Feeding of the five thousand men (plus women and children): Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14
Feeding of the four thousand men (plus women and children): Matthew 5:32-39, Mark 8:1-9
Aside from the resurrection, the only miracle recorded in all four gospels is the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. No one has tried to disprove that spontaneous picnic provided by our Lord Jesus – because there were thousands of people who could verify it! There were actually two miraculous feedings – both mentioned by Matthew and Mark. After the second one, when the disciples murmured among themselves about having forgotten to bring enough bread on the boat when they left with Jesus, He said to them, “Why do you ask each other about forgetting to bring bread, you of little faith? Don’t you understand yet? Do you still not comprehend? Are your minds still so dense? You have eyes – don’t you see? You have ears – don’t you hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the crowd of five thousand, how many baskets full of leftovers did you gather?” They answered, “Twelve.” “And when I broke the seven loaves for the crowd of four thousand, how many baskets full of leftovers did you gather?” “Seven,” they replied. “So how can you still fail to understand? Why can’t you see that I wasn’t talking about bread when I warned you about the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees?” Then they finally understood that He hadn’t warned them about the yeast of bread but about the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” – Jesus Christ, The Greatest Life, A Unique Blending of the Four Gospels
This is October 2022. People all over the globe need to be fed by Jesus – spiritually and physically. That has always been true, but current events have brought people to a point of deep concern not only about their physical well being and being able to provide for their families, but withstanding the onslaught of false teachings and intrusion of evil forces in their lives and homes. The list of frightening circumstances goes on and on: war and threat of war, pandemic, food shortages, increased poverty, changing ideologies, insidious sexual perversions…
How do the ancient miracles of the feedings of thousands of people by Jesus -the Son of God, the Son of Man – help us today?
Several things come to mind.
Jesus understood hunger. He deliberately went through 40 days of it in the wilderness to prepare Himself for ministry. That’s why He told the disciples He didn’t want to send the crowd away hungry – they might faint on the way. He knew EXACTLY how that felt.
It is not necessary for us to separate the physical part of our being from the spiritual. That is also why He came. Loving God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength is possible even when you are hungry, weary and threatened. He did it. We can, too.
He chose to use what the disciples had on hand.”How many loaves do you have?” Today’s miracles often work the same way. Sometimes God works through the resources we have available – healing with the aid of medicine, doctors and surgery; feeding some through wealthier people who have a sharing heart; having some share knowledge so that others can learn to provide for themselves. Other times we know that Jesus healed through a word or a touch, “thanked God” and increased the resources of bread and fish. Read the testimony of George Mueller – God can and still does work that way – miraculously. Whatever method God choses to bless His children in whatever circumstance they find themselves, we can rely on Him to do what He knows is right.
We cannot deny that many Christians are suffering greatly today – persecuted, starving, sick and injured. In the cases where God does not intervene with miracles, we know that He is still watching and rewarding them for their faithfulness. We also remember that Jesus never chose the miraculous for personal gain. He chose to suffer with His sheep for a greater purpose that only He and the Father knew.
Charles Spurgeon made the next point. “Next, learn that care is always taken of Christ of all the broken pieces. The Lord all-sufficient is yet the God of economy. Since Jesus could create as much food as ever He pleased, you might have thought that it was hardly worth His while to gather up the fragments, and yet He did so. Waste is of Satan, not of God…But what a wonderful thing this is. Omnipotence picking up crumbs! God All-sufficient, to whom the cattle on a thousand hills are nothing – who could make a whole sea of fishes or a thousand worlds of bread, by His bare will and nothing else, and yet He sets His disciples to gather up broken pieces! Surely it ill becomes us to waste a penny, an hour, or an opportunity. Let us be severely economical for the Lord our God.”
The crowds of 5000 plus and 4000 plus all received Jesus’ provision of bread and fish, but did they all receive Him as Savior? The scripture does not say, but it is doubtful. There were many examples of those who, with their own eyes, witnessed the miracles of our Lord and continued to deny Him. It is the same today. Many want what the Savior can give, but not Who the Savior is. Believers are commissioned to share His story and invite others to trust Him, but we know that many won’t. Many want to live by physical bread alone. It is the family of God that understands that we live spiritually by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Our responsibilities as believers are to share the Truth of the Word of God with others. Not everyone will believe, but those who accept the gift of God through Jesus Christ will have spiritual resources to withstand the onslaught of evil that presents itself. We can do what Jesus did. Trust the Father, examine what we have, make good use of left overs, and if possible and if called upon by God, share our physical resources with others. Jesus feeds both our souls and our bodies.