My small group at church has been going through the Book of Mark in our Sunday morning study. The almost back-to-back stories of Jesus first feeding five thousand, then four thousand people, caught my attention. The stories are similar. And, when I looked at the stories together, I was reminded of five important characteristics of Jesus as he fed the multitudes.
- Both stories about feeding the multitudes tell us that the crowds “ate and were satisfied” (Mark 8:8a). I was struck when I read that sentence. When Jesus was responsible for feeding people, no one ever left wanting. I needed the reminder that I can find all I need in Jesus alone. Not only does He provide for my physical needs, Jesus meets my spiritual and emotional needs, as well.
- Jesus chose to use people. He is Jesus, the Living God: He could’ve made food appear from thin air or turned rocks into bread. But, ordinary people made their resources available to Him, and thus the needs of a multitude were met. Despite the small amount of fish and bread He had to start with, Jesus turned it into something remarkable. This is so encouraging to me because there are times when I feel that what I have to offer the Lord is pitifully sparse. Praise God that He can take my small contribution and turn it into whatever He wants.
- Jesus is patient. By the time Jesus fed the four thousand, the disciples had already witnessed Him miraculously feed a multitude. But, in Mark 8, when Jesus tells the disciples He wants to feed the crowd, they suddenly have amnesia; it was as if they forgot what Jesus did before. They ask, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” (v. 4, NIV). If I was Jesus, I would, without a doubt, have employed some sarcasm and an eye-roll. Instead, as the disciples looked on, He went about feeding the people in almost the same fashion as He had before. Jesus said more with His actions here than with His words.
- Jesus didn’t give up on people. The fate of Christianity rested on the disciples’ shoulders, and they were as human and as flawed as you can get. But Jesus didn’t get exasperated or kick them out of the group. He patiently went about His Father’s business with great love for the people He came to serve and save.
- Jesus has a tender heart. Both of Mark’s accounts record that Jesus felt compassion for the crowds. He was human, so He knew what it was to feel hunger and fatigue. He didn’t just feed them spiritually; Jesus fed them physically. What a relief it is to know Jesus understands the limitations of humanity, and it doesn’t irritate Him when my humanity keeps me from doing all that I want to do for Him.
Jesus Christ—fully God and fully man—is so much more than we deserve. Despite our flawed humanity, despite the sin in our hearts, Jesus believes the best about us. Perhaps this is true because Jesus is the best thing about us, and He knows that He will keep every promise He has ever made.
“The people ate and were satisfied.” Mark 8:8a
Corley Shumaker serves as Assistant Campus Minister at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Arkansas State University. She loves Red Wolves football, nail polish, and flowers. You can find her on Twitter at @corleycline.