Where the world comes to study the Bible

Lessons From The Leftovers (Mark 6-8)

Related Media


As I write this, it is just a week after Thanksgiving, and this means many things. Among them, this is the week of leftovers. (Years ago, I got into some trouble when I made some less than complimentary comments about leftovers, so I’ll try to do better this time.) Hopefully this will help us to identify with our text in Mark’s Gospel, supplemented by the parallel account in Matthew, chapter 15. But in this marvelous text in the Gospel of Mark we see that God had some important lessons to teach the disciples, and us, from the leftovers:

51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, 52 for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened (Mark 6:51-52, NAU).

16 They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? 18 "HAVING EYES, DO YOU NOT SEE? AND HAVING EARS, DO YOU NOT HEAR? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?" They said to Him, "Twelve." 20 "When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they said to Him, "Seven." 21 And He was saying to them, "Do you not yet understand?" (Mark 8:16-21)

Both early on, and later in our text, Mark calls our attention to the leftovers. In both instances, Jesus gently rebukes the disciples for being hard-hearted, so that they failed to grasp what the leftovers from the loaves should have taught them. To make things more challenging for his readers, Mark does not include an explanation of what it is that the disciples should have learned. So, we are left to figure it out, too. To do so will greatly encourage us in our daily Christian walk, and also change the way we read the Old Testament Scriptures. So then, with this in mind let us look to the Spirit of God to open our eyes to the truth that is here for those who have ears to hear it.


As I have studied this passage over a number of years, I have concluded that there are two keys to the proper interpretation of this text. Strangely enough, the first key is the word “bread” (or, more literally, “loaves”). This word is found twenty times in the Gospel of Mark,1 and eighteen of these appearances in Mark are found in chapters 6-8. Unfortunately, several translations find the term “loaves” so insignificant that they omit it in their translation of Mark 7:5. As we proceed, let us pay very close attention to this word, rendered either “bread” or “loaf/loaves.”

The second key is our Lord’s persistent use of parables as a teaching tool. We might conclude that “parables” were a momentary teaching device used from time to time by our Lord. But this would ignore the very clear language of the Gospels:

33 With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; 34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples (Mark 4:33-34; see also Matthew 13:34).2

Mark has already set the stage for us, because he devoted nearly all of the fourth chapter of his gospel to giving us a record of some of our Lord’s parables. When it comes to defining the term “parable” I would suggest that you might be able to describe what a parable is with only one word, “like.” A parable sets forth something that we are familiar with, and then lays it alongside something less understood. In this way, we can better understand something that is somewhat obscure, and therefore in need of further clarification. This sometimes happens without the word “parable” actually being used. Such is often the case in Proverbs:3

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,

That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

19 The way of the wicked is like darkness;

They do not know over what they stumble (Proverbs 4:18-19).

Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool,

And so is wisdom to a man of understanding.

. . . Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,

So is the lazy one to those who send him (Proverbs 10:23, 26).

Based upon my study of this portion of Mark’s gospel, I am inclined to suggest that the Scriptures may employ what might be called “living parables.” These are parables that are real life events which are recorded in Scripture, which also serve as examples or illustrations of important truths, and yet they are not identified as parables.4 If this is the case, this could greatly impact our study and application of God’s Word.

As we move forward with our study, let us keep in mind the importance (and prominence) of the term “loaves” or “bread,” and look for what might be “living parables.”


When Jesus commenced His public ministry, many came to Him for healing. I believe that His teaching was often interrupted by someone seeking a healing. But the end result was that the authority of our Lord’s teaching was underscored by the miracles that accompanied it:

22 They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are-- the Holy One of God!" 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" 26 Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him" (Mark 1:22-27).[5

It wasn’t the way Jesus raised His voice, or waved His hands, it was the fact that Jesus paused His teaching to perform miracles, and these miracles set Him apart from the rest of those who taught.

Because Jesus healed on the Sabbath, the Pharisees quickly looked upon Him as a Sabbath-breaker, and so it was not long before they resolved among themselves to put Him to death (Mark 3:6). That, however, did not discourage the crowds from flocking to Him for teaching and healing.6

Jesus chose His twelve apostles (3:13-19), and sadly, His family concluded that He was out of His mind (3:20-21).

The Pharisees sought to dismiss Jesus and His teaching by calling attention to the fact that He “broke” the Sabbath, at least by their definition. But how could they explain the miracles He was doing, which were undeniable? And so, they devised an explanation which, they hoped, would acknowledge His miracles, but which would also discredit Him. And thus, they granted that He performed miracles, but attributed them to the power of the devil:

The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons" (Mark 3:22).

Jesus quickly and easily dismissed this accusation, but pointed out that this was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the One who convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11), and also the One who also quickens hearts that are dead, bringing them to life (John 3:5-8; 6:63; 1 Peter 3:18). Blaspheming the Holy Spirit insults the only means by which men are saved, and therefore results in their eternal condemnation. As a result of this blasphemy, Jesus began to teach by means of parables, not to make the gospel clear to these blasphemers, but to conceal the truth from them,7 thereby sealing their fate:

28 "Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin "-- 30 because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit" (Mark 3:28-30).

10 As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. 11 And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN" (Mark 4:10-12).

