Bonus Lenten Reflection for 3/20 – The Feeding of the 4000
Today’s Reading: Mark 8:1-10
We often hear about the feeding of the 5,000 but we do not often hear the story later on in Mark about the second feeding miracle. It has many of the same characteristics of the earlier feeding miracle but this is just different enough to make it interesting and to get across a point that Jesus was trying to make.
In the Feeding of the Five Thousand there is a boy with five loaves and three fish. Jesus takes them, blesses and breaks them and gives them to all and there are twelve baskets of left overs. Whenever the number 12 is used in the New Testament, it generally is recalling the Twelve Tribes of Jacob (Israel).
The loss of the Twelve Tribes when Israel was conquered in the 6th Century BC was a tremendous loss to the people who followed God. It was as if part of their body had been amputated. By Jesus’ day, it was understood that when the Messiah came, those twelve tribes would be returned to the people of Israel. It was part of the hope that surrounded the coming of the Messiah. So in the feeding of the Five Thousand, Mark is letting his readers know that Jesus is preparing for the Twelve Tribes to be returned. There are Twelve baskets ready to feed the whole of Israel.
But in the story of the Feeding of the Four Thousand only seven baskets are gathered. In the early church, the number seven was symbolic of the various other nations of the world that would come to know God. There were seven deacons that were chosen to serve the needs of the Gentiles—those who did not speak Hebrew or Aramaic. In this story we hear that Jesus was preparing for the entire world –all the nations to know the power of God.
This often-ignored story in Mark reminds us that Jesus’ mission was not just to his own people. The coming of the Kingdom of God meant that all people who came to worship God was to be considered brother or sister. This was so contrary to the Judaism of his time. Judaism was becoming less and less an evangelistic faith–it was becoming an ethnocentric faith based upon one’s ethnic heritage.
During Lent I am finding that God is waking me to pay attention to the needs of people far removed from my little world in North Fort Worth and Keller. The readings remind me that I am not the only one on this globe. They remind me of the Holy Land, yes. But I am reminded of the people in the UK who are voting on the Anglican Covenant these weekends; I am reminded of the people of Thailand because a friend is visiting there. I am reminded of New Zealand and the continued problems that Anglicans there have had after numerous aftershocks, and the needs of Guatemala and Haiti.
I have heard from friends from all over the US online, some digging out from snow storms while I sit and type wearing shorts. God’s message to me is that I cannot think of myself as unconnected, disparate individual any more. I am part of the kingdom. If I can feed at our Lord’s table, I am part of something so much greater than I can even imagine. And the farmer in Slovakia, the indigenous people of Sweden who herd reindeer, the villagers of small communities in Zambia or Botswana, or city folk of all our modern cities have one thing in common. God feeds us all. And there is always enough if greed does not get in the way.
Author: The Reverend Lauren A. Gough Copyright 2012 Lauren A. Gough
Today we are blessed to offer this additional reflection to our readers! God is good, feeding us so well!