Healing and feeding
Jesus has come from a big confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders to heal a Gentile woman’s daughter. He is such a radical, because He now goes further into Gentile territory to the region of Decapolis to heal a deaf and mute man and feed 4,000 people before yet another confrontation with some Pharisees.
The deaf man
Some dear friends brought a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment to Jesus. Jesus took him aside privately, He’s not a showman and he wants to show compassion, care and genuine love to this man as He heals him. Jesus then uses three forms of sign language to make it clear to the guy what is about to happen
i) He put his fingers in his ears – to show he was going to heal his deafness,
ii) He touched his tongue after spitting to show he was going to heal his speech impediment. Spitting is pretty gross in our culture, but was considered to have healing properties back then, so it is a sign that Jesus is about to heal him.
iii) He looked up to heaven to show he was talking to the Father in heaven.
Then He healed the man – which caused amazement! It’s a sign that makes us wonder!
Jesus charged them not to tell anyone what He had done (7:36). Why? Because every time He became too popular the crowds over-reacted and tried to distract Him from His mission to die to provide us eternal life. They can’t keep quiet, because Jesus is amazing.
Jesus had taught and ministered to the crowd for three days, so they are starving! As many had come a distance to see Him, He didn’t want them collapsing on the way home.
The sums involved are somewhat intriguing. When Jesus fed the 5,000 Jews there were 12 baskets left over from 5 loaves. Now with 4,000 Gentiles to feed He starts with 7 loaves and ends up with 7 baskets of leftovers. The interpretive key is the passage about the Syrophoenician woman in chapter 7, where Jesus says the bread is for Israel first and she answers the crumbs are for Gentiles.
Twelve symbolises the twelve tribes of Israel, The ‘people of God’, first established in the Old Testament. Seven is the number of perfection or completeness.
- Old Covenant: Christ first feeds people and yields 12 baskets. This speaks of God first establishing the People of Israel (12 tribes) in the Old Testament.
- New Covenant: Christ next (literally “after three days” see Mark 8:2) feeds people and yields 7 baskets. This is God establishing the Church – the fullness of the Gentiles in covenant with God. I love how Mark uses three days to symbolise that this new covenant, applying to all the nations, happens after the resurrection! God is so good!
The next confrontation!
This all of course sparks another confrontation with the Pharisees who want a sign from heaven. They won’t get one yet. They’ll have to wait for the resurrection!