mark 8:1-9
The Feeding of the 5,000 usually gets all the attention. It’s recorded in all four Gospels. It’s a spectacular miracle, feeding over 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. John’s account even ties it to the Lord’s Supper. But why is there also the feeding of the 4,000?
Since Jesus has already fed 5,000, why is a lesser miracle necessary?
- Was it to give another sign from heaven of who Jesus is? Immediately after this, the Pharisees are demanding such a sign, but the request doesn’t come from faith. There are plenty of signs that emphatically prove Jesus is the Messiah and Savior. (Matthew 12:1-42)
- Was it just to “wow” the disciples and crowds with overwhelming numbers? Headlines are aimed to wow people with numbers: “A single Powerball ticket sold in Los Angeles matched all 6 numbers for the $1.08 billion jackpot.” (CNN) “New York City to pay $13M to Black Lives Matter protesters in historic class action.” (Syracuse NY). Magnitude speaks to people, but that’s not why Jesus feeds these 4,000.
He feeds them because they were people in need. It’s because they’re hungry and Jesus has compassion on them and the ability to help them! He doesn’t close His heart against them and let them “faint on the way.”
And He is a God who has compassion in an amazing way: He shares our flesh.
Jesus is greater than us because He is God. Our ability to help has limits: there’s only so much we can hand out, only so much in the charity fund at church. It’s frustrating, and crippling!
But as God, Jesus doesn’t just have head knowledge of hunger, thirst, weariness, or pain. He doesn’t impassively read the newspaper and click his tongue at the problem. He experiences those very things in His own person as well. “After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.” In Gethsemane, “being in a great agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” As He hung on the cross close to the end, He said, “I thirst”
The Apostle puts it, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” God knows our weakness in His very Flesh and for that He has compassion on us.
Martin Luther’s counsel to us is: “It is also useful that we form the habit of daily commending ourselves to God, with soul and body, wife, children, servants, and all that we have, against every need that may arise. So also the blessing and thanksgiving at meals and other prayers, morning and evening, have begun and remained in use.” Large Catechism, 2nd Commandment 73
This brings up a question for us as Christians today: Why do we pray for the things that we need? It’s because God sympathizes with our weakness and neediness. (He doesn’t sympathize with our sins, but He atones for them). And we go to Him because only He can deliver us. Truth be told, we daily find ourselves in a overwhelming situations, more than we can handle or answer. Our own futures are unknown, the stability of the economy unknown, our own safety is also unknown (if we’re honest). So, where can we truly look for confidence and peace? Nowhere, but the Lord!
Yet, Jesus is a God who desires more than to fill our bellies and dole out goodies. He desires us to know Him. That’s why the unbelief of the disciples is especially poignant. Jesus has compassion on the crowd, but only in a way that God can do. He wants the disciples and us to see that.
We struggle in our own unbelief of this truth. Later in the Sermon on the Mount (which we heard the first part of last week), Jesus tells us not to worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear…but we do! He tells us not to fear those who can kill the body but afterward can do nothing more, but we do fear them (Matt. 10:28). He tells us that if we had faith like a grain of mustard seed, we could command mountains to move, but our faith is weak. Therefore, we cry out, “I believe, help my unbelief!” and He gladly answers our prayer.
That way, when we are in need, what choice do we have but to call upon our God and Savior who is united in one-flesh with us? There is no want or pain which your Lord doesn’t empathize with.
- Are you are tortured in your flesh with temptation?
- Are you are in agony from a body broken by disease—arthritis, diabetes, or COPD?
- Are you hurt for lack of work and poverty?
- Jesus is the One who can truly say, “I know your pain.” He is your God and Savior!
Whatever the need, this miracle shows us that He is ready and willing to help with all His divine power. If you are in need, look to Jesus. He is your God and Savior for all things from daily necessities to freedom from the grave.
If you have prayed again and again for relief, wait on Him. He knows what He is doing. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”This He truly does. Whatever need you are in, look to Him and His compassion will be near to you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
 Matthew 4:2; Luke 22:44; John 19:28;
 Hebrews 4:15
 Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:4-5; Matthew 17:19-21
 Mark 9:24
 Romans 8:32