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Mark’s first-century biography – page 23

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he (Jesus of Nazareth) called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 
As someone once remarked: It’s déjà vu all over again! In his biography of Jesus, Mark has already reported on the feeding of five thousand in very similar circumstances (Page 20 in our series). The main difference seems to be that this great crowd is not in what was, in history, Israel, but in Gentile territory. “Some of them have come from far away.” They too must eat.

And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. 

When 5,000 were fed, 12 “baskets” (Greek kophinon – wicker baskets) remained. This time 7 “baskets” (Greek spyridon – large Greek reed baskets) remained.

‘The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ (Jesus) 
And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.

Dalmanutha indicates that they were back in Israeli territory. Despite two miracles of extraordinary bread multiplication participated in by at least 9,000 people, the Pharisees (who will have come from Jerusalem to investigate Jesus) want a sign before they will accept Jesus as Son of God.

Jesus has provided two signs “beyond reasonable doubt”. The Pharisees wanted a sign of their own – a sign to make it, for them, “beyond unreasonable doubt”.  

‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’ (Thomas, Jesus’ disciple, AD 30) 
Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 

“Leaven” is yeast, single-celled fungi which number 20 billion in each gram. When used in bread making yeast vigorously consumes sugar and gives off carbon dioxide gas which causes the bread to rise (besides giving a special taste to the bread). 

Yeast was inside the (Jewish) Pharisees and the (non-Jew) Herod. It was all-consuming and puffing them up. Unseen - hidden inside – it had made them argue against Jesus. Self-interest? Concealed self-orientation? 

And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets (Greek kophinon) full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets (Greek spyridon) full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” 

Jesus was not obliquely referring to the fact that they’d forgotten the bread. In fact, Jesus was saying that they ought to ensure that they themselves were not like the Pharisees whose self-interest was excluding them from great blessing. True enough, the disciples could only think about their missing loaf. 

That overpowering self-interest, consuming within, had stopped them from understanding the two signs that the eternal Son of God was among them. 

Sinner Syvret

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