Giving Ourselves to God: Mark 8:1-9

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Continuing our journey through the gospel of Mark, we come to a miracle where it appears Jesus helps those with Him simply because He can and because He knows that there are people who need His help even if they haven’t asked. Jesus also appears to help because He feels somewhat responsible for the less than ideal situation those who are with them are in.

Let’s read this event from Mark’s gospel, and discover what we can learn about Jesus and God through this situation. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will read it from the New Living Translation. Starting in verse 1, Mark tells us that:

About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”

His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”

Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

“Seven loaves,” they replied.

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. A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.

They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were about 4,000 men in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. 

In this short miracle, I am amazed that this crowd of over 4,000 people stayed with Jesus in the wilderness for 3 days, and everyone in this group stayed a significant amount of time past the food running out. Jesus states at the opening of our passage that He was concerned that some of those present might faint from hunger on their trip home because they had not eaten that recently. Either Jesus knew of some elderly people in the crowd, or most of those present had not planned for an extended trip, while those that did plan were generous and shared.

From the way Mark describes this miracle, I can see a big truth in this event which tells us that God will help us when we have aligned ourselves with Him. While this doesn’t mean that God will give us fame, fortune, or a long healthy life when we are living within His plan, I believe that when we are living fully within God’s will, God will not allow us to die before we have accomplished what He has called us to do in this world.

While death seems to strike indiscriminately, and while good people seem to die early while evil people seem to live a long time, no one on this planet is outside of God’s frame of view. God values every individual on this planet, and while tragedy happens, I trust that God is keeping those He needs alive as alive, and those who have fulfilled what God has called them to accomplish on this planet are given the opportunity to rest.

However, in this miracle in the wilderness, I am drawn to another detail. This detail is where the source of the bread for the miracle came from. While the more famous miracle where Jesus fed 5,000 has the small lunch being donated by someone outside the group of disciples, every indication in this event suggests that the disciples found these last loaves of bread to give to Jesus from their own reserve supply of food. This tells me that God will sometimes call me to give something of value that is part of what I own in order for Him to work a miracle in the world around me. While every situation is truly different, I should be willing to let God use my skills, my talents, and especially the things He has trusted me with for His glory and His will.

Also, while reading this miracle, it is interesting to see what characteristic is not present in the disciples’ response. In the earlier feeding the crowd of over 5,000 miracle, at least one of the gospels record a statement of disbelief at the overwhelming need when compared with the small lunch that was donated by the small child. In contrast, we don’t see any doubt or disbelief in the disciples response following Jesus asking for the small amount of bread. The disciples understood Jesus could multiply this food and they know that is what He intended to do.

The last big idea I see in this miracle event is focused on who Jesus decided to help. While this miracle is prompted by Jesus knowing that some people might faint before arriving somewhere where they could get food to eat, Jesus doesn’t help only those who needed it the most. This miracle was for everyone present, regardless of their level of hunger, and everyone benefitted. This tells me that if we want to see miracles in our lives, we must be spending time with Jesus.

While I’m sure it is possible to see a miracle without Jesus present in our lives, without Jesus, the tendency for people would be to discount the miracle, ignore it, or give it some scientific explanation. However, just because something has an explanation for how it happened does not invalidate a miracle taking place.

Without Jesus in our lives, the world is full of coincidences and things that we might consider lucky. However, with Jesus in our lives, we see divine providence everywhere. With Jesus, there are no coincidences. Instead, we choose to see God’s hand at work in the world today. While things are getting more polarized, God has not given up on this world or on His people. Instead, Jesus came to redeem this world, and while there are people left in this world who God knows He can redeem, He gives the world more time.

Those who were with Jesus, and who stayed with Jesus even after their food ran out experienced a miracle. Even when our lives get tough or challenging, we are called to stay with Jesus, because when we are allied and aligned to Jesus in this life, we can be certain we will share in Jesus’ future life to come.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, seek God first in your life and choose to ally and align your life to Jesus and God’s will. Choose to live your life for God and trust that even if things don’t always make sense, God has a plan, and His plan is for you and as many people as possible to be saved from sin. When we don’t have answers, this isn’t an excuse to doubt. When we don’t have answers, this is an opportunity to trust.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself, and while studying, pay attention to the situations in the Bible where there weren’t clear answers given to prayers and determine if God had a plan. While doubt is easy to do, doubt sabotages our trust and our faith. When given the opportunity to doubt, choose faith instead, regardless of what others try to tell you.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 20: In a less famous miracle, discover some big truths in Jesus feeding a smaller crowd of over 4,000 people, and how this miracle challenges us living today.

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