So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. (Mark 6:40-41)
This is the account known as the “Feeding of the Five-Thousand.” There is another mass feeding in the bible known as the “Feeding of the Four-Thousand,” but this one gets all of the attention. It is the biggest, and it also involves a specified “five loaves and two fish”, which we know were given to the disciples by a boy (John 6:9).
A lot has been made of the boy. Children’s stories have been written about a small child whose mother fixed him a lunch to take on his trip to hear Jesus. Of course, there are some issues with this commentary. Even though Jesus loved children, why would a child go alone to hear Him? And why wouldn’t his parents go with him? And even though a young boy (though we aren’t really sure how old he was) can have an appetite, five loaves and two fish constitute a pretty big picnic.
Is it possible this boy was asked by his family to give their whole meal to Jesus? Or was he on his way home from the market when he stopped to hear Jesus, only to have a disciple ask him about the food he was carrying?
There certainly are lots of possibilities, but for our purposes this morning, we come back to the food. The food met a physical need in the lives of the people who had been listening to Jesus teach all day. And the miracle of multiplication was incredible! I would have loved to have been there to see the disciples carrying around those twelve baskets as they collected extra bread and fish.
But the real lesson of this feeding was Jesus’ place as the “Bread of Life.”
We need to jump ahead a bit in the book of Mark to chapter 8. That’s where Jesus fed four thousand people, and the disciples picked up seven baskets of bread. In His discussion with them, Jesus warned them against the “yeast” of the Pharisees and challenged them for not realizing the significance of His miraculous feedings.
At the very least, the disciples should have seen there was no need to worry about food, since they were moving and breathing in the presence of the very Son of God, the Bread of Life. But there was an even deeper lesson to grasp…
…Both Jesus and the Pharisees were capable of multiplication. But the two outcomes were vastly different. When Jesus turned some fish and loaves into a convention feast, He brought life to everyone who ate. But the leaven of the Pharisees produced death. Oh, it isn’t that their food necessarily killed people physically. Instead, their emphasis on good works at the expense of God’s mercy rotted people’s souls from the inside out. The more they tried to make themselves righteous, the more they condemned others, and the less they cared about sharing their lives with people who needed to be lifted up.
Which bread would you rather eat: the kind that fills you up with more left over, or the kind that puffs you up with nothing to spare for the people who are dying around you? I choose life!
Dear God, make me hungry for the right kind of righteousness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.