“When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ And they said to Him, ‘We have here only five loaves and two fish.’ He said, ‘Bring them here to Me.’ Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Matthew 14:13-21
Food—one of two essential elements for life on the Earth.
“…And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:8).
Food—a necessity to be sure, but not that by which life is measured:
“Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)
Food—a topic of worry, in spite of God’s promises:
“I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)
Food—in some places so scarce that the people perish; in other places so abundant that there are contests of who can eat the most in the shortest period of time.
Food—the common denominator in “going out,” “coming over,” business meetings, youth events, fellowship opportunities in a congregation, and so much more.
Food was also very much on the minds of the disciples when they came to Jesus one late afternoon.
It was time to send the people home to get food, the disciples told Jesus. Jesus’ response was simple, matter-of-fact, and to the point: “They don’t need to go anywhere. You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16).
“You give them something to eat.” It was a remarkable moment in a remarkable day that hadn’t turned out quite as planned. After hearing that John the Baptist had been executed, Jesus went to a deserted place to be by Himself, but crowds of people found out where He was.
As He saw the crowds, did Jesus tell His disciples, “Get rid of them, tell them I’m on leave. Tell them I need some time to think. Tell them I’ll come back soon”? No, Jesus was moved with compassion, put His intended “time away” on hold, taught them (Mark 6:34), and healed their sick (Matthew 14:14).
“You give them something to eat.” The disciples must have been a little dumbfounded. We?! We are going to give them something to eat?! They could see the crowd. They knew the task was impossible. Even giving everyone a tiny snack would be expensive—and that’s not even thinking of availability. Yet Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.”
The disciples were able to locate five loaves of bread and two small fish—a food supply that would not go very far. The disciples were at a dead end, but they were at the beginning of the Savior accomplishing His task.
The beginning of the lesson Jesus was teaching His disciples was that they needed to come to the end of human ability. They needed to see and understand their own limitations and inabilities before they would be ready to appreciate what the Savior could do.
Jesus blessed the food and distributed it to the disciples who, in turn, distributed it to the people. The food kept coming. The disciples kept distributing. In the end, all had eaten their full—5,000 men plus women and children—with twelve baskets of leftovers. Amazing!
The number of people served that day was dramatic. Because we can sometimes get caught up in numbers, it is worth remembering that the miracle would have been just as great if there had been only fifty people. Jesus fed the people by His power, and the leftover food far exceeded the original amount.
“You give them something to eat” was something the disciples could not accomplish. They were reminded of their dependence upon the gracious providence of God. They witnessed first-hand how our Savior is ready and able to supply our needs even when it seems impossible.
The disciples learned lessons that day that we can carry over into our family budget conversations—to our time spent poring over household financial data.
We can keep these lessons in mind as we walk into a grocery store (where we don’t have to struggle with finding food; instead we can read labels to determine what quality of food to buy).
Of these lessons we can remind ourselves and teach our children as we invite the Savior to our family meals, “Come, Lord Jesus…” and then “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good…” after we have received sustenance from His hand.
Remember that while the big number is noteworthy, the miracle isn’t in the number. The fact that a family of five has food on the table is a miracle of God’s grace just as much as a meal for 5,000 was during our Savior’s ministry. The meals we eat are no less a gift from our Lord than supper on a mountainside.
Today God generally provides through natural means, but can we not see the miracle in seeds that sprout, grow, and bear abundant harvest after a farmer simply buries the seed in the ground?! The abundance of food produced in our land, the amazing availability of variety in the food supply, the “baskets” of leftovers that are thrown out each day—Jesus is still feeding the 5,000 by continually providing food in good measure (as well as every other needful gift).
John reports that the day after the 5,000 were fed, a large crowd was again following Jesus. They followed excitedly, not because of His teaching, but because they liked the idea of hanging around with a man who could feed thousands with so little. Jesus counseled them, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life…” (John 6:27)
Food provides nutrition, strength, and energy. It is essential, it is promised by God, and it is not necessary to worry about it. Rejoice to know your Savior, who is able to serve bountiful feasts of food for body and for soul.