The Feeding of the 5,000

Free baked French bread image

This fourth sign of Christ’s has become a familiar story to many who have some history with the Bible. Jesus feeds a crowd of at least 5,000 people with only five loaves and two fish. On the one hand this is an amazing story of Christ, the God-man’s authority over nature. He physically multiplied the food in order to feed the crowd. While that miracle is worth reflecting upon, there is more to this story than meets the eye.

The text informs us that it was now the time of the Passover. The Passover was a ceremony that Jesus, along with every faithful Jewish man or woman in Israel would have celebrated annually commemorating and retelling the story of their miraculous escape from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses, as told in the book of Exodus. This new section of the Gospel of John begins by informing us that the Passover is at hand and Jesus has gone out to a dry arid desert region. The text begs us to consider how Jesus is connected with the Passover. Interestingly, the first two scenes of chapter 6 involve a miraculous provision of food, and a taming of the seas, two vital components of the original Passover story (the Red Sea and the manna in the desert) that was rehearsed and recited every year during the Passover celebration.

In John’s account of the feeding of the 5,000, the disciple named Jesus asks a rather honest and practical question to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” We are told this question was a test meant to reveal something about Philip’s mentality and approach. Philip responds as most of us would have in that situation, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” You can almost hear the exasperation in Philip’s voice. A denarii was the equivalent of a day’s wage. Philip is scratching his head in bewilderment that Jesus would suggest that they attempt to feed the crowd. Philip saw a need far greater than his own ability to meet, and his first impulse was hopelessness.

Andrew takes a slightly different approach and searches for food. This approach also brings him to hopelessness as all he discovers is a few fish and few loaves. But in the midst of this seemingly hopeless and overwhelming task assigned by Christ, there is yet a way forward that none of the disciples considered. They were busy looking at the problem with their practical minds and considering only what their eyes could see, forgetting that Jesus was in the habit of doing far more than anyone could imagine. If God could provide the Israelites with manna in the wilderness during their escape for Egypt so many years before, then he could certainly provide food for these Jews in the wilderness underneath Christ’s care. We must never forget that the problems we face every day are not only to be tackled with practical solutions. We must apply our faith, and trust that God often has ways of providing well beyond our wildest imaginations.


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