Mark focused on Jesus’ parables in the fourth chapter of his gospel. After this, He stilled a storm on the Sea of Galilee, which caused His disciples to fear Him:

39 And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. 40 And He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" 41 They became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" (Mark 4:39-41).

This is followed by the casting out of Legion’s demons into the herd of hogs, the healing of the woman with a flow of blood (by touching Jesus’ garments), and the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5).

Jesus then went to His home town, where He taught in the synagogue. Sadly, the people were not able to connect the dots. One the one hand, they were amazed at the depth of His teaching, underscored by countless miracles, which were evidence of His authority. But on the other hand, they were perplexed by His humble human origins (as they perceived them). He was the son of a carpenter, and Mary, and the brother of several siblings. How could someone like this be a prophet, or the Promised Messiah?

Jesus then sent out the twelve as His forerunners, to prepare the people for His ministry. In His instructions to them, He told them not to take any provisions, so that they would learn to depend on Him.[8] This prohibition included taking a provision of food (literally bread).9

Mark then turns his attention to John the Baptist, who had just been put to death by Herod.10 The disciples’ fatigue, combined with the death of John,11 was such that the disciples needed some time alone with Jesus.

At this point, we should note two things about food, which set the stage for the feeding of the 5,000. First, the disciples were weary from their ministry when they returned. In fact, they were so busy that they, like Jesus,12 did not even have time to eat.[13 It would seem obvious, then, that the disciples were hungry. Second, when Jesus took His disciples apart from the crowds to a deserted place, they took no food with them. Remember that the only food they had on hand was what a young lad had brought – five loaves and two small fish. Jesus was now practicing, on a very large scale, what He had instructed His disciples to do on a smaller scale, when He sent them out to preach. They would have to rely on our Lord to provide for their needs. This brings us to the feeding of the 5,000.

Act 1
The Feeding Of The 5,000
Mark 6:30-52

My sense is that by the time the disciples arrived at this private place there in the wilderness, their stomachs were growling. John’s gospel tells us that Jesus raised the issue of how they would feed the crowds very early, in fact just as they were stepping out of the boat.14 While they did not exactly say it, I suspect that by the end of that day the disciples not only wanted Jesus to send the crowds away so that these folks could find food (on their own), but also so that they (His hungry disciples) could find something to eat for themselves. The problem was that there was not sufficient food there for either.

My purpose is not to focus on the actual feeding of this crowd, other than to point out that Jesus dealt with this situation so that the bread that was distributed by passing it through the disciples’ hands.15 The crowd is fed, thanks to the five loaves and two fish, which a young lad had brought.16 The entire crowd of 10,000 or more (5,000 men, plus women and children), ate heartily. Mark tells us that they were completely satisfied: “No thanks, I couldn’t eat one more bite!”17 And so, 12 baskets of leftovers were taken up. As we shall soon see, these leftovers were intended to serve as a lesson (a parable?), especially for the disciples.

After the meal, Jesus made18 His disciples go back to the boat, and proceed ahead of Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus then dismissed the crowd19 and went up on the mountain to pray, alone.

That evening, when Jesus went down to the Sea of Galilee, He was alone, because everyone had been dismissed by Jesus and had left. As He looked out, He took note of the disciples’ distress, as they struggled against the wind and the waves. He knew that it was not going well for them. I think it was for this reason that Jesus set out toward them, walking on the water. How else was He to get to them in their time of need?

This is the point at which we must come to terms with a statement that Mark included in his account:

Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them (Mark 6:48).

Up to this statement, every indication was that Jesus noted their distress, and set out to come to their aid, or at least their comfort. Suffice it to say for now that Jesus seems to have intended to pass the disciples by, and thus to reach His destination, and theirs, alone.

But when the disciples saw Jesus, they were terrified. Perhaps there was a mist on the lake; at the very least it was dark, and this shadowy figure would indeed have been frightening. Who would have expected anyone to pass by, walking on the sea, and especially a sea as stormy as it was? When the disciples cried out, thinking Him to be a ghost, Jesus spoke to them, putting their hearts at ease. And once in the boat, the winds ceased. John tells us even more. He writes that when Jesus got into the boat, they immediately reached their destination.20

This brings us to another puzzling statement, one which points us to the lesson of the leftover loaves:

51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, 52 for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened (Mark 6:51-52).

It wasn’t the disciples’ fear to which Mark calls our attention, but their amazement. They were amazed that Jesus walked on the water, and that the winds ceased when He got into the boat. And their hardness of heart revealed that they failed to get the point, the lesson, of the leftovers from the loaves.

Act Two
The Feeding Of The 4,000
Mark 8:1-10[21

Mark has informed us that the disciples were not able to make the connection between the feeding of the 5,000 and the leftover loaves with His walking on the water. I believe that this is why Jesus chose to give His disciples a second chance to “get it.” He virtually reproduces the same circumstances, so that the solution should have been a “no-brainer” for the disciples. Here they were, once again, in the wilderness with a large crowd of hungry people and no food on hand to feed them. What to do? Isn’t it obvious? They should do what they had done only a short time before22 -- feed the crowd. This time, the need was even greater, because the crowd had been without food for three days, not just one.23

Once again, our Lord makes this a problem for His disciples to solve, and they seem absolutely clueless as to what they should do, as though they had never experienced anything like this before. It was as though the feeding of the 5,000 had not even taken place. Jesus had to ask them how many loaves they had on hand. And once again, Jesus breaks the loaves, and then the fish, and the disciples distributed the food.

