Miracles · Supernatural

Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus #24 – Jesus Feeds 4,000

After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.

I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at

Jesus Feeds 4,000

Matthew 15:32-39

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

Mark 8:1-13

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.

General Observations

The first thing to observe is that this miracle appears to be similar to the feeding of the 5,000. Some may want to consider this miracle as the same miracle told two different times, yet a careful reading exposes too many differences to consider that to be true. Consider.

DisparitiesFeeding the 5,000ReferenceFeeding the 4,000Reference
AuthorsMatthew, Mark, Luke & JohnMatthew & MarkWhy would Matthew & Mark revise the miracle of the 5,000 with the following differences?
LocationBethsaidaLuke 9:10DecapolisMark 7:31
Sitting arrangement“on the green grass”Matthew 14:19“on the ground”Mark 8:6
Fast durationone dayMatthew 14:15three daysMark 8:2
Source of fooda boyJohn 6:9disciplesMark 8:5
Number of LoavesFiveMatthew 14:17; Mark 6:38;
Luke 9:16;
John 6:9
SevenMatthew 15:34
Mark 8:5-7
Number of FishesTwosee aboveFew Little Fishsee above
Quantity of Leftovers12 BasketsMatthew 14:20
Mark 6:43
Luke 9:17
John 6:13
7 BasketsMatthew 15:37
Mark 8:8
Crowd Size5,000Matthew 14:21
Mark 6:44
Luke 9:14
John 6:10
4,000Matthew 15:38
Mark 8:9
Basket DescriptionkophinousThis Greek word refers to a small basket, a wicker basketspuridasThis Greek word refers to a reed basket, as hamper. (See Acts 9:25 – Paul was able to escape Damascus in this type of basket)
ReceptionTake Jesus by force to make Him KingNo reaction provided
Thanks to https://forwhatsaiththescriptures.org/ for assistance with the data above.

    One last difference in the two miracles may be found in the words of Jesus Himself

    Matthew 16:9-10 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?

    Jesus referred to the two miracles as separate occasions, which is the potential reason Matthew and Mark recorded this second feeding. So, as we enter our passage, let’s not forget this is a second feeding of a multitude.

    Questions to Consider

    Who were the audience?

    As mentioned above, this audience was primarily gentile, and as Matthew describes, consisted of four thousand men, besides women and children. Mark simply mentioned 4,000 people. A full audience size, as discussed in our previous post on the feeding of the 5,000, may have consisted of as many as 16,000 people, given that each man may have brought a wife and an average of a couple of children. (See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus #19 – Jesus Feeds 5,000)

    No matter how you slice it, this crowd was massive, and defining the crowd to a specific size greater than the 4,000 may be an effort in futility. Whether it be 4,000 or 16,000 feeding such a crowd from a few fish and loaves makes a point. That point may have been directed to the audience consisting of 12 men who experienced this miracle first hand in the delivery of it!

    When did the Lord perform this mighty work?

    See https://www.bibletimelines.net/timelines/jesus-ministry

    Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?

    As mentioned above, the Lord performed this miracle in the region of the Decapolis, amongst a primarily gentile crowd. See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.

    Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?

    I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.

    Jesus had compassion on the crowd. He knew the crowd was at a point where if they were sent away, they would faint on their way. Some in the crowd were at their physical limits, and Jesus saw their suffering. Three days of following the Master, and now the crowd had nothing to eat.

    I suppose a more important question is how would the disciples respond to this similar request of the Lord, based on His stated compassion for a crowd of gentiles. Besides this, the present location seems even more desperate than in the feeding of the 5,000, since in the previous location, the disciples mentioned villages to send the crowds to. Not so in this instance.

    In all of these challenges, we must remember that the feeding of some stomachs was not the end goal, for they would need to be fed again and again. Not only were the crowd in need, the disciples were being challenged with a problem that they had already seen the Lord supply for.

    What was the message for the original audience?

    Note how the disciples addressed the compassion of the Master. A compassion for a primarily gentile crowd. In our previous miracle, the disciples suggest to the Lord the release of the crowds in order to get themselves food. In this miracle, no suggestion is given by the disciples. Might they have learned to trust somewhat, to have some patience in the exercising of the Lord’s ways? I would like to think so. Yet, as the Lord breached the topic of the audience going home (echoing the disciples desire from the earlier feeding?), the disciples asked the big question.

    How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place? Mark 8:4

    Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd? Matthew 15:33

    Could the disciples be breaching their own inability, speaking of their weakness in providing for such need, and looking to the Lord for His provision? I want to hear this response as an open question, a question that reflects their own lack, in order for the Lord to provide, to supply what they cannot.

    What is the message for us today?

    As with so many of these miracles, the messages to each of us may be highly personal. The following are points that are real to me.


    The disciples, as I mentioned above, were evidently not as self assured, not as “in charge” of the situation as in the previous feeding. They did not initiate a solution for the Lord to agree to, but simply asked an open question. No mention of sending the crowd away. They asked questions, allowing the Lord to initiate a solution, to allow Him to provide in His way, for they had experienced this problem once before. And given that they had experienced this very situation previously, they did not come to Him suggesting (or demanding) the same solution. This, in my opinion, is a sign of growth, and although the disciples were often upbraided for their lack of faith, it is refreshing to see change in their lives because of Him.

    In our lives, a realization of our weakness is critical to allow the Lord to have His way in our lives. A constant demanding of God to perform according to our will, of having a faith that has specific definite expectations may lead more to disappointment. It is a paramount mission of the believer to be like Him, as He says

    Not my will, but thine be done


    Closely linked to the characteristic of weakness, is the increasing ability to exercise patience in the midst of trying circumstances. If we are in the midst of a comfortable, highly regulated and safe environment, (as many may be who are reading this post), the appearance of patience is a relatively easy character trait to display, for there may be little that forces us to be pushed to a limit, to a breaking point.

    Consider the disciples and the growing problem of the crowd going without food. The situation was coming to a breaking point, where it was evident that some in the crowd were in a very bad situation. Even the disciples were coming to the end of their supplies, for 7 loaves amongst 13 men is “scraping the bottom of the barrel”!

    At different times in our lives, patience will be required in order to obtain the promises. For a consideration of the importance of patience in the Christian life, I would refer you to a post within a series I wrote on Hebrews 12:9-11 (Patience – Required to Inherit the Promises)


    This last application, closely related to patience, is the one that seemingly bites me in the behind the most. Exercising patience to an expected end is required for the believer, but as a weak man, I find I fail in fully realizing the timing of the Lord. Of course, some instances force my acceptance of the timing of the Lord, since I realize I have no ability to change a situation – It is up to the Lord to decide when and how.

    Yet, it is somewhat comforting to see the Lord allow a situation to occur, (as in the increasing need of feeding 4,000), whether through our own poor planning or even our inability to foresee problems. A period of doing without is allowed in the will of the Master, yet it is His compassion that breaks through to provide, to allow relief in the entire scheme of things.

    As the Lord brings relief, and in His timing, consider the message He may be providing, and not simply the provision to satisfy the immediate need.

    As you can see, this miracle speaks to weakness, patience and timing, and they are all aspects of a Christian life that is dependent on the actions of the Lord.

    We are to be dependent. He is dependable. Seems this is the will of God, and that He keeps His end of the bargain up.

    Are you being stretched in the experience of weakness, patience and the timing of the Lord?

    Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion. If you know someone this blog may bless (or challenge), send them a link, so they may join us in our discussion

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