The feeding narratives were supposed to tell the disciples everything they needed to know about Jesus’ identity–and their participation with him in the coming of the kingdom.
At least, that seems to be what Mark wants us to think.
Jesus feeds 5,000, and then when the disciples freak out at his coming to them on the water, this is ascribed to their “not understanding about the loaves, but their heart was hardened.”
Jesus feeds 4,000, and then in a boat with insufficient food, Jesus warns about the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. They think he’s talking about bread.
He rebukes them: don’t you remember how much food you gathered? Are your eyes blind, your ears deaf, your hearts hard? Beware of the leaven of the bad guys!
What have we seen in these feeding narratives?
We have seen abundance come from nothing. We have seen banquets set in the wilderness.
More than this, we have seen that the setting of the banquets was not just the work of Jesus–it was the work of Jesus who gave to his disciples who, in turn, gave to the crowds.
The disciples are active agents in the coming of the kingdom of abundance. They take hold of the world’s scarcity and distribute it far beyond its capacity.
The abundance of Herod is different.
In his banquet hall, filled with food, he is shown to be weak and impressionable. Herod’s feast is, finally, a feast of death–John’s head served on a platter.
Where is death? In the wilderness, without adequate food–but a good shepherd? Or in the halls of apparent abundance–with a failure of a would-be king?
Herod has not enacted death alone. The Pharisees have also plotted with the Herodians to kill Jesus.
There is a kingdom economy of the Herod and the Pharisees–where the apparent abundance of power and possession leads to death.
And there is an alternate kingdom economy of Jesus–where apparent nothingness and death and deprivation leads to fulness.
Embracing the kingdom of abundance, however, means seeing abundance, by faith, in the face of nothing.
How is the kingdom of abundance, power, and glory seen? It is like the smallest mustard seed.
Sow it in faith and see what happens.