Matthew 14:15-21 Jesus Feeds 5,000 and then some!

Table for 5,00 please

Table for 5,00 please

Jesus is in a “desolate place” with His disciples. He came here to deal with His grief over the death of His cousin John. When Jesus arrived in this place, He was met by a huge crowd, which He immediately began ministering to. The WHOLE day has been spent in meeting this group’s physical needs for healing. We pick up our story as evening dawns.

Jesus’ disciples were tired and hungry and figured that the people in the crowd probably were too. They wanted Jesus to send the crowd away so they could have dinner in peace. Of course they didn’t put it that way to Jesus. The asked Him to send the crowd away so the people could go and get something to eat in the surrounding towns. There wasn’t anything there for them to eat or anywhere for them to buy food. (I guess our village merchant from the sower and the seed parable encounter didn’t make an appearance at this gathering.) The disciples were probably not as self-serving as I originally made them sound, but they certainly recognized their lack of ability to meet the current need of the people. Had they heard people, maybe children, in the crowd complaining about being hungry?

Now the disciples’ response could be taken from two different perspectives. I want to look at both possibilities. The first being doubt and confusion. The second being faith and facts. We don’t know for sure which it was and I’m sure Jesus could, and probably did, work with both. Let’s see how each story would have looked from those two perspectives.

Doubt and confusion:

After the disciples made their request, Jesus made the most absurd statement possible. “You give them something to eat” (verse 16). I’m sure the disciples looked at one another in confusion, astonishment, and surprise. “With what?!? All we have is fives loaves of bread and two fish. Have You looked at the crowd?”

“Andrew, bring me what we have”, says Jesus. Andrew goes back to the boat and gets the parcel that was sitting under the seat. All the way back to where Jesus is, he is thinking about the crowd. What on earth is Jesus thinking? There is NO WAY they can help these people. He is sure they will be mobbed if they start trying to pass out this tiny amount of food.

Andrew hands Jesus the parcel and Jesus unwraps it. This looks like a small meal for the disciples alone. Now Jesus intends to give it to a HUGE crowd. Jesus next tells the crowd to sit down on the grass. I don’t know if any of them knew what Jesus was planning or if anyone had overheard Jesus’ discussion with His disciples, but they all complied with Jesus instructions.

Jesus stands in front of the crowd, with all eyes on Him, and prays for the meal. “Father, thank You for this meal we are about to receive. May we be truly grateful. As You did in the desert for Moses and the children of Israel, please provide for Your children with us today. May it fill all our stomach’s as You fill our spirits. Bless this food to our bodies. Amen.”

“Brothers, I need your assistance now please.” Each of the disciples gather beside Jesus, glancing back over their shoulders to look at the crowd. There are SO many people! Peter thinks, “I hope He knows what He is doing. We could be in real trouble here otherwise.” Jesus then breaks the first loaf and places two FULL loaves into the outstretched hands of John. John’s eyes grow as big as dinner plates as he looks at the full loaf in each hand. Jesus breaks a second loaf and puts two FULL ones again into Andrew’s hands. Andrew too, is stunned by the wholeness of the loaves. Jesus continues distributing food to each of the disciples. Each time He breaks a piece off, the original is still whole, as is the piece! Even the fish have been broken many times, yet remain full!

The disciples now each hold two loaves and a fish. More than a full meal for each of them, but what about the crowd? Have you seen the size of that crowd? Nothing to do but start distributing what there is. Matthew approaches a group off to the left. There are about 20 in this group. He smiles at them as he kneels down to serve them. “Jesus wishes to provide a little something for your family. Please take some and eat.” One of the men looks at Matthew and says, “Are you sure? That is very generous of Him. I will just take a small portion for my child who is hungry. I’m sure my wife and I will be fine for now. Be sure to tell Jesus thank You for us though anyway.” Matthew nods his head in acceptance and thanks, and then breaks a small portion off for the child. Every eye in the group opens a little wider as the piece broken off becomes full and Matthew’s loaf appears untouched. “Did you see that?! Could I have a piece?” Matthew continues distributing fish and bread to the rest of the group, and then moves on to another group.

This process is being repeated throughout the crow with the other disciples too. Each time the bread is broken the disciples’ faith and excitement rise. After everyone has been served, the disciples return to Jesus. They sit down to eat, but are too excited by what they have just witnessed. They overhear conversations from some of the nearby groups talking about this amazing miracle. Everyone is overjoyed at Jesus’ gift and His generosity. He was willing to share everything He had. He even waited until everyone was fed before He began eating.

Someone nearby remarks about how much bread he has left and wonders what he should do with it. On hearing this, Jesus says it is time to take up the leftovers. There were twelve baskets in the fishing boat and Jesus asks John to go fetch them. John runs down to the boat and quickly returns with them. “I want you each to take one and go through the crowd to gather the leftovers”, Jesus says. Each man grabs a basket and revisits the groups they had originally offered the bread and fish to.

“Did you get enough to eat?”

“Oh yes indeed! Please thank Jesus for His amazing generosity. Jesus’ miracles NEVER cease to amaze me, but this one… All I can say is PRAISE BE TO GOD!”

The disciples return to Jesus, each carrying an overflowing basket of “left overs” from the fully satisfied crowd. Peter looks over at John, who is grinning from ear to ear, and says, “Only Jesus” while shaking his head in wonder.

Faith and facts:

After the disciples made their request, Jesus made the most astonishing statement possible. “You give them something to eat” (verse 16). John speaks up; “We have two fish and five loaves of bread. What do You need us to do?” The disciples stand ready, waiting for Jesus’ next instructions.