This time, it was 4,000 men who were fed, but we should not consider the 7 baskets of leftovers insignificant when compared to the 12 baskets that were collected earlier. Here, Mark is careful to describe these baskets as “large baskets” (8:8).24 In other words, the amount of leftovers remaining after the feeding of the 4,000 could have been even greater than what was left after the feeding of the 5,000.25

There is no indication that the disciples “got it.” In fact, it is obvious that they did not. When the feeding was done, and the leftovers were collected, the disciples got into the boat with Jesus and made their way to the district of Dalmanutha.

Act Three
Who Forgot The Sandwiches?
Mark 8:14-21

Mark briefly mentions the demand of the Pharisees for a sign (8:11-13). Is it not incredible that Jesus’ miracles were not sufficient proof of His identity? Nevertheless, shortly after this we find the disciples with Jesus in a boat:

14 And they had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, "Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 16 They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? 18 "HAVING EYES, DO YOU NOT SEE? AND HAVING EARS, DO YOU NOT HEAR? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?" They said to Him, "Twelve." 20 "When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they said to Him, "Seven." 21 And He was saying to them, "Do you not yet understand?" (Mark 8:14-21)26

Like the Pharisees, the disciples were not doing well at “connecting the dots.” When Jesus symbolically referred to the teaching of the Pharisees as “leaven” all they could do was connect “leaven” with yeast, and thus with “bread.” And the mere thought of “bread” prompted the disciples to think about lunch. They took note of the fact that they had but one “loaf” in the boat with them. “What to do?” Here we are once again, on a much smaller scale. One loaf, twelve disciples, and Jesus, and no lunch. Do you see the irony in all this?

Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on what is happening here. Twice, Jesus and His disciples have been with a very large crowd in the wilderness. There was barely any food on hand at all, and certainly not enough for these large crowds. The crowds were miraculously feed by Jesus, assisted by His disciples, and even after everyone was filled, there was a large quantity of leftovers. And then, to top it off, Jesus walked on the water after the feeding of the 5,000, to be with His disciples. Getting into the boat, Jesus calmed the winds and stilled the sea.

Now, take a moment to ponder these details:

  • There is a very large crowd of hungry people.
  • They are stranded, as it were, in a desolate place, a wilderness.
  • This crowd was miraculously fed, with bountiful baskets of leftovers (loaves).
  • Jesus crosses the sea, walking on the water.

Have we ever seen anything like this before? Yes, we have. It was like this at the exodus, when God led the Israelites as they fled from Egypt into the wilderness, and then sojourned in the wilderness for forty years. He fed them “bread” for 40 years, and provided water from a rock. And to get there, God led them through the Red Sea, on dry ground. Should the disciples not have made this connection? And had they done so, should they really have been amazed that Jesus would walk on water and still the winds?

Now think of the current situation, after the feeding of the 5,000, followed by the feeding of the 4,000. The disciples were worried about lunch, with a loaf and bread and the Son of God with them in the boat. Imagine it, a mere twelve sandwiches were needed, and they were distressed because they had not brought lunch along with them!

It seems foolish, doesn’t it? So here we are today, recovering from a covid pandemic, struggling with supply chain issues and rising inflation. Are we, so to speak, worried about a few sandwiches, when the God of the exodus is with us, when He has promised to supply all our needs?27 Twice He gave the disciples a great harvest of fish, just before they went out with the gospel.28 Twice Jesus feed a large crowd in the wilderness, with a bounty of leftovers. Are we not like the disciples, worried about lunch when the God of the universe is in the boat with us?

Do we not have the same problem as the disciples? Do we fail to see the connection between our present circumstances and what we read in the Bible? Is what we read merely Bible history to us, only reports from long ago and far away? Or, are these things a kind of living parable, so that when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances we can be reminded about Whom it is that we have entrusted with our eternal well-being? These two feedings were not just for the disciples; they are for us, and for every saint. The abundance of the leftovers is to remind us that God, unlike our government and many of us, does not operate “in the red,” with a deficit budget. His provisions are abundant and He never fails to abundantly supply what we need to accomplish His purposes.29

Act Four
And Now, Back To Chapter Seven
From The Ridiculous To The Sublime

Let’s start with the ridiculous – the Pharisees. One might wrongly conclude that our theme of “bread” somehow does not occur in this paragraph about the Pharisees. Well, it does: 30

1 The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" 6 And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 7 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' 8 "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." 9 He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 "For Moses said, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER'; and, 'HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH'; 11 but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that." 14 After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, "Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16 "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." 17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 "All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man" (Mark 7:1-23).31

To the disciples’ credit, they at least perceived some kind of connection between “leaven” and “bread,” albeit a literal one. The Pharisees saw no connection at all, because their eyes were fixed, not on the bread, but on the ceremonially unwashed hands of the disciples. This was because they were more committed to their traditions than they were to the Scriptures. One such tradition was that of a ritual ceremonial hand washing, a washing never commanded in Scripture. This was not just a washing of one’s hands before meals, like your mother would have required; this was a ceremonial washing that was added to the Scriptures as an inviolable tradition. And the Pharisees held even more earnestly to these traditions than they did to the instructions of the Word of God – the Old Testament.

