Feasting with God #10
Feeding the Five Thousand
16But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Did you notice that, at the end of this passage? We call this story “The Feeding of the Five Thousand,” but that’s not entirely accurate. Five thousand was only the number of men there: there were women and children besides. So this may very well have been “The Feeding of the Ten Thousand”! But it doesn’t matter how many people were there. It was an enormous number, and Jesus performed a great miracle.
A similar miracle he did at a separate time. In Matthew’s Gospel we find “The Feeding of the Four Thousand” just a chapter later, and there as well he says, “Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children” (Matt. 15:38). Twice, great crowds of thousands of people followed Jesus, and Jesus had compassion on their hunger, so he performed a great miracle to fill their stomachs. So this miracle ought to teach us how Jesus is able to provide for our bodily needs.
But Jesus’ care for our needs does not stop with our physical hunger. He fills our spiritual hunger as well. Jesus had been teaching these people for days, and when he went off to be alone, they followed him (Matt. 14:13). But rather than be annoyed, Jesus recognized their need and knew he could fill it. So he continued to teach them, and to make them able to remain with him, learning from him, he provided for their stomachs. Jesus is the provider for both body and soul!
Beginning with five loaves of bread and two fish, and ending with twelve baskets full of leftovers, Jesus proved how far his almighty power extended: He is God! In fact, if he wished, he could have simply created the food out of thin air, made it miraculously appear in their laps, or even in their stomachs so that they were immediately filled and no longer hungry. But the way he performed this miracle was purposeful. He began with material the people could see, and the miracle expanded outward from that point. This is the way God always deals with people: he humbles himself and stoops to our level, so that we can see him and his working. This is what he did when Jesus became a human being, conceived in Mary’s womb, and then born in a stable. This is what he does in baptism, using the water that is washed over us to wash out our very souls. This is what he does in the Lord’s Supper, using simple bread and wine to bring to us his very body and blood with the forgiveness of sins. And this is what he does in his Word, using language that we human beings can understand, remember, and believe, in order to teach us his truths. So in this miracle of bread and fish, Jesus demonstrated his power, as well as his humility and care.
Lord, we thank you that you provide for our every need, both physical and spiritual. We praise you that you decided to look upon us with compassion and to come to our aid. Continue to come to us through these means that you have promised to use, so that we mere humans are able to see you, hear you, taste you, and feel you. Daily, we ask, bring to us all your blessings to feed us on our daily bread, and to forgive us all the sins we commit each day. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.