Five Thousand Men Fed
“[Jesus] commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied” (vv. 39–42).- Mark 6:35–44
“Praise to you, O Lord our God, king of the world, who makes bread to come forth from the earth, and who provides for all that you have created.” That prayer is common in Judaism when people are preparing to eat a meal, and it has been prayed for centuries. We do not know if Jesus said those exact words when He said a blessing over the five loaves of bread and the two fish with which He fed the crowd in today’s passage (Mark 6:41), but the truth conveyed in the prayer that the Lord makes bread to come forth is certainly on display in the feeding of the five thousand.
The miracle described in Mark 6:35–44 certainly ranks as one of Jesus’ most well-known deeds, and its account provides much insight into the person of Christ. First, while the feeding of five thousand men with only five loaves and two fishes is an astounding feat in itself, understanding the real number of people who were present helps us see the magnitude of our Savior’s power. The term translated as “men” in today’s passage refers specifically to the male gender; it is not an inclusive term that can signify men and women collectively. Thus, the crowd consisted of five thousand men, many of whom would have been married with children, and their wives, sons, and daughters would have come along as well. Consequently, the crowd was much larger than the number five thousand would suggest (see Matt. 14:13–21).
In addition to revealing Christ’s great power, the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand includes significant details that tell us about the Savior. The miracle took place in a “desolate place,” that is, the wilderness (Mark 6:31). Of course, the wilderness was where God often chose to meet with His people under the old covenant. Moses led the nation of Israel out into the wilderness, and he was the one through whom God communicated to His nation (Ex. 16:10; 33:11). During Moses’ day, the wilderness was also the site of a great miracle in which the Lord miraculously provided bread and meat to the Israelites (Ex. 16). Thus, the feeding of the five thousand points us back to Moses and the old covenant, helping us to see that Christ is the mediator of the new covenant, which provides for the forgiveness of sins and our eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). Jesus’ miracle, therefore, is not merely about His love for people—though it is about that—but about who He is and what He came to do for His people.
It is certainly worth noting that Jesus cared enough for the crowd to make sure that their physical needs were met. Yet, we must not overlook the theological significance of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. The miracles of Jesus meet the needs of people, but they do much more. They reveal Him as having been sent by God for our salvation.
Passages for Further Study
1 Kings 17:1–7