Consequently, their distorted devotion to strictly observing their traditions caused them to fix their attention on the hands holding the bread, rather than on the bread itself. And so, we find them here, objecting that the Lord’s disciples ate their bread with ceremonially unwashed hands. They saw this as a “gross violation of their traditions,” something equal to, or greater than, a deliberate violation of the Law of Moses.

Jesus first rebuked them for their hypocrisy, for in their fervent devotion to their traditions they actually overruled the Law. Their tradition facilitated, indeed encouraged, disobedience to the Law of Moses. In doing so, they were guilty of hypocrisy. Jesus does not deal with this matter in mere generalities; He cites a specific example of their hypocrisy -- their tradition of the Corban. The practice of Corban permitted a person to designate some of their assets as “devoted to God.” In practice, this enabled one to set aside some assets in a way that made them inaccessible for other purposes, such as taking care of one’s parents (which was a biblical command).

So it all boils down to this. The “leaven of the Pharisees” (to which Jesus refers in chapter 8) is their distorted teaching of the Scriptures, so that their traditions overrule or set aside God’s commands. This was evident not only in their fixation on the ceremonial washing of hands, but also in the practice of Corban.

But Jesus is not done with this matter of “bread,” or “foods.” Not at all. In dealing with this Pharisaic accusation, Jesus sets forth an important principle regarding defilement (which was such a huge issue with the Pharisees). Notice that Jesus does this by proclaiming a monumental principle to the crowds.

“Defilement comes from within, and not from without” (Mark 7:15).

It is only later, after our Lord’s death and resurrection, and Pentecost, that the significance of these words will become evident, but the matter is literally earth shaking in its implications, as we will see in Acts 10 and 11, and again in Galatians 2. Is the matter of food (“bread”) important? It surely was to Jesus, as it would be to the Jews and early Christians in the Book of Acts, and thereafter.

The point I wish to make here is that these “scholars of the law” were the dullest of all when it came to grasping the meaning of Jesus’ actions and words. Not so with the Gentile woman, the subject of our next inquiry.

Act 5
Jesus And The Gentile Woman
Mark 7:24-30

24 Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice. 25 But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter (Mark 7:24-26).

21 And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew[32 into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, "Send her away, for she is shouting out after us." 24 But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" 26 And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once (Matthew 15:21-28).

I love this story in Mark’s gospel, which is greatly enhanced by the additional details provided by Matthew. This woman is truly remarkable! In strictly human terms, she would have been considered “least likely to succeed” by a Jew. But in biblical terms, her faith is entirely consistent with how God works.33 She is a Gentile woman, and beyond that, she is a Canaanite.34 She has no standing as a Jew, and in the past, she would have been a mortal enemy of Israel. She would have been slain by the Israelites when they took possession of the Promised Land.35 Her knowledge of Jesus had to be much more limited than that of the disciples. Indeed, she was a woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon:36

20 Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 "Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you (Matthew 11:20-22).

Besides all this, she was trying to get an audience with Jesus at a point in time when He was seeking to be inaccessible.37 Indeed, she singlehandedly undermined Jesus’ efforts to remain anonymous.38 Her persistent shouting out to Jesus, calling Him “Lord” and “Son of David” certainly did not help Jesus to remain inconspicuous. And, if this doesn’t make things difficult enough for her, the disciples were so irritated with her persistence that they pressed Jesus to send her away.39 Chances of her obtaining what she desired did not look good for this desperate woman.

Quite frankly, Jesus’ own words did not seem to be encouraging. Initially, He did not even respond to her appeals, and when He finally did, it was to inform her that He had come, first and foremost, to minister to the Jews (not exactly her heritage).40

But this did not deter her from pursuing her mission. So, what kept her going, when the disciples had enough of her ceaseless cries for mercy, and even Jesus did not seem inclined to help? I believe that we can see the reason for her urgency from her own words, and from Jesus’ final response to them. She began by calling Jesus “Lord,” and “the Son of David,” which strongly suggests that she believed in Jesus as the Promised (Jewish) Messiah, or was well on her way to doing so.41

Our Lord’s final response to this woman is very different from His response to the hardness of heart on the part of the Pharisees,42 and even His disciples:

17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? 18 "HAVING EYES, DO YOU NOT SEE? AND HAVING EARS, DO YOU NOT HEAR? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?" They said to Him, "Twelve." 20 "When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they said to Him, "Seven." 21 And He was saying to them, "Do you not yet understand?" (Mark 8:17-21)

Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish" (Matthew 15:28).

So let’s see if we can follow this woman’s reasoning, which resulted in our Lord’s granting her request.

First and foremost, she had a good grasp of who Jesus was.43 To this woman, Jesus was Lord, and He was also “the Son of David.” Does she understand this fully, along with all of its implications? Surely not. Neither did the disciples, even after declaring Jesus to be the Promised Messiah.44 But she definitely understood more than the Pharisees and scribes, and more than the disciples, at this moment in time.

