On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish — unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces (Luke 9:10–17).
I have sometimes found myself reading about miracles without letting the reality of the miracle set in.
For instance, this boy’s food, which was most likely his meal for the whole day, wasn’t a lot. A common roll from the bakery is roughly two-to-three of the loaves in our story. If I divided a bakery loaf among a group of 30 we’d get a small bite at most. But you’d be impressed if I broke that loaf into large chunks to fill your plate and the person next to you, and so on. In fact, you’d ask me to roll my sleeves up because you’d see the impossibility of the feat and assume I somehow was tricking you.
I can assure you that Jesus didn’t have enough food for thousands of people up His sleeves.
Some have tried to remove the miraculous nature and said the boy, along with Jesus, inspired others to generously give of what they had and everyone was able to eat.
No, Jesus miraculously created it. Some have called this a miracle of multiplication, but I don’t think that is enough. Jesus took something in His hands, yes, but He created more of it from nothing.
That’s creation. That is the Creator, the Son of God, who took on flesh.
Jesus met the need
Before He did this, Jesus seemed to be placing the needs the disciples saw back into their hands to fulfill. They had just been performing miracles as they went from town to town, but now they can’t see how God can meet this immediate need through them.
But Jesus did meet the need. In fact, He exceeded it.
The disciples did try, but only in their own efforts. When Jesus turned His eyes upward in thanks He performed the miracle as Provider God, giving bread to the masses in a desolate place, like God rained manna on the Israelites in the wilderness.
And the disciples obeyed the commands of Jesus to gather the crowds, then served the miraculous food. When their faith in God’s providence was lacking, Jesus met the need.
This is much like the scene of Luke Skywalker failing to lift the X-Wing because he thinks it’s too big, rather than fully relying on the Force. So Master Yoda shows him what that reliance looks like (“Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”).
‘Eyes set heavenward’
The disciples weren’t looking to God to help them meet the need; they didn’t have their eyes set heavenward. So the Lord Jesus set His gaze on God and broke the bread until thousands were filled and food was left over.
The Gospel of Mark adds a little more detail to the disciples’ initial response:
But he answered 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 it to them to eat?” (Mark 6:37).
The disciples even turned their focus to money — the cost of food for that many people would have been at least 200 paid days of work. Trading Economics puts the average workday earning for Americans in 2021 at about $208. While this isn’t a one-to-one comparison for many reasons, for the disciples it would have been about like coming up with $41,600 on the spot to feed the masses — an impossibility in their minds. Except Jesus was there.
How impossible is it then for sinners to pay for our own sin? How high is our sin debt? How much baggage do we bring to the table? How heavy is the weight of sin and wrongdoing; of anger toward our spouses and children born of frustration; of pride that lifts us up in our thinking or actions toward others while simultaneously thinking poorly of them; of our laziness to faithfully follow the God of the universe? How heavy is that sin? Who can pay that even for us, much less for the masses?
There is no purchase price too high for Jesus to fill us abundantly with Himself. In fact, He paid for our spiritual fulfillment with His own blood and body.
Miracle of salvation
All who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. And Jesus can pay the debt. In the same way He miraculously created bread to abundantly fill, and have massive amounts of leftovers, Jesus has accomplished the miracle of salvation for us through His death and resurrection — not so we can be clean and do the rest ourselves, but so we are abundantly satisfied in Him and have His righteousness. We don’t have to figure out how to keep ourselves clean and fed now. He’s already done that!
Praise be to God for these things!
So who is Jesus to you? Who is He in your life? Do your family or friends or workmates know Jesus is what fills you and keeps you filled daily?
Do you feel like there’s something more in this life? Jesus is saying that He meets that hunger. Only Christ can satisfy.
For every level of growth we’ve experienced, for every period of awakening we’ve gone through along our faith journey, there’s a greater level we’ve yet to experience, and God is calling us to drink of Him more deeply. He’s calling us to continue repenting of our sins and finding deep, abiding satisfaction in Him.
Satisfied more deeply
Jesus wasn’t just feeding people with bread to fill stomachs. He is the Bread of Life, the manna from heaven, meant to fill hearts and satisfy more deeply than the day before.
And as Jesus prayed to give thanks, we also start moving forward from wherever we are by lifting up our eyes to heaven and giving thanks to God for His undeserved love. We start by consistently pouring out our souls to Him, thereby readying ourselves to be made full in Him.
Jesus is the Son of God, the Bread of Life Who sustains us. Jesus is the healer of our souls who makes us new and whole again in Him.
J.C. Ryle reminds us:
“The heart of man can never be satisfied with the things of this world. It is always empty, and hungry, and thirsty, and dissatisfied, till it comes to Christ.”
Only Christ can satisfy.