URC Daily Devotion Thursday, 15 February 2024

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Thursday, 15 February 2024

St Mark 8: 1 – 13
In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.’  His disciples replied, ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?’  He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven.’  Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd.  They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed.  They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.  Now 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, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him.  And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’  And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

Jesus summons his disciples. They have a crisis on their hands. The crowd have nothing to eat, they are starving.  Some have come a long distance. They have been with Jesus for three days, marvelling at his healing, absorbed in his teaching – and now they are so weak from lack of food that it is obvious they would collapse if they attempted the journey home. Need has become emergency. The disciples are helpless: Where in the desert would they get enough food for 4,000 people? All they have, they say, are seven loaves of bread, and as an afterthought, some little fish. 
What follows is a miracle.  Jesus takes the initiative; orders the crowd to recline expectantly on the ground; gives thanks to God over the bread like a Jewish father at a meal, before blessing the fish for good measure.  The food is distributed by his disciples and those desperately hungry people eat and are filled. With their needs amply met they can now go home without risk.
But there is another important aspect of this story.  It witnesses the breaking down of boundaries between Jews and Gentiles that is rooted in Jesus’s ministry. Whereas the previous feeding miracle (Mark 6.30–44) is set in Jewish Galilee, here, in Gentile territory, Jesus is also feeding Gentiles.  Faced with dire humanitarian need, social and religious boundaries set by food regulations that separated Jews from Gentiles are broken down in the providence of God. 
As if a sign on earth weren’t enough, the Pharisees want a sign from heaven. They are blind to the fact that Jesus’s ministry points to God.  But even his disciples do not yet understand what Jesus is doing.  The Gentiles had faith in him.  Do we?
Gracious God,
In the knowledge of your love and power,
hasten the day when children, men and women,
whatever their race or nationality,
shall no longer faint with hunger;
when a strong sense of your purpose shall be found
in every nation.
through Jesus Christ.   Amen

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Fleur Houston

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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