“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.” Matthew 14:14-21 (KJV)
Because of the works and miracles which Jesus had done there was a great multitude of people who had followed Him (v. 13). This was a large group of people. The men were the only ones counted, but considering there would have been wives and children, and if only a wife and one child per man that would be 15,000 people whom Jesus fed on this great day.
We see in verse fourteen that many of them followed who had family members who were sick, and many of the men themselves were probably ill as well. Jesus was a compassionate man, the one who was fully man and fully God. His heart burned with compassion for the people. When they brought their sick to Him “He healed their sick”. There was no fanfare, no showmanship, no calling for the sick to even come down an aisle, they came to Jesus, He touched them, and they were healed. He simply spoke the Word to demons and they would flee.
At the approaching of evening, and thus, the time for Supper; the disciples became a little anxious; wondering how they would feed so many. Their thoughts were, “Let’s send them on their way home. We don’t have enough for all these people to eat.” When Jesus said, “They need not depart; give them to eat.” the disciples said to Him, “We have here but five loaves, and two fishes”, and these came from a little boys lunch which he had brought along with him (John 6:9). I don’t think this “lad” could have ever imagined that so little food coming from his home could ever feed so many, nor did the disciples, even when Andrew had discovered the boy, they said, “What is this among so many”.
Needless to say Jesus said, “Bring them to Me”, ie., the five loaves and the two fish. Jesus the Good Shepherd, the King of Israel, knew what He would do. Let me say here that there are people who do not believe that Jesus actually did miracles, by maybe magic tricks. There is one theory I have heard that Jesus had prearranged this event by having baskets of food already stored in caves near the site, and when evening came He prayed over the five loaves and two fish, and POOOF!!! there appeared all this food. That is not what the Scripture text even implies. They took the loaves and the fish, and began dividing it among the people; breaking the bread, and the fish, and as they were giving it out it continued multiplying. The God of creation; who created all things from nothing can surely multiply what has been given to share with others. As the LORD Himself has asked Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14).
At this point in the ministry of Jesus the disciples had seen Jesus do many mighty things. You would think that they would know what Jesus was about to do. They are, however, doubtful and not believing. We could jump on them about their lack of faith, but what about me? What about Christians of our day? The greatest work that Jesus came to do was done on the cross for our sins — His dying, carrying our sins away in His burial, then His resurrection. The miracles, the signs He gave were only evidence the Son of God was here. His death, burial and resurrection is His greatest accomplishment. Why then, are we so surprised about a miracle? The greatest miracle is the saving of a soul. Yet I hear Christians say, “We don’t see miracles today because we don’t have faith.” Oh, we don’t. Then how are you saved? Are you saved? That statement makes a mockery out of His death, burial and resurrection and the faith of every saint of God.
When Jesus had taken the bread and the fish He commanded them to sit down on the grass. Now I am going to take particular interest in this command. That Matthew records that Jesus commanded that they sit down on the grass has great significance. First of all we see him as the Shepherd (Mark 6:34) of David’s 23rd Psalm. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Here Jesus is at the time of their hungering, and He is getting ready to provide for their sustenance. He has provided healing, renewing and strength; and He gave them much teaching as well (Mark 6:34). See the next phrase of the Psalm – “He makes me to lie down in green pastures” Mark’s gospel even records that Jesus said, “green grass”. The grass, of course, was not for the people to eat; as it would be for sheep; but for their comfort while being taught, and for receiving their nourishment for the evening.
One of the things this shows of the multitudes of people is that they were spiritually starving. There spiritual leaders had deserted them as far as good Scriptural teaching was concerned, and they would not only receive this from Jesus, but they would have their physical needs met as well. How are pastors of churches doing today? If we are giving them good, Biblical, Spirit led, and taught messages then, they should be filled and overflowing with the Spirit of God. It is up to the preacher to see that he is delivering the message of the Word of God to the people. It is, however, up to the people to listen, hear, and practice what the Lord is teaching them through their pastor and preacher.
When Jesus had seated the people, He took the bread and the fish, looked to the Father in Heaven and blessed the food; then, he broke the bread and the fish; probably into a portion for each disciple; and then the passed the food around, and it multiplied. Bread and fish was running over the area. The stomachs of the people were filled, and their was a large portion of food remaining over; much more than what they had began with. They all ate; at least 15,000 people; and they were all filled. Not one person was going to go back home, leaving hungry.
There were 12 baskets full of food left over. That could mean that each of the twelve disciples took home a basket of food. God supplies the needs of His workers; caring for the needs of the people. When we have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives we have plenty to share with our family, our neighors, relatives, and even those who might see us as their enemies. “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38 (KJV). There is an abundant supply; however, access to it may be only for a short time.
-Tim A. Blankenship