(This “Application“ column goes with the Bible study for April 5, 2020: “Power to Sustain.”)
By David Faust
The feeding of the 5,000 is one of my favorite biblical miracles. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were fond of it, too. Other than the Lord’s resurrection, it’s the only miracle described in all four Gospels.
The multiplying of the bread and fish simultaneously demonstrates both Jesus’ creativity and his compassion—his amazing power over material objects and his concern for hungry souls. John says of the Living Word, “Without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3).
The all-powerful Lord who created the whole universe out of nothing has no trouble feeding a multitude with a little boy’s lunch. This miracle undergirded Jesus’ claim, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). Israel’s renowned leader, Moses, fed the multitude with manna in the wilderness, but even though it came down from heaven, that bread couldn’t sustain them forever. Jesus, on the other hand, is “the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever” (v. 51).
There are still other ways to appreciate this miracle. Doesn’t it paint a vivid picture in your mind when you read that the people sat “in groups on the green grass” (Mark 6:39)? The way Jesus had them sit “in groups of hundreds and fifties” (Mark 6:40) provided a lesson in crowd management—and made it easier for eyewitnesses to count the crowd of 5,000. Jesus’ leading question in John 6:5, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” demonstrated his skill as a teacher, and the way he gave thanks before multiplying the bread and fish (John 6:11) revealed his calm confidence about the outcome.
The feeding of the 5,000 encourages us to remember that God can provide even in the face of overwhelming odds. Jesus’ instruction to gather up the leftovers and “Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12) reminds us to be careful stewards of our resources. And the response of the carnal-minded crowd reveals something shallow and dark about human nature. “He filled our bellies, so let’s make him king,” they reasoned, “but we refuse to accept his deeper teaching.”
Making It Personal
In addition to all of these biblical lessons, the feeding of the 5,000 has a personal application for me. I grew up in a family of five. My parents, my two older brothers, and I lived on a farm. We raised our own fruit and vegetables. The freezer contained sweet corn we carved off the cob in August, and jars of homegrown green beans filled the shelves in our cellar. Dad would smile and say, “No matter what happens, we won’t go hungry,” and he was right.
My wife and I brought up three children of our own, and our little family of five went through lean seasons when money was tight. We learned why the wedding vows say, “for richer, for poorer,” and why the apostle Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty” (Philippians 4:12). We relied on the promise that says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
I can’t explain how it happens, but I have seen firsthand how the Lord provides. He not only feeds the 5,000. He also feeds the five.
Personal Challenge: This week write a note to someone about how God has provided for you even in the face of overwhelming odds.