Slideshow image

Today we come to the next miracle Jesus does in the Gospel of Matthew. If you have been in church any length of time, it is one of the most famous miracles Jesus did — it involves loaves and fish. Read the following in Matthew 14:14-21, “ When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick. (15) Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” (16) But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” (17) They said to Him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” (18) And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19 Then He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. (20) And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. (21) And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (ESV).

As Jesus’ popularity grew, which was a good thing, so did the number of the multitudes that came to Him for healing. At this stage of His ministry, Jesus and His 12 disciples are finding it very challenging to have any alone time and privacy. This miracle called “feeding the 5,000,” is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels. So, what does that tell you? This reveals how important this one miracle was to all four Gospel writers. The danger is — we Christians are so familiar with this story, it is easy for us to dismiss and diminish its importance.  This was such a momentous miracle that later Jesus would scold HIs disciples for failing to grasp the profound significance of this miracle. Read Matthew 16:5-9:

“When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. (6) Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (7) And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” (8) But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? (9) Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?” (ESV).

One of the truthful facts the Gospel writers make about Jesus consistently is that He had "compassion" on and for people. This is the Greek New Testament word [σπλαγχνίζομαι, splagchizomai]. Try to say that without your Polygrip. It literally means "to be moved in the bowels" because is where those in Jesus' day felt our emotions resided and lived. This means Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah, was not some autoton or robot or a being such as Mr. Spock in Star Trek who simply lived and thought by sole logic, reason and analytical thinking that was untouched by people's suffering, pain, stress, anxiety, despair and worry. Jesus felt it, especially for their spiriutal lostness. Jesus did not and still today does not want anyone to die without HIm and go to Hell. 

I love what William Baclay writes on this: 

"Jesus had come to find peace and quiet and loneliness; instead, he found a vast crowd eagerly demanding what he could give. He might so easily have resented them. What right had they to invade his privacy with their continual demands? Was he to have no rest and quiet, no time to himself at all? But Jesus was not like that." (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible Series, "Matthew,"  p. 116).

Chuck Swindoll warns us about how not to see this miracle by Jesus. He writes this:

"If we view the miracle simply as a supernatural way to feed hungry people—which, of course, is no trifling event in and of itself—we’ll miss the spiritual meaning of the sign. The miracle of the loaves and fish was a sort of edible parable; while it had an immediate, physical impact on the hungry crowd being fed, it also has a spiritual purpose in communicating something about Jesus, about the kingdom, and about us. The miracle of the loaves and fish was a sort of edible parable; while it had an immediate, physical impact on the hungry crowd being fed, it also has a spiritual purpose in communicating something about Jesus, about the kingdom, and about us.” (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, “Matthew 1-15,” p. 305).

As a young child and teen, that was how I tended to see this miracle myself. So, instead of rushing through this very familiar miracle, let’s dissect it to learn its profundity for us today. What we initially see due to the time of day it was, there was no way for anyone to meet the hunger needs of so many people, It was an impossible task. We live in a world of impossibilities all the time. We deal with things way beyond our control and ability to fix. For example, Stage-4 Pancreatic, or liver or lung or colon cancer. Another example is a marriage that is dead. When we face such impossible scenarios,  we simply tell ourself, “Impossible” and we force ourselves to struggle through it. 

Now the context of this miracle comes after the death of John the Baptizer, Jesus’ cousin. Jesus is in deep grief over losing John, His forerunner. We learn in Matthew 14:13 this, "Now when Jesus heard this, He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by Himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed Him on foot from the town” (ESV). When Jesus learned of John the Baptizer’s martyrdom and murder, all He wanted was some alone time to grieve, but the crowds were not going to let Him. Look at Matthew 14:15, “Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, `This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves’” (ESV). 

Christian pastor and New Testament scholar John MacArthur writes this:

The Jews had two periods of evening, one from three to six and the other from six to nine. This was the first evening, which was just prior to sunset. Because of the lateness in the day, the disciples were concerned about what the crowd would have to eat. The place was desolate, many miles from the nearest town, which, in any case, could not have provided food for such a vast horde of people. Not only was it near the end of the day, but the long trip had doubtlessly made the people hungrier than usual” (John MacArthur, The John MacArthur New Testament Commentary, “Mathew,” p. 428).

