It’s such a significant story that all 4 gospel writers record the event–the feeding of the 5000. And when Jesus was walking out on the water to the boat to meet them, they were terribly afraid. Actually “terrified.” And the Mark records “They were completely amazed for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened” (Mk 6:51-52). We’ll talk about that another day, but the question is for now, what was so significant about the feeding of the 5000?
It’s interesting that the first thing Jesus does is he goes to Philip and asks where they should buy bread for all these people? Philip is startled. He notes that 200 denarii wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for everyone. Some translations say that this was roughly 8 months wages, and another says perhaps 18 months wages worth of bread. Regardless, that is roughly $25,000 – $55,000 worth of bread. Just bread. Impossible.
Jesus is like this quite often. He loves to point to us and open our eyes to see the impossible. Because it was very much impossible in more ways than one. Even if they had the money, there was no way in a desolate village area that a few bread makers and fisherman could provide food for the estimated 5000-20,000 (with wives and children) that were there. I
But Jesus not only cared for the people, and saw this, but he pointed out the need to Philip as well as Philip’s and the others inability to meet that need. Sometimes Jesus has to do this–shows us a huge need among humanity, and our inability to meet that need because of insufficiency of resources.
Then Jesus does something spectacular. He takes a ridiculous pittance of an offering. Five loaves and two fishes from a little boy. Interesting that it is only a little boy that is willing to give what he has. I’m sure the adults calculated what they had, said they didn’t have enough to distribute, and the disciples moved on.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Cor 1:27
I’ve noticed that even in ministry. It’s often the poor people who are the most generous. They understand.
Regardless, Jesus takes this ridiculous small offering from one, then he looks up to heaven and blesses it, then he breaks and gives it to the people. Sounds a lot like communion.
Miraculously the food multiples and all are fed.
Then Jesus tells them to gather the leftovers (because he is abundant) so to make sure they aren’t wasteful (because that matters, too). There are 12 baskets left.
And the disciples are left astonished, as there is a basketful for each of the them that they carry back to Jesus.
Jesus is teaching about himself here. Humanity has a great need and no man can fulfill that need. But Jesus, through his own broken body and flesh was able to provide. He was one man, but through him the many were fed.
“I am the Bread of Life,” he says (6:48).
In us there is great insufficiency. Only Jesus can provide. This provision is for our sins and for our eternal life.
“But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (Jn 6:50-51).
It’s interesting to note too that even with this extraordinary miracle, the people didn’t understand it. They wanted to make him king by force. A king who was revered as a Prophet who would deliver them from Rome and their enemies. Jesus had to withdraw from there by himself because the masses didn’t get it (6:14-15).
If Jesus would have had an ego or wouldn’t have known his purpose, this could have been very tempting–power, accolades, deliverance of his people. He easily could have done this in the name of “ministry.” But he knew that what he was doing didn’t look like that. And so he withdrew until a later time.