I am also convinced that she was assured, not only of the sufficiency of our Lord to grant her request, but also of His predisposition to do so. He loved mercy and compassion in others, because He, Himself, was merciful and compassionate (Matthew 9:13, 36; 12:7, 14; 15:32; 20:34; Luke 7:13). She was bold to ask for what she believed our Lord was not only able to do, but also what He desired to do – show mercy and compassion.

But beyond this, she recognized our Lord’s reference to “bread” as symbolic, and she, unlike the disciples, was able to play out the implications of His words. Did Jesus speak of “bread” and of “children” (and of dogs)? Then she would appeal to Him on the basis of “leftovers.” In effect, she would reason as the disciples should have done, based upon their recent experience at the two feedings of the masses. Picking up on Jesus’ words, she believed that “the children, sitting at the table,” were well fed by His bread. But assuming that He always provided abundantly, there must be more than enough to feed them, with some left over. All she was asking for was for some of the leftovers, “the crumbs,” to meet the needs of the “puppies” under the table.

This woman’s faith was great indeed, and thus it was welcomed and commended by our Lord, and so her request was granted. I think it is safe to say that this woman stands head and shoulders, above everyone else in our text. She is surely the key, for us, and for the disciples, to understand the meaning of “the loaves,” and yet, so far as we know, she was not even there when Jesus fed the masses and the leftovers were gathered.

Let’s Talk About Some Immediate Applications Of Our Text, And Some Abuses

We know where to look for the primary lesson of our text. In chapter 7 Mark put the issue before us at the outset of this text:

51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, 52 for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened (Mark 6:51-52).

And then, at the end of our text we read these words of our Lord:

17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? 18 "HAVING EYES, DO YOU NOT SEE? AND HAVING EARS, DO YOU NOT HEAR? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?" They said to Him, "Twelve." 20 "When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they said to Him, "Seven." 21 And He was saying to them, "Do you not yet understand?" (Mark 8:17-21)

So, what is the lesson of the loaves? I believe that the “loaves” are the clue God has given to remind the disciples, and us, that we serve the God of the exodus, the God who provided for the needs of the Israelites for forty years. The similarity of the disciples’ experience to that of the ancient Israelites should have been obvious. There was a miraculous crossing of the Red Sea; Jesus miraculously crossed over the Sea of Galilee. From the Red Sea Moses led the Israelites into a desert wilderness, and there God provided bread for what must have been nearly 1 million people,45 for forty years. Jesus effectively “led” thousands into the wilderness, and provided for them there. Is this not a kind of “living parable,” where one event is remarkably similar to another?

And beyond this, the leftovers taken up from our Lord’s feeding were abundant, to show us that His provisions are abundant. Mark’s words indicate to us that the disciples’ amazement was due to their failure to rightly appraise what had just taken place when Jesus provided bread in the wilderness, and to connect this with Jesus’ walking on the water.

Surely this means that we should not be like the disciples, worried about lunch for twelve, when the Master has just fed thousands. Supply shortages, inflation, and other hindrances are but a small matter for our God, who provides abundantly so that His servants can carry out His will for them.

The story of the Canaanite woman, told alongside the interaction of Jesus and the Pharisees, is a beautiful illustration (parable?) of the gospel. The Pharisees are those who think that they have something to “bring to the table” (so to speak). They look on their Jewish heritage, their position, and their scholarship as a kind of “leg up” with God. In fact, they are so smug and self-confident they don’t see themselves as hopelessly lost and in need of salvation. Rather, they see themselves as worthy to judge Jesus and find Him guilty of breaking their rules. No wonder the bread means nothing to them, but the ceremonially clean hands their (unbiblical) traditions required was first and foremost on their minds.

And then comes this marvelous woman, who has absolutely nothing to commend her before our Lord, or to give her some claim on His power and provisions. But that is the point. She must cast herself on Jesus, on His mercy and grace, undeserving though she is. And, in this regard, this woman is not the exception; she is the rule. That is the way every lost sinner must come to Jesus. We have nothing to commend us to Him. We have nothing to contribute to His saving grace. We must cast ourselves on Him, knowing that He is not only able, but willing to save. And what Jesus delights in is our faith in Him, rather than in ourselves. This woman illustrates the gospel, beautifully.

This said, there is also the need for a word of warning, because there are always those who would twist the truth in order to justify something which is contrary to God’s word.46

As I was preparing this message, I asked myself this question: “How will someone take the truths of this passage and turn them into something that is sinful?” I did not have to think about this for very long before one answer became very clear to me: THOSE WHO ADVOCATE A PROSPERITY GOSPEL WILL EMBRACE THIS PASSAGE AS A PROOFTEXT FOR THEIR FALSE MESSAGE.

This text does teach the abundance of our Lord’s provision for His servants, which will enable them to carry out His work. But a further look at our text has much to teach us about why we should ask God to provide for us, and for what purposes we should ask Him to abundantly provide.

