The Supernatural Feeding of 5,000



In our daily devotional, we are looking at all the supernatural acts of the Lord Jesus when He walked on earth. Today we look at the supernatural feeding of more than 5,000 people:


12Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” 13He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14(About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over (Luke 9:10-17).


Matthew records there were more than five thousand in the crowd: “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21). Five loaves of bread and two fish are not much when one considers that there were, more than likely, at least 12,000 people that sat down to eat. Furthermore John 6:9 tells us that we are talking about five small barley loaves, which, in the Mishnah, a Jewish Commentary, was the bread the poorest of the poor ate.[1]


It is the apostle John who tells us about Andrew finding a boy who was willing to share his lunch (John 6:9). We are talking about just enough food for one person, perhaps hurriedly stuffed on his person by his mom as he went to leave. John uses the Greek word opsarion to describe the two fish in the boy’s lunch. This word describes the small and generally dried or pickled fish eaten with bread, similar to sardines, a maximum size of 6 inches. The five barley loaves were more than likely smaller than the average pita bread size. The pickled fish would add a bit of taste to get it down. As the disciples looked at this boy's lunch, the Lord uttered something startling, “Have the people sit down” (v. 10). This statement was the same as saying "let's sit down to eat," when there was nothing to eat but this boy's lunch. Luke tells us that Jesus directed the people to sit down in groups of fifty and hundreds (v. 14).


He then broke the bread and fish into pieces and "gave." The Greek imperfect tense of the verb says that He "kept giving." The more the people were given, the more they ate. It was astonishing to them that so little food was now filling each of them. I feel sure they asked for reassurances from the disciples as to the truth, “Are you sure this was just one boy’s lunch that we are eating?” As they ate, they looked at one another in amazement at the impossibility of it all. With God all things are possible!


How amazing it would have been to be one of the disciples sent by the Lord with a basket to collect the leftovers! As each group of fifty or a hundred threw their leftover pieces of fish and bread into twelve baskets, one for each of the disciples, they would each look into the basket and see way more fish and bread than when they had started. How glorifying to the Lord as each family and social group shared that they had fully eaten and had so much left over. John tells us that when the people began to realize the miraculous nature of the feeding of five thousand, they started saying, “This is truly the Prophet!” (John 6:14). Many hundreds of years previously, God spoke to Moses that the Lord would send Israel a prophet whose ministry would be similar to that of Moses, and that they should listen very carefully to Him:


The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him (Deuteronomy 18:15).


Here before them was the One spoken of by Moses. Christ is the Prophet who should come into the world, and like the Manna with Moses, God fed them miraculously (Numbers 11:31-34). When they began to realize that this was the One spoken of by Moses, they wanted to take Him and make Him king. It was not God’s timing for Him to be crowned king—God’s plan was for Christ to be a sacrificial substitute for us. Keith Thomas

This short meditation is a shortened version from the in-depth study in Luke. Click on the All Studies box on the Home Page, then the Gospel of Luke, and then study 19. Luke 9:1-17 – Jesus Sends out the Twelve. This story starts on page 7.


[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Hendrickson Publishers, page 467