7 Baskets in the Decapolis

jesus-around-galilee[A couple of notes here: (1)I did not figure this biblical connection out on my own, I got it from the Visual Guide to Gospel Events. [which ironically enough has the exact same title as I gave it] 2. This map is taken from Logos Bible software]]

The orange line in this map represents Jesus footsteps as he traveled from the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee up into Tyre and Sidon.  The important thing to understand is that the area around Bethsaida was mainly Jewish, and the area around Tyre and Sidon was mainly a Gentile population.  The green and red line represent Jesus traveling back south to the southeast side of the Sea of Galilee.  This area had a mostly Gentile population.  This is where we find Jesus in Mark 7.31-8.9.

Jesus fed the 5,000(ish) in the area around Bethsaida on this map.  The crowd was mainly Jewish.  When he fed the 4000 in the area of Hippos on the map, we can assume that his audience was mainly Gentile, or non-Jewish.  This will be important to understand.

So Jesus feeds the 4,000(ish) people in Mark 8.1-10 and then we get to Mark 8.14-21.  Here Jesus tells his disciples to beware the leaven of the Pharisees.  The disciples do not understand what he is saying, they think he is referring to the fact that they have no bread, nothing to eat.  Then this:

And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”” (Mark 8:17–21, ESV)

Why does Jesus act like the number of baskets left over is important?  Also, why are these incidents so similar?  I’m glad you didn‘t asked.

There can be no doubt that the number 12 in the Bible is often representative of the nation of Israel, as there were twelve tribes that made up Israel (Gen 49.28, Matt 19.28).  What does the number seven represent here?  Is there any symbolism in the fact that seven baskets of food fragments were left over?

There were seven nations that occupied the Promised Land before Israel conquered it.

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you,” (Deuteronomy 7:1, ESV) [See also Acts 13.19]

The mainly Jewish audience ate their fill and had 12 baskets left over.  The mainly Gentile audience ate their fill and had seven baskets left over.  These numbers do not happen by chance.  Jesus came to begin the restoration process that will eventually reach all of creation.  In the first instance, he satisfies everyone in the [Jewish] crowd with 12 baskets left over, as if to say, “Nation of Israel, I am the one who can satisfy you and who will satisfy you, if you follow me.”  In the second instance he satisfies everyone in the [mainly Gentile] crowd as if to say, “All of you Gentiles, I am the one who can satisfy you and who will satisfy you, if you will only follow me.”

It’s no mistake on Mark’s part that this incident comes in a string of stories in which Jesus is ministering to Gentiles. [The Syrophoenician woman, the man who is deaf] We are supposed to see that Jesus’ ministry is gradually increasing to reach even Gentiles, something that we will understand more fully after the resurrection.

The main point then is that Christ’s disciples, and those 4000(ish) people, and we who come along and read Mark’s gospel understand that Jesus is ushering in the Kingdom of God, not only for Jewish people, but for all the Gentiles.

The prophet Isaiah will put this same truth this way:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” (Isaiah 55:1–3, ESV)

Jesus is the full and only satisfaction for all of the Jews.  He is also the full and only satisfaction for all of the Gentiles.  Did he leave anyone out?

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