Harmony of the Gospels

 Harmony of the Gospels

-AD 29-
(43) Four Thousand Fed
Matthew 15:32-39, Mark 8:1-9


32 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
33 Then His disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?”
34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.”
35 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude.
37 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left.
38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.
39 And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.


The feeding of the 4,000 had many similarities to the feeding of 5,000 described in Matthew 14:13–21.  The similarities were:
1. The people had been listening to His teaching.
2. They were in a rural area.
3. The food was the same.
4. Jesus blessed and broke it.
5. The disciples served it.

But there are also marked differences:
1. The number of people.
2. The time they spent with Him.
3. The different seashore.
4. The initial amount of food.
5. The amount left over.

The incident evidently took place on the southeast shore of Galilee, near the gentile region of Decapolis.  Therefore, many Gentiles seem to be among His listeners.  This miracle took place after the crowd had been with Him for three days.  They were fed with seven loaves and a few little fishes.  The food was distributed in a manner similar to the other feeding; however, this time seven baskets full remained, and these baskets were much larger than those in the other feeding.

The lesson to the disciples seems obvious: What you accomplish among the Jews will be duplicated among the Gentiles.

In verse 32 Jesus said, I have compassion on the multitude.  He felt pity for them and He wanted His disciples to also feel compassion for them, so when He was about to do this miracle, He called them to Him and let them know the reason for it and talked to them about it.  He told them, they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat.  This was an occasion which showed their passion and the intensity of their affection for Jesus, and for His words; because they left their occupations in order to be there with Him on week-days.  They had to undergo hardships to be present with Him and like soldiers in the field they wanted to rest and to be fed; but they had not brought anything with them to provide for their bodily needs, so Jesus said, I have compassion on them.  Note, that Our Lord made himself aware of how long they had stayed with Him; for three days: and that they had difficulties.  In Revelation 2:2, it says, I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience: and it shall in no wise lose its reward.

When He fed them, we are told, So they all ate and were filled.  It was true on that day, and it is true today also that Christ has enough mercy and grace to satisfy any desire.

We can see here the concern that He has for them, because He said, I will not send them away fasting, lest they should faint by the way.  I believe that if He had sent them away hungry that it would have harmed His reputation; and it could have discouraged them and those who would come to Him in the future. 

This miraculous feeding shows Christ’s great power.  His disciples had witnessed His power before on many occasions, so they shouldn’t have doubted that He could provide for this crowd.  But the disciples had already forgotten the miracle of feeding the five thousand!  And they certainly didn’t know what to do because they asked Him, Whence shall we have bread?  I was not that long ago that He had fed the 5,000 and the circumstances are very similar.

Jesus knew that they had very little food, but He wanted them to also know it, so He asked them, How many loaves have ye?  Before He did His work, He wanted them to know how little He had to work with, so they would realize how great this miracle was.  All He had to work with was seven loaves, and a few fishes; but when He was done, all would have been provided with plenty. 

Jesus began His work by putting the people in a position to be served; He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.  They saw that there was very little in the way of provisions, so they showed their faith by setting down and getting ready to receive it. Even today, those who ask for spiritual food from Christ must sit down at his feet, to hear his word, and expect it to come in an unseen way.

Before the food was distributed, He gave thanks and blessed it.  This should teach us something; that when we ask things of God, we ought to also thank Him for the things we have already received.  Jesus then broke the bread into pieces and gave it to the disciples to distribute.  And they did all eat and were filled.  The evidence that they all had enough was the amount that was left over; seven baskets full. 

After they were fed, we read that He sent them away and He also went by ship to another place.  He had fed them twice, but He did not want for miracles to be their daily bread.  They needed to return to their homes and to their callings.


1 In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them,
2 “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat.
3 And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.”
4 Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?”
5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.”
6 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude.
7 They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them.
8 So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments.
9 Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away,

Notice that this time Jesus called his disciples, but prior to the previous feeding of the five thousand they had approached Him about the need for food (Mk 6:35–36), Their faith had grown.

The bulk of these followers were from Decapolis, where Jesus was ministering (7:31), although some came from farther.  The latter perhaps had followed Him from Tyre and Sidon (7:31).  It is apparent that their desire to be with Him exceeded their feelings of hunger, for they had fasted for three days.

There is evidence here that the faith of the disciples was defective.  They didn’t know what to do with the hungry crowd, yet they had seen Jesus feed the five thousand.  They apparently “soon forgot” His works.

The multitude who followed Him on this occasion was evidently the common people and they had gone through hardships in order to be with Him, for they had been three days without food.  There had probably been some, who had brought food with them, but by this time it was gone, and they had a long way to go before they were home.  However, they were still with Him and they did not think of leaving Him until he spoke of dismissing them.  Jesus said, I have compassion on the multitude.  Those who the proud Pharisees looked down on, He had compassion for; and He said to the disciples, they have been with Me three days and have nothing to eat.  I believe that this says something to us; that whatever losses we sustain or hardships we go through, for Christ’s sake, and in love for him, that He will make it up to us one way or another.  Psalm 34:10 says, They that seek the Lord shall not long want any good thing.  Jesus then said that if He sent them away hungry that he was afraid that they may faint along the way.

The disciples could not understand how it would be possible to feed such a large number, and that would work to magnify the power of Christ in performing this miracle.  Christ’s provision is inexhaustible, and to prove it He repeated the miracle He had done before.

Previously, He used five loaves to feed five thousand, but this time He uses seven loaves to feed four thousand.  However, both times He used all He had and He used what was available.  This could be a lesson for us; that we are to use what we have, when serving God.  And whatever we have available will be sufficient if Jesus blesses it.


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