Read Mark 8:1-10
It is significant to note where this miracle takes place. It is Gentile territory. In yesterday’s reading we were told that “Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went…into the region of the Decapolis” (7:31). The Decapolis, which means Ten Cities, was a center of Greek and Roman culture. The cities were just east of Galilee near the Jordan River. And we read in today’s lesson that “During those days another large crowd gathered.” This would be a crowd of Gentiles from the Ten Cities. Many scholars argue that today’s reading is simply a mirror account of the feeding of the 5000 in chapter 6. However, that first miraculous feeding took place in Galilee, Jewish territory. And there is one more clue. Mark uses the word kophinos to describe the baskets used to collect the pieces in 6:43. A kophinos is a basket of wicker-work used by Jews to carry food, often balanced on a woman’s head. In today’s reading (8:8), he uses the word spyris to describe the baskets used. A spyris is a very large reed basket, a kind of hamper, sometimes large enough to hold a man. Luke uses this word for the basket they put Paul in to facilitate his escape in Acts 9:25. It is a basket big enough to hold a grown man. So, why is all of this significant?
In both cases we are told that Jesus had compassion on the crowd. That is significant because He did not make a distinction between Jew and Gentile. It is also significant to note in what manner He fed the respective crowds. In the previous reading (6:34), Mark said that the Jews were like “sheep without a Shepherd,” and Jesus began teaching. They had only been with the Lord the better part of one day. Their spiritual need outweighed their physical. In today’s reading, the crowd is physically hungry. They had been with Him three days (8:2). He fed them. Mark is reporting that, in His compassion Jesus is capable of meeting all of our needs both physical and spiritual. We need only look to Him, and He will provide all we need, even with basketfuls of provision left over.