My first clues came from our Lord Jesus. I could not understand why Jesus would intend to walk past47 His disciples, as He made His way to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. I believe that Jesus would have preferred to remain in solitude at this critical moment in time,48 but the thought of His disciples being left to themselves to fight the wind and the waves prompted Him to draw near, and to get into the boat with them.49

Then there are the two times when Jesus must have been weary from teaching and healing many, but nevertheless, out of His infinite compassion, He chose to expend His energy to feed the crowds.

And, finally, there is Jesus’ response to the pleas of this Canaanite woman. Mark clearly indicates that Jesus was trying not to be visible and accessible.50 Jesus’ disciples were none too happy to have this woman disturbing their peace in her persistent pleas for help for her daughter. But Jesus, once again, set aside self-interest and ministered to this woman by delivering her daughter from her demon possession. Jesus gave, literally gave Himself, for others.

Another clue came, thanks to this marvelous Canaanite woman. She did not ask the Lord for that which personally benefitted her; she asked Jesus to pour out His abundant mercy on her daughter.51 She didn’t ask for herself, but for her daughter.

And this reminded me of that Gentile centurion described in Matthew chapter eight:

5 And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, 6 and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented." 7 Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." 8 But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 "For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." 10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11 "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13 And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment (Matthew 8:1-13 NAU)

He, too, is commended by Jesus for his faith, a faith which seems to have surpassed any Jewish faith at the time. But this centurion did not ask Jesus for himself; he asked Jesus for the sake of his servant. I believe that Jesus not only delighted in his faith, but also in the fact that he did not ask for himself.

All of this becomes more evident when contrasted with those who thought only of themselves. The crowds, who (especially in John chapter 6) wanted Jesus to provide meals for them forever. And the disciples, who were weary, and wanted Jesus to send both crowds, and the Canaanite woman, away. The disciples could only agonize about their lunch. Self-interest, pure and simple.

How different this selfless “asking” of the Canaanite woman is from that which the prosperity preachers proclaim. You can be assured they will say that in order to get you must first give. And almost without exception, it will be to them. In order to “tap in” to the abundance of God’s resources, you must give, so that you can get. That was not true of the Canaanite woman, nor of the centurion in Matthew chapter 8. They had nothing they could give in order to gain the blessings that our Lord had to give.

The Bible turns, “You must first give in order to get,” into something vastly different: “You should get in order to give.” How many times we see this in the Scriptures.

I think first of the Abrahamic Covenant, in which God promises to bless Abraham and his “seed” so that they may bless others:

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3).

I am also reminded of Solomon’s prayer, and God’s pleasure in what he asked for:

10 It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 God said to him, "Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, 12 behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. 13 "I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days” (1 Kings 3:10-13).

Then there is the teaching and example of our Lord:

12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13 "But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:12-14).

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Paul not only preached this; he practiced it:

17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share (1 Timothy 6:17-18).

"You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me (Acts 20:34).

James puts it this way:

2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4:2-3).

So, putting two thoughts together, the feeding of the 5,000, followed by the feeding of the 4,000 reminds us that our Lord is the God of the exodus, and that His power and abundance has not diminished, from Old Testament times to New, or from New Testament times to the present. This should give us great confidence in His adequacy and abundance to meet our needs as we seek to serve Him.

And, we should also see that God gives so that we may give. It is not about giving to get, but about getting, to give. That getting may come about through hard work, as we see in Paul’s life, or it may come in answer to our selfless prayers, as we ask for His resources to share with others.

He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need (Ephesians 4:28).

17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

But Wait, There’s More

We dare not leave this passage, assuming that we have learned all that there is from our brief study. This text in Mark (and Matthew) is one which we should think long and hard about. Let me suggest some avenues of thought.

FIRST, ARE YOU IN THE BOAT WITH JESUS? Are you assured that you are in the boat with our Lord Jesus, and that he is in the boat with you? Christmas is soon to be here. May I suggest that the birth of our Lord, the incarnation, is Jesus “getting into the boat” with us.

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham (Hebrews 2:14-16).

Obviously, this is a metaphor, but it is a good one, I think. By our sins, our many sins against God, we have, so to speak, jumped ship. Because of our sin, we are destined for destruction. Our Lord Jesus recognized our great need to be rescued, and so He came to this earth, fully God, and fully human (but free from sin). As such, He took the sinner’s place, bearing the punishment we deserve. And then He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, so that we can be partakers of eternal life. If you do not understand this, please feel free to ask someone who knows Jesus as Savior. You can’t be assured of God’s abundant spiritual blessings52 without being in the boat with Him.

SECOND, OUR TEXT BEAUTIFULLY INFORMS US THAT GOD’S SAVING PLAN INCLUDED GENTILES. Here is something the Jews of Jesus’ day were adamantly opposed to.53 But God had made this purpose clear in Genesis 12:1-3 and at various times (as is evident in the genealogy of our Lord in Luke 3:22-38.54 We should not avoid the obvious fact that in our text, as well as in Matthew 8:5-13, these Gentile believers had greater faith than their Jewish counterparts.


Within our text, Mark has placed his account of the accusation made by the Pharisees (and scribes) that Jesus’ disciples ate their bread with unwashed hands. These “biblical scholars” were so dull that they could not make any meaningful connection with the bread, or with Jesus’ teaching. They could not see the connection between Jesus’ teaching and His miracles that He performed while He taught. Jesus therefore accused them of not being able to “connect the dots”:

1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But He replied to them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' 3 "And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? 4 "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah." And He left them and went away (Matthew 16:1-4).

