31 Jul 2022
The Gospel. St. Mark viii. 1.
In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far. And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.
The saying goes, “You are what you eat.” I suppose if you eat nothing but fast food, you are a sort of fast food yourself! Short attention span and instant gratification are a part of you. Whereas a diet of meat and potatoes may have you take on the shape of a sack of potatoes. If you eat a diet that’s low on fat and big on greens, your internals and externals get the benefit. Spiritual food is the same way. If you have a constant diet of sin, you are poisoning yourself as surely as if you lived on containers all marked with skulls and crossbones. But what if you eat of God’s miraculous food; what are you then? If you were one of the 4,000, what did you come away with?
The people had traveled along way. They were mostly poor people who were willing to go a distance to hear Jesus speak. Perhaps some had brought food from home, but by now, after three days, it was all gone. He knew that the journey home would be a long and exhausting especially if they had nothing to eat first.
Notice how careful an observer Jesus is, how he easily pictured in his mind what these people might go through without a meal. He empathized with their plight though He Himself could fast many days without difficulty. For their part, they had shown the right priorities in life—putting the truth Jesus spoke ahead of their comfort and convenience. The 4,000 like the 5,000 were worthy of the gift Jesus intended to provide.
In the Old Testament, the Lord is often seen feeding his sheep. In the Garden of Eden there was plenty of fruit; we all know that it was not through a lack of good options that Adam and Eve chose to eat from the forbidden tree. The Israelites were saved from famine by going down into Egypt as God had destined. Joseph made sure they would be welcomed and have what they needed. Miraculously, manna was given to them when they fled from Egypt across the desert. Then. God gave them a land “flowing with milk and honey,” the Promised Land. The prophets, when they fled from one or another of the wicked kings of Israel or Judah were miraculously fed by birds that God sent. Yes, God provides.
The account of feeding the 4,000 comes shortly after the feeding of the 5,000 and is a separate event. It is significant that in the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000, four key verbs are used to describe the events: taking the food that is available, giving thanks or blessing, breaking the bread, and giving it to the disciples and thus to the crowd. Take, bless, brake, and give. Does it sound like a familiar pattern? It should. These are the words of the Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion.
Mark himself relates, “Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave it to them, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.” Mark 14:22-25
So, the feeding of the 4,000 is not only a miracle to physically strengthen those listeners 2,000 years ago. It wasn’t only a miracle to enlighten the disciples and the people as to the miraculous power of God in their lives, a sort of manna for their time. It was also a foreshadowing of the gift of grace He would bestow on us and on all Christians of all times by His sacrifice and resurrection.
The miraculous feedings marked Jesus for who He truly is. The people had recognized Him by his powerful miracles, healings, and teachings, but the breaking of bread became another magnificent indicator of His presence. This was a messianic sign that we find in Psalm 78: “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness…Can he give bread also?” At Emmaus, as described in the last chapter of Luke, two disciples meet the resurrected Lord along the way, but they do not recognize Him until He breaks bread in the inn. “And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight.” (Luke 24:31)
Today, the breaking of bread in Holy Communion today at Good Shepherd is likewise another sign of Jesus’ presence among us. He comes to be in us and we in Him. This has always been the way for Christians.
In St. John’s gospel we get the whole story behind the bread. Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one might eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6: 35, 47-58
So then we Christians are miraculously fed like the 4,000, like the 5,000, like the Israelites in the desert, but much more greatly blessed through the food God has provided. We are sustained, owe our very lives, to our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, who made the ultimate sacrifice for us and for all Christians who accept Him into their hearts. We truly are what we eat. We take the Lord in and His grace. Our prayers are strengthened, our good actions are lifted up, and our minds are set aright with His. We are workers of miracles, you and I. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can reach out to God and our neighbors and be one with Christ. We are what we eat. We grow with Him in our being.
Source: The Feeding of the Multitudes, the Last Supper, the Lord's Supper, and the Eucharist
Bishop Edwin Tompkins
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.