This is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospel accounts (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15), which shows it is very significant to Jesus’ mission and so we won’t forget how much the Lord can do with the little things that are given to Him. The feeding of the 5 000 comes before Jesus’ discussion on being the living Bread that comes down out of heaven to give His life for the world (John 6:32-58). It is reasonable to conclude that this miracle points to our salvation.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6: 1-15
John’s account of the Gospel is focused around providing evidence that Jesus truly is the Son of God. To do this, he focuses on particular miracles, which he refers to as signs. These miracles and events are meant to send a particular message or to evoke a certain response. According to the second verse “and a great crowd of people followed him”, Jesus’ ministry is gaining a significant public following. Unfortunately, this following is not because the people are seeking truth, but rather they want the excitement of what they’ve seen and heard Jesus do. Jesus is yet to announce the reason for His ministry.
The physical vs supernatural
The next miracle Jesus performs is His most public and most well-received miracle as he feeds thousands with a small basket five loaves of bread and two fish. The people who see this miracle, for the most part, miss the message behind this miracle. Jesus is seen performing this miracle and providing for the physical hunger needs of the crowd; but the deeper message, which we learn later on, is that Jesus is the bread of life, meaning He is essential for life and for eternal life. Jesus is trying to get the Jews’ thinking off of the physical realm and into the spiritual realm.
Jesus tests us and teaches us
Jesus’ response to the crowd’s hunger is also a test of the disciples faith and a very powerful teaching moment. Jesus’ test’s are meant to refine our faith. The different reactions of the disciples give us some insight into the unique way we, as Christians, may respond to opportunities for service which God places in our paths. Some of these responses, taken from Mark’s account of this miracle, may sound very familiar to your own God-given opportunities:
- The initial response is to just “send the crowd away”. Do you chase away or ignore God’s voice?
- Philip’s answer is to throw money at the problem. Do you believe just by paying your tithe that this will satisfy God’s desire for you to work for Him?
- Andrew suggests working to solve it. While this is a good idea to work together in fellowship, it still is not what God wants us to do.
Jesus’ answer to the problem or opportunity is to appeal to God, rather than appealing to human ability.
The story continues, and this is where the miracle begins. Andrew brings a young boy who is carrying five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus. What was Andrew thinking? How could that possibly feed such a large crowd. Could it be that Andrew brought this boy to Jesus expectantly? Knowing the miracles Jesus had performed before, I believe Andrew had faith that Jesus could the same here.
When you come to Jesus, come expectantly!
What is in the boy’s basket is also significant! The crowd who was almost exclusively Jewish, and they would have about of Elisha’s miracles where twenty small barley loaves fed a hundred men, and there were leftovers (2 Kings 4:42–44)! Jesus will now perform a miracle with an even more dramatic effect by feeding many more with much less. This will demonstrate to the crowd that Jesus is greater than Elisha and inspire the crowd to proclaim Him as the long-awaited Messiah.
Although scripture tells us 5,000 men were there, it is safe to assume that there were women and children too! Meaning this crowd was larger than 5,000; possibly 20,000+
Jesus takes the small offering, gives thanks to His Father and is able to distribute enough for the entire crowd! Wow! This is a real demonstration of Jesus’ supernatural power! But wait, there’s more, there are twelves baskets of leftovers after the entire crowd had their fill!
We are taught two lessons here. Firstly, we must not be overly concerned with our own efforts. The disciples first thoughts were to either ignore the problem, stress about where the money will come from or despair over how little they had, were all thoughts toward man’s abilities, and not heavenly abilities. We should be different. We should not lament over how big our need is, we should be faithful enough to bring all we have to God and let God handle the results! But, He also wants us to continue on, in faith, that He will provide what is needed, when it is needed! Secondly, we are taught a lesson in perspective. What seems small or impossible in our hands, becomes so abundant in the hands of Jesus.
On one hand, the people’s reaction to Jesus miracle is appropriate – they profess Him to be the Prophet who was promised. On the other hand though, Jesus knew, that because they had seen these wonderful and powerful miracles, their belief was in what they could physically see and not in what the message the miracle portrays. Jesus knew they wanted to make him king by force, and so Jesus withdraws from the crowd to be by Himself.
Our human effort to accomplish a miracle is not worthless, so long as our efforts come after appealing to God. Our work is not irrelevant to God’s work, but it must be in submission to His power and to His will.
Come to God with your needs. Trust Him. Let Go of worldly promises, and Let God deliver on His heavenly promises!
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