Mark 8:6-9, Is the Fourth of July in the Bible?

Maybe. Maybe not. But the numbers 7 (for the seventh month of the year) and 4 definitely play a meaningful role. In today’s passage, you find them both.

And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before [them]; and they did set [them] before the people. And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before [them]. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken [meat] that was left seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.

Seven loaves of bread feed four thousand people, with seven baskets remaining. A little discussion of the setting of this miracle may be enlightening.

Jesus had already fed five thousand with five loaves in Mark chapter 6. He did that for the Jews. But not too long after that, chapter 7, Jesus travels abroad, to the Gentile region of Tyre and Sidon. There, he meets a Gentile woman, who asks him to heal her daughter. Jesus replies rather tersely: “It is not meet to take the children’s bread (meaning: what belongs to the Jews) and cast it unto the dogs” (implying Gentiles). She replies humbly: “Yes, Lord, yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.”

Jesus seems taken aback by her humility, and agrees to heal her daughter. But more than that, Jesus seems to take the lesson to heart. In the next chapter, he decides to do the miracle again, this time sharing the “children’s bread” with four thousand Gentiles.

Friends, we in the United States are Gentiles. These numbers—seven and four, for the Fourth of July—may stoke our patriotism, for we have a great country, but they should also humble us. We, the dogs eating of the children’s crumbs, through the graciousness of God, and, perhaps, the desperation of a Gentile woman.

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