Many Healed and Thousands Fed (Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 7:31-37; 8:1-10)

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Jesus left the area of Tyre and Sidon and, with his disciples, headed eastward for the Decapolis region. (Matthew 15:29; Mark 7:31) As soon as they were seen near the Sea of Galilee, the word must have spread that Jesus was back in the area. The later mention of a boat (Matthew 15:39) suggests that he and his disciples first came to Capernaum, the home of Peter and Andrew. Then they probably obtained provisions for a short stay in the Decapolis region and used Peter’s boat to cross the sea. (Compare Matthew 15:34; Mark 8:5.)

Upon learning about Jesus’ whereabouts, many people went to the location. While he was seated on a mountainside, they arrived, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, and the mute. The people placed the afflicted at Jesus’ feet, and he cured all of them. (Matthew 15:29, 30)

Those who saw the lame walking, the blind seeing, the crippled being made whole, and the mute speaking were filled with amazement and “glorified the God of Israel.” (Matthew 15:31) Convinced of the operation of divine power, they praised the Most High.

Among the afflicted who were brought to Jesus was a deaf man with a speech impediment. Those concerned about the plight of this man begged Jesus to lay his hands on him. (Mark 7:32)

Jesus led him away from the crowd, put his fingers in the man’s ears, spat, and, with the spittle on his hand, touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven, indicative of his making an appeal to his Father, sighed, and said, “Ephphatha” (“Be opened”). The man’s hearing was restored immediately, and he was also able to speak clearly. (Mark 7:33-35)

After having lived in a world of complete silence, the man could have been overwhelmed by the noise from the crowd. So it was truly an act of kindness and consideration for Jesus to perform the miracle away from the multitude. By means of physical touch, he made it clear to the man that the restoration of hearing and the ability to speak clearly came through him. Jesus’ looking up to heaven would have enabled the man to discern that the miracle had a divine source. The sigh, although not audible to the man, may have been accompanied by facial expressions that reflected deep compassion. It would appear that the sigh revealed the depth of Jesus’ feeling for human suffering and the sadness it caused.

Although Jesus instructed that his miracles should not be made known, people would, to an even greater extent, talk about them. All who witnessed Jesus’ miracles were greatly astonished and acknowledged that he had done everything well, enabling the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. (Mark 7:36, 37)

With the passage of time, Jesus became concerned about the physical needs of the thousands who had remained in the area to be near him. After a period of three days, he voiced his compassion for the people to his disciples. He did not want to send the crowds away without having eaten anything, as they might become faint on the way home. Jesus knew that some of the people would have to travel a considerable distance. (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:1-3)

Being in an isolated area, the disciples could not imagine how they would be able to supply food for the multitude. In response to Jesus’ question about how many loaves they had, the disciples said, “Seven, and a few fishes,” which were probably dried and salted. (Matthew 15:33, 34; Mark 8:4, 5)

He directed the people to recline on the ground. Taking the seven loaves and the fishes, he gave thanks and broke them into portions, which he then had his disciples distribute to about 4,000 men and many women and children. All had enough to eat, and the leftovers filled seven baskets. (Matthew 15:35-38; Mark 8:6-9) Based on the Greek term (sphyrís) for these baskets, they appear to have been large (big enough to hold a man [Acts 9:25]).

After dismissing the people, Jesus and his disciples boarded the boat and went to the region of Magadan (Magdala or Magedan, according to other ancient manuscripts). This region along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee probably embraced the town of Magdala and its vicinity and lay some six miles southwest of Capernaum. (Matthew 15:39) According to Mark 8:10, Jesus and his disciples came into the region of Dalmanutha. Possibly Dalmanutha was another name for Magadan. A few ancient manuscripts read Magdala, Mageda, Magedan, or Melegada, but these readings may have arisen from an attempt to make Mark 8:10 agree with Matthew 15:39.