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What the Bible says about Jesus Christ's Miracles: Feeding of Five Thousand
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 14:13-21

Christ's miracle of feeding the five thousand is unique in that it is the only one that all four gospel writers mention (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14). It illustrates Jesus' authority over nature and His divine intervention on behalf of others, showing that He is concerned about both humans' physical and spiritual needs.

Jesus is moved with compassion at the sight of thousands of people who had made a great effort to hear His message of hope. Although He is tired after a long day, He embraces the opportunity to teach them and heal the sick among them. As evening descends, His disciples suggest that the hungry crowd be disbanded to seek necessary food from the surrounding villages, but Jesus has something else in mind.

To test Phillip's faith, He asks him how the people could be fed. Not only does Philip learn a lesson of faith, but all of the disciples learn that true faith must rely on divine resources, not physical and material ones. Phillip begins to tally all of the meager supplies the disciples had among them, and somewhat stymied, says, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them." One denari was a day's wage at the time.

Then Andrew tells Jesus, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish." Yet, because of their lack of faith, the disciples cannot see any possibility of feeding the great multitude with their scarce funds and the scanty food on hand. However, faith enables us to see that with the omnipotent God, all things are possible.

This miracle is a magnificent act of creative power. No amount of human reasoning can reduce this miracle to a natural phenomenon. Indeed, complete understanding of miracles is beyond human capability to understand. By an act of His own creative power, Jesus revealed proof of His deity to thousands.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Five Thousand (Part One)

Matthew 14:13-21

Just prior to this miracle (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14), the people anticipated where Jesus was headed. By walking along the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, the crowds joined Him, and He, feeling compassion, healed their sick. When evening came, the disciples sought to send the crowds away because supplies in that remote place were inadequate to feed so many. Despite having only five loaves of bread and two fish at hand, Jesus desired to give them something to eat, and with just these, He performed an astounding miracle. The bread and fish continually multiplied so that everyone was satisfied—so much that twelve basketfuls of broken pieces were left over.

This took place at Bethsaida just before the Passover (John 6:4). Jesus primarily intended this miracle to teach the disciples, although a witness of the Son of God's power had also been impressed upon the multitude. In it, Jesus illustrated the kind of ministry His disciples would conduct after His departure: feeding people with spiritual food, and their source would be Christ Himself. They would have to replenish their supply of spiritual food continually by maintaining a close relationship with Him, but they would be responsible for feeding their congregations.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Five Thousand (Part Two)

Matthew 14:14

Jesus is "moved with compassion" when He sees the needy multitudes exhausted and wandering like sheep that had been tattered from cruel fleecing. Twice He is "moved with compassion" when He sees the hungry multitudes without food (Matthew 14:14; 15:32). The two blind men (Matthew 20:34) and the leper (Mark 1:41) also stir His compassion, as does the sorrow of the widow at Nain (Luke 7:13).

In addition, Jesus uses the word translated "compassion" in three of His parables: The king has compassion on his bankrupt servant and forgives him his debt, showing how we should forgive one another (Matthew 18:21-35). The Samaritan has compassion on the Jewish victim and cares for him in love (Luke 10:25-37). Finally, the father has compassion on his rebellious son (Luke 15:20).

We, too, should show compassion toward others. Compassion, a fundamental and distinctive quality of God, is literally "a feeling with and for others." It lies at the foundation of Israel's faith in God because, in an act of compassion, He delivered them from slavery and called them to be His own people. His compassion does not fail (Lamentations 3:22). Jesus teaches that it should be extended, not only to friends and neighbors, but to all, even to our enemies.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Five Thousand (Part Two)

Matthew 14:15-20

Jesus watched His frustrated disciples try to solve the problem of feeding the multitude, but "He Himself knew what He would do" (John 6:6). He wanted to teach them a lesson in faith and submission. In this story, we can see certain steps we must take in solving our own problems:

1. Start with what you have. Andrew found a boy who had a small meal and brought him to Jesus. Was the boy willing to give up his lunch? Yes, he was! God begins where we are and uses what we have.

2. Give what you have to Christ. Jesus took the simple meal and blessed it. He then divided the bread and fish and gave the pieces to the disciples, who, in turn, fed the multitudes.

3. Obey what He commands. As Jesus ordered, the disciples had the people sit down. They distributed the broken pieces and discovered that there was plenty for everybody. As His servants, we are "distributors," not "manufacturers." If we give what we have to Him, He will bless it and give it back to us for use in helping others.

