Feeding The Multitudes

by Dody Gibson

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down,” for there was much grass in that place. The men alone numbered about five thousand. After He had given thanks, Jesus distributed the five barley loaves and two small fishes to the disciples and they to those sitting down. The people ate as much as they wanted and afterwards twelve baskets were filled with left over fragments. (Matt 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17 and John 6:5-14)

This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. It is unique in that respect. What was it about this Divine act that makes it so distinctive? It was not the magnitude of it for other miracles manifest an even greater demonstration of our Lord’s power. Walking on the water (a hyperbole for one who can do even this) is only mentioned three times. The raising of the widows son near Nain and of Lazarus are in one account each. Surely bringing the dead back to life would be awe-inspiring. The feeding of multitudes does not seem to be stretching our Lord’s ability to the limits as when he even spoke nature into obedience stilling the storm and exercising power over demons. What then is so spectacular about this miracle that the Holy Spirit left this record for us to read four times?

The Son of God was present at the creation of the universe and it was His word that spoke everything into existence. (Col 1:16-17; John 1:3) This included all that was made of the vegetable kingdom on day four, everything that would feed the human race from Adam until Judgment Day. No, it is not incredible that He could feed five thousand men plus women and children on one day. What then makes this miracle so atypical?

It is the apostle John who writes in the remainder of chapter six, verses 22-65 what the Holy Spirit would have us know and understand about this four times chronicled event. Jesus draws a parallel between the bread that sustains our earthly bodies and the spiritual bread. Every physical body has experienced hunger and the pleasure of having that craving satisfied. But it is only temporary and we will hunger again. We are not in our gluttony to overlook a more important food source. Bread, that when it is eaten, one would never hunger again and live forever. At least thirteen times Jesus refers to Himself as that bread and plainly says, “I am the bread of life.” This was the message; nutrition for our bodies will sustain us from day to day but if we eat of the spiritual bread we will live forever. The contrast was incomprehensible and Jesus seemed grieved that they could not more quickly learn this lesson. (Mark 8:12)

Many questions as always are left for speculation. Why were the apostles, who were eyewitness to so much Divine phenomena, be at such a loss for a solution to the problem of satisfying the hungry multitude? They had attended the marriage feast at Cana and saw the increase of the wine. This first of all miracles should have made a lasting impression. Even our Savior chides them for their unbelief. (Matt 16:8-11) From what source did all the baskets come that held the fragments and what was done with the leftovers? We understand that the surplus food was recorded to add credibility to the extent of this miracle. Who was the young man who shared his lunch with so many people that day? What a story he had to share with his grandchildren!

Several months later a similar occasion took place. This time four thousand men besides women and children were filled and seven baskets of remains were collected.

(Matt 16:32-39 Mark 8:1-10) Immediately after this, the Pharisees and the Sadducees came asking for a sign from heaven. It would seem that to be in attendance of just one of these miracles would suffice for a lifetime. Truly the spiritually blind today would not believe if miracles occurred in their presence.

Luke tells us that the first miracle of the loaves and fishes took place in a desert area belonging to the city of Bethsaida. Is it surprising to learn that the name of this city means ‘house of fish?’

Christ in His spiritual form spoke into existence all the food necessary for man’s nutritional needs and in His physical form on the cross He gave us spiritual food that will enable mankind to live forever. Incredible contrast!

And that’s the Amazing Truth!

Millstadt, IL 62260

Dody Gibson See other articles by Dody Gibson