We start today with a second feeding miracle.
Just as the first and second sea miracles were similar, with a few differences of detail, so are the feeding miracles.
Here they are again.
A huge crowd in the desert without food.
Again the disciples wondered how they could be fed.
Again a few loaves and fish are available.
Again they are spread round the crowd and they were all filled.
The differences are in the use of numbers.
The crowd had had nothing to eat for three days.
In the first story the number of the crowd was 5000.
This time 4000.
The clever people who study this don’t know the significance of the numbers.
I think it is obvious.
They had read a report of the last feeding on trip advisor and decided to give this one a miss.
Previously there were 12 baskets left.
This time, it was seven.
Again, surely, they had just eaten more so there was less left over.
Seriously, though,, nobody really knows the significance of these numbers, if there is any, so let’s not worry too much about it and move on.
Here comes trouble.
The Pharisees reappeared.
Give us a sign.
Were they testing Jesus?
Did they just want a private performance for their entertainment?
Again we don’t know.
What we do know is that Jesus refused.
Miracles were not intended for entertainment, nor to prove Jesus’ credentials.
Miracles were for two things.
To help others or to give glory to God.
Jesus didn’t use miracles to prove anything.
One thing this interlude with the Pharisees did show was that they weren’t going to leave Jesus alone.
Any chance for conflict they would take.
We come to the last section of our reading and, incidentally, the end of part one of this series on Mark until the Autumn.
Just a map to give an idea of where Jesus and his disciples had been.
Jesus and the disciples were now back in the boat travelling to the other side of the sea.
What followed seems to me to be an odd conversation.
After all the food that was left over they had forgotten to bring any bread with them.
They only had one loaf between them.
I suppose they mentioned this and Jesus replied,
“ Watch out, beware of the yeast of the Pharisees.”
What on earth was Jesus talking about?
“It must be because we haven’t brought the bread,” they said to each other. Jesus heard them and said,
“What on earth are you talking about?
Do you still not understand.”
A word of explanation.
I think Jesus was still mulling over his run-in with the Pharisees and was trying to warn the disciples to be careful.
Yeast was used in making Jewish bread as you might expect.
Yeast, chametz in Hebrew, also had negative connotations.
It was used to signify sin, evil or something that contaminates.
Before the Passover it was customary to clean the house thoroughly to ensure there was no yeast lying around.
You might remember that Jesus had trouble with the Pharisees and the Herodians after the healing of the man with the withered hand in chapter 3.
I think he was thinking over all the arguments he had had so far with the Pharisees.
Jesus was clearly getting annoyed with the disciples for being so thick.
Jesus then went back to the story of the feeding of the five and the four thousand, asking the disciples about the numbers.
They got the answers right at least.
Sorry! That’s my Maths homework
The section ended with a repeated,
“Do you still not understand.”
What are we to make of this?
If only they could have seen the significance of the twelve and seven would they have got it? I don’t think they would.
I don’t think it is that sort of riddle.
If it is we are in good company with the disciples in not getting it.
Was the message of Jesus quite simply,
‘look after your spiritual needs and God will look after your physical needs?’
The 4000 had spent three days listening to Jesus.
Feeding their spiritual needs.
Consequently Jesus satisfied their physical needs by providing food.
This section ended with the disciples not getting it just as the villagers, in Jesus’ home town, at the start of chapter 6 didn’t get it.
Not many people did, it seems.
Some of you might remember Saturday Morning pictures.
The adventure film always ended in a cliff-hanger.
Would the hero survive the next impending disaster?
The only way to find out was to go the following week.
I think Mark has left a cliff-hanger.
Will the Disciples eventually get it?
Will they ever understand?