Title: The feeding of the 4000
Scriptures to Read: Mark 7:31–8:12; Matthew 15:39-16:4
A Jewish event and a Gentile event
This section focuses our attention of two events, one a Jewish event and the other a Gentile event. Even though the Decapolis is a union of 10 Greek gentile cities there were small Jewish communities within these cities.
Jesus goes to a Gentile region
Jesus leaves the region of Tyre and travels south again. He carefully keeps away from Galilee which is the territory of Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas had control over Galilee and Pereia. And Pontus Pilate had control of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea. So Jesus travels from Sidon down the eastern side of the Jordan River until He reaches Decapolis. Decapolis is a union of 10 Greek Gentile cities of which only one was on the west side of the Jordon, city of Scythopolis (Old Testament – Beth-Shan).
A Jew healed
We’ll follow Mark’s account first, to see the Jewish event that he records (Mark 7:32-37). The man had a two-fold problem: he was deaf and because of being deaf he also had an impediment of speech. We can deduce that this man was a Jew because of Jesus’ policy not to do miracles in public anymore for Jewish people. Therefore, He takes the man aside “from the crowd” to heal him privately. Remember there are no more signs for the general population but He does respond to personal need on the basis of faith. He is asked to lay hands on the man, but instead He performs a six step process which is unique in Scripture.
1. He put His fingers in the man’s ears to deal with his deafness.
2. He spits.
3. He uses His own saliva on the tongue to deal with the man’s impediment of speech.
4. He looks up to heaven for the Fathers help.
5. He sighed.
6. Then He commanded the healing, and the man could both hear and speak.
And then, “He gave them orders not to tell anyone!” So we continue to see His policy being carried out. However, those who saw the miracle proclaimed it widely! So the news about Him continued to spread. Matthew, writing to the Jews, has a different perspective from Mark. And interestingly, while Mark writes about the Jewish event for the Romans to read, Matthew is more interested in telling the Jews what happened among the Gentiles.
Fruit of demoniac’s ministry
What happened when Jesus first came to the region of Decapolis? He healed the demonic who had a legion of demons. And as a result the local inhabitants asked Him to leave them. And remember that He sent the man back to his people to report to them “what great things the Lord has done for him. And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.”
The Gentiles are accepting Jesus as the Messiah
Instead of asking Jesus to leave as they had before, they are coming to Him in large crowds bringing to Him those who need to be healed. And these Gentiles are glorifying the God of Israel. So now the Gentiles are accepting the Jewish Messiah because of the testimony of the former demonized man, and Jesus is reaping where the other man did the sowing. Matthew’s point is that while the Jews have rejected His Messiahship, the Gentiles are accepting Him.
Feeding of the four thousand [Mark 8:1-9]
While there are a lot of similarities between this event and the feeding of the 5000, the two events are quite different. And one key difference is that the feeding of the 5000 had a Jewish crowd; and the feeding of the 4000 has a mostly Gentile crowd. This crowd is coming as a result of the testimony of the demonized man.
Training the twelve
Once again what He does here is part of their training in preparation for the ministry they will have after His ascension. What was the lesson that Jesus taught the disciples with the feeding of the five thousand? He taught them that they are responsible to feed the people, that they don’t have the resources to do it, and that they are responsible to feed the people what He provides for them. Did they learn that lesson? No! When He tells them that He has compassion on the crowd and wants to feed them, they respond that they don’t have enough bread. Their response shows that they failed to learn the lesson of the feeding of the five thousand.
Once again He takes the loaves and the fish, gives thanks, breaks them, and gives them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd until they were all satisfied. This time there are seven large baskets full of left over pieces and the crowd numbered 4,000 men besides the women and children.
The lessons for the disciples
This lesson repeats the earlier lesson that they are responsible to feed the people, they do not have the resources to do it themselves, and they are responsible to distribute what He provides. But this is not merely a repetition of the earlier lesson. There is also an extra lesson this time. This time they learn that the Gentiles are to benefit from His ministry. And this is a strong indication that they will be ministering to the Gentiles at a later time, and yes, the Gentiles will also benefit from the coming of the Messiah.
Return to Galilee [Matt. 15:39-6:4]
After feeding the four thousand, Jesus sends the crowd away, and He and His disciples return to Jewish territory at Magadan (in the region of Dalmanutha) which is probably near Gennesaret, south of Capernaum.
Pharisees and Sadducees
Notice that the Pharisees and the Sadducees are now united in their endeavor to catch Jesus out. They came tempting Him and asking to be shown a sign from heaven. They are demanding an authenticating sign. Jesus chastises them because they know how to forecast the weather by reading the signs in the sky, but they do not understand the signs of the times.
The sign of Jonah
Then He restates His policy on signs. For the nation there will be no more signs except the one sign, the sign of Jonah, which is the sign of resurrection. And to repeat, this sign will come to Israel on three occasions:
1. Resurrection of Lazarus
2. Resurrection of Yeshua
3. Resurrection of the two witnesses of Revelation 11.