I love the book of Mark. At just over 11,000 words (overviewbible.com), it is far shorter than the other three gospels. I’m a reader; I love long novels and rich memoirs. So to find myself drawn to the shortest gospel surprised me. I think it is Mark’s simplicity that appeals to me: it seems like Mark pares down the life of Jesus to the essentials, letting His life and His actions speak for themselves. Only a few verses into Mark 8, however, I realized that although Mark’s style might be characterized by brevity, Jesus’ actions are marked by overflow and abundance.
Mark 8 includes the story of Jesus feeding a large crowd of people with only seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. Mark 8:9 tells us that in the crowd “there were about four thousand people.” It is believed that these four thousand only included the men; women and children were not counted in the total. In reality, though, four or five times that number could have been in that crowd. So, with a very small amount of food (Mark 8:6-7) Jesus fed perhaps 15,000 – 20,000 people.
A few chapters earlier, in Mark 6, we learned that Jesus fed even more people – 5,000 – with five loaves of bread and two fish. Again, the crowd probably numbered over 20,000 people. And Jesus? He doesn’t stop there, with simply satisfying their hunger that day. Instead, after all of the people “ate and were satisfied” (Mark 8:8 and Mark 6:42) He instructed His disciples to gather the leftovers, the broken pieces of bread and fish. After the 5,000 had been fed, Jesus’s disciples filled twelve baskets with the leftovers! And after the 4,000 had eaten, the disciples gathered 7 baskets of leftover bread and fish! Provision, and overflow. Scarcity, and abundance.
The provision of food for the crowd clearly reminds us to have faith that God will provide for our needs. The leftover food, though, speaks to the idea of abundance. Not only will God provide, but He will do so in an abundant way. This thought is echoed in other places in Scripture as well. In Ephesians 3:19-21, Paul references Jesus’ desire for us to live a full and abundant life in Him. Paul prays that Jesus’ followers would be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19), and writes, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21). When Jesus fed crowds of people with so little food, and fed them until they were satisfied, He reveals to them, and to us, that He loves to provide for his followers in ways that are more than we could ever imagine. And in John 10:10, Jesus tells his disciples that He “came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. The promise of an abundant life for His followers was Christ’s purpose in coming into the world. My prayer for us today is that we rest in that assurance and embrace the abundant life that Jesus offers.