Sign #4 – The Feeding of the 5,000

Sign #4 – The Feeding of the 5,000

Sign #4 – The Feeding of the 5,000.

“There is a young person here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many? And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples gave to all those sitting down, and likewise the fish, as much as they wanted. After they all had eaten their fill…” (John 6:1-15).

Context. Jesus and His disciples had just crossed the Sea of Galilee, or the Lake, and found themselves on a hill where they could sit down and relax. It wasn’t a mountain, exactly, but some high ground that rises abruptly on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Today it is known as the Golan Heights. A huge throng of people was trying to find them because He had just finished a healing session with many sick folks. There was even a larger group of people than usual because of all the pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Estimates were in the 5,000 range, and that was just the men in the multitude. There could easily have been twice that if you counted all the women and children.

Food? Since they were in the middle of nowhere, with the closest village being miles away, the question of food was raised. Jesus, upon seeing this vast sea of humanity and their obvious hunger for sustenance, accepts the fact that nothing but a spectacular miracle would be sufficient. But He decides to tease Philip and test his faith a bit, trying to see if Philip would look to Jesus for the supply of food so desperately needed.  But Jesus has everybody sit down on the grassy slopes of the hill, and He accepts a little boy’s meager lunch of five little barley loaves of bread and two fish. Everybody is wondering, what good will that do with this gigantic crowd?

Bread of Life. Jesus then provides a dramatic preview of the Eucharist sacrament. He took the bread and broke it; He gave thanks (the Greek word used here is actually eucharisto) to God for the food; He distributed the bread to all those gathered together; the multitude partook of the broken bread. Somehow, the bread in Jesus’ hands just kept appearing. He’d break a little loaf, and more would appear. He kept multiplying fresh bread to the gathered thousands until all had eaten and were satisfied. Certainly, since this was the time of Passover, the people receiving bread from Jesus and His disciples had to be thinking of manna from heaven in the wilderness. Jesus then had the disciples gather all the remnants, all the leftover bread and fish, and put it all in baskets… twelve baskets, one for each disciple. In gathering the leftovers, Jesus was simply following Judaic law which forbids the destruction of food. Miraculously there was an abundance of bread left over, much more than was originally given by that little boy. Jesus created a lot from a little, as He can do with whatever we offer to Him in our meagerness. Isn’t it interesting that during His temptation with Satan, Jesus refused to make bread from stones, but that here in the presence of this huge throng He multiplied bread for the people? Jesus had a problem doing a miracle to minister to Himself, but no problem doing a miracle for others. Fresh bread from the Bread of life, from the hidden manna that comes down from heaven. Jesus expanded on this idea with His great I AM statement about being the Bread of Life that comes down from heaven to give life to the world, soon after the multiplication of bread, in John 6: 30-40.

The Prophet? The multitude was electrified by this dramatic, unexpected miracle. In their messianic enthusiasm, though, they became misguided, and exclaimed that Jesus is indeed the Prophet foretold in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. They were convinced Jesus was the man prophesied by Moses, the Great Teacher that they all have been expecting. But their vision of the role this Prophet took was different than that of Jesus. They mistakenly thought that Jesus had arrived on the scene to overturn Roman rule, that He would bring the much-needed political change in Israel through His messages from God. They were expecting a heavenly prophet for an earthly revolution. They wanted a free nation, and not a personal transformation. Their Teacher, in their mind, was to be a king. Jesus picked up on the fervor to make him a different kind of king than what He wanted, and this was unsettling for Him. So He slipped away from the crowd to a nearby mountain to be alone. In that mass of people, it was easy for him to escape the confusion and be by Himself.