In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus summoned the disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.” His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied. He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd. They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also. They ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets. There were about four thousand people.
He dismissed them and got into the boat with his disciples and came to the region of Dalmanutha.Mark 8:1-10
On the eastern, Gentile side of Galilee, Jesus’ fame drew four thousand to hear him teach in a deserted place. After three days, his heart ached to nourish them, for they were famished. But his disciples skeptically asked, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
Though the Twelve had earlier witnessed the feeding of the five thousand, their faith had not yet matured.1 Since no one offered Jesus any bread, he prompted them himself. “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied. He ordered the crowd to recline (anapiptó) on the ground. At the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples would also “recline.”2 Anticipating the Eucharistic banquet, he took the loaves, gave thanks (eucharisteó), broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute. As with the Jews in the west, he also blessed and multiplied a few fish, satisfying the crowd.
Bread of Life
From west to east and north to south (a cruciform circle), Jesus gave himself—the “bread of life”—to the world.3 The numbers in these feasts carry transcendent meaning. Seven loaves and seven baskets signified the seven nations of the Gentiles.4 Twelve baskets of fragments left over in the first miracle signified Israel.5 Circumambulating the “Galilee of the Gentiles,”6 Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham to bless “all the families of the earth.”
Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.Genesis 28:14 (ESV)
Orchards of Paradise
The magnificent feeding of the multitudes offers a foretaste of the Messianic banquet in the kingdom of heaven.7 Lush with orchards, vineyards, and fruit, the paradise of the new Israel shall satisfy all the peoples of the earth.
In days to come Jacob shall take root,Isaiah 27:6 (various translations)
Israel shall blossom and bud,
and fill the face of the world with fruit.
Jesus fed a crowd with seven loaves,
Heralding the kingdom’s fruitful groves.
1 Mark 6:35-44.
2 John 13:12; 25; 21:20.
3 John 6:51.
4 Deuteronomy 7:1.
5 Mark 6:43; 8:19; Luke 9:17; John 6:13.
6 Matthew 4:15.
7 Isaiah 25:6; Psalm 23:5; Ezekiel 34:14; Matthew 8:11; 22:2; Luke 13:29; 14:15; Revelation 3:20; 19:7-9.