Loaves and Fishes
…Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied.
“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Do you still not understand? That’s the question Jesus asked his disciples here in Mark 8.
It came at a very interesting time in his ministry. He had just fed a hungry crowd of about 4,000 people with seven loaves and a few small fish. A few chapters earlier in Mark 6:30-44, we see Jesus feeding 5,000 men (plus women and children) from just five loaves and two fish.
But after the second crowd-feeding miracle, Jesus had some questions for his disciples:
“When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up? They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up? And they said to him, ‘Seven’” (Mark 8:19-20).
Why the numbers quiz?
The more I study and reflect on the life and ministry of Jesus, the more I see his heart for all nations coming through so clearly again and again! He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus’ heart for all peoples was evident from the beginning of his ministry (Luke 4:18-29), and it got him in trouble!
We often miss the powerful global mission emphasis in these miraculous stories of feeding the crowds. The numbers quiz Jesus gave his disciples indicates he was interested in more than filling stomachs.
The first miracle—feeding 5,000 men from five loaves and two fish—took place in a Jewish area. The number five had great significance to this crowd: The Torah, the five books of the law of Moses, was highly revered. And twelve basketfuls were gathered in the end: 12 is significant for the 12 tribes of Israel.
The second miraculous feeding of 4,000 happened near where Jesus had cast demons out of a man living among the tombs, and into a huge herd of pigs that ran into the sea and drowned. In this largely Gentile area, 4,000 people ate from seven loaves and a few fish. Seven basketfuls of leftovers were gathered.
In Scripture, both the numbers four and seven are very significant. Do you know why? Four is commonly used early in the Old Testament to refer to the whole world (i.e. Genesis 28:14): the north, south, east, and west. And seven is the number of completion and perfection.
In John’s account (John 6:22-40), after feeding the 5,000, Jesus explains the real significance is more than filling hungry stomachs: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger.’” Jesus is the bread of life for the Jews first—five loaves for 5,000 and 12 baskets full for 12 tribes.
Jesus is also the bread of life for all people from the north, south, east and west—from all four corners of the world. And there were seven full baskets leftover! Perfect, enough for everyone to complete our God-given mission!
As an interesting note, the Greek word translated “basket” in the feeding of 5,000 is literally a kosher food basket—fully appropriate for the Jewish people. In the story of the 4,000, it’s literally a work basket used in the field—common and appropriate for the Gentiles. And you know us Gentiles, we’ll eat just about anything!
Do you now understand why Jesus asked the question? He came to seek and save the lost—from every tribe, tongue, and nation!
–Galen Burkholder, President/CEO
Big Book Giveaway!
Subscribe to Global Disciple’s Stories between now and May 28, 2023, and be entered in the drawing to win one of 10 copies of the book, Ordinary Disciples, Extraordinary Influence—signed by the authors! Names will be drawn on May 2 (for all April entries), and May 30 (for all May entries).
Stories Subscription Form
A Day for the Unreached
Today, a third of us on this planet are without the Good News of Jesus Christ. Just as Peter and the disciples presented Jesus Christ to people “from every nation under heaven” that day, we want to do all we can to do the same for those still waiting.
Lives Poured Out
If we want to speed His coming, we need to find the places where the gifts He’s given us are best used...
3 Ways to Transfer Your Values to the Next Generation
Here are three ways you can transfer your values to the next generation and help them make God-honoring decisions.
Your Role in the Mission of God
A radical life for Jesus should not be extinguished by the earthly thought that we do not have a place in God’s grand tapestry.
A New View of the World
How do we pursue the mission to be Christ’s ambassadors to the lost from our living room?
Loving the Mission of God
It's possible to be dedicated to God, to know about Him, and yet miss out on the joy and love for His mission.
We become more effective when we tear down our kingdom and divest ownership so we can obey, trust, and rely on Jesus to do what He wants in His one Kingdom.
Sheep Among Wolves
Sheep follow the Good Shepherd even when it is dangerous.
Worship Propels Our Mission
In worship, we receive His burden for the lost, and His empowerment to go.
Give monthly, reach the world…
Join our community of monthly donors bringing the hope of Jesus to least-reached people groups around the world.