James R. Edwards: How many loaves do you have?

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“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied. Mark 8:5

“The feeding of the four thousand and the feeding of the five thousand share more in common than any two stories in the Gospel of Mark. Both stories occur in deserted settings. Both emphasize Jesus’ compassion on the crowds. Both repeat the question, “How many loaves do you have? The command to recline is similar in booth, as is that prayer and participation oof the disciples. In both the words and serving of the loaves follow the same sequence and in both “the people ate and were satisfied.” Leftovers were gathered after both meals and both condole with Jesus dismissing the crowds and taking a boat trip.”

James R. Edwards in The Gospel according to Mark (PNTC; Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2002) 227

Over the next week, as I approach 4,000 daily posts over the past 11 years, we will explore the deep nuances of the feeding of the 4,000. This miracle appears in Matthew and Mark and seems fitting to explore at this time because contains themes of compassion and generosity.

Today’s comments from Edwards alert us to the similarities between the accounts among Jews (the feeding of the 5,000) and the Gentiles (the feeding of the 4,000). In particular, I want to draw out the significance of this question: “How many loaves do you have?”

Any generosity in our lives flows from our practice of stewardship. Faithful stewards put to work what they have in keeping with the Master’s wishes. Whenever there is a need, Jesus taught the disciples to put to work what they had. That’s when God supplies more.

Because it’s Father’s Day in the USA, I want to take a moment to honor my father, John E. Hoag or “Jack” for short, for modeling this for me. My parents never had much money, but whatever they did have, they put it to work faithfully. God always supplied more so we had all we needed. Thanks Dad.

If you are in a place of need, use what you have faithfully. The fact that Jesus asked this question in both contexts points to its relevance to all of His disciples everywhere for all time. There are many needs in the world today. “How many loaves do you have?”