Jesus came to meet people where they are.
When the story of the feeding of the 4,000 is read in its literary context, it reveals much more than simply another miraculous feeding by Jesus. There are some key differences and similarities between this feeding and the earlier one in chapter 6. These point to what Mark intended for his readers to understand.
The key message is that the gospel is not just for the Jews, but for the entire world. This story illustrates the “riddle” that the Syrophoenician woman brilliantly answered in 7:24-30. This feeding illustrates both Jews and Gentiles eating together (literally) in the kingdom of God, that all are fed simultaneously, and that all are fed until satisfied.
So the Syrophoenician woman turns out to be right after all. The Gentile "dogs" eat from the provisions of Abraham's descendants, and the disciples are not deprived in the least. They collect enough leftovers to fill seven baskets, each large enough to hold a man (spuris, 8:8b; Acts 9:25). At the eschatological banquet that this meal prefigures, everyone has a place at the table, everyone eats at the same time, and everyone has enough (echortasthesan, 8:8a).
In view of the mixed population of the area, however, it is probable that both Jews and Gentiles sat down together in meal fellowship on this occasion, and this prefigured Jesus' intention for the Church. This seems to be a more realistic approach to the historical situation than the desire to find an exclusively Gentile audience in Ch. 8:1–9.
This story and the differences with the earlier feeding story also provide us with some principles of mission. In the earlier story Jesus (and Mark) allude to a number of Old Testament passages and metaphors (such as the Good Shepherd, Psalm 23). Jesus is also shown as primarily teaching. But in the current story, Jesus’ concern is with primarily with the physical needs of the people, and there are no allusions to the Jewish scriptures. In addition Jesus gives thanks for both the bread and fish, a detail not found in the earlier story where it could be assumed that the Jews already understood that giving thanks for the bread was indicative of God’s supplying of all needs, but where the gentile audience would not have necessarily known.
We see that Jesus tailors his methods and message to the people; something that Paul will later be shown to do. Mission work begins with the missionary integrating herself or himself into the society and culture of those to whom her/his compassion has led. It begins with listening and understanding. When actions are taken and words are spoken, it begins with the immediate needs and understandings of the people. This is something that American Christians need to take to heart, especially as we attempt to communicate the gospel to those around us. We cannot assume prior biblical knowledge or spiritual foundations of those that we encounter. Our first step should not be to try to correct errors or misunderstandings, but to listen and understand, to build up and affirm, to discover what it is that they find valuable and life-giving already, and then build from there.
 Reading Mark, 7:24-8:9.
 NICNT: Mark, 8:8-10.