4. Conserve the results. After the people had eaten their fill, twelve baskets filled with pieces of bread and fish remained. These pieces were carefully collected so that nothing was wasted (Mark 6:43; John 6:12).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Five Thousand (Part Two)

Matthew 14:16-19

Christ performs the miracle, but for both practical and spiritual reasons, His disciples present the food to the people. It was more organized and took less time to distribute the food this way than by doing it Himself. More importantly, Jesus and His disciples were becoming a team, and it was essential that they share in His work to have firsthand experience. Their involvement in Christ's generous, compassionate, loving act of providence would be a lasting memory to fuel their faith and zeal in their future apostolic work.

Jesus' miracle provided them an opportunity to serve Him, while teaching us lessons in responsible service. Though God does not need us, He gives us the privilege and blessing to be involved in His service. Some people do not wish to be encumbered by a duty at church, but this is a wrong perspective of service. God provides opportunities to serve so that we might experience great blessing.

The disciples had a responsibility to give to the people what Christ had given them. When God gives to us, we are to share faithfully with others, not hoard His gifts for ourselves. Ministers are to preach the whole truth of God and not change the message or withhold parts of it (Acts 20:27). Church members should look out for the welfare of others, sharing our blessings. If we are wealthy with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3), we should pass them on to others by living God's way of life as a witness.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Five Thousand (Part One)

Matthew 14:19

Jesus is very calm through all of this, for to Him, nothing is impossible. The disciples would have driven the hungry crowd away, but Christ is the One who had given manna to the Israelites in the wilderness. He had provided Israel sustenance in an orderly way, and here, Christ handles it likewise. He commands the people to sit down in manageable groups of fifties and hundreds, avoiding confusion and preventing injury to women and children should the whole multitude surge forward. Order is a characteristic of all of God's ways, as Paul asserts in I Corinthians 14:33.

Mark's description of the ordering of the crowd is very specific. Using the plural of the word that signifies "a garden plot or bed," he describes the people as reclining in sections, so that the separate groups resemble detached garden plots. As was the custom among the Jews, the 5,000 men sat apart and were the only ones counted. No one knows how many women and children were there, but the number must have been substantial.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Five Thousand (Part One)

Matthew 14:19

Jesus gives public thanks to God for the food, revealing the importance of acknowledging who provides everything and from whom blessing comes. Thanksgiving is the primary ingredient in receiving blessings from God.

People who neglect a close relationship with God forget to appreciate and thank Him for His daily, continual miracles. Paul writes, "Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:21). Yet, he commands the saints, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Five Thousand (Part One)

Matthew 15:33

The skepticism of the disciples is quite shameful. A short time earlier, they had witnessed Christ miraculously feed the 5,000. They had seen His power multiply a few loaves and fish to fill the hungry crowd. Yet, confronted with an identical problem, they throw up their hands and say that it cannot be done.

Is that not what all of us do when faced with a new but similar trial? Each new difficulty appears as one from which there is no rescue. Why do we become so perplexed and discouraged? We know God heals and intervenes on behalf of believers. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we seem to forget previous deliverances. What short memories we have! The person with true faith develops confidence from God's former interventions of faithfulness and love.

There is no excuse for such skepticism. All of us have expressed similar skepticism in our failures in trusting God. The biblical words for doubt suggest being "suspended," "driven by gusts," or "fluctuating in mid-air." Doubt does not necessarily indicate a lack of faith, but rather a state of qualified faith—weakness but not its total absence. Hebrews 11:6 asserts, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Like us, Christ's disciples obviously pleased God often, yet they sometimes displayed weak faith.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Four Thousand

John 6:10-14

On the next day, Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum, saying, "I am the Bread of Life" (John 6:32, 35, 48). Though willing to receive the physical bread, many would not receive the living Bread—Jesus Christ who came down from heaven. Thus, the miracle of feeding the multitude was actually a sermon with visual aids.

The main lesson of the miracle is that Christ is the Bread of Life to a dying humanity, and in Him, there is enough to satisfy the entire world. Only He can satisfy the spiritual hunger in mankind. Jesus says, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. . . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:51, 53). The Bread that is Jesus gives life in the present (John 6:35, 47) and eternal life in the future (John 6:27, 40).

The tragedy is that people waste time and money on "that which is not bread" (Isaiah 55:1-7). Waste is an enemy of miraculous generosity, so great care was taken to collect the leftovers, though we are not told how they were used. The lesson is that overabundance does not justify waste.

We also learn that Christ asks that we give Him all that we have and allow Him to use it as He sees fit. When we do this, we never lose, always ending up with more blessings than when we started.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Five Thousand (Part Two)


 




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