When we read about Jesus Christ in the Bible and his interactions with the people he encountered, we are naturally challenged to consider what we can learn from these recorded biblical accounts.
One of the stories that I have been drawn to and have personally sought to have a better understanding of is the story of Jesus feeding the 5000.
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.
~ John 6:9-10 (ESV)
Let’s dig a little deeper into this miraculous story in God’s Word and see its significance for us today as we consider:
- Why Jesus Christ chose to feed 5000 people.
- What lessons we can learn from this miraculous story.
- How we can continue to learn more about Jesus Christ.
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Jesus Feeding the 5000
The story of Jesus feeding the 5000 actually has four different witnesses as recorded in the Gospels by four of Jesus’ disciples – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
- Matthew 14:13-21
- Mark 6:30-44
- Luke 9:10-17
- John 6:1-15
It is not uncommon to wonder…
Why is the feeding of the 5000 in all four gospels?
Think about a shocking story that you may have heard recently.
For example, if someone said it snowed all day on Christmas in Florida (the “Sunshine State”), you would most likely doubt that it truly happened unless you had other people to confirm it to be true. In fact, we understand that a story becomes more credible when it can be confirmed by more than one witness.
Although some would say it would be a miracle to have a “White Christmas” in Florida, it pales in comparison to the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish!
Perhaps other reasons that this story is recorded four different times by four different people is because:
- It greatly impacted those who witnessed the miracle.
- There were particular details that needed to be highlighted in each account.
- God intended for the Gospel writers to include this story for harmony in the Gospels.
However, for simplicity, we will focus on the account as recorded in Mark 6:30-44:
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[a]! 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.
Why Did Jesus Feed the 5000
As you read and seek to understand the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, it is crucial for us to consider this portion of scripture in the context of the bigger overall story of the Bible.
Jesus says in John 5:39-40, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
Therefore, when we read about Jesus feeding the 5000, it is important to understand what these scriptures tell us about Jesus Christ.
Here are a few observations to consider:
- Jesus saw the people in the crowd and had compassion for them (Mark 6:34)
- Jesus recognized the people’s spiritual hunger and taught them (Mark 6:34).
- Jesus acknowledged the people’s physical hunger and told the disciples to feed them (Mark 6:37-39)
- Jesus demonstrated giving thanks to God for what they had, even though it was a small amount of five loaves of bread and two fish (Mark 6:41).
- Jesus gave instructions to his disciples to minister to the crowd (Mark 6:41).
- Jesus divided the small amount of food – five loaves and two fish – among the 5000+ people and there was plenty! Actually, there was enough leftover for the disciples to collect (Mark 6:43).
These observations help us to think about why the feeding of the 5000 is important for us today.
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Lessons from Jesus Feeding the 5000
After considering what we learn about how Jesus felt about the crowd, as well as met their spiritual and physical needs in the story, it’s important to think about how we are to live differently as a result.
Or in other words, consider what is the meaning of Jesus feeding the 5000?
Let’s take a look at three lessons we can learn from this miraculous account:
Lesson 1: Jesus seeks to fill our spiritual and physical needs
We were all created with not only a physical hunger but spiritual hunger. However, Christ is the only one that can satisfy spiritual hunger.
He is the “bread of life”.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35
Lesson 2: Jesus invites us to participate in ministering to others
Jesus didn’t need the disciples to feed the crowd, but He invited them to experience the joy of ministering to others by relying on His power.
When we experience the fullness of Christ in our own lives, He wants us to share Him with others. In fact, Jesus gave us this promise later in the Book of Acts:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Lesson 3: Jesus can use the small amount we have, multiply it, and even have enough leftover
At times, we may think…
- I only have ______.
- There is no way that I can ______.
- Why would God use me when he can use ______.
However, it is when we know that we don’t have “enough” that we have no choice but to depend on God and trust in His power.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 1 Corinthians 12:9
God Can Do More with Less!
Our human nature is to always think we need more to do more but the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 shows us that God can do so much with so little!
With only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, he fed 5000 people! His power is unmeasurable if you will just have faith and trust Him!
And no matter how small or insignificant you may feel in this world, God wants to do big things through you if you will let Him lead you!