Pop quiz! Jesus gave the disciples a chance to respond in faith by placing them in an almost identical dilemma: “Here is a great crowd. They’ve been without food for three days. I feel for them. We wouldn’t want them to faint on the way home, right? [Followed by an expectant Jesus pause].”
These circumstances were eerily similar to the scenario in Mark 6:35–44.
Desolate place? Check.
Thousands hungry? Check (there were actually one thousand fewer people here than in Mark 6).
Late hour? Check.
Jesus’ compassion? Check, check, check.
How would Jesus’ disciples respond?
Okay, Jesus! This is the part where we give You what we have, You bless it, and You increase it!
Master, thank You for this second chance. We really didn’t get it the first time.
Nope. They had ministry amnesia.
“How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”
Jesus responded with such grace. Instead of, “How can you even ask that? I am the One who can feed these people with bread—I did it before, and there were baskets of leftovers for each of you!” Jesus asked them to give Him what they have.
“How many loaves do you have?” And Jesus blessed and broke those seven loaves and few little fish, and once again transformed their little into a feast for many. Perhaps the men were transfixed as they watched bread broken and multiplied in Jesus’ hands. Maybe they marveled at the metaphor for ministry: the brokenness and yielding and provision and feeding.
Or maybe they were just waiting for their own hands to be filled.
This time, after all of the thousands of people ate and were satisfied, there were seven leftover baskets—one for each loaf of bread Jesus received from the disciples.
Mark then provides a contrast of the disciples and the Pharisees, and we discover that at this point, there’s not much difference between the people following Jesus every day but instantly forgetting His power and provision, and the Pharisees asking for a sign just to be petty. Both put Jesus to the test. Both groups were blinded—either by circumstance or tradition—and lacked faith. The lack of faith demonstrated by both His intimate friends and the Jewish scholarly elite must have drawn a guttural sigh from the Savior.
Jesus generously performed signs. He lovingly offered second chances. But the faithless spiritual blindness must have seemed unrelenting.
“No sign will be given to this generation,” Jesus said (Mark 8:12). To be clear, “this generation” was another way of saying, “Y’all and folks that think like y’all.” After all the miracles, the foretelling of prophets, the Pharisees still sought a sign that Jesus was Messiah.
We can do the same: look at our empty hands and forget that they were recently filled; seek a sign when we have the Spirit of God and the Word of God right now. Yet, Jesus has already revealed Himself to us—through His kindness, His sacrifice for us, and His pursuing love. We should still hold out our hands—but we can do so with the joy of expectancy. He will give us our daily bread.