13 When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
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15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” 16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. 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 the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
The bible’s new testament contains a plethora of information and stories that chronicle the life and times of Jesus. Most of the accounts in the new testament are filled with symbolism and are regarded as relating to matters of higher purpose and deep significance. The new testament still provides moral guidance and clarification on improving ourselves even two thousand years after the passages were written. One of the many well known accounts of the new testament is Matthew 14:13-21, otherwise known as the feeding of the five thousand.
In Matthew 14:13-21 the structure is relatively straightforward. The focal point is certainly the miracle that was carried out to satisfy a need. But the conversation that leads up to it is significant to the interpretation, Jesus is using the miracle to get something more across. Jesus does not simply do the miracle, but first instructs the disciples to give the people something to eat. They, of course, have nothing to give the thousands. And so Jesus gives to them, so that they might give to the people. The point of the passage is the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah, and as the Messiah He can and will meet all the needs of his people.
The principal message is for Christians to have the same compassion that Jesus did. If we see the poor, needy, hungry, and are stirred with compassion, then we must follow the teachings of Jesus. We are called by Jesus to feed the hungry. Though we may not necessarily have a lot to give, we may have more than the needy. We can reason that they will only squander what we give them, or that we should not give because it will only encourage them to remain poor and dependent, but that is not what the Bible tells us to be concerned about. In order to become more like Christ we will need to be moved by compassion, which we then go to meet the needs of the people.
Another idea suggested by the passage is that the provision of food has a spiritual meaning as well. The people would have had it in their thinking that man does not live by bread alone, or, that God provides things for people in order that they will listen to Him. We too have received the word from the Lord, and so must give it to the people. Any time God provides something for people it is a call for faith, a call for them to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and that they need to trust in Him. This message calls people to take the spiritual ‘food’ that Christ gives and to give it to the spiritually needy people of the world. It may well be that in providing physical food for the hungry and the masses there will also be the opportunity to tell them of true sustenance. The provision of life from Christ is always available for those who are spiritually needy.
The story of Jesus feeding the 5000 has a message and meaning that still holds true to this day. The story tells us to be compassionate for the needy, and to provide them with the sustenance of God. With Jesus showing compassion and contributing his time and food, he wants others to follow his lead and do the same. This miracle reveals Jesus’ power as the messiah, through his limitless capacity to satiate the needs of the people.
Bible interpretation table
What form/genre is the text?
Who are the characters?
What is the point of the text?
What words does the author use to get this point across?
What is the style of the text?
What images are used in the text?
What type of tone is used in the text?
What words are repeated?
The text chronicles the life of Jesus with storytelling.
The characters in the story are Jesus, the disciples and the 5000 people that Jesus fed.
The purpose of the text is to spread the message of Jesus through one of his miracles.
The image of the 5000 people is to provide readers with an understanding of the sheer numbers that Jesus had to feed.
Where was the text set?
What major historical events were taking place at the time in which the text is set?
Where was this text written?
Who is the author?
When was this written?
What major historical events were taking place at the time the text was written?
What was the society like in which this text was written?
What religious background needs to be known to understand the text?
Who are the characters of the text and what was their role in society?
What cultural context must be known to understand the text?
The location of the story is somewhat disputed. Luke says it was in the “area of Bethsaida.” Therefore it would be somewhere on the northwest shore of Galilee.
All of the gospels contain the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 so the identity of the first author is unknown.
The story was probably written at the end of the first century A.D.
At the time, Jesus was travelling around with his disciples, teaching the people. Jesus was asserting his role as the messiah.
What have others written about the meaning of this text?
What is your interpretation of the meaning of the text?
Others have written that Jesus represented Gods will to provide for his people.
The food represents Jesus’ spirituality, which he then splits and shares with everyone else.
Why is this text significant?
It spreads the message of Jesus with a relatively simple yet powerful story of one of his miracles.