30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[e]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
All four gospels have an account of Jesus feeding the five thousand men. The disciples have been transformed to apostles. This means that they are on mission, sent by Jesus. Their mission, so Matthew tells us (Matthew 10), involved going to Israel first and then to the rest of the world some time in the future. They were to be agents who showed how God was rescuing the people and their land through Jesus. They did well in some cases, but in other cases Jesus had to broaden their horizons. That is what Jesus does here, he expands their horizons by revealing how much more he can provide than all that they would ask for.
Jesus tests the disciples and expands their horizons of faith, as he often does with us. In this story, though, Jesus provides for a nation. The twelve baskets are associated with the bountiful supply that Jesus can provide for a chosen nation that will turn to him. Although no nation is chosen in the way Israel was in the Old Testament, any nation that adopts God’s laws, and more importantly forms a relationship with him, is going to work more in harmony with the way the world was designed. The godly principles of hard work and sacrifice that America once adopted made them great. Now they are moving to a time of self-satisfied entitlement and moral decay, technology and science can not save a nation like America from the course it has chosen. It seems right to a person to make choices that will satisfy self, but, like the five thousand, our deepest needs can only be met in another and in the service of others. Jesus is the only one who can heal us at our deepest level because he is the only one that can fill us and lead us into the purpose for which we were created.
Like the disciples, I am amazed by this miracle. I know that I am on mission and that I have a purpose in the world, but I lack faith to step out and expect you to do the miraculous. I am thankful for those times when I have stepped out in faith and found you to be dependable. I thank you for the way that you use a person who is inadequate for the task and fill them with your infinite adequacy. Help us not to try harder, but to see what resources you have provided and to give them back to you.
- How does this passage train the disciples to be missionaries?
- What was Jesus teaching about Israel in particular?
- Why didn’t Israel turn to Jesus if he could provide their needs?
- Why do we try and take care of our needs without Jesus?
- What is your deepest need that you are aware of at the moment?