And then, in the preceding chapter (in Matthew), this Canaanite “connected the dots” beautifully, much more than the disciples.

How was it that scholars could not see something that a Canaanite woman did see? I think the answer is found in 1 Corinthians 2:

7 but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, "THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM." 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words (1 Corinthians 2:7-13).

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not seeking to undermine the benefit we can receive from godly scholars. But please don’t assume that their spiritual insight comes from merely human scholarly effort. Biblical wisdom comes through the Holy Spirit, and not necessarily through those with impressive degrees.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply (Acts 4:13-14; see also 1 Timothy 1:3-7; Titus 1:10-16).

FINALLY, OUR TEXT HAS MUCH TO TEACH US ABOUT HOW WE SHOULD STUDY OUR BIBLES. Mark 6-8 (and its parallel text in Matthew 14-16) teaches us that God expects those who trust in Him to “connect the dots,” and to see the relationship between what we are experiencing and what God has done in the past. If God can do this (part the Red Sea, so that an entire nation can pass through it on dry ground, and feed multitudes in the wilderness), then He can surely do that (walk on water, and provide a few sandwiches for His disciples). This means that the Old and New Testaments are more relevant to us than we might think.

1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. 6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY." 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:16-18).

HOPEFULLY, YOU MIGHT GIVE SOME THOUGHT TO WHAT I HAVE CALLED “LIVING PARABLES.” Parables teach us by placing two things alongside, and showing us ways in which the two are alike. I fear that when many of us read the Old Testament we do so with the presupposition that what we read will somehow be different than what we read in the New. I would like to challenge this assumption, because our text in Mark 6-8 does so. It shows us that the situation experienced by the disciples on the Sea of Galilee was like that experienced by the ancient Israelites.

We should beware of thinking of the Old Testament, its teaching, and its events as “long ago and far away.” It seems clear to me that Jesus expected His disciples to make the connection to the Israel in the wilderness at the exodus. We also need to be careful not to think that the link between Old Testament and the New is limited to clear and direct prophecy. There are, of course, such instances, like Micah 5:2, but there are also similarities that are instructive, such as Hagar and Sarah in Galatians 4:21-31, Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 37-50, and Abraham and his faith in God’s power to give life to the dead in Romans 4 and Hebrews 11.

At times, there are links from the New Testament to the Old which are unexpected and less than direct prophecy (see Hosea 11:1, cited in Matthew 2:15). We also need to keep in mind that often in the Gospels the disciples and others failed to understand Jesus because they limited His meaning to literal matters, rather than things more spiritual. That was the case in our text with regard to the term bread. It was also true that the multitudes did not get Jesus’ reference to “bread,” “flesh,” and “blood” in John 6 (see John 6:30-66). When Jesus said that Lazarus was “asleep,” He did not mean that literally, which Jesus had to explain to His disciples (John 11:11-14). Let us look to the Holy Spirit to see more than we have, because it is there. And, let us be careful not to see things in Scripture which are not there.

May God grant us greater understanding of this great text of Scripture, of God’s mercy and abundant provision for His saints, and of the magnitude of this Canaanite woman’s faith.

Copyright © 2022 by Robert L. Deffinbaugh. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with or without credit.

1 Also twenty times in Matthew and John, and fifteen times in Luke.

2 There are times when we may not even realize that Jesus is using a parable. One such instance is found in Mark 7:17 (and its parallel text in Matthew 15:15) where the disciples (Peter) ask Jesus to explain the parable He just used. See also Luke 12:36, 41.

3 See Proverbs 1:6 (NIV, NLT).

4 In this regard, I believe that Paul was using the story of Sarah and Hagar as a “living parable,” which he uses to illustrate what legalism is like (see Galatians 4:21-31). We might also include the story of Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers, and of
Abraham’s faith in God’s power to raise from the dead, as buttressed by the birth of a son to Abraham and Sarah, when they were “as good as dead” with regard to bearing children (see Romans 4:16-21).

5 In Matthew’s account of the feeding of the 5,000 he sets the stage by telling us that Jesus had compassion on the crowd, and healed many (Matthew 14:14), while Mark says that Jesus had compassion on the crowd and taught them (Mark 6:34).

6 See Mark 3:6-8.

7 In Mark chapter 4, Jesus spoke in parables to conceal the truth from the blasphemers, while He privately explained His teaching to His disciples (Mark 4:33-34), but later on in Matthew 21:33-46 Jesus spoke in parables to conceal the truth from His disciples, and convey a message to His adversaries. I believe that this prevented any defensive acts on the part of his disciples (see Luke 22:38, 49; John 18:10).

8 I think this was a part of what Jesus was teaching them in Luke 5:1-11 and again in John 21:1-14.

9 Mark 6:8.

10 I find it interesting that Herod sought to “connect the dots” by concluding that Jesus was actually John the Baptist, raised from the dead. He certainly thought more highly of Jesus than some.

