Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:4-13).
While Christ concerned Himself with the spiritual needs of the people, the disciples concerned
themselves with the physical needs. They recognized that the people were hungry and needed food.
Their solution was to terminate the teaching and dismiss the crowd so that they could go and buy food in
the surrounding villages. The feeding of the five thousand was a lesson about potentiality. The disciples
calculated the cost of feeding the crowd and wrote it off as impossible. All their calculations were
correct; but they had forgotten Christ, the incalculable factor! Five barley loaves and two fish were
plenty in the hands of Jesus. The multiplication of food is reminiscent of the miracle of God supplying
manna for Israel in the wilderness.
The action of Jesus reveals both natural wisdom and supernatural power. His order to have the people sit
down was necessary to stabilize the crowd so that there would not be a rush for food. Jesus seems to have
broke the food indefinitely until all were satisfied. The collections of twelve large baskets of remaining
fragments of bread and fish indicate the able sufficiency that Jesus provides.
The miracle excited the wonder of the people and compelled them to recognize that Jesus as an unusual
person, “the Prophet” predicted by Moses (John 6:14; Deuteronomy 18:15).
This is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. Comprehensive interpretations are too numerous to
list. There is probably an implicit anticipation of the messianic banquet. On the surface, the text seems to
focus on Christ’s compassion and the disciples responsibility to minister to the needs of the people
(Matthew 14:14). Yet, it is clear that the disciples did not understand the miracle. It had been a living
parable for their blindness. Like all Jesus’ miracles, this was a revelation of Himself, a sermon in action.
John tells us that Jesus used this miracle as the basis for His sermon on “the Bread of Life.” There are
many points of reference in this parabolic-miracle. The people were like sheep without a shepherd. The
green grass should have reminded the disciples of Psalm 32:1-2, but they did not make the connection.
When Jesus said, “You give them something to eat,” He tested the disciples’ faith. They had just reported
the success of their mission tour. Surely, feeding five thousand people would not be impossible for Him.
The point of this miracle is that Jesus is the Bread of Life, on whom we feed. It is the privilege and
responsibility of His servants to give this bread to the hungry multitudes. At this point, the disciples
failed to learn the lesson (Mark 6:52).
This is the fourth sign in the Gospel of John. The first three signs illustrate how one is saved through the
Word, by faith, and by grace. The fourth sign (feeding the 5,000) shows that salvation satisfies the inner
needs of the heart. The last four signs in John’s Gospel illustrate the results of salvation:
Feeding the 5,000 – Salvation brings satisfaction
Stilling the Storm – Salvation brings peace
Healing the Blind Man – Salvation brings light
Raising Lazarus from the dead – Salvation brings life