Today’s reading: Mk 8:1-21
Today we see Jesus again multiply loaves of bread and fishes to feed 4,000 more. Why does Jesus “repeat” this miracle?
First, at the time of the feeding of the 4,000 Jesus is traveling at the northern border of Israel in the Gentile territories. Thus, this miracle is most probably done for the gentiles. We can see that his reputation is growing in the gentile nations and he is beginning to gather crowds there as well. Second, if shows that the gospel message and the “bread of life” are meant for and will be distributed to all nations.
Notice that this time there are Seven (7) loaves and Seven (7) extra baskets of bread. Seven is the number of Gentile nations that surrounded Israel. This episode comes just after Jesus cured the daughter of a Greek (gentile) woman who was possessed by a demon. In that episode, Jesus told the woman that the bread was for the children of Israel. The woman responded that even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the table. These two episodes are thus connected. The bread will go out first to the children of Israel and then be extended to the gentile nations.
Finally, Jesus is repeating this miracle to show its central importance in Christian religious worship. It is the distribution of Jesus’ body under the species of bread that will become the central aspect of Christianity. The miracle of the Eucharist is prefigured in these two episodes with bread being multiplied to feed the faithful. Note that again the same formula is used. Jesus takes the bread, blesses it and gives thanks, breaks it and then the Apostles distribute it. Again, Jesus does not distribute the bread directly; it is done through his ministers. For the next 2,000 years, this formula is continually repeated in the Catholic Church.
Tomorrow: Mk 8:22-38