Now, Jesus is not shocked at the size of the crowds. We know there were over 5,000 men alone. Each of those probably had a wife and several kids. Many scholars put the crowds to be around 25,000. Jesus, knowing He would do this miracle, had already tried to get His own disciples to do something in faith about it. From John’s account we learn that Jesus had brought up the matter of feeding the multitude much earlier in the day. Se read this in John 6:5-6, "Lifting up His eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (6) He said this to test Him, for He Himself knew what He would do” (ESV).

Jesus did not ask Philip the question in order to get advice but “to test him; for He Himself knew what He was intending to do” (v. 6). Philip was from that area and would most likely have known what food would have been available; but Jesus was hoping Philip would look to Him rather than to human and earthly resources. Unfortunately, Philip was more awed at the magnitude of the crowd than the magnitude of Jesus’ power, and he responded incredulously in verse 7, "Philip answered Him, `Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little’” (ESV).

We know that 1 denarii was one day’s wage for the common laborer. So, Philip says it would take over 200 days wages possibly to feed this size crowd. That was a half-year’s wages and that would be a lot of money. Philip’s point is, “Jesus even with that amount of money, we would not have enough money to buy all the food we need, even if we bought it from Wal-mart rather than from Publix or Whole Foods.”

Philip knew they did not have a fraction of the money needed to buy enough food, even if they bought the cheapest bread available. But one loving and caring mother had made sure her little boy had enough lunch for the day. John’s Gospel lets us know this in John 6:8-9, “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, (9) “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (ESV). The Greek text seems to imply that Jesus let both Andrew and Philip stew on this all day — trying to figure out how it was possible to feed so many people. 

Matthew 14:15 gives us what their solution was: “Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said,`This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves’” (ESV). In other words, “This is not our problem Jesus. These people knew what they were doing just as we did when we followed You all day to here. Just dismiss them to their homes and villages to get food.”

But Jesus would not tolerate that. Look at Matthew 14:16, “But Jesus said, `They need not go away; you give them something to eat’” (ESV). This had to have put the disciples, especially Andrew and Philip, in a tailspin and panic. Looking back, Matthew’s point is having seen all the miracles Jesus had already done, it never occurred to them to come to Jesus with this because they had enough faith in Him to do something about it. 

The way Matthew shows their little faith is with their statement: “They said to Him, `We have only five loaves here and two fish. Jesus, the sun is going down. It’s getting late. We’re all tired and hungry ourselves. Just send them away, please’” (vs. 17, ESV). Have you ever been “hangry?” — (hungry and angry). Well, this is what the people were feeling and it seems so were Jesus’ disciples.  When you look at the magnitude of their problem — over 25,000 “hangry” people, it did look like they were in an impossible situation. So, their response to Jesus seems reasonable and logical from a pure economic and physical basis. To them, it all made good and perfect sense. So, sending the people back to their homes and villages seemed the only to solve the problem. But Jesus did not ask them to do the possible, but the impossible.

William Barclay writes about why Jesus wanted to be alone (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible Series, “Matthew,” p. 116).

  1. He was human and he needed rest. 
  2. He never recklessly ran into danger, and it was best to withdraw and avoid the possibility of sharing John’s fate too soon. 
  3. And, most of all, with the cross coming nearer and nearer, Jesus knew that he must meet with God before he met with men and women. He was seeking rest for his body and strength for his soul in the lonely places.

Chuck Swindoll gives us several challenges the disciples felt they faced and were impossible to overcome (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, “Matthew 1-15,” p. 306::

