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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

JESUS FEEDS FIVE THOUSAND MEN

Matt 14:13-21 When Jesus heard of it, He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed Him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick. And when it was evening, His disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto Him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to Me. And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children. (Also see Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14)

Although the text is long, it is one continuous incident in the life of Christ during His ministry on earth, and is better discussed as one lesson. It is also an incident that is recorded by all four gospel writers. Where additional information, explanations, or commentary are available, references will be made to the narrative found in these books. For instance, it doesn't state this fact in Matthew's account, but Luke writes that this incident took place when the apostles ...were returned. Jesus had sent them to the lost sheep of Israel preaching the gospel message that the kingdom of God was at hand. Having returned, they told Him all that they had done (See Luke 9:10). Mark said that the apostles told Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught (Mark 6:30). Following this, Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us, with varying details, that Herod Antipas, hearing of Jesus fame, thought Him to be John the Baptist that had been reincarnated, then reciting the details of his beheading death which was ordered by Herod.

Matthew, then, continues this text narrative by writing that when Jesus heard of it, He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart. Since they traveled by ship, they probably traveled across the Sea of Galilee to another port area that was sparsely inhabited. Many bible scholars agree that Jesus departed from the presence of Herod Antipas and Herodias in order to escape from possible persecution and harm to Himself at their hands. However, God, through His Holy Spirit, directed Jesus' entire missionary journey on earth. And although Jesus came near to those that hated Him and the doctrine of salvation that He came to establish, it was not time for His destined crucifixion. There was much more preaching to be done by Jesus within the nation of Israel before any harm would be allowed by God to befall Him. As He continued His mission of preaching God's word and miraculously healing those in need, multitudes, hearing His teaching, continued to gather around Him. (T)hey followed Him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick. Mark adds that Jesus also had compassion on the multitudes because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and He began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34). Jesus' compassion resulted in both teaching the unlearned as well as healing their sick.

Continuing His deeds of compassion until it was evening, His apostles suggested that Jesus send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. This tells us that those that followed Jesus were willing to sacrifice the food necessary to sustain their physical lives in order to obtain the bread of life that would sustain their souls. Indeed, from a physical standpoint, it was apparent to the apostles that there was not sufficient food for such a large gathering of people. However, they continued to overlook the miraculous power of Jesus. He said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. No doubt the apostles looked around for some cache of food they had overlooked. Not finding sufficient amounts, they say unto Him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. John tells us where these loaves and fishes were obtained. 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 (John 6:8-9).

Hearing of the loaves and fishes that were available, Jesus said, Bring them hither to Me. From this incident, we learn this good tenet of Christianity: we are assured that which is available to us is sufficient to sustain us so that we may use our blessings to labor for our Lord and unselfishly share that which we have with others in need. Having been given the loaves and fishes, Jesus had the multitude of people sit down on the grass, in companies of hundreds and fifties (See Mark and Luke's accounts). John also adds that there was much grass in the place. Once seated, Jesus took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. We have examples of many prayers in the Bible. Here we have a prayer of thankfulness for the gifts from God's bounty that nourish and sustain our physical bodies here on earth. We must always be grateful for, and acknowledge our gratitude to God for His good, life sustaining blessings.

From five loaves of bread and two fishes, the multitude of people miraculously ate and were filled. Even more amazingly was the fact that after all were filled, the food left over was gathered, and the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. Yet even more amazingly was the fact that the food Jesus provided filled about five thousand men. That alone is amazing, yet, not only were five thousand men filled, but that did not include the women and children that also ate and were filled.

Of all the miracles performed by Jesus and recorded by these four gospel writers, the feeding of this great multitude must rank among the most amazing feats of love and compassion demonstrated by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We must look to Him to satisfy, not only our physical hunger, but also to satisfy our spiritual need for a life filled with knowledge of eternal salvation, complete submission and obedience to His gospel call, and forgiveness, compassion, and love for God and for all men and women of the world.