Stories From The New Testament: Chapter 15 - Feeding the 4,000
Shirley King Johnson
The gospel accounts do not tell us all the details of the tours that Jesus made as He took the Gospel to mankind, or of the regular trips He made to Jerusalem to keep the Holy Days. We next pick up events of His ministry with mention of a tour into the area of Tyre and Sidon. While He was staying in a private home near Tyre, a Canaanite woman came to Him and asked Him to cast a demon out of her daughter (Matt. 15:21-22, Mark 7:24-26).
A gentile shows her faith
"Lord, son of David, take pity on me!" she cried, kneeling at His feet. Jesus seemed reluctant at first to grant her petition, but the woman humbly worshiped Him and continued to plead for His intervention. Some of the apostles stepped forward to remove her from the house because of the scene she was making.
Jesus sighed. "Why does this wicked generation constantly request a sign?... you'll be given no sign except one... the sign of Jonah." Rising, He nodded to the apostles and they left...
Motioning away the apostles, Jesus spoke to her at last. "I'm sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," He said, testing her faith. Refusing to give up, she flung herself on the floor at His feet. "Help me!" she cried. "Please! Please!" "Is it right to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs?" Jesus asked. He may have posed this question with a smile. He knew that the woman was acquainted with the term dog, which many Jews used when referring to gentiles. Christ knew, and the woman must have sensed, that God's mercy included all mankind. The woman raised her tear-stained face. "No, Lord, it is not." Then, suddenly, hope came into her eyes. "But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." Jesus gave a little laugh. "You made a good reply." He took both her hands and raised her to her feet. "You are a woman of great faith. Your request is granted." "Thank you, Lord!" She went away and found that at the very moment Jesus had spoken those words, her daughter had been delivered from the demon and made well.
Another multitude gathers
Leaving that region, Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee, where He boarded a boat with the 12 apostles. They crossed to the region of Decapolis, a federation of 10 gentile cities. A crowd of hundreds began to accumulate when news of Jesus' presence was made known. They brought suffering friends and relatives to Jesus, laying at His feet the lame, blind, dumb and those ill with many diseases. He healed them all. The crowd praised the God of Israel. The people continued to come by the hundreds until a multitude of thousands had gathered before Him in the plain. At the end of three days Jesus summoned the apostles to Him and asked where they could get enough food to feed the throng, who by now had run out of provisions. The apostles produced seven loaves of bread and a few dried fish. Jesus prayed over the food and gave it to them to distribute. Four thousand men and their families were fed (Matt. 15:32-38, Mark 8:1-9). When everyone had finished, the apostles gathered seven baskets of leftovers.
Religious adversaries arrive
After the meal on the plain was over, Jesus dismissed the multitude and He and the apostles boarded the boat and crossed the Sea of Galilee to Magdala on the western shore. When Jesus had been there a few days an august group of Pharisees and Sadducees arrived from Jerusalem to confront Him (Matt. 16:1-4, Mark 8:11-12). The Sadducees differed from the Pharisees in that they rejected the traditional interpretations of the law and would not accept any oral law as a supplement to the written law. They denied the doctrine of the resurrections, however. Christ faced both these groups with calm dignity as they gathered before the platform in the synagogue to address Him. "Give us a miracle," their spokesman said. "Show us a sign from heaven."
"You should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that He meant they must not be deceived by the doctrines of the religious parties of the day.
Jesus sighed. "Why does this wicked generation constantly request a sign? I can tell you this — you'll be given no sign except one, and that is the sign of Jonah." Rising, He nodded to the apostles and they left the synagogue.
Beware the leaven of the Pharisees
Heading to the seashore, they boarded the boat and set sail for Bethsaida. As they relaxed in the boat the apostles grew hungry. They had no food on board except for one loaf of bread that Simon had brought along (Mark 8:14). It had been a gift of an admiring follower and, small though it was, Simon shared it with Thomas and Matthew, who were sitting beside him. "Some of us are getting hungry," Judas said accusingly to Simon as they prepared to land near Bethsaida. "There wasn't enough for all of us," replied Simon, his face flushing crimson. When everyone was ashore Jesus said: "Gather around, please. I have something to say. I want you to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herod." His tone meant that all was not well. "Now we're going to get it!" someone whispered. "We sure are," said another. "It's because we didn't bring any bread." Jesus looked from face to face. "You men of little faith! Why are you concerned about food? Don't you remember the five loaves that fed 5,000 men? How many baskets were left over afterward?" "Twelve," several voices responded (Matt. 16:5-12, Mark 8:13-21). "When I divided seven loaves and fed 4,000, how many baskets did you gather afterward?" "Seven." "Why do you not understand? You should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that He meant they must not be deceived by the doctrines of the religious parties of the day.
A blind man is healed
Moving on into the village of Bethsaida, they bought food and stopped for a meal. As they were eating, a trio of men came up the dusty road; the men led a blind man. They inquired uncertainly for Jesus of Nazareth and He stepped forward. "Lord, will you heal his blindness?" asked one. "Please be merciful to him" (Mark 8:22). Jesus took the blind man's hand. "Certainly. Let's move out of the village." Leading the man along, they came to the last house on the road. Jesus spit lightly on His fingertips and touched the man's eyelids. "What do you see?" Jesus asked. The man looked straight ahead in a troubled stare. "I see trees walking." Glancing back, Jesus saw that the man's friends, who had followed at a discreet distance, now approached. He touched the eyelids again. "Now, what do you see?" "I see men walking! I can see! Thank you, Lord!" "I must ask you to go to your home and not tell anyone about this," Jesus said. "Yes, sir. Whatever you say." But as his friends arrived the man shouted: "I can see! I can see!" It was apparent he could not contain his happiness and that the miracle would become widely known.