The Feeding of Over Five Thousand
While many of the events in Jesus’ life are recorded in multiple accounts, only a few are recorded in all four gospels. As we discussed at the beginning, each account is targeted at a separate audience and the events selected were those that would be important for that particular audience to know. This is event is one that God sees as important for Jews, Romans, Greeks, and Christians.
John mentions that this event happens shortly before the Passover feast, so we are approaching the end of Jesus’ second year of teaching. The fact that the Passover is approaching also explains the crowds. People are traveling to Jerusalem, but hearing of Jesus, they are making a detour to see this man who teaches like no other and heals people of their diseases.
The apostles had returned to Jesus after their journey through the region. They excitedly told Jesus all that had happened to them and what they had taught the people while they were gone. Jesus suggested that they leave the crowds for a time to get some rest. The bustle of the people was so great that no one even had time to eat.
Jesus leaves his current location by boat for a deserted, mountainous area near the city of Bethsaida. It must not have been too far away because the multitude he was avoiding guessed where he was going and arrived there on foot before he could get there by boat. From the description of their travels in the next lesson, it appears that the area was southeast of Bethsaida. Seeing their determination and recognizing how much they needed guidance, Jesus again was moved by compassion to teach them about the kingdom and to heal their sick. A count of just the men showed their were about five thousand men present, but this count didn’t include the women and children also present.
The day passed by and as evening approached, the disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowd away so they could go in search of food in some of the villages in area. But Jesus the disciples it wasn’t necessary; the disciples could feed them. This seemed incredible to the disciples. It would take at least 200 day’s wages to feed such a large crowd and even then everyone would only get a small amount. The thought of even buying and bringing back such a large quantity of food seemed daunting.
Jesus sent them to see how much food they had. Andrew found five loaves of bread and two fish that a young boy had brought with him, but that was all the food available. This wasn’t even enough to feed them, let alone a multitude. It wasn’t worth offering it to the people. But Jesus asked them to bring the food they found. He told everyone to take a seat. They sat in fifty groups of one men hundred each. After blessing the food, he distributed the bread and fish to the disciples and they in turn distributed it to the multitude.
After everyone ate their fill, Jesus told the disciples to gather the leftovers. They discovered they had twelve baskets of food leftover. Those feed were now certain that the Prophet promised by Moses had come into the world.
The miracle that Jesus did is reminiscent of the miracle of the flour and oil done by Elijah (I Kings 17:8-16) and the miracle of the oil done by Elisha (II Kings 4:1-7). The difference is the scale in which this was done and the number of witnesses to the event.
The event marks a pivotal point in Jesus’ ministry. People begin to seriously consider his claim to be the Messiah: some to follow, but many to reject him.