Loaves and Fishes

Loaves and fishes

John 6:1–14 (NRSV) Feeding the Five Thousand

6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

The feeding of the 5,000 is one of the miracles of Jesus that appears in all 4 Gospels.  John’s account is somewhat different in detail than the synoptic Gospels.  For one thing, John is the only one to recognize Philip’s involvement:  Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”  He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.  Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”  The miracle that follows is in response to Philip’s incredulity.  The meal of barley loaves and fishes is the meal of the poor.

Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 recalls the great OT miracle of bread when Israel was in the wilderness (Ex. 16).  The rabbis in Jesus’ day expected the coming Messiah to “rain down food from heaven” once again (Ex. 16:4) and he did.  The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 was a sign of the coming of the Kingdom of God.

John doesn’t include an account of the Lord’s Supper.  Many scholars believe that this passage functions as the Lord’s Supper in the Gospel of John.  As in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives thanks, breaks the bread and serves them.

Loaves and fishes were distributed, and all had as much as they wanted (6:11), and so abundant was the supply that the surplus filled 12 baskets (6:13).  The number 12 signifies the 12 tribes of Israel, but also the 12 apostles.  The conclusion that the crowds come to is, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  This prophecy comes from Deut. 18:15: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.  You must listen to him.”

The feeding of the 5,000 expresses the abundance of the Kingdom of God.  The meal that Jesus provided was nothing fancy, it was just the modest meal of a poor little boy, a few barley loaves and a couple of dried fish.  But the miraculous provision of food echoes the miracle of the manna in the wilderness (Ex. 16).  In Exodus, God provided the manna through the intercession of a intermediary, Moses.  As Jesus reminded the crowd later in ch. 6.  Jesus, as God the Son, needs no intermediary.

Lord, I thank you for your miraculous provision.  How you care for us and take care of us.  I’m grateful for your providence.  So we pray each day, “Give us our daily bread.”  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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