30 The apostles gathered around Jesus. They told him all they had done and taught. 31 But many people were coming and going. So they did not even have a chance to eat. Then Jesus said to his apostles, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place. You need to get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a quiet place. 33 But many people who saw them leaving recognized them. They ran from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus came ashore, he saw a large crowd. He felt deep concern for them. They were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. 35 By that time it was late in the day. His disciples came to him. “There is nothing here,” they said. “It’s already very late. 36 Send the people away. Then they can go to the nearby countryside and villages to buy something to eat.” 37 But Jesus answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s pay! Should we go and spend that much on bread? Are we supposed to feed them?” 38 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” 39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of 100s and 50s. 41 Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish. He looked up to heaven and gave thanks. He broke the loaves into pieces. Then he gave them to his disciples to pass around to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 All of them ate and were satisfied. 43 The disciples picked up 12 baskets of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of men who had eaten was 5,000.
Jesus has a following – a somewhat reckless following of men, women, children. The crowd’s enthusiasm for Jesus causes them to neglect their own basic needs. The disciples notice this and suggest to Jesus that he pull the plug. “Tell them to pack it up and go feed themselves elsewhere” (paraphrase of verse 35 & 36). “…they don’t have to go home but they can’t stay here.” The suggestion is not only dismissed, but mocked. A window of opportunity presents itself and a miracle occurs.
Jesus was seen as a prophet, in this story we see him at his most profoundly prophetic. Not simply speaking God’s will, but acting it out in front of everybody – like Moses facilitating heavenly manna during the exodus (Exodus 16), the miracle heartily feeds the people. Jesus is the leader that will not only care for them, but the leader who will lead them out of captivity. Imagine the people, all sitting on the grass, eating the miracle food, thinking about how Moses miraculously fed the people in his day.
Jesus’ miracles are not just abstract wonder stories – they have powerful meaning built into them, inviting the witness to not only believe in the miracle, but also in the source of the miracle. Jesus directs us to believe in God’s power to provide for our every need. Hunger? God provides. Sickness? Jesus can make a way. Lack? God satisfies. Death? Jesus has pioneered a new, hopeful future for those that follow him.
Jesus, thank you for your provision. Thank you for your care and concern. Thank you for your love. Help me to rest in confidence knowing the reality of your friendship. Amen.
Written by Sam Stewart