The Feeding of the Four Thousand only features in Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels – leading some commentators to suggest that it was a copyist’s mistaken duplication. However, in Mark 8:19-20, Jesus mentions both occasions in the same sentence, and makes comparisons between them. What strikes me are two things: (a) The disciples were as unprepared for the second occasion as they were for the first one! And (b) Five loaves feed 5000 men and leave 12 baskets over, whilst Seven loaves feed 4000 men and leave 7 baskets over. There is no mathematical logic here. This tells us that God’s provision is totally miraculous and is not limited by our own resources – as long as we submit all we have to him.
The point that Jesus had been making about the ‘yeast of the Pharisees’ was nothing to do with having enough bread – God can provide all that we need – but a warning against the teaching of the legalists, which was intended to glorify them and to diminish everyone else. Yeast produces gas which ‘puffs up’ the individual, and this action is generally seen as a morally deficient quality in Jewish culture.
The healing of the blind man at Bethesda is a sign for us that even Jesus sometimes needed more than one attempt at a complete healing; we should persevere therefore and not give up if, at first, we don’t succeed in our prayers.
Peter finally ‘got it’! He recognised that Jesus really was the Messiah. After that, his life was never the same again. However, Peter did not always see eye-to-eye with Jesus’ ministry aims; Jesus needed to strongly rebuke Peter for using human thinking and values to evaluate the path that Jesus needed to take. Jesus needed support in his mission, not a friend who pushed him back into his ‘comfort zone’!
Finally, Jesus tells it ‘how it is’: not only did he need to go to the Cross, but so do we. Within six hours on that cross, Jesus had died, but for us it might take an entire lifetime. What must be similar is the willingness to die to our own will and comfort, to obey God, and to identify with Jesus as the living Messiah. If we are ashamed of him, then he will be ashamed of us!