Jesus’ miracle in multiplying the loaves and the fish is one of the most well-known in the Bible. There is so much fruit for reflection in this event.
The accounts of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fish bring us face to face with the most basic question of our existence: how will we be provided for? In spite of all our advances in technology, we still fear interruption of our provision for our lives and well-being.
Even if we are not afraid of having bread and fish, we worry that we will not have jobs, good family relationships, safety, security from foreign enemies, continued freedom, freedom from discrimination, and a good place to live.
On a daily basis, we worry about retirement funds, having enough money to get the things for our children that we need, besides being able to provide for ourselves good things to enjoy like vacations, entertainment, and so on.
There are three different perspectives from which we can view these issues.
The Disciples and Jesus
The first is Jesus and the disciples. The disciples have just returned from a preaching and ministry tour of Israel. When they get back, things are as busy as ever, and they don’t even have time to eat.
At this point, Jesus says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (v. 31). I love this passage because I imagine Jesus saying this to me at times, and I take comfort in the fact that He cares about that.
When they actually go to rest, the crowds find Jesus and ministry work immediately begins again. How do you react when God interrupts your day, especially a day you planned for rest? If you’re like me, probably not that well.
Do I ever get a break? We might think.
Notice the end of the story, though. Jesus gives them rest: there were 12 baskets left over. Jesus still cares about our rest, even when He interrupts it.
The Disciples and the Crowd
The second perspective is the disciples and the crowd.
At the end of the day, the disciples start to worry. “This is a remote place . . . and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (35–36).
They seek to solve the problem for Jesus because of their own worry. Do you ever seek to solve the problems of someone else, even Jesus, when you worry?
Since they want to take the problem, Jesus gives it over to them. He says something very interesting, “You give them something to eat.”
Why does He say that? Does he actually want them to perform a miracle? Does He want them to see their own inability? Is he being playful to calm their anxiety? Difficult to say.
At any rate, as they contemplate the magnitude of the problem, they will have to look to Jesus.
That’s what we’ll often find in life. Our resources are totally incapable of accomplishing what they need to.
What do they need to do in such circumstances? Follow Jesus’ instructions, and something amazing will happen.
Jesus and the Crowd
The problem with Jesus is that He is so perfect that we might wonder if we can even go to Him. We all have shame that makes us want to hide. We all have things that make us unworthy.
The crowd approaches Jesus in the midst of His time with His disciples. What will He do? Mark says that He has compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Luke says, “He welcomed them.”
And He will welcome us, whoever we are, wherever we’ve been, whatever we’ve done.
And through this miracles where He provides for the crowd by multiplying five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand, He shows that He will provide for us.
In Jesus, we have everything we need, and He will welcome us. “I am the bread of life,” He says. “Whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35). In Jesus, we have someone who will satisfy all the deepest longings of our soul.
Jesus has compassion on us, but He also challenges us. He may call us to work when we’re ready to rest. He may not enter into our worry. He may put us in impossible situations.
But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. He cares, and He will provide. He will provide for us what we need and do amazing things that we thought could never be done.
There is someone who will take care of us, and He lays down the challenge for us to trust Him when we don’t know where our provision will come from.
That’s the comfort and challenge of Jesus.