  1. First of all, they had almost no food. They made an explicit point of that—“We have here only five loaves and two fish” (14:17). When you think of these “loaves,” you should probably picture small, flat pieces of cracker-like barley bread, each perhaps the size of an open hand. And for “fish,” you should probably imagine something like dried, cured sardines, nothing more than an afternoon snack. John’s account of the miracle tells us that these paltry provisions belonged to a small boy (John 6:9)! For all practical purposes, the disciples had no food. That was problem number one.
  2. Second, they had no money. If Jesus pushed His mandate that the disciples feed the crowd, it would have required them to divvy up whatever money they had, go to nearby towns, and buy as much food as they could to feed as many people as possible. But it would have taken a small fortune to provide just a basic meal to the thousands of people gathered that evening. In fact, Philip quickly did the math and suggested that even a small snack for each person would cost “two hundred denarii” (John 6:7), which was about eight months of an average person’s wages. They simply didn’t have the financial resources to do it.
  3. Third, even if they’d had the money, they didn’t have the time! It had taken Jesus all day to go through the crowd and heal those who were sick. The sun was setting. It would soon be time to sleep. Even if the disciples had a cartload of food at hand, and if they were to distribute the food in an orderly fashion so everybody got an equal amount, the process would take until morning! By then they’d have to start the breakfast round.
  4. Finally, even if they’d had food and time, they didn’t have the energy or the manpower to do it. The disciples were hungry and exhausted themselves! From a purely human point of view, they could see no way around this problem. Jesus was demanding the impossible. John’s account of this miracle fills us in on some insider information. Jesus told them to do what everybody knew was impossible in order to test them, “for He Himself knew what He was intending to do” (John 6:6).

The disciples found themselves in what Star Trek calls “The Kobayashi Maru.” John MacArthur puts it this way on the disciples’ reaction:

“But they were like a person who stands in front of Niagara Falls and asks where he can find a drink. They were face to face with the Supreme Power in the universe and yet were spiritually blind. They knew it, but they did not know it. Had anyone asked them if Jesus could do such a thing, their answer would have been an unhesitating and unanimous, “Of course He can!” But even when prompted by Jesus’ suggestion, they saw their own lack instead of His sufficiency. Despite two years of walking with the Lord, hearing Him teach God’s truth and seeing Him demonstrate miraculous power, the twelve were too spiritually dull to see the obvious. They were looking only with their human eyes and only at human resources” (John MacArthur, The John MacArthur New Testament Commentary, “Matthew,” p. 429).

Now tomorrow, we will return to this miracle and finish it. For today, here are some questions you should consider and reflect upon in your own walk with Christ.

Questions To Consider

  1. Has there ever been a time in your own life where you were so exhausted from either grief, or work or stress or school or family, and you wanted just a little alone time for yourself? When was that and what happened?
  2. Sometimes when we want these alone times, God seems to keep interrupting those for something He wants us to do. When has that happened to you in the past?
  3. Because we are so familiar with this story called “The Feeding of the 5,000,” it is easy for us to simply see it only as a miracle Jesus did to meet the physical needs in people’s lives. But it is more than that. What is that “more” to you and why?
  4. For the disciples, it was simply a financial or economic reason as to why they could not feed these people. Again, it seems it comes down to money. As a believer, do you ever let money make your decisions rather than faith? Why or why not? Why should money never be the final vote in any of our decisions?
  5. Read 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (ESV). Where do you need to be doing that in your own life right now and why?
  6. To you personally, what is the hardest part of walking by faith and not by sight? Please don’t give the “church answer” or “obvious answer.” Personalize for you.
  7. What is something you have faced in the past or are currently facing that is an “impossibility?” Is Jesus asking you to solve it or fix it, or could it be, that just like with Andrew and Philip, Jesus is waiting for you to simply come to Him? If you were to do that, like the Andrew and Philip who only had a small boy’s lunch of 5 small flat pieces of cracker- bread and 2 dried-salted sardines. What do you have you could offer to Jesus and why?

Scripture to Mediate On: 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (ESV).

Prayer to Pray: “Dear Jesus, I tend to be a sight-based Christian. I have to see it before I will act on it. I do not want to live like that. I want to honor you and obey you with such faith that it will move mountains —especially the mountains of doubt I have to climb and overcome. I claim I believe Your Word. I claim I believe You are all-powerful and I claim that nothing is impossible for You, but I live just the opposite. Jesus, what is it, like with Andrew and Philip, do You want me to do in faith? I pray I will step out in faith with what I see — the impossible, but I also see You. I  want You use me to take on what appears to be impossible and watch You make it possible. I love You Jesus. In Jesus’ name, Amen!”

I love you!, Pastor Kelly


Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We reserve the right to remove any comments deemed inappropriate.