Many people are familiar with the story of the boy that shared his lunch with Jesus and ended up feeding thousands of people. It is found in all four Gospels and generally titled Feeding the Multitude.
Two “picnic feasts” are found in Matthew and Mark – feeding the 5000, followed by feeding the 4000.
The first occasion took place on the outskirts of the Jewish town of Bethsaida near the Sea of Galilee. The site is known today as the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha. The second miracle meal occurred in the Gentile region of the Decapolis, which signifies Ten Cities.
Different groups and different locations with common themes which reveal sides of God’s true nature. Patience, provision and partnership are displayed. Patience is expressed, especially in His compassionate manner of teaching and healing for hours on end. Provision of resources shows generosity toward all people. Partnership makes known He prefers to act in willing cooperation with all people.
Matthew 14:14-21 Mark 6:35-44 Luke 9:10-17 John 6:4-14
Comparing the Gospel accounts of the first event, different details are highlighted within the same story. All Gospels share that a multitude of people were gathered in a deserted place, though Luke provides the specific location, and that it was late in the day. Hunger was likely a concern for everyone at that point. The disciples wanted to send the people away to get food but Jesus responds, “You give them something to eat”.
Now this saying is not found in John. Rather he adds that this happened near the time of Passover and that Jesus had asked Philip a question about where they should buy bread. I wonder what went through Philip’s mind at that moment. Natural human logic kicking in to find a suitable reply to a seemingly irrational question. The cost of buying that much food would be impossible, let alone the reality of their remote location.
Size matters not! With only five loaves and two fish, the small offering is brought to Jesus. It is taken, blessed and broken while the people sit down in groups. After everyone is satisfied, the result is twelve baskets of bread remnants are collected.
Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”
One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
Within the Bread of Life discourse, found later in John 6, Jesus refers back to the time of Moses and manna then forward to His last supper institution of communion (thanksgiving, Eucharist) meal.
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
The second event is recounted in Matthew 15:32-39 and in Mark 8:1-9.
Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
Then His disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill a great multitude?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.” So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left. Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.
Interesting to note that with the first group twelve baskets are reminders of the twelve tribes of Israel. The second group with seven baskets indicate completion and that Gentiles are included in God’s plan.
It is the real test of faith for His disciples. They are witnesses to supernatural miracles that defy ordinary human understanding of how the world works. They observe the power and authority Jesus had from God the Father. Jesus then shares that very power with His chosen so that they may do even greater works. All in all, a win-win situation. People are purified and God is glorified!
Beyond the physical needs for food and healing, Jesus provides His Shalom peace to us. This Shalom envelopes every aspect of life. It is the peace that passes understanding, allows us to be trusting and child-like to enter into His kingdom. The Shalom blessing found in Numbers 6:22-27
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.”
Want to receive provision and experience Shalom peace? Partner with God! Get in alignment with your assignment. Love the Lord with everything in you and love your neighbor as yourself. Please don’t forget that. We have to forgive and love ourselves so we can truly forgive and love others from our hearts.
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