The story of the feeding of the 5,000 is probably the most well known of all Jesus’ miracles. There are obviously very important truths for us to consider, especially since the four gospels record this event.
“And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark 6:35-44).
This miracle speaks of the almighty power of the Lord Jesus Christ, for who but God could feed 5,000 men with a few loaves and fishes? The great multitude, which could have been between 15,000 to 20,000 if we includes the wives and children of the men, were hungry after spending the day with Jesus, “And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children” (Matthew 14:21). What was to be done for the multitude? “When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5-6). Philip, acting as spokesman for the disciples, only had one answer, “Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little” (John 6:7). How could they raise the equivalent of 200 days wages in such a short time? The miracle was to be set in motion, not by the disciples who had recently experienced the mighty power of God in their lives, but by a small boy with his lunch, “One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (John 6:8-9).
Jesus blessed the small amount of food that was placed before Him and broke it into pieces for the disciples to distribute to the crowd. No matter how much they gave out, the supply did not run out. Later the disciples would remember this miracle when they celebrated the Last Supper. The words used in the miracle are very similar to those used by Jesus as He broke the bread at the table, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26). Also the disciples were permitted to take the food to the people to illustrate the fact that they would be responsible for spreading the Good News to the spiritually hungry.
This little meal was transformed into a feast, and all present ate until they were full. The boy did not lose out, for if he wanted to, he could have taken 12 baskets full of bread and fish to his mother. Only God can create something out of nothing. Though some have suggested that Jesus used a trick here, the evidence of His power was seen in the full stomachs of the people. Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11) and the Almighty God, “Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” (Psalm 78:19).
We ought to store up these truths until the next time we face difficulties. Our hearts are weak and too ready to fail us when tribulations arise, so we need to know where to turn for comfort. We must turn to the “Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We must remind ourselves that He is able to help us as He did the multitudes that followed Him. He can “supply all [our] need” if we continue to trust Him (Philippians 4:19). The Lord who walked this earth over 2,000 years ago has never changed, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).
“And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people. And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray” (Mark 6:45-46).
There is much to learn from this circumstance. Jesus had already told the disciples about the need for spiritual and physical renewal (Mark 6:31), so it should not surprise us that He needed to be totally alone with His Father too. He could have remained to lap up the praise of men, but did not. “Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone” (John 6:14-15). He had already overcome this temptation in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:8-9). We see here that Jesus practiced what He taught, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).
We may not do the miracles that Jesus did, but we can follow Him in the matter of private devotion. We must be determined to spend time with God. What portion of each day do we give Him? We can never succeed in the Christian life until we fellowship with the Lord, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).
We live in an age of hustle and bustle, in which there will always be demands on our time. There will be times when we will be tempted to cut short our daily quiet times with the Lord, but it is not wise to do so. We need to imitate the Lord Jesus more closely than ever before.