Herod had a banquet which led to the death of John the Baptist. Here we find Jesus also leading a banquet for 5,000 people. Herod probably had a banquet to network and boost his own self-esteem. Jesus has the banquet to minister to peoples needs (v4). This miracle has a strong exodus motif. In no particular order and without completeness I offer the following reflections on a exodus motif.
1) Jesus ministry, as already explored in these postings, is to be understood as bringing the return from exile. That is to fulfil the promises of Deutero-Isaiah. The message of return from exile is similar to the exodus as freedom is offered to those who are living as slaves.
2) The disciples (see post on Mark 6:7-13) were to carry items similar to that of the flight from Egypt.
3) YHWH feeds his people with manner. Jesus gives bread
4) Moses arranged the Israelites in groups of 10,100,500,1000. Jesus (and the disciples) arrange the people in a similar fashion.
5) Jesus sees the people as being sheep without the shepherd (v34). This recalls to mind the wilderness wanderings after the Israelites left Egypt.
“Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”
This story also has echoes of 2 Kings 4:32-44 except that Jesus far exceeds the miracles of Elisha.
Although an exodus motif is present in this miracle which would have been received as such by the Jewish community, we need to remember that prior to the exodus motif the parable speaks of the power and authority of Jesus to do the seemingly impossible. Jesus has power over nature.
So this narrative has echoes, for those hearers/readers who are equipped to recognise them, both of past miracles and of the future Eucharistic feast. Mark clearly so intended it. But the patent symbolism should not lead us to miss what is surely the primary purpose in Mark’s inclusion of this story, the sheer wonder of an ‘impossible’ act, and the testimony which this provides in answer to the growing Christological question of this part of the gospel, ‘Who is Jesus?’ He is not merely the healer of afflicted individuals or the rescuer of endangered disciples; he is one who is not bound by the rules of normal experience of what is possible and impossibleFrance, R. T.: The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle : W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002, S. 263