I have not been titling these posts through the season of Lent. Maybe in retrospect I should have been. If I had a title for today’s post it would be “The Hidden Miracle” The text is from Mark 8:1-10.
1 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.9 About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
The point of studying these texts is to hopefully find something new that I had not realized previously. You may be thinking “I thought it was five loaves, not seven” or “I thought it was 5,000, not 4,000!” This story is often overlooked because it is overshadowed by the more glamorous story of the feeding of the 5,000 that is portrayed in Mark 6:30-44 which involves feeding a larger number of fish with only five loaves, two fish, and had twelve baskets leftover, rather than only seven.
So what is the hidden miracle? Well, one might say that Jesus’ compassion for their most basic need, hunger. But I want to present to you a different hidden miracle. If you read the Mark 6 story, you will notice the story is almost identical in plot with differences being in the details-how many people, how much food, how much leftover, etc. And while a literary scholar might say that the conflict is about hunger (man vs. self), the greater conflict is also an internal one. Just two chapters before, the disciples basically said, “How are we going to feed all these people?” And here, not too far removed from the previous incident, the same disciples are saying “How are we going to feed all these people?”
Maybe the disciples don’t want to be presumptuous. After all, Jesus miracles are often as different as their recipients. But if the disciples are anything like me, they just don’t think he can or will do it again. They’ve seen him do it before, but here with the sun going down and the hungry crowd waiting anxiously, they are not expecting a miracle.
So what IS the hidden miracle? The hidden miracle is Jesus’ compassion for his faithless disciples. And maybe it was in the original manuscript but lost over time, or maybe the dialog from the first century oral tradition doesn’t translate to our modern literary style. But I have to have some faith that the Bible we read today is the Bible God intended for us to have. And in this passage we don’t see Jesus berating his disciples for their lack of faith. He doesn’t express his frustration with them. Seemingly in understanding fashion, he just hands them the bread and lets them figure it out for themselves.
So I’ll ask you, what are the miracles Jesus has worked in your life? Have you forgotten his ability to provide for you? If he’s done something once, why is it so hard to believe he’ll do it again? How does it make you feel to know that even when it’s hard to trust God he understands and has patience with you?