Thursday, August 29, 2013

Notes on Mark: Understanding the Second Miracle of Loaves

Mark 8:1-10
I have often wondered just how slow these disciples must be to not expect Jesus to do miracles after they have seen so many already. And yet this makes me think of the Hebrew people who experienced the parting of the Red Sea and soon after are begging for a golden calf to worship because Moses has been gone too long and surely, they say, God has abandoned them.

We are slow to remember, slow to trust, and quick to push forward with our own meager understanding, just like these disciples. This also gives us a chance to think about Jesus as the Bread of Life because Mark has a eucharistic emphasis that escapes us in many modern translations.
The disciples' skeptical response (echoing Moses' complaint in Num 11:13), seems strange in light of the miraculous feeding they have already witnessed. But many modern disciples of Jesus could attest how easy it is to forget the lessons of discipleship. Thouroughout the Bread Section Mark highlights the disciples' slowness to grasp the revelation of Jesus (Mark 6:52; 8:21)--not to disparage them, but to remind us, his readers, of the poverty of our own faith. Do we not yet understand that Jesus is the Bread, and that he is able to multiply whatever we put into his hands?

... Instead of saying that Jesus "blessed" the loaves, Mark uses a synonym, "gave thanks "(eucharisteo), the same word used for the blessing of the cup at the Last Supper (14:23; see also Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24). Once again the pattern is that Jesus takes what little his disciples have to offer, blesses it, and gives it back to them; in that very process the paltry amount mysteriously becomes more than enough to satisfy the needs of all. Rather than handing out the loaves himself, Jesus insists on the involvement of his disciples; he gave them to his disciples to distribute. Because of its eucharistic significance the primary focus is on the bread; only afterward does Mark also mention the blessing and distribution of the few fish.

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