Week 5 of Ordinary Time, Saturday – 15th February 2020 — Gospel: Mark 8,1-10
Gentile inclusion in feeding
The feeding of the four thousand in Gentile territory so closely parallels the feeding of the five thousand in Galilee (Mk 6,35-44). Both miracles are set in a deserted place, where Jesus feeds a huge crowd with a small quantity of bread and fish, using gestures that clearly foreshadow the Eucharist. Both stress the disciples’ lack of faith, and both end with abundant leftovers, the dismissal of the crowd, and a departure by boat. In contrast to the earlier miracle of the loaves, this time Jesus takes the initiative. Mark carefully records the numbers involved, hinting at their symbolic significance. The numbers suggest a similar Jew-Gentile contrast. Five and twelve are associated with Judaism (five books of the Law and twelve tribes of Israel). Four and seven are associated with Gentiles. Seven may be intended to evoke the seven pagan nations that inhabited Canaan before Israel entered the land (Deut 7,1; Acts 13,19). Seven implies completeness or fullness, and a group of Hellenists appointed to assist the twelve in Acts 6,1-6 are seven in number and are referred to as “the seven” (Acts 21,8). The number four alludes to the four directions of the compass (Rev 7,1). Thus the four thousand fed by Jesus represent the whole world. Since Jesus’ mission was for all people, it crossed boundaries.