Peter runs over to the boat and brings back the parcel containing their supplies and gives it to Jesus. Jesus takes the parcel from Peter then instructs the crowd to sit down on the grass. They all quickly comply with Jesus’ instructions.

Once everyone is seated, Jesus stands before the crowd and prays for the food. “Father, thank You for this meal we are about to receive. May we be truly grateful. As You did in the desert for Moses and the children of Israel, please provide for Your children with us today. May it fill all our stomach’s as You fill our spirits. Bless this food to our bodies. Amen.”

The disciples are gathered around Jesus as He breaks the first loaf. Smiles spread across each face as they see Him place TWO full loaves into Andrew’s hands. Peter glances over his shoulder at the crowd while awaiting his turn to receive supplies from Jesus. He thinks, “Just wait till the crowd gets a look at this miracle!” After each of the disciples receives their portions from Jesus, they hurry out to serve the crowd.

Matthew approaches his first group of about 20 people. He smiles at them as he kneels down to serve them. “Jesus wishes to provide a meal for your family. Please take some and eat.” One of the men looks at Matthew and says, “Are you sure? That is very generous of Him. I will just take a small portion for my child who is hungry. I’m sure my wife and I will be fine for now. Be sure to tell Jesus thank You for us though anyway.” Matthew smiles knowingly and nods his head. “I assure you there is plenty to go around” he says, and then breaks a loaf in half and offers it to the child. Every eye in the group opens a little wider as the piece broken off becomes full and Matthew’s loaf appears untouched. “Did you see that?! Could I have a piece?” Matthew continues distributing fish and bread to the rest of the group, and then moves on to another group.

This process is being repeated throughout the crowd with the other disciples too. Each time the bread is broken the disciples’ smiles broaden. They love seeing the looks on the people’s faces as they witness Jesus’ miracle. After everyone has been served, the disciples return to Jesus. They sit down to eat. They are so eager to share the crowd’s reactions with Jesus and each other that they nearly neglect their own meal.

Conversations from some of the nearby groups drift towards them. The people are talking about this amazing miracle. Everyone is overjoyed at Jesus’ gift and His generosity. They note that He was willing to share everything He had and that He even waited until everyone was fed before eating. Jesus continued to amaze the crowd every time they meet with Him.

Someone nearby remarks about how much bread he has left and wonders what he should do with it. On hearing this, Jesus says it is time to take up the leftovers. There were twelve baskets in the fishing boat and Jesus asks John to go fetch them. John runs down to the boat and quickly returns with them. “I want you each to take one and go through the crowd to gather the leftovers”, Jesus says. Each man grabs a basket and revisits the groups they had originally offered the bread and fish to.

“Did you get enough to eat?”

“Oh yes indeed! Please thank Jesus for His amazing generosity. Jesus’ miracles NEVER cease to amaze me, but this one… All I can say is PRAISE BE TO GOD!”

The disciples return to Jesus, each carrying an overflowing basket of “left overs” from the fully satisfied crowd. Peter looks over at John, who is grinning from ear to ear, and says, “Only Jesus” while shaking his head in wonder.

 

Both of our scenarios had the disciples involved in carrying out Jesus’ miracle. There would have been a whole lot less, “are You sure” comments floating around in the second option. I actually believe that both these scenarios were represented in the disciples that day. There were probably several filled with faith and several filled with doubt. We are not told that Jesus only gave the bread and fish to those who had complete faith in what He was doing. He used them just as they were. The fact that they were willing to participate was all He required in order to use them.

I wonder if the people saw what happened when Jesus broke the bread initially when giving it to the disciples. Did it actually become whole again, like I imagined? Did His actions before the crowd build individual member’s faith? I wonder what that bread tasted like. Was it the bland unleavened bread or was it delicious fresh from the oven sourdough bread? I’m not a fish eater, so I probably would have passed on that. But then again, after being part of that miracle I would have wanted some of EVERYTHING Jesus had to offer that day.

Lord Jesus, I love how You cared for the people. You met ALL their needs for healing. You were hurting on Your own when You arrived, but You put that aside to tend to the needs of the people instead. But You didn’t stop there. You saw to their everyday physical needs too. You fed them, not out of necessity, but out of love. They probably could have made it to town and found food on their own. Yes, they would have been hungry and probably have had to fight for what they could get, but that didn’t have to be Your concern. The disciples didn’t want it to be their concern. You made it Your concern, because You cared for each person in attendance that day. You cared for EVERY need that day out of love.

You continue to care for ALL of our needs. We don’t get to see miracles on this grand of a scale now but You still provide for our needs. I have had times when I KNEW I had run out of something, only to discover that there was still a little more left, including money to buy groceries for my family. You provided monthly finances for my family just recently when we were in jeopardy of losing what we had. THANK YOU for that one!

You even provided the disciples with enough faith or trust in You to move into the role You had them play in this miracle. You could have called mana from Heaven if You chose to, but You used Your disciples again. I can just imagine the smiles on their faces at the end of the day! I know the faith boost didn’t stay with them long term at this point in Your ministry, but when they looked back at it later, I’m certain it gave them assurance of Your ability to do anything You chose to do. That miracle demonstrated to them, and us, that You care about our daily needs. It also demonstrated that You could, and would, use them without regard to how much faith they had, but in how willing they were to step out and do the job You assigned to them. I want to follow their example of willingness. Use me to serve You regardless of my faith. Help me be willing to step out and watch Your miracles in action!

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