11 We could easily pass by this without seeing how greatly it impacted the disciples. John had announced Jesus as the One who had come to bring judgment. When John was arrested, he began to have doubts. Was Jesus the Messiah he had foretold? And when John was martyred, surely the disciples were taken back. John’s death must surely have raised questions in the minds of our Lord’s disciples.

12 See Mark 3:20.

13 See Mark 6:30-31.

14 John 6:5.

15 Mark 6:41.

16 John 6:9.

17 My paraphrase of Mark 6:42.

18 This is a forceful word, and has the sense of “compel.” The disciples were probably in agreement with the crowd, that wanted to make Jesus their king.

19 You will recall that John informs us that this crowd wanted to make Jesus their king (John 6:15).

20 See John 6:21.

21 I have chosen to momentarily pass by chapter 7, and move directly to the second ‘feeding’ in chapter 8.

22 Note that chapter 8 begins with the words, “In those days. . .”

23 See Mark 8:2.

24 Unfortunately, some translations fail to acknowledge that the word for “baskets” in chapter 8 is not the same as that employed in chapter 6. In chapter 8 the word refers to very large baskets. The same term used in Mark 8:8 is employed in Acts 9:25 to identify the basket in which Paul was lowered to safety from the wall in Damascus.

25 It is so tempting to speculate here. How was it that such large baskets were on hand? Is it possible that some in the crowd grasped more than the disciples? Could some have expected a re-run of the feeding of the 5,000 and come prepared to take home some of the leftovers? It is hard to imagine why folks would have carried these large baskets along as they followed Jesus into the wilderness.

26 In Matthew’s parallel account (16:5-12) the word “bread” (or “loaves”) appears seven times. Also, this event is immediately followed by the “great confession.” Also, in Matthew’s account, Jesus warns of the leaven of “the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (16:6, 11), but here in Mark it is the “leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.” I think there are two strains of error (leaven), one of the Pharisees, and the other of the Sadducees and Herod. Somehow there seems to be a convergence of the latter error, which mixes religion and politics. History could likely supply many examples of this.

27 See 2 Corinthians 9:10; Philippians 4:19.

28 See Luke 5:1-11 and John 21:1-14.

29 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19.

30 Some translations have not helped us here. The word “bread” occurs once in verse 5, but is omitted in several translations: “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders. But eat with defiled hands?” (Mark 7:5, ESV, NET, NLY, RSV). The text literally reads, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with defiled hands?

31 The question is, “Why this story here?” The answer, I believe, is to show the contrast between these “scholars” and a theologically “simple” woman – the Canaanite woman described in the following verses. These scholars, have spent years in the Old Testament Scriptures, but they cannot seem to add 2 + 2 and get four when it comes to thinking biblically. And yet this far less sophisticated woman gets it, far better than these scholars, and even better than the disciples. Put differently, this Gentile gets the gospel, while the Jews don’t. When thinking of the feeding of the 5,000, and then the 4,000, those crowds certainly did not have the opportunity to wash their hands as the Pharisees demanded. Biblically speaking, the crowds, led by Jesus, did not break the Law of Moses. But they did break the Jewish add-on rules, which were both foolish and impractical.

32 In my opinion, the translation “withdrew” is a bit too weak. When this same term is used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) it implies a great deal more urgency. Often in the Old Testament, it could be rendered “flee” (see Exodus 2:15; Numbers 16:24; Joshua 8:15; Judges 417; 1 Samuel 19:10, 25:10).

33 Mark chapter 7, the glaring contrast between the Jewish scholars and the Gentile woman beautifully illustrates truth of 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

34 Matthew 15:22.

35 See Deuteronomy 7:1-5; 20:16-18.

36 Matthew 15:21-22.

37 Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24.

38 This viewed from a merely human perspective. Obviously, it was part of a divine plan, a plan which saved a woman and her daughter, and which was to become a part of Scripture, for us to read.

39 Matthew 15:23.

40 Matthew 15:23.

41 If this is so, then she is making her own “great confession” here, before the one given by Peter (Matthew 16:16; Mark 8:29).

42 Mark 7:6-13.

43 In the biblical texts of Matthew and Mark, her “great confession” precedes that of Peter.

44 See Matthew 16:21-27.

45 See Exodus 12:37.

46 For example, those who would use the grace of God as an excuse for living in sin (Romans 5:20—6:14). And then there were those who claimed, falsely, that since there is only one God, and idols can’t represent any other god, participating in heathen idol worship services was legitimate (1 Corinthians 8:1-10).

47 Mark 6:48.

48 I am reminded of our Lord’s words in Luke 9:41: And Jesus answered and said, "O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you, and put up with you? Bring your son here" (Luke 9:41).

49 As I write this, Christmas is but a few days away. I cannot help but see the parallel (the parable) between Jesus going to His disciples and getting into the boat with them, and His coming to earth at His incarnation. What a sacrifice it was to do both.

50 See Mark 7:24 and Matthew 15:21.

51 Obviously, there was a benefit to her in that her beloved daughter was delivered from demon possession. But essentially her concern is for her daughter, and not herself.

52 See Ephesians chapter 1.

53 See Luke 4:16-30; Acts 22:17-22.

54 See also Acts 10-11; Romans 9-11; Ephesians 2:11—3:13.

Related Topics: Christian Life

Report Inappropriate Ad