The famous “Feeding of the Five Thousand” miracle is sometimes over-applied, but the main idea of this story is hard to miss. Recorded in all four gospels, the multiplication of the bread and fish to feed a great crowd showed the apostles and Christians ever since that the Lord Jesus provides for our physical needs.
The Text (Mark 6:35-44)
35 When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. 36 Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.”
37 But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.”
And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?”
38 But He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”
And when they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.”
39 Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties. 41 And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. 42 So they all ate and were filled. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish. 44 Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men.
The crowds had traveled about eight miles on foot in one day to see Jesus. They had spent the afternoon listening to Him teach. But now the day was ending, they were far from home, and they were very hungry. The 12 disciples look at the crowd of about 20,000 famished people (five thousand men plus and an unknown number of women and children) and logically conclude that these folks must be sent away. It would costs tens of thousands of dollars in today’s numbers to fees this group. The apostles simply don’t have the money to buy dinner for so many. But they forget that they have Jesus. The Lord sees the same difficult situation as them, but with eyes of faith.
Jesus challenges the disciples to feed the crowd. They have seen Jesus do every kind of miracle, including raising a girl from the dead. They themselves have just returned from a ministry tour where they cast out demons and healed people in support of their gospel preaching. He wants to see if they will take another step of faith and trust God to miraculously provide for this seemingly gigantic need. But the apostles struggle in their faith, so Jesus shows them what He can do when they place just a little in His hands. He multiplies a meager lunch for one (five dinner rolls and two small fish) into enough food for an arena-sized crowd. Significantly, there are exactly 12 smalls baskets full of food leftover at the end; one for each disciple to eat dinner, too. The Lord had provided for the needs of both the served and the servants.
The big idea of this passage is that Jesus provides for our material needs. We know that He is the “Bread” of our spiritual life, but He also gives us the “daily bread” that we need for our physical survival. Our food, our homes, our clothing; the Lord provides it all. To be a Christian is to be a person who gives God all of the credit and glory for what we have. All of our things are good gifts from our good Heavenly Father. As we grow in Christ, we learn more and more how much we truly need our Lord’s provision. We learn to depend on Him more and ourselves less. We learn that apart from Jesus we can truly do nothing, but in Christ we can do much. Faith is trust and reliance on God; it grows as we exercise it over time. Like the 12 disciples, when we call out to Jesus in prayer and then see Him do great things in our lives and the lives of those around us, our confidence in His provision grows. The Provider becomes bigger and bigger and our needs seems smaller and smaller by comparison. I pray that we would ask for and believe in God’s provision today and every day.