Jesus had fully identified with his Twelve. He had sent these disciples out on a mission. And now he was trying to draw away for focused time with his men. Perhaps these tired men were looking forward to the rest and clarity of Jesus’ classroom.
But we see in Luke 9:10-17 that the crowds had followed him to that distant place. A place far away from the infrastructure and markets needed to support the needs of such a crowd. Nevertheless, Jesus — a model of hospitality (see 1 Tim. 3:2) — “welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing” (Luke 9:11).
What a gracious man the Christ must have been! His life was structured and disciplined from one vantage point, but from another it was chaotic and fluid, always responding to the needs of those around him. He was never hurried, but he was proactive in ministering to the individual needs of people. He was warm. He loved these people whom He created and had come to redeem. He prayed for their souls and multiplied five loaves and two fish to meet their physical needs.
And all those appointed unto eternal life believed.
But now darkness was coming. The day (and the people’s attention) was starting to “wear away.” That’s when Jesus’ logistics committee came in to break up the teaching. But instead of giving in to their worries, Jesus challenged their faith … “you give them something to eat.”
This was a “desolate place” And there were about “five thousand men” (“besides women and children” says Matt. 14:21). In other words, Jesus had attracted a mega-church together in the middle of nowhere. They were hungry for the word (and the miracles). But now their bodies were famished, and they were miles from the nearest village.
And now Jesus wanted his disciples to do the impossible.
In fact, they were in Jesus’ classroom, and he was once again pressing them to fix their faith in this One who had recently calmed a storm (Luke 8:22-25). He would provide for this hungry crowd something they never could.
They did have a little bit: five loaves and two fish presented by an anonymous donor. And that little bit was exactly what Christ worked with in this most marvelous of miracles. For we do need to be clear – five loaves and two fish do not naturally result in twelve baskets of leftovers. Even if it was not an “ex nihilo” miracle (which it could have been for all we know), this miraculous event nonetheless displayed Jesus supernatural power and divine identity.
Yet notice how Jesus performed his miracle. He did not wave his hands about or utter secret incantations.
“He looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. They he broke the loaves and gave them to his disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied.” (Luke 9:16-17).
This description of the miracle is so matter-of-factly stated we are apt to miss it. But somehow the Word of God who spoke existence into being had here brought about an exponential increase in these five loaves and two fish. And the crowd was satisfied.
Did the crowd observe the miracle? We can only speculate. Were people converted at this meeting? We don’t know.
But notice that the bounty of heaven was present in Christ, and the service of the disciples brought this blessing to the crowd. “And they all ate and were satisfied.”
We need to think carefully about how Jesus Feeding The Five Thousand applies to us. For Christ is perfectly capable of doing miracles today. And he may even choose to do so. But we dare not demand such divine activity or belittle the faith of those who have never seen a miracle (which I have not). Instead, we ought to consider what this miracle is telling us about Christ.
He is from heaven, and is the Source of all blessing for God’s people. As he interceded on behalf of this hungry crowd and pronounced a divine blessing upon them, their measly provisions became a bounteous blessing. Notice also that “he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people.” His blessing was brought to the people through the services of the apostles. Surely there is a lesson here for us today, for as always, the understanding of this mass feeding turns upon the person of Christ. If he is the “Beloved Son” then heavenly blessings are abundantly available and supplied through his mediation to his people. But normally these blessings come mediately — through the ministry of a doctor, or a contractor, or a donor, or an elder. God is blessing his church abundantly every day through the love-motivated labor of his people doing their ordinary work in the world.
This reminds me of the vows I took when I was ordained as a minister of the Gospel.
Sixth vow – I believe that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord of men and nations, and that in loyalty and obedience to Him, it is our duty to follow the noble example of the faithful confessors and martyrs of Jesus in their witness for divine truth, and in their sacrifices and labors to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
Eighth vow – I will perform faithfully all the duties of the office to which I have been called, I will engage to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I promise, in His strength, to live a holy and exemplary life, to study and promote the purity, peace, unity, and progress of the church. I promise to bring my congregation the fruits of earnest study of the Word, to maintain a testimony for the Kingdom of God, to endeavor to minister to others and win them to Christ, and to watch for souls as one who must give account.
What are the duties of your office? Jesus Christ is the Savior and Lord, and as we receive “every good and perfect gift” (see James 1:17) from heaven we ought to bring them to Christ, wait upon him to “say a blessing over them” and then minister the multiplication of that gift to God’s people.