Don’t You Understand?

“Don’t you understand yet?” Mark 8:21

In seminary, my favorite area of NT studies was the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and in fact I wrote my dissertation on a topic from Mark. The word synoptic means to be seen together, and refers to the fact that the Synoptics often overlap in the stories and travels they share about Jesus. Because they contain so much common material, a careful reader has the opportunity to compare the stories and analyze selection, arrangement, and detail and discern what emphasis a particular writer was trying to convey. The feeding of the four thousand in Mark provides a good illustration. Only Matthew and Mark record the feeding of the 4000, and Mark is especially clear about the meaning of the miracle.

It’s the meaning of the miracle that we really want. Jesus never simply provided a power display to show how great He was. Certainly the miracles did point to His divinity, affirming that He is God’s Son, but the miracles also point the way to what God would do for us, or what our response to Him should be. In fact, John, apparently the latest of the gospels, dispels any confusion about power displays by never using the word miracle in his gospel. He called them signs. Signs point to something. In the feeding of the 4000, Mark helps us understand the sign.

After the miracle, Jesus was in a boat with the disciples as they began talking about the fact that they had forgotten to bring any bread with them. They had no food! How were they going to eat? Jesus overheard their discussion and wondered how they could be so dull. He specifically asked them how many extra baskets of food they took up after the feeding of the 5000. They answered “twelve.” And how many after the feeding of the 4000? “Seven.” Then He asked the question for this week’s GraceWaves, “Don’t you understand yet?”

Mark did not record the disciples’ answer, but it was likely, “Well . . . no.” In fact, I laid out this scenario for Leslie last week, and she had the same answer, “No, I don’t understand.” I usually have the same answer too. So do you. We don’t really understand what Jesus is trying to teach us about God’s presence and work in our lives.

I think Mark anticipated our confusion, and so included the discussion in the boat for our benefit. Think about it. Five thousand people had nothing to eat and no prospects for finding anything. Jesus provided. Then 4000 had nothing to eat and no prospects for finding anything. Jesus provided. Now what is your need today? Jesus will provide. That’s the meaning behind the miracle.

Your situation, your lack, your fear is not new to God. It did not take Him by surprise. Just has Jesus could take a few dried fish and loaves of bread and provide for thousands, God has already planned a way to meet your need. You might argue that you lack even the fish and loaves right now. Do you think that will stop a God who created everything out of nothing? Of course not!

Paul said it clearly and from abundant experience: “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). God has brought you this far. You can trust Him to take you through today, this week, and the remainder of your life. I suppose we tend to look at what we don’t have right now and fear that somehow that need will be permanently overlooked. That has never happened in a Christian’s life! Life takes away nothing that God does not provide for in greater abundance either here or in eternity. One purpose of GraveWaves is to remind you of the constant grace God washes over your life. It never fades, and it never fails.

“Don’t you understand yet?” That’s Jesus patient and loving question to you. All your years, He has walked beside you, and even carried you when necessary. Don’t live in fear of an exception. Trust Him. Stay faithful.  Relax in His presence. He will provide.


Dr. Terry Ellis