Luke 9: 10 – 17 Jesus feeds the five thousand

Luke 9: 10 – 17 Jesus feeds the five thousand

When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.’

He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’

They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish – unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’ (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, ‘make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

*       *       *

The Twelve apostles have just returned from their first independent missions, and they report about them to Jesus. They have clearly gained confidence.

It’s late afternoon. Jesus is preaching to a large crowd, and healing the sick when the disciples realise that they have a problem. They’re in a lonely place, and five thousand people are soon going to be hungry. The Twelve take the initiative and raise the matter with Jesus; they tell him what to do. ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here,’ they say.

They have plainly learned about some of the practical aspects of ministry during their travels!

However, despite the radical reliance on God’s provision that Jesus insisted for them in their missionary journeys (no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt), they still have to learn how great his provision can be.

Jesus starts the lesson. He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’

Jesus challenges them, puts them on the spot. ‘How are you going to deal with this problem?’ They were forced to think about the scale of the need Jesus was about to fill.

As you might expect, the Twelve give the mundane answer. They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish – unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’

There was no way the disciples would have been carrying enough money. And how many households were there locally who might supply food? “Can’t afford it,” and “Can’t be done.” When faced with a challenge of human needs, how often do we say this? Perhaps we should pray for the faith to trust God to provide.

The Twelve point out that all they have are five barley loaves and two fish. One boy’s lunch to feed five thousand grown men? Can’t be done. Except by God.

But he said to his disciples, ‘Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ The disciples did so, and everyone sat down.

Despite their inability to feed the crowd by relying on human resources, the Twelve obey Jesus. Sometimes we don’t know what God will provide or how, we just have to go ahead in obedience.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them.

It’s important that Jesus gave thanks – all the gospels record it. Jesus didn’t ask God to provide more food; he thanked him for the food that he had already supplied and he distributed it.

Jesus knew the will of his Father in this matter; he didn’t need to ask. I sometimes wonder whether we ask too frequently and earnestly for God to provide things. Might it not be better to seek God’s will, since God already knows what we need?

Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

There were far more left-over pieces of bread than in the original meal that the boy had given to Jesus.

*       *       *

All four of the gospels have an account of this event, and they are all very similar. You can find the other accounts in Matthew 14: 13 – 21, Mark 6: 30 – 44 and John 6: 1 – 13. Each version says that:

  • Jesus tested his disciples by telling them to feed the crowd (or, in John’s version, asking them how the crowd was to be fed);
  • all the disciples had was five small loaves and two small fish;  
  • Jesus gave thanks to God before distributing the food;
  • five thousand men were fed; and
  • the disciples gathered twelve baskets of scraps afterwards.

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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